Of the five Indian Tribes of the American Southeast, only two opted to fight: the Creeks and Seminoles. The Choctaw, Chickasaws, and Cherokees tried in vain to use legal injunctions to stay, but failed.
Seminole battle successes in late 1835 and early 1836 inspired their cousins, the Creeks to make a stand against the Settlers in Georgia and Alabama. But it was too little, too late. The Creeks had not masterminded a strategic plan as had the Seminoles to strike the Federal Army first and the Settlers second, then fall back into the swamps and conduct a sustained guerilla war against both. In conventional warfare campaigns (infantry, artillery, & dragoons) the U.S. Army crushed the Creeks in Georgia in less than 6 months (Feb - Jul 1836). It would take the Army seven years to defeat (wear down) the Seminoles.
In December 1836, Major General Thomas Sydney Jesup relieved Governor Richard Keith Call and assumed Command of all Federal Troops in Florida. Jesup commanded the successful campaign against the Creeks in Georgia. While he did not agree with the force removal of the Seminoles from Florida, he had his orders, and the Government had no other Generals available or willing. He got the job by default.
By now, the Seminoles had defeated Clinch, Gaines and Scott, all the Generals thrown against them. They now stood confident that they could whip any of the U.S. Generals. But in Jesup they would meet their match.
The Secretary of War gave Jesup only two orders as he accepted the Florida Command: (1) Push the Seminoles south of Tampa and (2) Rebuild Fort King. Fort King was rebuilt on the same hill as the original in July 1837, one year after it had been burned by Osceola
Jesup's strategy was to beat them at their own game. Instead of employing companies and battalions to search out and engage the small bans of Seminoles, he flooded the hammocks with dragoon (cavalry) strike units each led by a West Point Lieutenant (Henry Prince, John Casey). The success of this tactic relied on two factors - (1) Highly competent and fearless dragoon Lieutenants and (2) Close in supply bases (depots). He accomplished the latter by constructing new 'supply depot' forts along the Fort King Road (Foster, Dade & Armstrong); along roads extending from Fort King (Micanopy & Harley); and at navigable river landings (Butler , Mellon, Clinch, and Fanning).
By this strategy, he kept his Army in the field, constantly pursuing and harassing the small warrior bands who had their families with them. Jesup began the tactic of 'Search and Destroy' used to effect by Union General William T. Sherman (who was a lieutenant in the Seminole War) 28 years later as he marched and burned his way through Georgia during the Civil War. Jesup and Sherman brought the war to the civilians.
Jesup's tactic was to keep the Seminoles 'On the Run', 'Short of Sleep' and 'Short of Food'. As such he would stress them into submission by keeping them in a physically weakened state, demoralized, and ultimately diminishing their 'Will to Win'.
The tactic worked. Various bands began surrendering. Others came to him making overtures to parley with White Flags of Truce. Jesup had previously put out the word that he would not parley. He told them by Indian couriers that if they came to him, it would be for Unconditional Surrender only and not to parley. He considered parleys as disingenuous on the part of the Seminoles, having been deceived by them at the Fort Dade surrender which they later reneged after having received supplies and food.
During the 18 months of Jesup's Command (Dec 1836 - May 1838), he captured most of the Seminole War Chiefs including Osceola, Alligator, Jumper, Philip, and Micanopy. He thus had captured all of the firebrands that stared the war. However, there were still enough chiefs to continue the War for four more years.
Jesup didn't defeat the Seminoles, but he established the dragoon pursuit tactic that was to end the War. Frustrated with his request to the Secretary of War to let the Seminoles have a small piece of Florida on which to live being denied and having sickened of the War, he was allowed to transfer back to Washington.
Fort King remained the Headquarters of the Army of the South through three more Commanders, Zachary Taylor, Walker Keith Armistead, and William Jenkins Worth. Before the war ended in August 1842, every regiment of the U.S. Army had either bivouacked or been stationed at Fort King. Although there was not an Indian Agent there to protect, Fort King was still located in the center of the guerilla war that was Florida.