After George Washington disbanded the Continental Army (1783), the United States essentially did not have an Army. It had been reduced to 80 men under a captain guarding the arsenals at two forts. To many members of Congress, a standing Army was seen as a threat to Liberty. History had taught that ambitious Generals like Caesar and Cromwell could take over the Government and rule it like a King. It was deemed better to rely on 'Citizen Soldiers' of the State Militias rather than on a strong Federal Army to defend the Nation.
It was the Frontier and the threat of Indian War that brought the Army back into existence. The State Militias either did not exist on the Frontiers or they would not leave their families to fight Indians and leave their own families undefended. A Federal Army was needed to protect the Settlers and keep the Peace on the Frontier.
By the 1830's the U.S. Army had been tested and prevailed in Indian Wars in the Ohio Valley and in the War of 1812. Now, in the mid 1830's they faced a new kind of warrior in a new kind of environment - the Seminoles in the swamps of Florida.
The Government and the Army had underestimated the Seminole's fighting skills and perseverance.
The Second Seminole War (1835-42) would be the longest, costliest, Indian War in American History. It was a guerilla war between a small number of warriors pitted against one of the best trained and equipped Armies on the face of the earth. Yet it lasted seven years. The Seminoles never surrendered. They had been beaten, but not conquered.
The United States Army would not face such a determined foe until it faced the Viet Cong 130 years later. Both the Second Seminole War and the Viet Nam War were guerilla wars fought in dense forests and jungles. To one the forest was a haven. To the other, the forest was a hell.