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Major Dade's Weapons

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Above: Soldiers under Major General Edmund Gaines come upon the remains of Major Dade's men, two months after the battle.

I saw some photos and videos from Dade Battle reenactment. I wish I could have gone and seen Swamp Owl, Sawgrass, the Griffins, and Earl & family. The battle reenactment looked the same as always. I did not make it this year because I started puking on Friday morning, so I canceled my trip down there. I was better the next day, but had already canceled my hotel room at the Microtel.

But a good question was asked on Facebook: Did the Seminoles take the arms from the fallen soldiers at Dade Battle, after the battle was over?

So I checked the various sources who were eyewitnesses with General Gaines’ command who buried Major Dade’s party, and later wrote their accounts. The only account who mentions the muskets, was W.W. Smith, who published anonymously, “Sketch of the Seminole War and Sketches During a Campaign, by a Lieutenant of the Left Wing” in 1836. He was a militia officer, and the only one of the various eyewitness accounts that has not been republished in modern times. The Seminole Wars foundation plans to republish his book soon, which I look forward too.

Smith mentioned in the beginning of the book, that he became ill and missed out on a lot of the campaign, so he relies on the accounts of people he meets while in Palatka or St. Augustine. This is important, because it means that most of his information is second or third hand sources, and not as reliable as an eyewitness.

So Smith is writing about General Gaines’ command reaching Major Dade’s command, with the bones bleaching in the sun, where they were killed two months before and where they still lay. And remember, Smith was not there himself, but writing down this information from another unknown source of which we do not know.

Smith says that when the soldiers of Gen. Gaines reached the dead command of Major Dade, the Indians has taken the Arms, and some of the cartridge boxes and belts. He is the only one of several accounts which mentioned this, which I find curious, and a little disturbing.

Why was it not mentioned by Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock in his report, (which is printed in both the Army & Navy Chronicles and Sprague) or by others like Prince or McCall? I find this troubling. It would certainly be an important point to mention, if the Indians suddenly added 100 muskets to their side. Hitchcock says that the only thing that the Indians took was the scalps.

The muskets and belts would have been property of the government, and not buried with the soldiers in their graves, but retrieved and turned back into the quartermaster, probably at Fort King which was the next destination. If the Indians had taken 100 muskets, it would be worth noting to the higher command, and it would certainly be the responsibility of the officer making the report to mention this. Why is the only mention of arms being taken by Indians in an anonymously published source who was not there?

My next search would be of quartermaster records of the same time, which would probably be around March 1836, to see if the QM received equipment that was retrieved among the dead soldiers of Major Dade. There is record of personal items among the soldiers that are retrieved, and these are sent back to Key West, which was where Dade’s command originated, and where the men’s families were probably waiting.

A few years back, I was looking at the congressional expenditures for the Indian affairs, in conjunction with the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek with the Choctaw in 1830. At the end of that expenditure, was tacked on the gifts and expenditures of the Treaty of Paynes Landing with the Seminoles in 1832. We learn from the gift list of that treaty, that the Seminoles were given 2200 Derringer rifles as gifts at the end of the treaty. In essence, the U.S. Government just armed the Seminole Nation for the next war.

Although we don’t know exactly what these rifles looked like, we can pretty much assume they were common trade rifles the US government was buying from arms manufactures at that time and presenting as treaty gifts to the Indians. Which were, small caliber rifles that were percussion cap converted from flint. These would use less powder and lead for each shot fired, and actually be more accurate and twice the distance as the U.S. Army standard issue .69 cal. Musket. I also know from experience, that the soldier muskets are heavier and more cumbersome to maneuver around in the woods. So the smaller musket would be a preferable weapon for the Seminoles for many reasons. They would only take the soldier muskets if they needed them, or for trophies. It doesn’t seem like they would have much need for them.

Of course, it is all speculation until I find more documentation that mentions muskets.
Current Location:
The Kimball Library of Seminole War History
Current Mood:
productive productive
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