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Dade Massacre

A History of Florida


The Dade Massacre. In the latter part of the month of December, 1835, Major Dade left Tampa for Fort King with 139 men. He had a six-pounder field piece and a wagon with rations for ten days. He had as guide a negro named Lewis. It is believed that Lewis told the Indians when the march would begin and what the route would be, for they were gathered at the Big Wahoo Swamp to make an attack. The Indians bad burned the bridge on the Hillsboro River, and this delayed the expedition a few days.

On the morning of December 28, the same day on which General Thompson was killed, the company was marching along a road near the Withlacoochee, where the country was covered with palmettoes. On the western side of the road the Indians were concealed in the palmettoes, waiting for the approach of the soldiers. A sudden volley from their rifles killed half the command. Major Dade was one of the first that fell. The survivors rallied quickly and drove the Indians over a small ridge. Then they hastily made a small triangular breastwork of pine trees. In about three quarters of an hour the Indians made another attack, and the dreadful work was soon done. Only two of our men escaped. When all bad fallen, the savages rushed into the fort, stripping the dead of their arms and accouterments. The guide had escaped to his Indian friends. The whole country was shocked at the news of this Massacre, and at first could hardly believe the dreadful truth.

Give the direction, force, and equipment of Major Dade's command. How was it believed the expedition was betrayed? Tell of the massacre.

Volunteers Enlisted. After the killing of Charley Emathla, General Clinch, in command of the United States troops, called for volunteers. Several companies under General Call joined him. As these troops were enlisted only for a short time, General Clinch at once began a march to the Withlacoochee, although be did not then know of the loss of Major Dade's command.


Crossing the Withlacoochee. On reaching the river, an unexpected difficulty was found. The stream was deep and rapid, there was no bridge, and the only means of crossing was in a leaky canoe that would hold only four or five men. An effort was made to swim the horses over, but only two could be gotten across in that way. The crossing was begun at daylight, the regular soldiers going first, and at noon only 260 had crossed. They tried to make rafts, but there was no suitable wood. The men who could do so swam the river, and ammunition was carried over on a raft of tree logs.

The Battle of Withlacoochee. The regulars and a few of the volunteers had crossed, when the Indians began a severe and unexpected fire. General Call, having made a footbridge of logs, was trying to get his men across as fast as possible when the attack began. He now left them with orders to cross is rapidly as they could, and crossed in the canoe himself while the fight was at the worst. As many of the volunteers as could do so crossed during the fight, and by their gallant conduct helped largely to win the day, for they prevented the Indians from getting between the regular troops and the river, and so cutting them off.

Who was then in command of the United States troops? Who responded to his call for volunteers? Tell of the Withlacoochee fight.

It was a hard fight. The Indians were protected by a hammock. They were also being reenforced all the time. They beat back two charges of our men, but on the third charge fled. On account of the numbers of the Indians and the strength of their position, it was thought best to recross the river. This was done successfully without the least confusion, although the war whoop was repeatedly heard from the hammock on the south, and our men were in momentary expectation of an attack.

General Scott in Command. Soon after these events General Winfield Scott was placed in command of the army of Florida. He did not understand the Indians or their way of fighting, and they were still able to find shelter in the hammocks and swamps. As there were no roads through the Territory on which wagons could carry provisions for large bodies of men, our army could not follow them.

Who was next placed in command of the army in Florida?

From the hiding places in the swamps, war parties would come out, killing mail carriers and express riders, carrying away negroes, burning homes, and putting many families to death. Many plantations were abandoned and settlers left their homes to go into the forts and towns for protection.

In the "Blockhouse." Early in the spring Major McLemore was sent on an expedition to get corn for the troops. After getting the corn, he built a small blockhouse not very far from the mouth of the Withlacoochee, and left there a small force of Florida volunteers under Captain Halliman. General Scott had intended pursuing the Indians in this direction, but afterwards changed his plans and his line of march, and the men in the blockhouse were left to themselves. Their condition was now very serious, for they were not only in danger of attacks by the Indians, but were also threatened by starvation.

Suffering and Danger. Day after day passed, but help did not come. The little band defended themselves bravely against almost daily attacks. The Indians set fire to the blockhouse and the roof was burned. After that the men had no shelter from sun or rain. Much sickness was caused, and by exposure to the weather the small supply of provisions was made unfit for use. As the men could not get out of the blockhouse for water without being fired upon, they suffered much from thirst.

What progress was made tinder his command? Relate the incidents of the blockhouse on the Withlacoochee.

The Rescue. Finally they sent three men down the river to report their condition, but General Clinch, who was thirty-five miles away, said he could not spare a force large enough to rescue them. Governor Call then called for a volunteer force, and, under the command of Colonel Leigh Read, ninety-five men undertook the rescue of the besieged. A boat was fitted out at St. Marks.

As the Indians were all along the banks, the ascent of the river was full of danger, and was made at night as quietly as possible. Before daylight the blockhouse was reached and relieved. For more than two months the besieged men had lived on corn and water. The logs of the blockhouse were almost cut to pieces and many bullets were found buried in them.

Fight in the Big Wahoo Swamp. General Jessup, who had succeeded in compelling the Creek Indians to leave Georgia, was next given the command of the army, but he left the troops for awhile with General Call. General Call was joined by twelve hundred Tennesseeans tinder General Armstrong. In November he crossed the Withlacoochee and broke up an Indian encampnient. He was engaged for several hours with a large force of Indians in the Big Wahoo Swamp. He said this was one of the hardest fights he ever had. Our men acted with great courage and coolness. They drove the Indians from the field and pursued them into the swamp until, waist deep in water, it was impossible for any but the Indians, who were at home in the swamp, to go any farther.

Who succeeded Scott in command? Tell of the battle of the Big Wahoo Swamp.

Excerpt from Part Two, Chapter Seven, "Dade Massacre - Withlacoochee - The Blockhouse" A History of Florida, 1904. Next Section; Table of Contents.


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