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The Enforcement of the Indian Removal Act - an Editorial Review of "The Estelusti Trail"

Book Blurb:

It is Florida in 1835 during the time that would come to be known as the Trail of Tears. Andrew Jackson’s army is on the march to enforce The Indian Removal Act. The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek and Choctaw have already been marched to the western territories beyond the far Mississippi River. Only the Seminole and Estelusti, the descendants of centuries of escaped slaves, resist.

Estelusti leader John Horse and Seminole chiefs Osceola, Alligator and Wild Cat fight back. Bloody ambushes fill the swamps of west Florida and slave revolts leave the east coast sugar plantations in flames.

Seen through the eyes of Pete Horse, a fourteen-year-old Estelusti boy-warrior, the Second Seminole War rages. In vicious, desperate jungle warfare from the Cove of the Withlacoochee to the shore of Lake Okeechobee, the Estelusti and Seminole frustrate and defeat the American generals time after time.

After each defeat, a new general with a larger army comes, slowly forcing the defenders deeper into the treacherous Everglades. Facing annihilation and enslavement, the Estelusti must fight to the bloody end.

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Editorial Review:

“The Estelusti Trail” written by Roy V. Gaston, is a captivating story that begins vividly by

depicting the assassination of Wiley Thompson on December 28, 1835, near Fort King in

Central Florida. The author skillfully captures the tension and anticipation as Seminole and

Estelusti warriors plan and execute revenge against Thompson and Lieutenant Constantine


Detailed descriptions paint a frightening picture of the ambush, highlighting Osceola's precise

strike that triggers a chilling gunfire. The ensuing chaos, with warriors descending upon Fort

King and the trading post, is both chaotic and triumphant. Osceola's triumph, marked by the

scalping of Thompson, serves as a powerful symbol of vengeance for past injustices.

The narrative doesn't stop at the violent confrontation but also explores the consequences.

Willet, Osceola's sister-in-law, becomes a complex character seeking her own form of

revenge. Exploring her emotions and the aftermath of the raid adds depth to the story.

“Little sister, you don’t seem pleased by our great victories today,” he said to Willet.

“I saw much death and pain. Why should I be pleased? I am deeply saddened at the death of the young Rogers boy,” she said. “I do not feel pride or wish celebration over his death. He was a friendly boy.”

“It was a great blow to our enemy, the Americans,” said Osceola angrily. In the shadow and firelight, his angry face looked fearsome.

“That should always be celebrated.”

As the warriors celebrate their victory, the author skillfully contrasts the joy with Willet's

somber reflection on the consequences of the raid. The introduction of characters like Virgil,

who shares the horrors of slavery, and the brutality of the MacCuaig brothers adds another

layer to the narrative, shedding light on the overall injustice faced by different communities.

The engaging narrative and historical details immerse readers in a tumultuous period of

Florida's history, addressing themes such as revenge and the complexity of human emotions

in the face of conflict. After the massacre at Fort King, Willet and the narrator plan an attack

on the Von Bock plantation in a tense setting, and the news of the arrival of eight hundred

soldiers amplifies the suspense.

The story explores the consequences of the battle, highlighting the physical and

psychological wounds of the characters, including those of Willet. Post-battle scenes

underscore the exhaustion and losses suffered in the conflict.

The novel delves into the struggle for freedom and justice in Florida in 1836. Well-defined

characters, such as Wild Cat and the protagonist, reveal the dramas of slavery. The author

provides details about the rebels' challenging conditions and presents lively and humorous


The scene of the plantation attack captures the intensity of the battle and the triumphs. The

relationships between characters add narrative depth and build tension around the success of

the mission. The protagonist's return to his family brings emotion, and the stories of

secondary characters add complexity and a broader perspective to the world created by the


“My family rushed out as I pulled the canoe onto the bank. My two =8-year-old twin sisters, Emma and Maggie leapt on me with such fervor that we fell back in the water with a splash. They romped around on me like a couple of playful otter puppies. “Enough, enough,” I shouted. “I survived a battle, don’t drown me now that I’m home.”

The novel explores the intense events of the Gaines Campaign in February 1836, highlighting

the contrast between the idyllic life of the protagonist's family and the tensions caused by

American troops and political intrigues. The mystery surrounding the protagonist's mother's

activities in the Florida swamps adds intrigue, and the encounter with Estelusti leaders

explores intercultural and political conflicts. The confrontation between John Horse and

Gaines underscores cultural and moral disparities, while the arrival of General Jesup in

December 1836 marks a turning point, intensifying military presence and posing new threats.

