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Cohen, Myer M.

Notices of Florida and the Campaigns. Charleston, 1836. 240 pp. This volume includes a frontispiece portrait of Indian Chief Osceloa and a folding map. The original cloth binding is re-backed.

Myer Cohen served three months as an officer with the South Carolina volunteers in the 1836 campaign against the Seminole Indians in Florida. In his preface, Cohen describes the spirit of adventure that fostered his participation in the Florida Campaign. Cohen was a thirty-two year old lawyer and a member of the South Carolina legislature at the time he volunteered for military service. By 1837, Cohen lived in New Orleans and continued to practice law. He was active in the Admiralty courts and also served as Professor of Law at Straight University in New Orleans. In 1873, at the age of 69, Cohen was tried and acquitted on a charge of conspiracy to assassinate the Occupation Governor of Louisiana, William Pitt Kellogg. Cohen wrote another book, Admirilty Jurisdiction, Law & Practice, which was published in 1883, the year of his death.

Cohen's account of the Second Seminole War has received mixed reviews. Kenneth Porter, writing about the great Indian Chief Osceola in 1947, described Cohen's book as "a rather precious and plageristic book based partly on his brief experiences as an officer of the South Carolina militia in the left wing of General Scott's unsuccessful 'Summer Campaign' and partly on both acknowledged and unacknowledged ransackings of publications on Florida by others, which was one of the first of a number of books purporting to present personal observations of the war." O. Z. Tyler, in his preface to the 1964 facsimile edition of Cohen's book, finds that the volume still holds considerable value despite its shortcomings. Tyler states that it "is a veritable storehouse of names of plantations and their owners, and of participants in the Florida campaign during the early months of 1836. When it is considered that it is an 'on-the-spot' report, written and published almost immediately (for that period), it takes on the stature of authenticity.... The summary of the campaign as a failure is excellent from any point of view.... If the picture is not a pretty one, even if Cohen is cast in the unpleasant role of troublemaker, the report appears true."

The initial five chapters of the volume provide a historical sketch of Florida and the resident Indians, including accounts of the "Indian Outrages" and the causes of the Florida war. Chapters Six through Eight contain Cohen's journal for the months of January through April and his activities with the left wing of General Scott's campaign. The Ninth Chapter provides similar accounts of the right and center wings in the operation. Chapter Ten includes the author's journal of the final days of the campaign, with events at St. Augustine, Camp McCrea, Volusia, Tampa and the action at Peas Creek and Charlotte Harbor, as well as his return to Charleston. The pages provide extensive information relating to Florida and its native population. The frontispiece portrait of Osceola is the first published portrait of the famed Indian chief with a claim to being based on life, as Cohen met Osceola during the truce negotiations in Florida. The map of Florida, which contains interesting details relevant to the Seminole Wars, was published by Burgess and Honour of Charleston, South Carolina. Both illustrations are credited to W. Keenan. The fold out map, which is fragile but extant in the volume, includes a cartouche which states the map was "Corrected and Improved from data Furnish'd by M. M. Cohen." The volume itself is in brittle condition with browning pages.