The Major Francis Dade Massacre
Dade Battlefield historic State Park

Bushnell, Fl.

January 3rd, 2004

During our winter hiatus in Florida, we like to spend a month or so in the Central part, just east of Orlando at a music RV park in Bushnell.  It's the winter home for a lot of old time professionals and some really talented amateurs who get together somewhere, within a few miles of the town, to play and sing in what is called a musical jam.  Laura would sing and I would play most every evening we were there.  Bushnell is a small town with  a few restaurants surrounded by a combination of homes and farmland.  It wasn't always so.  Many years ago, this fertile land was  hotly contested by both white settlers and Seminole Indians.  Although little time in history classes is dedicated to the events of the land surrounding the town, a handful of dedicated residents known as the "Dade Battlefield Society Inc.", diligently preserves its historical moment in the form of a reenactment on or near the date of occurrence.  The actual battleground is now a State Park, complete with a small museum, picnic area and other amenities. The weekend commemorating the event is a two day event with all sorts of activities for kids and adults alike.  We started off by wandering around the makeshift encampment watching the presenters demonstrating the various things that might have been going on around 1835, the year of the battle.  The needs of the people were basically the same as they are today, food, clothing and shelter ranked at the top of the list.  We stopped for a few minutes and watched one of the presenters helping a young visitor work an small hand loom. These types of devices were responsible for much of the cloth worn by both settlers and the Indians.  No gathering for reenactment would be complete without a complement of pickers and grinners, singing those old time favorites common around the campfires of that time long gone by.  We stopped for a while to listen in, while going over a circle of material placed around the performers. War axes, knives and other material gave the whole scene a feel for the time period. By now the day was creeping up toward the grand show in the open field beside the encampment.  Before the actual battle reenactment, we stopped by for a short instruction on the standard weapon of the American soldier.  Although history experts report that most American soldiers were equipped with only a flint lock musket, the reenactment used  the far more reliable percussion cap muskets to insure continual discharge.  It is always interesting to watch the 9 step firing order executed by soldiers of that period. This exercise requires the shooter, to open a paper cartridge and powder packet (with their teeth), dump it into the barrel, push the paper of the packet in behind it and ram it home with ramming rod, then cock the hammer and place a percussion cap under the hammer and when fully cocked it was ready to fire.  Now with knowledge refreshed on the technical parts of war at that time, we proceeded to the field and took up a place on the lawn in front of what was to become a very action filled afternoon. The show started off with a few songs by a local folk singer to get us in the mood.  It was followed by a few words by a State Park Ranger and then a short period of "get ready" time.  The first event was the sound of a marching drum far off to the left.  Proceeding slowly into the middle of the field, right in front of us was a column of soldiers headed by an officer on horseback.  The rest of the story is best told by the historians who have, over the years researched and documented the events that occurred.