A Deadly Day in December

Seminole reenactors in colorful garb raise their rifles in celebration after their victory of the soldiers.

As you look around at the tranquil setting dominated by ancient live oaks, resurrection ferns, palmettos and long-leaf pines, with songbirds and woodpeckers flitting lightly among the leaves, it can be difficult to imagine that more than 180 years ago, this park was the scene of bloodshed, terror and tragedy.

On December 28, 1835, a U.S. Army column consisting of 107 officers and men under the command Brevet Major Francis Langhorne Dade was ambushed at this place by 180 Seminole warriors led by Micanopy, Alligator and Jumper. In a battle that lasted from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., all but three soldiers – including all of the officers – were killed. It was a defeat that shocked the nation, struck at the heart of the Army and led directly to the longest and mostly costly Indian war in American history.

For the Seminoles, what came to be known as Dade’s Battle was a resounding victory. Only three warriors lost their lives, and the attack sent a clear message to an American government bent on a policy of Indian Removal that the Seminole people would not give up their homes without a fight.  Its long-term consequences, however, were devastating. After seven years of warfare, most Florida Seminoles had been killed or captured and sent off to make new lives in the Indian Territory, far away in an unknown land now called Oklahoma.  An unconquered remnant survived deep within the Everglades, the ancestors of today’s proud Seminole and Miccosukee tribes of Florida - the Unconquered People.

We invite you to start your visit inside the visitor center and museum, where historic exhibits and an award-winning 12-minute video will provide insight into this rich but little known part of Florida and American history.  Move outside to the Fort King Road, where interpretive signs help tell the story of the battle.  Then explore our nature trail and beyond.