This past weekend, I went to St. Augustine for the Convocation of Seminole War Historians, organized by the Seminole Wars Foundation and the West Point Society of North Florida. I’ve been very involved in Seminole Wars history for some time now, and it was wonderful to see so many of my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues at the event. Among them were John and Mary Lou Missall, authors of numerous books including The Seminole Wars: America’s Longest Indian Conflict.
Whenever I see John and Mary Lou, we always have a nice chat. This time around, they gave a talk on the subject of their latest book, Major John Rogers Vinton. Having come across a journal of Vinton’s, Mary Lou began by transcribing it, and the couple then researched Vinton by tracking down letters and other such documents. The result of their painstaking research is The Army is My Calling: The Life and Writings of Major John Rogers Vinton 1801-1847.
Vinton served in the War of 1812, and was then sent to Florida, though we learn through his letters that he was against the Seminole Wars. He did not fight in any major battles, but he was an artist who got to know Osceola, and painted portraits of him.
John and Mary Lou also said that when Vinton went north at the same time the Trail of Tears was forcing Seminoles out of Florida, Vinton saw the Seminoles marching and recognized one of them as a good friend of his. The two men embraced.
The Army is My Calling is a story of a man who didn’t believe in the war against the Native Americans, but remained a soldier because he needed to provide for his three small children after his wife passed away. Though he once wanted to be a preacher like two of his brothers, Vinton eventually accepted his life as a soldier.
After the Seminole Wars, he was killed in a battle in the War with Mexico when a cannonball ricocheted off a wall and crushed his skull. Amazingly, the family had the cannonball shipped back to his home town of Providence, Rhode Island, where it still sits today on top of his tomb.
I highly recommend The Army is My Calling if you’re interested in Florida history or the Seminole Wars. What I find most fascinating are lives such as Vinton’s– people who were not very well known, but nonetheless have interesting stories to tell.