Dade's Battle (often called Dade's Massacre) was the first major battle of what would prove to be the longest and most expensive Indian war in American history. It was the antebellum era's "Little Bighorn."
The battle took place when Seminole warriors led by Micanopy, Jumper and Alligator attacked a column of 108 U.S. troops led by Major Francis Dade as it moved up the old Fort King Road from Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay to Fort King (modern Ocala) in the central part of the Florida peninsula. Although some skirmishing and other incidents had already taken place, open war had not yet erupted between the Seminoles and the United States.
The situation, however, was very tense. Government officials were trying to force the Seminoles to relocate to new lands west of the Mississippi, but hundreds of Native American chiefs and warriors were violently opposed to the proposal. Dade's command was marching to Fort King as part of a planned move to assemble a large military force in Florida to force the issue if necessary.
Dade knew there was a possibility of attack, but his column passed through heavy swamps and wilderness area without detecting any sign of Native American warriors. On the 28th of December, the soldiers emerged into fairly open pine country and breathed sighs of relief that they had passed the most likely points for attack. The day was cold, so they even wore their heavy coats over their weapons.
The Seminoles picked this moment to attack. Half the soldiers fell in their first volley and by the time the smoke cleared, all but four of the soldiers were dead. The four survivors were seriously wounded and crawled away from the battlefield. One was killed the next day, but three made it back to Tampa Bay to tell the story. The Second Seminole War had begun.
To learn more about Dade's Battle and the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, located within easy driving distance of both Orlando and Tampa, please visit our new Dade Battlefield page at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/dade.