General History of Indian Key
Indian Key Military Letters
By Jerry Wilkinson
        Letters pertaining to the 1840 massacre:
Letter # 1
Lieut. Comd.
       J.T. McLaughlin
               Key Biscayno
                           Tea Table Key
                         August 7th 1840
        I have the honor to report that Indian Key was last night taken by the Indians, - of which fact I was appraised from the Medium at daylight this morning, our force here consisted of five men, with whom joined to seven or eight of the sick, who volunteered readily, but were too weak to be of much service, I started for the key; - at first, with the intention of landing, which however was opposed by the enemy who had taken refuge in every house, and opened a heavy fire which fell thick around us, striking our boats, & wounding one man severely and dangerously in the thigh. They appeared also in great numbers on the beach, yelling and firing, which firing we returned with three discharges of our four pounders, in the Barges. At the third discharge, being obliged to fire them athwart ships, our guns rebounded overboard; being deprived of the means of cutting off their retreat, I returned to Tea Table Key, to make preparations for the attack which I think more than probable it is their intention to make upon us; being assured, that our amount of force, and means, rendered us of no assistance to the inhabitants of Indian Key, if any survived, which is not to be supposed.
        The families of Messrs Housman and Howe & two Seamen have alone escaped.
                   I have the honor to be
                  Sir, Very Respectfully,
                (Signed) Francis Key Murray 
                                Mid, U.S.N.
P. S. The Indian force at the lowest estimate judging from the number of Canoes is fifty or sixty, I am obliged to write in great haste. The Indians used the long guns on the Key firing them at us repeatedly with good aim.
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Letter # 2
The Hon:
J.K. Paulding
Secretary of the Navy,
Washington City
U.S. Schn. Flirt
Key Biscayno, August 11th, 1840
        I regret to inform you that whilst at anchor here on the morning of the 8th inst. an express reached me from Midn. F.K. Murray, bearing a letter of which the enclosed is a copy, advising me of the Capture of Indian Key by the Indians -
The mud and the tide being both adverse, and the channel very narrow & intricate, I immediately transferred all the Marines and Crew of this vessel but such as were required to navigate her, to the Otsego, and started for Tea Table Key, where we arrived during the night. - leaving this vessel to follow the at the change of the tide. On our arrival there, we found that the Indians, who proved to be the Spanish Indians, having loaded their boats with supplies of every description from the store of Mr. Houseman the proprietor of the Key, had destroyed the town by fire, and retired without molesting our hospital and depot at Tea Table Key, distant but one mile, for which most serious apprehensions were entertained - Mid. Murray had however made every preparation for its defence, which his limited means would allow -
         That the Indians were conducted to this attack by some person or persons acquainted with the localities of the Key, cannot be doubted.
        Their landing was effected on the outerside of the Key, at a point the most remote from their approach, yet at a corner of town uninhabited whilst every consideration, if ignorant of this fact, would have induced them to have landed at a point directly opposite. Landing where they did their retreat was liable to be cut off and but for the loss of his guns, there is every reason to believe Mr. Murray would have affected this in the destruction of their canoes,-  whilst by landing at the opposite point of the Key, their retreat could have been securely effected on the approach of any danger. Again, Negroes were seen among them,  who with others were heard to speak English, and these last, not in a dialect of the Negro. This information is gathered from the sufferers by the Attack. Lieut. Comdt. Rodgers in the Wave had left there by the day before for Cape Romano, carrying with him from Tea Table Key every man capable of doing service but five. That his departure was communicated to, or looked for by the Indians, there cannot be a doubt. In the presence of this force, their invariable policy forbids the belief that they would have ventured upon the attack.
     In so serious a disaster, when so great a loss of life was to be looked for, it is gratifying to know that it was small. Dr. Perrine, Mr. Motte, his wife and two young children, and a lad named Lurdy, were killed,- the latter drowned in a cistern in which he had concealed himself - Mr. Otis was wounded, and the missing are a Negro Woman with her two children belonging to Mr. Howe, and a Negro child belonging to Mr. Houseman - these were carried off by the Indians - They retired at 2 PM of the 6th ulto. in thirty four boats, six of which had been taken from the Key. In some of the boats six, seven, & eight people were counted in none less than four, so that their number could not have been short of one hundred thirty four people
         Those who escaped from the Key found refuge in the Schn. Medium there lying in the harbour. Every convenience and comfort which it was in power of the officers of this Expedition to furnish them in their destitute condition has been extended to them. I have also furnished them such supplies from the public stores as were necessary 
        The widow & family of Dr. Perrine have taken shelter in this Vessel awaiting transportation to the North.

