Veterans Legacy Program: Major David Moniac, first Native American West Point graduate and leader of the Creek Volunteers


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Maj. David Moniac was the first Native American to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. The academy accepted him in 1817 at the age of 16. Moniac graduated in 1822 and served as a lieutenant in the U.S. 6th Infantry Regiment. He later led the Creek Volunteers in Florida during the Second Seminole War.

Moniac was born near present-day Montgomery County, Alabama to a family that included several Creek leaders. Members of his family played a role in negotiating the Treaty of New York in 1790, which declared peace between the Creek Nation and the United States. The treaty also contained a provision that agreed that the United States government would provide an education for four young Creek Natives. This provision allowed 16-year-old David Moniac to gain admission to West Point.

Photograph of David Moniac's letter of resignation from the Sixth U.S. Infantry Regiment

David Moniac’s resignation letter from the 6th U.S. Infantry Regiment.

Moniac sometimes struggled at West Point, in part because he was the only minority to attend. He often fell into the spotlight because of his ethnicity, and some of the leadership at West Point felt fascination with attendance. Despite this, Moniac graduated in 1822.

Upon graduation, he received his commission as a Brevet Second Lieutenant in the 6th United States Infantry Regiment. He spent about five months in the Army before signing a letter of resignation. Many newly graduated officers resigned their commission in 1822 as Congress began to downsize the Army. Additionally, Moniac received a letter that detailed family troubles back home. His uncle had encouraged him to return home as quickly as he could. Moniac left the Army shortly after.

Moniac settled back in Alabama and became a cotton farmer and horse breeder. He built a plantation home sometime in the 1830s and had a son named David Moniac.

In 1836, the United States organized a unit of Creek Volunteers from Alabama to aid the Army in Florida during the Second Seminole War. Moniac volunteered and the Army commissioned him as a captain.

Moniac joined the governor of Florida, Richard Keith Call, and his army in Tampa, Florida. Governor Call openly welcomed Creek troops, who made up nearly a third of his entire force. In total, nearly 700 Creek soldiers served under Call during the war. Moniac was the only Native American among all of the officers. The Army promoted Moniac to Major in October 1836 after successfully commanding an assault on a Seminole stronghold near Tampa.

One month later, in November 1836, a combined U.S. force of 2,500 Tennessee Volunteers, Florida militia, Army artillery, and Creek Volunteers advanced on about a mile long front during the Battle of Wahoo Swamp. David Moniac led a charge of his Creek Volunteers on the left flank through a thick swamp near the Withlacoochee River. As they advanced, Seminole warriors discharged a musket volley, fatally striking Moniac. His death marked the end of the battle. The soldiers under his command retrieved his remains before retreating out of the swamp.

Photograph of David Moniac's memorial marker at Florida national Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida.

David Moniac’s memorial marker at Florida national Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida.

Today, Moniac is memorialized in Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida not far from where the Battle of Wahoo Swamp took place. The inscription on his marker reads: “He was as brave and gallant a man as ever drew a sword or faced an enemy.”

In 2017, NCA’s Veterans Legacy Program partnered with universities to discover stories in their local national cemeteries. University of Central Florida conducted research of Veterans at Florida National Cemetery. Maj. David Moniac was among the Veterans that students discovered and a biography was written for him. His service, sacrifice, and legacy is now shared with the public.  You can find the student’s biography for Moniac here.

To learn more about the Veterans Legacy Program, please visit https://www.cem.va.gov/legacy/

In recognition of National Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day, NCA is honored to share Maj. David Moniac’s legacy. Please join us in recognizing his service and sacrifice.

Author

Kenneth Holliday

Ken Holliday is part of the Veterans Legacy Program at the National Cemetery Administration. He is a proud Army Veteran, having served as an Infantryman with combat deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan.