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His fame had spread over the Southern country since he had become a leader in the Florida contest; of course public curiosity was greatly excited, and crowds of people flocked to the island to see if his figure and deportment corresponded to their expectations; nor was any one disappointed. A glance at the group was sufficient to enable a spectator to know at once who was the true chief; and it is from these close observations of so many individuals that a pretty good knowledge is obtained of his general character and private habits.
His appearance altogether was very prepossessing. He had a full, high forehead, an aquiline nose, handsome mouth and good teeth ; long and narrow chin, rather prominent; but the life-giving feature of his countenance was an eye, that played and sparkled like a diamond. There was nothing savage in it. In its expression it was the leer of a female bent on deceiving, rather than the stern unrelenting glance of a warrior. He was usually pensive, and not over fond of conversing, except with those who had gained his confidence: with these he became sometimes animated, when he would laugh and talk freely. His thoughts were perpetually turned toward his native land, of which he spoke with much feeling, and was ever eager to obtain news of the progress of military events.
In one of his playful moods he ridiculed our mode of warfare, and gave an excellent pantomimic exhibition of the manner of the white man and the Indian in loading and firing. He evidently possessed a large portion of self-esteem, mingled with no inconsiderable share of vain-glory. He said of · Wild Cat' that he was not fit to command a
big army,' but was good to send out with a small party to murder and scalp women and children, and to rob. Such kind of work, he said, did not suit him. It was always my pride,' said he, “to fight with the "big generals.' 'I wore this plume when I whipped General Gaines; these spurs when I drove back General Clinch, and these moccasins when I flogged General Call.'
His manners were quiet, and if he was not resigned to his lot, he gave no audible signs to the contrary. Yet sometimes he would complain in private, to the few friends he had made during his imprisonment, of the hardness of his fate, and at the same time dwell with fire on the great things he might have done could he have united all his people, and been obeyed. He was disposed to be melancholy; and when his friend Doctor Weedon, of the army, would speak kindly, and with words of encouragement to him, he would smile, as if grateful for the act, but was still uncheered. He was accompanied by two wives who were sisters, who appeared to live in the greatest harmony with each other; so much so, that if one happened to be absent attending to her domestic duties, and her child cried, the other would take it up and attend it with great apparent affection.
It is said that all military men are fatalists. Osceola was not exempt from the same sentiment. Just before going out to meet General Hernander, he directed one of his people to prepare his meal, at the same time remarking that he might never return. The man who served him, asked why, with such a thought, he should go. Osceola shrugged VOL. XXIV.
his shoulders, and seemed to intimate that his fate impelled him, and he could not resist. His forebodings were verified.
In bringing to a close these remarks of his personal character, I cannot omit relating one circumstance very worthy of notice, as showing the unbounded influence he possessed over his people. It comes from two gentlemen of Charleston, who have most kindly furnished me with this and many other details which appear in these pages, and to whom I feel under great obligations.
While at Sullivan's Island, one of the Indians stole some fowls, and being detected, asked Osceola what he should do. Go and hang yourself,' was the ready reply of Osceola ; and straightway the Indian went and hanged himself. The body was found suspended from the pump-handle of the cistern.
Among the visitors at Fort Moultrie, came Mr. Catlin, the painter, for the purpose of taking Osceola's likeness. A subject so interesting was well calculated to awaken the well known enthusiasm of this skil. ful delineator of Indian manners and costumes. He merits great praise for his devotion to the collection of implements of war, and articles of common life, whereby we are made intimately acquainted with past and present races; and he is entitled to the thanks of every American for bringing before us by his pencil many of the individuals who are distinguished in our national annals. In his double capacity of collector and artist, he gives us durable records of the character, manners, and personal semblance of the legitimate owners of the land, who are fast passing away.
Catlin's first view of Osceola excited his admiration. In a letter written to a friend in New York, he says: “Osceola is a fine gentlemanlike-looking man, with a pleasant smile that would become the face of the most refined and delicate female. Yet I can well imagine he has a hero's fire, and can put on a lion's rage.' This description, coming from one whose profession makes him an habitual observer of the features of the human countenance, gives a correct idea of Osceola's appearance, and the accuracy with which these traits are embodied on the canvass lying before me while I write, brings forth the original as if he were in life.
