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150th Anniversary of the First Scout Enlistment: 1870-2020

March 17, 1870: Captain Jacob DeGress, Commander, Fort Duncan, to Assistant Adjutant General H. Clay Wood, War Dept. 

Captain DeGress requests approval for permitting Seminole Negroes to come to the U.S. 

Degress to Wood_Safe Passage_March 17_18

Headquarters Post of Fort Duncan
Fort Duncan, Texas March 17, 1870

Brevet Brigadier General H. Clay Wood,
Assistant Adjutant General



I have the honor to inform you that the Chief of the remaining Seminoles in Mexico, John Kibit, came to this Post this morning for the purpose of getting permission to move to the Seminole Reservation in Arkansas, and to receive subsistence and forage for his people and horses while in transit. He states that his Tribe, consisting of about one hundred people, is poor, but willing to work.

They are mostly blacks and moved to Mexico under the Seminole Chief Wild Cat.

I have given the Chief a document of which the enclosed is a copy and have promised him rations and forage subject to the approval of the General Commanding while at this post.


This Chief informed me that the Kickapoos were anxious to move back to their Reservations and only waited for  permission and protection to do so.

In view of this information, I will send the Deputy Sheriff of this County, Mr.

Degress to Wood_Safe Passage_March 17_18

Albert Tuerpe, who speaks the Kickapoo language, to Santa Rosa, Mexico, to invite their Chief, who is now at Santa Rosa, to come to this post for a “talk.”

I most respectfully ask the approval of the Major General Commanding of my action so far, and instructions as to what shall be done in case the Seminoles and Kickapoos, or either of them, come over agreeably to my promise.

The enclosed is a copy of letter of authority given Mr. Tuerpe. I have also instructed Mr. Tuerpe to pay special attention to whatever captives the Kickapoos may have, taking description of them if possible.

I am Sir,
Very Respectfully,
Your Obt. Servant,
“signed” J. C. DeGress
Captain 9th Cavalry
Brevet Lieutenant Colonel, U. S. A.
Commanding Post

Note: John Kibbetts appears to have been in competition with John Horse for the title of Principal Chief, but it seems that the majority of the Seminole Negroes saw Horse as their primary leader, and the decision to request the move to Indian Territory was probably discussed by the entire community and decided on mutually. Since Kibbetts and his group were in Nacimiento, while John Horse and his group were much deeper in Mexico, the Kibbetts group became the spearhead for the Seminole Negroes coming over to the United States, but oral history collected in the 1940’s makes it very clear that while Kibbetts had his followers, and became a military leader as Sergeant in the Scouts, he never replaced Horse as Head Chief, even if some military officers saw him that way. Rosa Fay, an elderly Seminole Negro woman who knew both men well said this about it. “John Horse was the only chief of the Seminole after Wild Cat. John Kibbetts was Chief only from Nacimiento to Texas…. If John Kibbetts was ever elected Chief it was because only his followers were voting!”

Kibbetts name has multiple spellings in each piece of correspondence, as did most names in the 19th century when writing was still the province of clerks, and few people wrote their own names. The most common version was Kibbetts, but sometimes it was Kivet, or Kibit as it is here.

Source Information:

National Archives Microfilm Publications

Microcopy Number: 619R799

Collection: Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General (Main Series), 1861-1870

Roll: 799-800 (Papers Relating to the Return of the Kickapoo and the Seminole (Negro) Indians from Mexico to the United States, 1870 – 1914)

Digital Images: 31.jpg and 32.jpg

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