Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Dade Pyramids - St. Augustine, Florida

Although historians devote considerable attention to the role the Mexican War played in the development of the generals of both sides during the Civil War, seldom is attention given to another conflict that actually provided better training for the conflict in many ways.

From 1835-1842, and actually for a bit longer, U.S. troops engaged in a deadly war with the Seminole Indians of Florida. It was the longest American war of the 19th century and by the time it was over, had deteriorated into brutal guerrilla warfare that was as different from the European style tactics officers of the time had been tought as day is from night. By the time the war dragged to an end, the Seminoles had taught the U.S. Army a lesson in irregular combat tactics that could have saved tens of thousands of lives during the Civil War if senior officers had learned it.

The war began with a military defeat so stunning, complete and deadly that it would not be repeated again until Custer lost his battle at the Little Bighorn. Marching from Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay to Fort King at present-day Ocala, Major Francis L. Dade and a column of U.S. soldiers were ambushed by several hundred warriors led by Micanopy, Jumper and Alligator. Although the soldiers had superior weapons, including artillery, they were wiped out by the determined Seminole force. Dade, his officers and at least 103 of his men lay dead. Only one of the two or three wounded survivors lived for more than a couple of weeks.

The bodies were later given a temporary burial on the battlefield by other soldiers, but eventually were moved to St. Augustine where they were reburied at what is now the St. Augustine National Cemetery. The vaults containing the graves also hold the remains of more than 1,000 other soldiers who died during the Second Seminole War. Capped with unique stone pyramids, known today as the Dade Pyramids, they are often overlooked by visitors to the nation's oldest city.

To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/dadepyramids.

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