The Well Dressed Seminole Warrior
by Guy Miller

Let's face it--we are reenactors because reenacting is fun and we like to dress up. I believe, however, that we have an obligation to the public and to our fellow reenactors to strive for historical accuracy in our appearance.

For the most part, Joe Public is ignorant, "That fringed and painted Seminole war shirt we saw at the battle last Sunday looked really cool! I think I'll help Johnny make one for extra credit at school."

Yes, this is exactly what can happen if we don't take our obligation to authenticity seriously. We are the experts to the public, many people will believe what they see.

We have to be careful, as well, to wear typical clothing in our impression, not could have had items. If you are reenacting a corporate board meeting in Florida in the year 2001, would you wear a kilt or a tuxedo? Yes, kilts are worn some where in 2001 but they are not native to Florida nor typically worn by Florida businessmen. Yes, some small percentage of Floridian businessmen own tuxedos and, yes, some board member may have shown up once in his tux at an emergency meeting as he was on his way to a charity ball, but...You get the idea.

Although I have done research on Seminole clothing of the 1830s, I can not give a definitive treatise on authentic Seminole clothing of the Dade Battle. I know what is believed to be typical Seminole clothing of the period- but I am still discussing interpretations with other researchers and I wasn't present at the battle in 1835. I have tried, however, to list typical Seminole items of the period as a goal for reenactors to strive for plus I have listed acceptable alternatives that can be used while working towards the goal.

There has always been some leniency at Dade- permitting reenactors with unacceptable items to participate in the battle as long as they remained at the rear of the battlefield and out of clear sight of the public. As a reenactor, I want to be in sight of the public. If you do as well, I encourage you to eliminate any unacceptable items from your impression. I hope the below list is helpful.

HEAD COVERINGS--GOAL: 1830s Seminole style turban and, for the daring, dark hair which is cut in a southeastern native style (shaven to medium length sides and back, bangs, no side braids; preferably trimmed or worn so that the ears show and there is jaw length hair in front of the ears). Natural dark or white ostrich feathers and a silver turban band may be used. ACCEPTABLE: Other documented Creek headdress styles. UNACCEPTABLE: Visible modern haircut or light colored hair, cheap Halloween wigs, late 1800s/modern Seminole turban, extra-long feathers placed in an upright position which make it harder for a warrior to enter the woods unnoticed and stay hidden before battle, and Plains or woodlands style headdresses.

FACE--GOAL: Clean-shaven, when painted- use earth or powder paints. ACCEPTABLE: Many Seminoles did have a thin mustache so this is OK. UNACCEPTABLE: Beard, sideburns,walrus or man chu mustache; avoid shiny grease paint.

UPPER BODY CLOTHING--GOAL: 1830s style Plain Shirt or trade shirt-loose pullover shirts made of vintage solid, calico, striped or paisley cotton prints plus, if desired, an 1830s style Seminole Long Shirt. ACCEPTABLE: Longhunter style wrap-around hunting shirt, 1830s civilian vest or coat, bare chest (if tanned- no lily white skin please). UNACCEPTABLE: fringed leather garment of a Plains or mountain man appearance, Colonial or Civil War style clothing.

LOWER BODY CLOTHING--GOAL: Tapered truncated point or triangular breechcloth, wool front-seam Seminole leggings with taped edging or natural brain tanned leather leggings with side seam flaps. ACCEPTABLE: Bare legs. UNACCEPTABLE: fringed Plains style leggings, leather mountain man trousers.

FOOTWEAR-- GOAL: Seminole swamp mocs or bare feet. ACCEPTABLE: Woodlands center-seam mocs in natural colored leather with the flaps turned up, tied around the ankles and covered by Seminole style leggings. UNACCEPTABLE: Plains mocs, Apache boots, modern footwear.

ACCOUTREMENTS AND OTHER--GOAL AND ACCEPTABLE: For formal occasions, Seminoles of the period regularly wore the following--silver pendant earrings, silver armbands and wrist bands, 1 to 4 silver crescent gorgets, silk or cotton neck scarves in period prints, finger woven sashes and leg ties in diamond or chevron patterns and especially with interwoven white beads, decorated Seminole bandoleer bags or primitive hunting bags and powder horns. Beadwork on bags, breechcloths or leggings should be of a documented Seminole or Creek style. Documentation also exists for trade rings (no stones), decorative brooches and nose rings. Smokers should use trade pipes. UNACCEPTABLE: Plains beadwork, mountain man fur pouches, modern jewelry.

FIREARMS--GOAL: Flintlock longrifles or muskets are correct for the period. ACCEPTABLE: Carbine-length flintlocks, percussion longrifles. UNACCEPTABLE: Any post 1830s pattern such as modern hunting style black powder rifles, Civil War muskets, pistol-carbines, double barrel shotguns.

OTHER ARMS--GOAL: If desired, Eastern style tomahawks and period knives in Southeastern style sheaths were used. UNACCEPTABLE: Tomahawks or knives decorated in a Plains style, Bowie knives.



The Well Dressed Seminole

Seminole Women Reenactors' Guide