Dade Battle Reenactment: bringing history to life

Photography by Elizabeth Dentato

This past weekend, shots rang out across the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, in commemoration of the 181st anniversary of Dade’s Battle. The actual battle took place just a little distance away from where The Dade Battlefield Society, Inc. performed the reenactment - the battle which started the Second Seminole War (that lasted 7 years).

On December 28th, 1835, 108 U.S. soldiers, who were led by Major Francis Langhorne Dade, were attacked by surprise by Seminole Indians on their journey to Fort King (now Ocala) from Fort Brooke, in Tampa. After the battle was finished, there were only three soldiers that survived.

The Reenactment and Trade Fair were dedicated to Jerry Robertson and Jerry Vaughn - dedicated members of the Society who passed away recently.

Attending the events on Sunday, before the reenactment began, there was a demonstration which highlighted the various pieces of equipment that both the Seminoles and the U.S. soldiers most likely would have used, as well as the type of clothing they would have worn. Several presenters spoke to the crowd, the Color Guard Ceremony took place, and the audience stood for the National Anthem.

Afterwards, the reenactment transported the spectators back in time, allowing them to hear and see what it might have been like on that day. The reenactors dressed as U.S. soldiers, walked along a path, when a sudden shot was fired, beginning the battle. Audience members witnessed the Seminole reenactors firing while running in and out of sight on foot and horseback, calling to each other, while the U.S. soldiers fired their guns and a cannon into the forest, taking shelter behind a barricade that was built by the reenactors as the battle continued.

Throughout the event, the narrator Frank Laumer, helped to guide spectators through the battle, as Pvt. Ransom Clark. It was explained that he’s been very involved for many years, but that this would be his last narration. He received a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of the battle.

During that weekend, along with the reenactment, there were sutlers and vendors on the grounds as well as military and Seminole camps.

After the reenactment finished, individuals had the opportunity to speak with the reenactors and take photos. Speaking with two reenactors (a Seminole and a U.S. soldier reenactor) it was clear that there is a great deal of dedication and love of history involved in organizing and participating in the events.

The US Soldier reenactor who has been involved in a number of different types of reenactments said that while there might not be a significant difference between doing the Civil War and the Second Seminole War reenactments, there are distinct differences that you have to learn like the way one shoulders, lifts and fires the weapon.

“I don’t consider this a reenactment,” he explained. “This is honoring the dead here. And this isn’t a costume, this is a United States Army uniform that we wear.”
I spoke to a Seminole reenactor, who was working with a horse. He said, “I do this for a living, so I work with this stuff every day… I do school shows, and festivals, historical sites. I do encampments, educational programs on history and culture.”

If you’re interested in becoming involved in events like this, reenactors stressed that it’s important to come to the events, talk to the people and look online to see what’s out there. Experienced reenactors can help you find out how to get started, with things like where to buy or how make the equipment you need.
The Dade Battlefield Society Inc., which is, “a nonprofit citizen support organization,” can be found online at The address for the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park is 7200 CR 603, Bushnell, FL 33513.

More information about the park itself can be found online at:

Later this year, other events will be held at the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, including a World War II Weekend on March 4th and 5th of 2017, as well as the 7th annual Inter-Tribal Holiday Pow-Wow, presented by Pan-O-Kee Native American Tribe of Central Florida, September 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, 2017.

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