Dade Battlefield
Monuments stand at the
points where U.S. officers fell
during Dade's Battle. The one
in the foreground marks the
spot where Major Dade died.
Palmetto on the Battlefield
Seminole warriors used
palmetto as cover before their
ambush of Major Dade and
his men.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, Florida
Dade Battlefield Historic State Park - Bushnell, Florida
Dade Battlefield
Reconstructed log breastworks stand at the site
where Major Francis Dade and 105 men were killed
during the Second Seminole War.
Scene of the Dade Massacre
On December 28, 1835, Seminole warriors
attacked a column of 107 U.S. soldiers led by
Major Francis Dade, sparking a battle that
would bring the United States fully into the
costliest Indian war in its history.

Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in
Bushnell, Florida (an easy drive from both
Tampa and Orlando) preserves the site of
one of the most important battles in
American history. Major Dade and 103 of his
men died here in an event that was the "Little
Bighorn" of its day.

Tensions were extremely high in Florida
when Major Dade and 108 men marched out
from Fort Brooke (today's Tampa) in late
December of 1835. The U.S. Government
was attempting to force the Seminoles to
voluntarily relocate to new lands west of the
Mississippi. Hundreds of Seminole chiefs
and warriors were opposed to the move.
Although several small encounters had taken
place, open warfare had not yet erupted.

Dade and his men were marching, with a
single piece of artillery, to reinforce the
garrison at Fort King, a frontier stockade on
the present site of Ocala. The soldiers were
wary of possible attack, but by the 28th had
emerged from the thick swamps along their
route and were marching through fairly open
pine lands.

The day was very cold and, more relaxed now
that they had emerged from the thickets and
swamps, the men were wearing heavy coats
over their weapons. Major Dade and an
advance guard were slightly ahead of the
main column, but the soldiers had no scouts
out on their flanks.

According to one survivor, Private Ransom
Clarke, the major had just promised the men
a three day Christmas rest when they
reached Fort King when suddenly a shot
rang out.

Unknown to Dade and his men, they had
been watched for days since they had left
Tampa Bay and were now walking into an
ambush laid by around 200 Seminole
warriors. The Native American leaders
Micanopy, Jumper and Alligator were all on
the field.

Following the signal shot, the Seminoles
opened fire from the cover of palmetto and
high grass and Major Dade, his horse, and
roughly half the column went down in the first
volley. One survivor told Major F.S. Belton that
fifteen rounds were fired by the Indians
before the soldiers ever actually saw a
warrior.

The Seminoles swarmed forward, but were
driven back by the fire of Dade's cannon. The
artillery blasts caused a pause in the battle
long enough for the soldiers to regroup.

Taking advantage of the brief lull they threw
up a triangular breastwork of logs. It was only
about three logs high, however, when the
Seminoles attacked again. Archaeologists
later found piles of flattened rifle balls at the
site of the log breastworks.
When the smoke finally cleared, virtually the
entire army force had been wiped out. Dade,
his officers and at least 103 men were dead.

Four soldiers, all badly wounded, survived
the attack. Among these were Privates John
Thomas and Ransom Clarke of Company C,
2nd U.S. Artillery. Despite their wounds,
Thomas and Clarke carried the news of the
attack back to Fort Brooke. A third survivor,
Joseph Sprague, also reached the fort before
dying, but a fourth was killed before he could
make it to Tampa Bay. Dade's interpreter
Louis Pacheco, was either captured or
voluntarily went over to the Seminoles.

Although there had been several small
skirmishes or incidents before the 28th, it
was the destruction of Dade's command that
sparked the Second Seminole War.

Dade Battlefield Historic State Park includes
the preserved battlefield area, reconstructed
log breastworks and a museum/visitor center
as well as picnic areas and walking trails.
The park is open daily, but the Visitor Center
is currently open only Thursday - Monday.

Please click here to visit the official park
website for more information.

To reach the park from Interstate 75, take Exit
# 314 (County Road 48) at Bushnell, Florida.
Turn east toward downtown Bushnell. Turn
right (south) on County Road 603 and follow
it to the battlefield, which will be on your right.
The address is 7200 County Road 603.

Also of interest in the immediate area are
Fort Cooper State Park in Inverness and the
site of the Battle of Wahoo Swamp, between
Bushnell and Floral City on County Road 48
West. The U.S. soldiers killed in the battle
are buried beneath the
Dade Pyramids at St.
Augustine National Cemetery.
Ancient Oak Tree
This massive oak growing
near the battle site was a
large tree at the time of the
1835 battle.
The Fort King Road
The soldiers were at about
this point on the old Fort King
Road when half of them fell in
the first Seminole volley.
Dade Battlefield Museum
The small museum on the
grounds displays artifacts
from the battle, a cannon like
the one used there and a
famous painting of the fight.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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