Bowlegs, Billy, 1808?-1863 or 1864

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Billy Bowlegs (ca. 1810-ca. 1864), Seminole chief who led the third and final Seminole war against the whites of Florida, also known as the Billy Bowlegs war of 1855-1858, was born on the Alachua savannah in Florida. He was a direct descendant of Secoffee, originally a Creek chief who migrated to Florida from the Creek homelands in Alabama and Georgia and later founded the Seminole nation. The names of Billy Bowlegs's father, mother, and other family members are unknown. A striking feature of Bowlegs was his unusual style of dress. The Seminoles, admirers of distinctive costumes, were quite taken with the Scottish Highlanders who entered Florida in 1736. Both the Highlanders and the Indians shared common customs and attitudes. For instance, both were tribal and organized into clans, both preferred skirtlike clothing and refused to wear trousers, and both wore a similar style of garb in the form of breechcloths. In an 1852 daguerreotype portrait and an 1852 magazine portrait, Bowlegs, with a dash of Highland flair, is shown wearing three large silver gorgets (a distinctive emblem of authority), an embroidered bead bandolier, leggings with a wide strap and garters fingerwoven in diamond patterns, a calico frock, a short cloak, and a patterned paisley scarf attached to a scalloped turban with a profusion of protruding black ostrich feathers. Bowlegs received his name not because of the curvature of his legs but from a family appellation, possibly from the corruption of the word "bolek" or "bowleck." Bowlegs spoke fluent English and Spanish and could sign his name. In fact his leadership name, "Halpatter-Micco [Micco meaning leader], appears for the first time in history" (Gifford, p. 26) when in an attempt to end hostilities before the second Seminole war, his signature appeared on the Treaty of Payne's Landing, 9 May 1832, in which he and fourteen other Seminoles agreed to cede their Florida lands and remove themselves to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Later Bowlegs and the others denied this act. Bowlegs also was a Seminole representative in parleys to end hostilities during the final stages of the second Seminole war in 1842.
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn American National Biography Online: Billy Bowlegs
Relation Name
memberOf Seminole Tribe of Florida. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Oklahoma OK US
Florida FL US
Subject
Native American history
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1808

Death 1863

English

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