On the third day after Christmas, 1835, a column of around 110 cold, tired soldiers marched north, headed to Ft. King, near present-day Ocala. Because of the cold, most of them had their muskets and ammunition buttoned beneath their heavy overcoats. They had been marching for five days and their commander, Major Francis Dade, had promised three days off to properly celebrate Christmas upon their arrival at Ft. King.
The march had been quiet so far and there was no sign of the Seminoles, with whom the United States had been in an on again, off again conflict for twenty years. It’s likely no one complained when Major Dade, who was tactically astute and normally conservative, ordered the scouts covering his flank back to the main column in order to move faster.
Along a half-mile stretch of trail that cut through pines, palmettos and tall grass, 180 Seminole warriors lay in ambush, an act of war for which the tribal leaders had been preparing for more than a year. Chief Micanopy fired the first shot, reportedly bringing down Major Dade himself. At that signal, the other Seminoles to begin firing. Within moments, half the American soldiers had fallen. The survivors regrouped and, under the command of Captain George Gardiner, drove the Seminoles back temporarily and managed to construct a makeshift battlement of logs. By the end of the day, however, only 2 Americans survived and the Second Seminole War had begun.
The Dade Battlefield Historic State Park commemorates this battle and honors the participants on both sides. In addition to tours of the battlefield itself, the park features a hiking trail with abundant wildlife; a visitor’s center with clean restrooms; a pavilion and lodge perfect for wedding receptions and family reunions; geo-seeking and much more. Also, every January features a reenactment of the battle, which is historically accurate and exquisitely detailed.
7200 County Road 603
Bushnell, Florida 33513
Dade Battlefield Historic State Park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset every day of the year. The park features picnic facilities, hiking trails and the historic battlefield. Please note that the park Visitor Center, which contains the park office and a small museum, is closed until further notice.
A fee is required for all entry into the park.
Entrance fees are $3 per vehicle for up to 8 people; additional passengers $2 per person.
The entrance fee for bicyclists and pedestrians is $2 per person.
Reservations for programs may be made by calling the park at 352-793-4781.
Reservations for facilities including the Lodge building and picnic pavilions are not being taken until further notice. Pavilions are available on a first-come basis. Please practice social distancing and limit group sizes to 50 or fewer people.