Location: Bushnell, Florida
Webpage: Florida State Park
General Description: Dade Battlefield marks the beginning of open hostilities with the Seminole Indians in the Second Seminole War. During December, 1835, Major Francis Dade was leading 110 soldiers along the Military Road from Fort Brooke (Tampa) to Fort King (Ocala) through the Seminole Indian Reservation on a mission to resupply and reinforce Fort King. The Seminole Indians were becoming furious with efforts to relocate them again from their homes on the Reservation to the Arkansas Territory. Major Dade knew his men would be attacked along the route, but expected the attack to come at the river crossings to the south. Once beyond these rivers, Major Dade relaxed and pulled in his flanking scouts even though they knew the Indians were continuing to shadow them. The Seminole Indians had planned on attacking the soldiers but were waiting for Osceola to join them to lead the attack. Osceola had been delayed dealing with an Indian agent at Fort King and did not join them as planned. Once the soldiers were within 100 miles of Fort King, the Seminoles could not wait any longer so they set up an ambush in the longleaf sandhills by hiding in the saw palmetto and using a small lake to cut off any retreat. With 180 Seminole Indians against the 110 men in Dade’s command the ambush was deadly from the start. The Seminole’s very first volley killed Major Dade and most of his officers. In addition, most of the soldiers were artillery soldiers who first impulse was to construct a wooden barricade for protection. Their one field cannon was effective in keeping the Seminoles from overwhelming them, so long as they had ammunition. The wooden barricade was a simple three log high triangle built around the surviving soldiers. All but two of the soldiers were killed by the end of the battle. When word of this massacre was reported in the press, the public demanded a response and the Second Seminole War was begun. Today the Dade Battlefield is a small historic park along the Military Road. There is a small Visitor Center, a reconstruction of the wooden barricade, and a short trail along the military road giving positions and outcomes of the battle. There is also a nature hike through the pine flatwoods that is slowly being restored to the conditions at the time of the battle.
1) The Visitor Center includes a nice set of exhibits about the Seminole Wars (all three of them) along with a map and timeline of the Second Seminole War. They also have a very good video about the battle using reenactors that annually recreate the battle in December.
2) The short trail along the Military Road includes some interpretive signs that give the positions and outcomes of the battle as it unfolds. They have reconstructed the three log barricade the soldiers erected to try to protect them. There are also a couple of monuments that were put up to commemorate the location of Major Dade and one of his officers died in the first volley.
3) There is a VERY large live oak that is suppose to be over 250 years old. Very impressive in size and spread.
4) The nature trail through the pine flatwoods is a nice, easy walk. You get a good appreciation of the effects of burning, since part of it had been recently burned and other parts that had not seen a fire in at least 10 years.