BUSHNELL — The scenery at this former battlefield is so pretty and peaceful that it’s worth walking around just to soak it up. If you take the time to go through the visitor center and walk the battlefield, though, you’ll find it tells a thought-provoking story.
This is the place that the fellow after whom Dade County is named died a hero. Now a state park just off I-75 north of Tampa, it tells a complex story.
Maj. Francis L. Dade and all but three of his 106 men were killed here in an ambush by Seminole Indians in 1835. That makes him a hero, right?
Well, today, it’s not so simple. In the Second Seminole War, the native Americans were resisting the U.S. government’s attempts to move them to Oklahoma. The Seminoles had welcomed former slaves as brothers, much to the disapproval of the white Southerners trying to force them from their land.
Without telling you what to think, the park’s video and exhibits tell a nuanced story of the people and that war. We are left to think about who are the bad guys as we walk this park shaded by magnificent live oaks. There’s a half-mile trail through pine flatwoods, where you might spot gopher tortoises, woodpeckers, songbirds, hawks or indigo snakes.
The park makes a good picnic spot; there are covered shelters and a playground.
Special event: annual Dade Battle Reenactment
Each year, on a weekend shortly after Christmas (the original battle was Dec. 28), the Dade Battlefield Society sponsors a reenactment of the battle.
The 2013 Dade Battle Reenactment was Jan, 5 and 6. Plan to arrive early on re-enactment weekend. The park manager says Sunday is usually less crowded than Saturday.
The event includes period soldier, Seminole and Civilian camps; a Sutler Trade Fair; historic arts and crafts demonstrations; full scale cannon firing; tree cutting and barricade building; musket shooting; tomahawk throwing and primitive archery.
Admission is $5 per person, children under 6 free, parking $2 per vehicle. Contact for more information: Kristin Wood, [email protected]
- Visit the park’s official site for more information.
- Find out more about the Dade Battlefield reenactors.