                Respectfully, Sir,
                I have the honor to be
            John T. McLaughlin,
                     Lieut. Comdt:
Transcript by Jerry Wilkinson 10/19/94

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Letters pertaining to the Third Seminole War:
Transcript by Jim Clupper, Islamorada Library November 2000
Roll 8, frame 0745
(Indian Key Letter #1)
     Key West Barracks Fla.
March 6th 1857
       I have to suggest that the Quartermaster at Fort Cross (Cape Sable) be instructed to send twice every month to Indian Key for such mail as may there accumulate and intended for anybody along the coast as far as Fort Myers.
       The mail leaves Key West for Fort Dallas, Indian Key &c. the next day after the arrival of the Steamer Isabel the 7th and 22nd of every month. The mail from Fort Myers to Cape Sable &c. leaves immediately after the arrival of the northern mail from Tampa and returns to Fort Myers immediately after its delivery
       Now if a communication could be established between Cape sable and Indian Key there would be a regular mail connection from Key West and Fort Dallas to Fort Myers, and thence to Tampa. Anything designated for Fort Myers, Cape Sable or Tampa leaving Fort Dallas would be put off at Indian Key, on which there is a detachment of soldiers. The Key is inhabited by citizens and is the Head Quarters for the Coast Survey people.
       The distance from Indian Key to Cape Sable is quite small. The mail is carried from Key West to Fort Dallas &c. under contract with Post Office Dept. which pays some $60 per month for that service.
I am, Sir Respectfully, your Obdt. Servt.
A. Beckwith
Major I. M

