After Florida became a U.S. territory in 1822, the slow influx of settlers created increasing friction between between pioneers and Seminole Indians who had long called Florida their home. The Seminole practice of giving refuge to fugitive slaves added to the tension. By the 1830s, this conflict had risen to the boiling point. With the signing of the Treaty of Payne's Landing in 1832, several chiefs agreed to relocation of the Seminole people west of the Mississippi, to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. But many Seminoles refused to go. Faced with the prospect of being forced by the federal government to move, Seminoles opposed to the treaty decided to fight for their homes. On December 28, 1835, a column of 107 officers and men under the command of Brevet Major Francis Langhorne Dade was enroute from Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay to reinforce the garrison at Fort King in present day Ocala. About 50 miles short of their destination, they were attacked by 180 Seminole warriors in a pine forest in present day Bushnell. All but three of the soldiers were killed, while only six warriors fell in the battle. Known at the time as the "Dade Massacre," Dade's Battle of 1835 sent shock waves across the nation. It marked the start of the Second Seminole War, the longest and most costly Indian War in American history.
In 1921, the state legislature appropriated funds for the preservation of the battle site as a memorial.