Friday, January 8, 2016

“Burial of an Infant in Florida”

Burial of an Infant in Florida
by Lt. George Patten

I lay thee here my sinless one
I put thee down to rest
But not upon thine eider bed
Nor on thy mother’s breast
Within this little grave they’ve scooped
Far in the forest wild
I lay thee here my precious one
I leave thee here my child

These lines are taken from a poem written in 1840 during the second Seminole War. They refer to the infant son of Captain Joseph Rowe Smith and his wife Juliette. Smith commanded Company B of the 2nd U.S. Infantry. Juliette accompanied her husband on one campaign in the war. During that campaign their child died, but they could not bury him in a marked grave for fear it would be discovered and desecrated. The complete poem appears in John K. Mahon’s well researched article based on Captain Smith’s diary and letters. See John K. Mahon, “Letters from the Second Seminole War,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 36 (April 1958): 331-52.

Captain Joseph Rowe Smith graduated from West Point in 1823. He fought in both the Seminole War and the Mexican War and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. During the Civil War he served as the military commander of Detroit. He and Juliette made their home in Monroe, Michigan, where Smith died in 1868. The University of Florida holds the diary Smith kept during the Seminole War. The Clarke Historical Library holds the Joseph Rowe Smith Family Papers. Recently the Clarke purchased at auction the portrait of Smith displayed above.

John Fierst

January 6, 2016