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.
Fees: A fee is required for all entry into Dade Battlefield Historic State Park.
Entrance fees are $3 per vehicle for up to 8 people; additional passengers pay $2 per person. The entrance fee for bicyclists and pedestrians is $2 per person. Additional fees may apply for special events.
Please use the blue Honor Fee envelopes available at the front gate to pay entrance fees when no attendant is on duty or pay by QR code through your smart phone or visit Floridastateparks.org and pay at Dade Battlefield site.
The Dade Lodge recreation hall may be reserved for $107 per day, including tax.
Picnic Pavilions may be rented for $53.50 per day including tax.
Facilities may be reserved up to 11 months in advance.
Reserve for programs by calling the park to be put on the program list.
Please stop by or call the park at 352-793-4781 to make reservations.