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Tampa takes place on a raw frontier in central Florida where white settlers are encroaching on the lands of the Seminole Indians. The U.S. Army is ordered to remove the Seminoles from Florida, but in a series of three wars, the Army takes heavy loses and fails to remove all of the Indians, who retreat into the Everglades and continue fighting. In 1854, West Pointer Clay Jordan comes to his first assignment at Fort Brooke in Tampa Bay and soon gets involved in the third war with the Seminoles. Led by their crafty chief, Billy Bowlegs, the Seminoles prove to be a dangerous foe. Clay distinguishes himself in the fighting, but on one patrol he is wounded and seeks medical attention from a doctor in Tampa. There he meets Kathleen Conley, the doctor's beautiful niece and nurse in training. Clay and Kathleen fall in love, but she hates the fighting and killing he must do, and she cannot understand why the Seminoles have to be removed from Florida. The war comes to a tragic end for the Seminoles, but about the same time, yellow fever strikes Tampa. Kathleen fights the fever so courageously that she is known as The Fever Angel.
Clay comes back from the war, and they face even more challenges. David Conrad is a retired history professor who, after years of dealing with historical facts with infinite care to be accurate, decided to loosen the bonds of strict history and write a novel using both fictional and historical characters placed in a true historical setting but involved in a mix of real and imagined events. He was drawn to the story of Tampa by research he did writing his own family history.