The likeness of Osceola had never before been taken ; and when Catlin reached Fort Moultrie, he found several other atists, who had come with like intentions. When the wishes of these gentlemen were made known to Osceola, he readily consented to sit; and to prepare himself to be drawn in a costume that he thought becoming, he devoted all the early part of a day to arraying himself in a manner which, in his eyes, was best calculated to set off his person to advantage. This was not done after the usual way of Indian warriors, with all the implements of war upon him, his body disfigured with dirt, or his face made hideous with paint of many colors; but there was a marked display of what we should call taste, in the arrangement of his whole attire. His face was presented in its natural teint, but his person was arrayed in his best garments, covered with many ornaments, and on his head was a cap adorned with plumes which fell behind with studied grace. In short, if he had not presented a figure to command respect, one might
say he was somewhat of an Indian élégant, who desired to attract the gaze of the multitude.
For the convenience of the painters, it was agreed that two should work at the same time in one room, one at each end, while Osceola occupied a seat in the centre, or moved about when he wished to be relieved from restraint. Beside being a relaxation to him, the plan was of great advantage to the artists, by exhibiting his features while undergoing the alternate expressions of action and repose. The room was generally well filled with visiters, who came to see the progress of the work, more probably for the purpose of seizing this favorable occasion of beholding the original; and as the chief moved back and forth in a placid mood, became animated by conversation, or excited by the wondering audience, the artists were able to catch every lineament of his countenance with an accuracy which many of our most celebrated painters often fail to attain. Osceola was much pleased with the portraits, and often regarded them with marks of evident satisfaction.
A few days afterward he complained of a pain in the throat; but it was slight, and he declined taking any remedy. The weather was cold enough to make a fire necessary, which, with the often crowded state of the apartment, rendered the air impure, and obliged him occasionally to withdraw for relief. In this way, by a too sudden transition, a cold set in, which very soon took deep hold, and rendered him too ill to per. mit him to leave his room. He was visited by Doctor Weedon of the army, who immediately pronounced the complaint to be quinsy, which was making rapid progress; so much so that he, with Captain Morri. son, lost no time in requesting Doctor Strobel, professor in the Medical College of South Carolina, to meet them in consultation, it being their desire that every possible medical aid should be administered to the sufferer. On making their visit they suggested such remedies as were thought likely to relieve him; but to their suggestions, reasoning, and even entreaty, he would not listen, because the prophet or Indian doctor who was then in the room, and who had cured him before, forbade him to take any of the prescriptions. Seeing they could make no impression on him, or overcome the obstinacy of the prophet, they were obliged to leave him in his critical state. Doctor Strobel recommended that the prophet should be put into the guard-house, to destroy his influence over the patient. This however was not done.
As was foreseen, Osceola grew worse, when Doctor Strobel made him a second visit, and had him placed in a comfortable room in the hospital. It was near twilight in the evening, and the chamber was dark. On a blanket, seated on the floor, his shoulders covered with another blanket, was the prophet, his back leaning against the wall. His head was shaved like a cock's comb, and he presented the appearance of a perfect statue of ignorance and stupidity. He spoke to no one, nor took notice of any one present. The interpreter, a jet-black Indian negro, immensely tall, was standing with a group of two or three Indians at the corner of the chimney, in which a fire was burning. Before this fire, entirely naked, lay on a blanket the dying warrior. He was much emaciated, and suffered greatly from difficult respiration. The doctor, through the interpreter, endeavored to persuade him to let something be
done for him; but at each entreaty he would cast a glance round to the prophet, the nod of whose head would at once dispel every argument. One of his wives was seated at his back, supporting his head upon her breast, whilst the other was at his side on her knees, bathing him with a decoction of herbs. The case was too clearly a hopeless one; and when again asked if he would permit any thing to be done for him, he distinctly answered. No.' The doctor then took his hand, which he shook, and bade him good-bye; Osceola returned the pressure - and they thus separated. I am indebted to Doctor Strobel himself for many details concerning Osceola's last illness not before known; and the particulars of the present scene are derived entirely from his kind hand.
After the doctor's departure, a revival took place, and Osceola was removed to the bed. A visiter entered, and found him supported by pil. lows, in a very feeble state. He was dressed in his best attire, richly ornamented, with his warlike weapons upon him, his head decorated with plumes, silver spurs on his heels, and his large war-knife in a sheath by his side. His Indian friends, with his two wives, were near by, gazing upon him with mournful countenances.
He did not attempt to speak, but after a little time beckoned to one of his wives, who pre. sented to him a paper parcel, from which he took a dark-colored pow. der, sprinkled a small quantity into the palm of one of his hands, and drew it in lines round his face. Another parcel was given to him of vermillion, which he used in the same manner, making lines distinct from the others, with great precision, and without the aid of a glass. This finished, a pause ensued, but not a word was uttered. peared to rest. After the lapse of a few minutes, he made an effort to draw his knife from the sheath, but not succeeding, on account of his weakness, one of the attendants attempted to assist him. This Osceola resisted as strongly as his weak state would permit, and repelled him with a frown. After another pause, as if to gain strength, he accomplished his purpose, drew forth the knife, brandished it over his head, made an effort to shout; but being unable to raise his cry, his arm fell, and he expired.
When Osceola arrived at Fort Moultrie, his general health was far from being good, and the new mode of life, with his depressed spirits, by depriving him of his usual vigor, rendered him less able to throw off a new complaint. His medical attendants still think, had he been willing to submit to their treatment he might have been restored, and that he died more as a victim of ignorance and superstition than of his disease, deep-seated though it was. This is more than probable; yet let us not hastily condemn the
perseverance which made him resist the advice of strangers, although offered solely for his benefit. We have all of us our predilections and prejudices, not to mention our proneness to yield our reason to the force of habit.
Those who now feel an awakened interest in the life of Osceola, may regret that he had not shaken off an habitual submission to his customary adviser; but those who will consider the subject as worthy of reflection at the present day, may reasonably doubt whether his worldly condition would have been improved by the preservation of his life.
He would certainly have been removed to the west, a place he looked upon with horror; been mingled with another tribe, his inveterate foes; and his power and influence would have been lost among superior numbers, who would not fail to have exacted of him a degrading submission.
The passions of our nature, which are alike the sources of our joy and our misery, beat as strong in the breast of a savage as of a civil. ized man; and if Osceola possessed the pride and elevation of senti. ment which the facts here set forth lead us to believe, he by his death escaped bodily suffering, and what is more painful still, a lingering life of humiliation, with the constant remembrance of blasted hopes.
The funeral of Osceola was performed with respect, and the honors usually observed at the death of military officers. The body was escorted by a detachment of United States' troops, followed by the medi. cal gentlemen ; the Indian Chiefs attended, and were careful to commit with the corpse every thing that belonged to the deceased. The body was then deposited, and a military salute fired over the grave. At the same time the ramparts of the fort, which overlooked the spot, were crowded with the men, women and children of his tribe, who seemed to be much affected and pleased with the honors paid to their chief, thus
‘By strangers honored and by strangers mourned.'
It is painful to add, that some days afterward the grave was disturbed, and the head separated from the body, with what motive no one can imagine. It is only sufficient to observe, that this unjustifiable violation of the tomb was by the inhabitants of Charleston universally condemned. One of the officers erected a paling round the grave, and the generous sympathy of Mr. Patton of Charleston prompted him to place a marble slab at the head, with the simple inscription,
OSCEOLA. Sufficient may be gathered from these pages to prove that Osceola was not an ordinary man; neither perhaps will it be admitted that he was a hero. Yet it certainly will be seen that he had within him many of the elements that heroes are composed of, with perhaps more merit to the title than is possessed by many educated persons who figure in the temple of fame.
He evidently possessed strong good sense, with the capacity to apply it aptly; and it is equally clear that to this alone was he indebted for the commanding influence he acquired over his countrymen at a very early period of his life. He was an ardent lover of his country, and as a warrior skilful beyond his opportunities. He possessed, even in the savage state, many of the gentle virtues his race does not lay claim to or covet, and which in the civilized world go to humanize and adorn private life. He was not filled with the stoicism so much prized by the savage, which makes him alike indifferent to sorrow or joy, but alternately exhibited the emotions of anger or pity, as circumstances called forth the exercise of these passions. He seems to have been adapted to the quiet of retired life ; yet when once the warlike spirit, dormant within him, was aroused, he laid aside peaceful habits, acted his part