Dade Battle by Ransom Clark

An Account of the Dade Battle by Ransom Clark

It was 8 o’clock. Suddenly I heard a rifle shot in the direction of the advance guard, and this was immediately followed by a musket shot from that quarter. Captain Fraser had rode by me a moment before in that direction, I never saw him afterwards. 1 had not time to think of the meaning of these shots, before a volley, as if from a thousand rifles, was poured in upon us from the front, and all along our left flank. I looked around me, and it seemed as if I was the only one left standing in the right wing. Neither could I, until several other vollies
had been fired at us, see an enemy and when I did, I could only see their heads and arms peering out from the long grass, far and near, and from behind pine trees. The ground seemed to me an open pine barren, no hammock near that I could see. On our right, and a little to our rear, was a large pond of water some distance off. All around us were heavy pine trees, very open, particularly towards the left and abounding with long high grass. The first fire of the Indians was the most destructive, seemingly killing or disabling one half our men.

We promptly three ourselves behind trees, and opened a sharp fire of musketry. I for one, never fired without seeing my man, that is, his head and shoulders — the Indians chiefly fired lying or squatting in the grass. Lieutenant Bassinger fired five or six rounds of cannister from the cannon. This appeared to freighten the Indians, and they retreated over a little hill to our left, one half or three quarters of a mile off, after firing not more than 12 or 15 rounds. We immediately then began to fell trees, and erect a little triangular breastwork.
Some of us went forward to gather cartridge boxes from the dead, and to assist the wounded. I had seen Major Dade fall to the ground by the first volley, and his horse dashed into the midst of the enemy. Whilst gathering the cartridges I saw Lieutenant Mudge sitting with his back reclining against a tree — his head fallen, and evidently dying. I spoke to him, but he did not answer. The interpreter, Louis, it is said, fell by the first fire. (We have since learned that this fellow shammed death – that his life was afterwards spared through the
intercession of the chief Jumper, and that being an educated negro, he read all the dispatches and letters that were found about the dead to the victors.)

We had barely raised our breastwork knee high, when we again saw the Indians advancing in great numbers over the hill to our left. They came on boldly till within a long musket shot, when they spread themselves from tree to tree to surround us. We immediately extended as Light Infantry, covering ourselves by the trees, and opening a brisk fire from cannon and musketry. The former I don’t think could have done much mischief, the Indians were so scattered.

Captain Gardner, Lieutenant Bassinger, and Dr. Gatlin, were the only officers left unhurt by the volley which killed Major Dade. Lieutenant Henderson had his left arm broken, but he continued to load his musket and fire it, resting on the stump, until he was finally shot down towards the close of the second attack, and during the day he kept up his spirits and cheered the man. Lieutenant Keyes had both his arms broken in the first attack; they were bound up and slung in a handkerchief, and he sat for the remainder of the day until he was killed, reclining against the breastwork – his head often reposing upon it – regardless of everything that was passing around him.

Our men were by degrees all cut down. We had maintained a steady fight from 8 until 2 p.m. or thereabouts, and allowing three quarters of an hour interval between the first and second attack, had been pretty busily engaged for more than 5 hours. Lieutenant B. was the only officer left alive and severly wounded. He told me as the Indians approached to lay down and feign myself dead. I looked through the logs, and saw savages approaching in great numbers. A
heavy made Indian of middle stature, painted down to the waist, (corresponding in description to Micanopy) seemed to be chief. He made then a speech frequently pointing to the breastwork. At length, they charged into the work; there was none to offer resistance, and they did not seem to suspect the wounded being alive – offering no indignity, but stepping about carefully, quietly stripping off our accoutrements and carrying away our arms. They then retired in a body in the direction from whence they came.

Immediately upon their retreat, forty or fifty negros on horseback galloped up and alighted, tied their beasts, and commenced with horrid shouts and yells the butchery of the wounded, together with an indiscriminate plunder, stripping the bodies of the dead of clothing, watches, and money, and splitting open the heads of all who showed the least sign of life, with their axes and knives, and accompanying their bloody work with obscene and taunting derisions, and with
frequent cries of “what have you got to sell?”

Lieutenant B. hearing the negros butchering the wounded, at length sprang up and asked them to spare his life. They met him with the blows of their axes, and their fiendish laughter. Having been wounded in five different places myself, I was pretty well covered with blood, and two scratches that I had received on my head gave to me the appearance of having been shot through the brain, for the negros, after catching me up by my heels, threw me down, saying “d. . n him, he’s dead enough!” They then stripped me of my clothes, shoes and hat, and left me. After stripping all the dead in this manner, they trundled off the cannon in the direction the Indians had gone, and went away. I saw them first shoot down the oxen in their gear, and burn the wagon.

One of the soldiers who escaped, says they threw the cannon into the pond, and burned its carriage also. Shortly after the negroes went away, one Wilson, of Captain G’s company, crept from under some of the dead bodies, and hardly seemed to be hurt at all. He asked me to go back to the Fort, and I was going to follow him, when, as he jumped over the breastwork, an Indian sprang from behind a tree and shot him down. I then lay quiet until 9 o’clock that night, when Decourcy the only living soul beside myself, and I started upon our
journey. We knew it was nearest to go to Fort King, but we did not know the way, and we had seen enemies retreat in that direction. As I came out I saw Dr. G. lying stripped amongst the dead. The last I saw of him whilst living, was kneeling behind the breastwork, with two double barrel guns by him, and he said, “Well, I have got four barrels for them!” Captain G. after being severly wounded, cried out, “I can give you no more orders, my lads, do your best!” I last saw a negro spurn his body, saying with an oath, “that’s one of their officers.” (G. was dressed in soldier clothes.)

My comrade and myself got along quite well until the next day, when we met an Indian on horseback, and with rifle coming up the road. Our only chance was to separate – we did so. I took the right, and he the left of the road. The Indian pursued him. Shortly afterwards I heard a rifle shot, and a little after, another. I concealed myself among some scrub and saw palmetto, and after awhile saw the Indian pass, looking for me. Suddenly, however, he put spurs to his horse and went off at a gallop towards the road.

I made something of a circuit before I struck the beaten track again. That night I was a good deal annoyed by the wolves, who had scented my blood, and came very close to me; the next day, the 30th, I reached the Fort.


John William Bailly  15 January 2023

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