The narrative captures the preparations of the Seminoles and the tensions generated by

Jesup's ruthless strategies.

“I know of him. Gen. Thomas J. Jesup. He concerns me a great deal. He is an exceptionally brave man, no doubt about it. He has won medals for valor and had two horses shot from underneath him at Scott’s great victory at the Battle of the Chippewa.”

“That is of no consequence. We have fought brave men before and sent them running,” said John.

“Yes, exactly. We have defeated them, which is why they send Jesup. He is different. He’ll be slow, methodical, and thorough. He’s been the Quartermaster for the entire American Army for years. He is a bean counter, not a glory seeker. He is the man who watches the bean counters. I expect his strategies will be markedly different.

The destruction and barbarities imposed by Jesup's forces in Florida underscore the harsh cost

of the conflict. Contemplating the surrender of runaway slaves and the Surrender of Fort

Dade bring tensions and ethical divergences within the Seminole community.

The escape plan from Fort Marion, orchestrated by Willet and others, adds suspense. The

narrative explores the complexities of the escape, including the risks and the necessity of

secrecy. Arriving at Fort Marion in November 1837 accentuates the challenges of planning an

escape from what seems like an impregnable fortress.

The description of St. Augustine, despite its relative freedom for people of color, adds a layer

of tension as characters navigate through the risks associated with their mission.

“Our war had not come to St. Augustine. Other than the first fiery days of the slave revolts in Mosquito County, all the fighting had been on the other side of Florida. In the city of St. Augustine, black people still walked freely. They were too important to the city’s commerce to lock away. They were craftsmen, housekeepers, laborers, wood cutters and buggy drivers. Slaves unloaded the cargo from the merchant ships in the port. They mingled with the soldiers, merchants, shoppers and sailors that congested around the carts and open shops. No one paid us any mind as we drove the battered farm wagon toward the fort.”

The narrative builds anticipation as the characters prepare for a daring escape, emphasizing

the courage and resilience of those determined to regain their freedom. The emotional

farewells in prison and the determination of the individuals involved underscore the gravity

of their quest for freedom.

In "The Estelusti Trail," the narrative takes us through the challenging events experienced by

the Seminole and Estelusti in December 1837. Facing extermination from General Jesup's

forces, the tribes endure ruthless attacks and hardships. The swamp becomes a battlefield, and

warriors, led by characters like Mateo and John, fight with courage.

As the story unfolds, the scenes of battle, camaraderie, and the inevitable burden on the

characters paint a vivid picture. The symbolism of the swamp, described as a place suitable

only for creatures, adds a layer of complexity to the struggles faced by the Seminole and

Estelusti. The characters grapple with the harsh realities of war, loss, and the difficult

decisions they must make to survive.

We waited for battle in the shadowy Loxahatchee swamp southeast of Lake Okeechobee. The soggy land on which we stood was underwater much of the year. It was a place fit only for the creatures that thrived by slithering, swimming or burrowing deep in the mud. Centuries of strong ocean winds had bent the trees in odd and eerie angles. The bare limbs curled like bony fingers beckoning one into the unknown, and the silver Spanish moss draped from them like cobwebs. This battlefield had not been chosen as our others had. The fight had begun by accident two days before, when a few of our hunters surprised a small patrol which had come ashore from a convoy of army supply boats. More fighters from both sides rushed to join, and the little skirmish soon became a desperate running battle across miles of swamp.

The surrounded soldiers finally reached their boats but left behind two of them full of desperately needed food and ammunition. Jesup responded quickly and large units of American reinforcements poured in from all directions.”

In the final chapters, the narrative shifts towards negotiations and a delicate balance between

survival and preserving their way of life. Characters face the consequences of their choices,

with John at the forefront, grappling with the weight of leadership and necessary sacrifices.

The conclusion, set in January 1838, encompasses the aftermath of battles, the burden on the

community, and the tough decisions made for the survival of their people. The surrender,

marked by a procession of warriors and families, signifies the end of the Black Seminole

struggle in Florida.

"The Estelusti Trail" weaves themes of honor, sacrifice, and resilience, capturing a

tumultuous period in history through the lens of these compelling characters. The book

proves to be a captivating epic, as the narrator and Willet navigate through turbulent

historical events and grapple with the consequences of their challenges. Roy V. Gaston

constructs a complex narrative, rich in historical and emotional details, maintaining the

reader's interest throughout.


“The Estelusti Trail” by Roy V. Gaston receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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