Attack on Fort King

December 28, 1835 – the start of the Second Seminole War: The first attack on that deadly day – the Dade Massacre.

On December 23, 1835, two companies of U.S. troops were dispatched from Fort Brooke in Tampa under the leadership of Brevet Major Francis L. Dade. Their mission was to resupply and reinforce the troops at Fort King.

On the morning of December 28, 1835, the troops were ambushed near present day Bushnell by a group of Seminole under the leadership of Chief Micanopy. Micanopy and his men decimated the soldiers, and only one of the 110 soldiers survived. This event is known as the Dade Massacre.

AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE DADE MASSACRE by Seminole leader Halpatter Tustenuggee (Alligator)

“We had been preparing for this more than a year. Though promises had been made to assemble on the 1st of January, it was not to leave the country, but to fight for it. In council, it was determined to strike a decided blow about this time. Our agent at Fort King had put irons on our men, and said we must go.


Osceola said he was his friend, he would see to him. It was determined that he should attack Fort King, in order to reach General Thompson, then return to the Wahoo Swamp, and participate in the assault mediated upon the soldiers coming from Fort Brooke, as the negroes there had reported that two companies were preparing to march. He was detained longer than we anticipated.

The troops were three days on their march, and approaching the Swamp. Here we thought it best to assail them; and should we be defeated the Swamp would be a safe place of retreat. Our scouts were out from the time the soldiers left their post, and reported each night their place of encampment. It was our intention to attack them on the third night, but the absence of Osceola and Micanopy prevented it.

On the arrival of the latter it was agreed not to wait for Osceola, as the favorable moment would pass. Micanopy was timid, and urged delay. Jumper earnestly opposed it, and reproached the old chief for his indecision. He addressed the Indians and requested those who had faint hearts to remain behind; he was going when Micanopy said he was ready.

Just as the day was breaking, we moved out of the swamp into the pine-barren. I counted, by direction of Jumper, one hundred and eighty warriors. Upon approaching the road, each man chose his position on the west side; opposite on the east side, there was a pond. Every warrior was protected by a tree, or secreted in the high palmettoes. About nine o’clock in the morning the command approached. In advance, some distance, was an officer on horse, who, Micanopy said, was the captain; he knew him personally; had been his friend in Tampa. So soon as all the soldiers were opposite, between us and the pond, perhaps twenty yards off, Jumper gave the whoop, Micanopy fired the first rifle, the signal agreed upon, when every Indian arose and fired, which laid upon the ground, dead, more than half the white men.

The cannon was discharged several times, but the men who loaded it were shot down as soon as the smoke cleared away; the balls passed far over our heads. The soldiers shouted and whooped, and the officers shook their swords and swore. There was a little man, a great brave, who shook his sword at the soldiers and said, ‘God-dam!’ No riffle-ball could hit him.

As we were returning to the swamp supposing all were dead, an Indian came up and said the white men were building a fort of logs. Jumper and myself, with ten warriors, returned. As we approached, we saw six men behind two logs placed one above another, with the cannon a short distance off. This they discharged at us several times, but we avoided it by dodging behind the trees just as they applied the fire. We soon came near, as the balls went over us.


They had guns, but no powder, we looked in the boxes afterwards and found they were empty. 

When I got inside the log-pen, there were three white men alive, whom the negroes put to death, after a conversation in English. There was a brave man in the pen; he would not give up; he seized an Indian, Jumper’s cousin, took away his rifle, and with one blow with it beat out his brains then ran some distance up the road; but two Indians on horseback overtook him, who, afraid to approach, stood at a distance and shot him down.

The firing had ceased, and all was quite when we returned to the swamp about noon. We left many negroes upon the ground looking at the dead men. Three warriors were killed and five wounded.”

(*Note that all errors in spelling and grammar are of the original writer)

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