DADE CITY — The Dade Massacre, a battle in which more than 100 U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush on Dec. 23, 1835, is widely considered the start of the Second Seminole War.
But some historians believe that war began five days earlier, when the Seminole Tribe ambushed a Florida militia supply train in Paynes Prairie, southeast of Gainesville, in the Battle of Black Point.
Regardless of which officially marked the start of the war, each depicts how the Native American tribe fought, said Andy Warrener, historical research assistant at The Pioneer Florida Museum & Village.
“They used guerrilla warfare ambush and retreat tactics,” he said.
On Saturday, the 186th anniversary of the Battle of Black Point, and again on Sunday, the museum at 15602 Pioneer Museum Road in Dade City will demonstrate those tactics by hosting a reenactment of the fight.
The 20-minute re-creation begins at 3 p.m. each day and is part of a weekend of educational activities dedicated to the three Seminole Wars, which spanned 1817 to 1858.
There will also be Native American skill demonstrations, impressions of historical figures and lectures.
The Seminole Wars were part of a government effort to push the tribe from their Florida land.
The second, in 1835, happened when the Seminoles refused to “abandon the reservation that had been specifically established for them north of Lake Okeechobee and to relocate west of the Mississippi River,” says the Seminole Nation Museum’s website.
According to the Second Seminole War historic marker at the Micanopy Native American Heritage Preserve, “Events escalated on Dec. 18″ when the tribe launched a “surprise attack on a Florida militia supply train headed toward Micanopy. Dubbed the Battle of Black Point, this engagement confirmed that native forces were totally committed to war.”
The marker says six members of the militia were killed, another eight were injured, and the Seminoles made off with the supplies.
The museum’s portrayal of the battle with around 25 reenactors, Warrener said, “will give an idea of how battles were fought back then. When the soldiers fixed their bayonets on their rifles, the Seminoles did not stick around to find what was on the other end of that. They would strike and retreat.”
The Second Seminole War would continue through 1842 and, according to the marker, “was the longest, bloodiest, and most costly” of the U.S. wars with Native Americans. “At least 1,500 U.S. soldiers died in battle, disease and of service-related injuries.”
The Seminole museum’s website says roughly 3,000 Seminoles were forced from Florida and the third war began in 1855 with the intent to remove the rest. But “a small band” remained “hidden in the Big Cypress Swamp,” and the “approximately 3,500 Seminoles who are in Florida today are the descendants of these Seminoles.”
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Their guerrilla tactics played a large part in the survival of the Seminole Tribe in Florida, Warrener said.
“They fought and ran away with the goal of causing as much inconvenience and hassle to an overwhelming force,” he said. “Not fully engaging is why the tribe never fully capitulated.”
If you go
The Pioneer Florida Museum & Village presents Living History, Seminoles.
Where: 15602 Pioneer Museum Road in Dade City.
When: Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The battle reenactment starts at 3 p.m. each day.
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children under 5. Visit pioneerfloridamuseum.org for a full schedule.