The following Indian Key military letters were transcribed by Dr. Joe Knetsch.
(Indian Key Letter #2)
From: Letters Sent, Register of Letters Received, and Letters Received by Headquarters, Troops in Florida and Headquarters, Department of Florida: 1850-1858. Roll No. 6. "Registered, J-Y, and Unregistered: April-Dec. 1856." National Archives Microfilm M1084.
Washington, 1979.
Key West 9th April 1856 Col. J. Monroe U.S.A.}
Comdg in Florida }
      On my Arrival here a day or two since I found that  the residents  of  Indian Key had  abandoned that settlement  from an apprehension of  Indian Attacks,  and had addressed to you a request for protection to enable them to return and reoccupy it. Capt. Vogdes U.S.A. Comg. this post, has been kind enough to communicate his views freely to me upon this subject, and to hand me a copy of a letter to you relative to it.  Not only to enable the few residents of Indian Key to return to their homes, and protect the buildings and other improvements there, (erected since the place was last visited and burned by the Seminoles) but to make the U. S. Inspector of the Customs stationed there to protect the Revenue, to return to his duties; as well as to have, at this salient outpost, a means of obtaining reliable information of Indian movements in that quarter.  I think it would be judicious to station a small force there at once.
      The views of Capt. Vogdes, that ten men would be sufficient, carefully selecting and commanded by a good non-commissioned officer,  and  that  they  should  be  placed  there  with  the understanding that their occupation of the premises there for the defence of the place should should [sic.] furnish no ground of a claim or charge upon the U. States, are doubtless correct; and if you think proper I will undertake to obtain from the proprietor, Mr. Smith Mowry of Charleston, his assent to, or rather his request for such an arrangement.
With Great Respect
Your Obt. Servt.
S. R. Mallory
(Indian Key Letter #3
To Col Monroe Commanding the Forces in Florida
Charleston April 16, 1856
Dear Sir
     I write you by advise of the Hon. S. R. Mallory U. S. Senator from Florida, to say that I will allow you to use the Houses on Indian Key (that is my property) for quarters for your Soldiers and they can also use the cistern water both free of charge.  The water is good and by stationing some 10 or 12 men on Indian Key it would give protection there & the adjoining Keys.
     It is important that the soldiers should be sent at once as several houses on the neighboring Keys have been burnt causing the residents to leave.  I have only one person on Indian Key who is afraid to stay alone.
     I have some 23 or 24 buildings on the Key, mostly dwelling houses and to have them destroyed would be a heavy loss to me.  I trust you will send some soldiers soon or at once if not already done to protect this property.
Yours Very Respy,
             S Mowry Jr.
[Letters Sent ... Roll 6 ...]
(Indian Key Letter #4)
Charleston May 6, 1856 
To Col. John Monro  Command.
Troops at Tampa Bay
     Dear Sir
    Your favor of the 24th Ulto. was received yesterday and I wrote what you say about sending a Guard of Troops to Indian Key to protect that and the adjoining Keys.  I am very fearful the Indians will go and burn the houses and murder what few inhabitants that are on the Key as they did some years ago.   By sending a Guard to Indian Key, it would protect the neighboring Keys and I should think 8 or 10 men could be spared from Key West for that purpose.  I hope you will take the matter into consideration as a good many Families have left their houses and the Land they were cultivating for fear of the Indians.
     Yours Very Respy,
      S Mowry Jr.
Letters Sent ... Roll 6 ...]
(Indian Key Letter #5)
Charleston May 28 1856
Hon Jefferson Davis Secretary of War
Washington City D.C
     Dear Sir
     I have just received a letter from Capt Bethell who is in charge of Indian Key with only one other person that is rather small to defend the Keys.
He informs me that the Indians are reported as cruising on the Keys and he is very fearful that when they are driven out of their present place that they will visit the Keys so if no Troops have been sent down I hope you will do so at once as I have some 24 or 25 Houses on the Key that I would much dislike to have destroyed as was the case in the last Indian War.   I therefore trust you will send the small quantity required to protect Indian Key & the adjoining Keys.    I have written the Hon. S R Mallory on the subject who knows the position of matters and will call I trust and explain the situation of matters.
   Yours Respy,
     S Mowry Jr.
[Letters Sent ... Roll 6 ...]


(Indian Key Letter #6)
Key West Barracks
October 28th 1856

Major F N Page
Asst Adjt General
Dept of Florida Sir
     A detachment of Company "D"  1st Artillery referred to in Special order No 56 Current Series Hg Qm Dept of Fla arrived at this Post this morning, the detachment will be forwarded on the 10th of Nov in the Steamer Isabel together with the detachment of Company "A" 1st Artillery, to join their Companies at Fort Moultrie.
     I have already reported by mail the arrival of Comp G at this post & the departure of Company "A" for Fort Moultrie.  To day I have sent a detachment of one Sgt, one Corporal & 12 privates to Indian Key to relieve the detachment of Comp "A" now there, in accordance with the instructions of the War Dept I have placed a guard of one non commissioned officer & Six privates at Fort Taylor.
Your obt Servt
J. H. Winder
Capt 1 Art Battln Comd Post

[Letters Sent...  Roll 6 ...]


(Indian Key Letter #7)
Indian Key Fla
September 11th 1857
      After commencement of the present hostilities with the Seminole Indians, Colonel Monroe acting under authority from the Hon. Secretary of War stationed A detachment of U. S. Troops upon this Island for the protection of our lives and property.   Its reduction by General Harney to a corporal and three Privates has again excited our minds with the feelings of uneasiness and insecurity, therefore A sense of duty wich [sic.] I owe to myself and family actuates me to beg leave to ask respectfully that the military force may be increased sufficiently to mount guard during the night to give notice of the approach or prevent the landing of the enemy upon the Island.
      Hoping that this may receive your favourable consideration, I remain, Sir, with Great respect
your obediant Servant
William H. Bethell
Colonel Loomis
U. S. Army
Commanding U. S. Forces in Florida
[Letters Sent, Register of Letters Received and Letters Received by Head Quarters: Department of Florida, 1850-1858.   Reel No. 7, M1084. National Archives Microfilm.]

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