An article in the Orlando Sentinel earlier this month had author Frank Laumer searching for Major Dade's cannon in a pond. There is a pond behind the battle area, and Laumer is convinced that the cannon is still there. The pond is on private property, and has had two previous archeology studies that revealed nothing.
Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock said the following of the cannon:
" Fort King, Florida, February, 1836"
"They were buried, and the cannon, a six-pounder, that the Indians had thrown into a swamp, was recovered and placed vertically at the head of the grave, where it is to be hoped it will long remain."
"E.A. Hitchcock, "Captain 1st Infantry, Act. Insp'r General"
Simply put, the cannon was recovered by the burial party and turned into a grave marker/memorial. So what happened to it?
The bodies were exhumed in 1842 and taken to St. Augustine and placed inside the memorial at St. Francis Cemetery.
It would make no military sense and be disrespectful for the cannon to be thrown back into the pond. One of two things would have happened to it: It would have been taken to St. Augustine and continued service as a memorial or monument. It would have been unserviceable and served no other purpose.
Or what I think is more likely: It would have been buried in the hole that was dug to remove the bones, and given a symbolic burial. It is very difficult moving an 800-lb iron tube and you need a hoist. The burial party probably did not have the equipment or material to take it with them. The burial party would have been civilian contractors and small laborers.
So I think it would be better to check the grounds around Dade Battlefield before trespassing on the lady's property next door without any evidence other than a hunch. We don't even know where the officer's graves were. Maybe Frank could tell us that, or maybe more archeology work could be done on the park grounds itself, and by a professional archeologist or archeology resource manager. Just poking around would destroy archeological integrity of the ground and do more harm than good.
Then there is this interesting story I heard a few years ago. The county road crew that paved the road on the back side of the park (which is very close to where the soldier's breastwork is) unearthed and old, very deteriorated cannon. The soil is very acidic from the oak trees, so I can imagine that it was badly rusted away. The foreman of the work crew, not knowing much of the history of the park and the battle, and not realizing where it came from, sold it for scrap.
So it is very possible that the cannon is long gone!
Come see us reenact this spectacular and moving battle next week, on December 29th and 30th at Dade Battlefield Historic State Park near Bushnell. This is off exit 314 on I-75, about 40 miles south of Ocala.