Visitors drawn to 80 acre Dade Battlefield Historic State Park for its history discover so much more, from ancient oaks and verdant pine flatwoods to a variety of events, programs and hands-on craft classes offered throughout the year. Established in 1921 to preserve and commemorate the site of Dade's Battle of 1835, a momentous event that spawned the longest and most costly Indian war in American history, this National Historic Landmark has become a hub of the community.
After Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821, the slow influx of settlers created increasing friction between between pioneers and Seminole Indians who had long called Florida their home. The Seminole practice of giving refuge to fugitive slaves added to the tension. By the 1830s, this conflict had risen to the boiling point. With the signing of the Treaty of Payne's Landing in 1832, several chiefs agreed to relocation of the Seminole people west of the Mississippi, to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. But many Seminoles refused to go.
Faced with the prospect of being forced by the federal government to move, Seminoles opposed to the treaty decided to fight for their homes. On December 28, 1835, a column of 107 officers and men under the command of Brevet Major Francis Langhorne Dade was enroute from Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay to reinforce the garrison at Fort King in present day Ocala. About 50 miles short of their destination, they were attacked by 180 Seminole warriors in a pine forest in present day Bushnell. All but three of the soldiers were killed, while only six warriors fell in the battle. Known at the time as the "Dade Massacre," Dade's Battle of 1835 sent shock waves across the nation. It marked the start of the Second Seminole War, the longest and most costly Indian War in American history.
In 1921, the Florida state legislature appropriated funds for the preservation of the battle site as a memorial. Under the title of Dade Battlefield Historic Memorial, it is also a United States National Historic Landmark (designated as such on April 14, 1972). Monuments indicating the locations of the officers’ deaths stretch from the park's entrance to about 300 feet south. A museum, which details the Seminole War, lays 49 feet from the replica of the breastworks and about 600 feet from the northernmost commemorative monuments.
The Dade Battlefield Society is a non-profit organization created to preserve the Dade Battlefield State Historic Site. It was created in June of 1987 to raise public awareness of Dade's Massacre. Since the creation of the organization, the Dade Battlefield Society has sponsored the annual reenactment of Dade's massacre. It also made information about the battle available to the public and created two videos, a thirty-minute video which details the battle's events and a short film that is shown in the Dade Battlefield Visitors Center. In addition, the Society rebuilt the cement log breastwork and corrected the breastwork's orientation as the breastwork faced west and not east. In 2002, the society purchased a six-pound long barrel cannon similar to the one Dade's men used in the battle.
The annual reenactment weekend in late December or early January is attended by thousands. An actor portraying Private Ransom Clarke narrates just before the battle starts, then the battle begins as the Seminoles (portrayed by Seminoles from the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation) and Dade's men exchange gunfire. After "Taps", the reenactors rise and talk to the public. During the day, there are demonstrations, lectures, folk music, musket shooting contests, tomahawk throwing contests, and a trade fair. LEARN MORE AT https://www.dadebattlefield.com/
VISIT THE PARK
7200 County Road 603, Bushnell, FL 33513
PHONE: (352) 793-4781
HOURS: Open 8:00am until sunset, 365 days a year. (Visitor Center is open 9:00am-5:00pm daily)
page information credit: Florida State Parks
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors