The Dade Massacre

  • Wars And Conflict
  • 3 mins

By Crusader1307

Sometimes referred to (incorrectly), as The Battle of Dade County – The more appropriate “Dade Massacre”, was a Military engagement of The 2nd Seminole (Indian) War (1835-1845). 


There were actually “3” Seminole Wars. The United States had annexed Florida as a Territory from Spain after The War of 1812 with Great Britain. The indigenous Native-American population were known as The Seminoles. Spain had tried to subjugate them, with disastrous results. As such, Spain left The Seminoles alone (a mutual condition). The United States quickly sent in Settlers and The Army, establishing many wooden Forts throughout The Territory, much to the disdain of The Seminoles. Mutual War was declared from 1816 to 1819. A uneasy Peace led to 1830, and President Andrew Jackson’s “Indian Removal Act”. The vast majority of The Mississippi Region Tribes were forcibly removed to newly established “Reservations”. The Government moved in and established Settlements. President Jackson, (the Commanding General of Army Forces during The 1st War), was not at all surprised that The Seminoles would not leave. In 1835, he sent The Army once again into The Swamps and Palmetto Brush of Florida. Forts were again erected  (or damaged ones repaired). On December 20, 1835, Major Francis Dade was given a Mission. March from Fort Brooke (present day Tampa) in-land to Fort King (present Ocala – or Central Florida).


The Seminoles had been “shadowing” The American Forces of 110-Soldiers and (1) 6-Pound Artillery piece for days. The thick Palmetto Brush made the act of "camouflage" by laying flat an easy feat for the well disciplined Seminoles. Well Armed with Musket, they established a “moving Flank” on both sides of The American Column. 25-miles South of Fort King (around 10 AM), Warchief  Micanopy and his 180-Braves, set their trap. The Seminoles fired their rifles at a distance of 50-yards. Half of The American Troops fell dead, including Major Dade. Command now fell to Captain George Gardiner. Rallying his remaining Forces, he ordered a hastily constructed Breastwork of Palmetto Trees. The Seminoles called it a “Fort”. They were amused. The remaining American Soldiers tried valiantly to defend their positions. However, they did not carry enough Gunpowder with them. Around 4 PM, The Seminoles grew tired. They charged The Americans. It ended quickly.


“History” states that “some” Soldiers survived. The Seminoles were not accustomed to killing a wounded Warrior. However, some accounts of The Battle, tell of “Mounted Negros” arriving several hours later and killing all left alive. Guns, clothing – all that could be taken was. The Seminoles were not keepers of “Slaves”, and often allowed “Runaways” to join their Tribe. They were well aware of the hatred they held for “Whites”.


107 US Soldiers died with only 2 surviving. One died from wounds hours after the “Negro Horsemen” left The Field. The other, one Private Ranson Clark (shot several times, with a severe laceration to his face), climbed under a heap of dead fellow Soldiers. Walking 25-miles to Ft. King – we was helped along the way by a “friendly Seminole Female”. Private Clark’s account of The Battle is all that survived.


For the next year (1837), The Seminoles held sway. All most every Homestead and Fort was attacked and burned down. President Jackson had had enough. He would pour thousands more Soldiers into Florida. Battle after Battle, with victories and defeats – would lead to yet another uneasy Truce. That is until 1855, when War would once again flare up between The United States and The Seminole Confederation.