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Author Topic: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!  (Read 2928 times)

Southron

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Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« on: January 13, 2012, 12:45:39 PM »

On December 28th, 1835 a column that consisted of a 138 U.S. Army Regulars under the command of Major Francis Dade marching in a "column of twos" were ambushed by a party of Seminole Indians under the command of Chief Micanopy. The soldiers had left Fort Brooke [present day Tampa, Florida] several days before and were marching to re-enforce Fort King [present day, Ocala, Florida] that was still over twenty odd miles away

The column was marching along what was known as the "King Highway," which was a rude wagon road that at the point of the ambush ran through a hammock of pine, live oak, palms and palmetto. Apparently Major Dade did not expect any trouble on this march because he had not deployed any scouts.

Chief Micanopy led a Seminole force of approximately 180 Braves and he had planned the ambush well. According to the statements of Ransone Clark [the only soldier to survive the massacre] the first volley, fired from ambush killed not only Major Dade but also killed or wounded approximately half of the soldiers in the column!

The surviving soldiers retreated to an open area nearby and hastily threw up a rude, triangular breastwork that consisted of several pine logs placed one on top of another. Some of the surviving artilleryman, the crew of a 6 pounder cannon, placed their gun besides the breastwork-but this did no good because all the soldiers were soon picked off and overwhelmed.

Today, of course, the Seminole Wars have been almost totally forgotten. Our schools and college do not even teach courses on the Seminole Wars. Those wars have also been almost totally ignored by Hollywood. Yet, more U.S. soldiers died in Florida during the Seminole Wars that in all the Indian Campaigns West of the Mississippi River following the Civil War!

Today, the site of the Dade Massacre is a sleepy and picturesque Florida State Park just a few miles off of I-75 near modern day Bushnell, Florida. Several years ago, I turned off of I-75 and followed the signs to the park. As it turned out, I was almost the only visitor there that entire day. I walked the grounds, trying to envision the desperate fighting that took place there in 1835. Then I came to a startling conclusion: Apparently, the Seminoles were armed with rifles and were highly skilled in their use.

This had to be true, if as, according to Ransone Clark's account, that fully one-half of the soldiers in the column went down from the first volley that was fired! We also know for certain that the soldiers were armed with U.S. Model 1816, flintlock, Smoothbore Muskets. So, the soldiers never had a chance as they were literally being picked off one by one with accurate rifle fire, delivered from beyond the range of their SB muskets and fired by Seminoles concealed in the brush. The grand irony is that the Seminoles had arms that were technologically superior to the smooth bore muskets carried by the soldiers!

So, if you find yourself driving down I-75 in Florida one day, take time to stop by the park. The sacrifice of Major Dade and his command should not be forgotten.

 
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quigleysharps4570

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2012, 07:00:21 AM »

Good story. Wonder how the one survived...is it known?
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Southron

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2012, 01:42:30 PM »

According to Private Ransone Clark, of the 2nd Artillery, after the battle was over, the Seminoles advanced to the triangular log "breast works" and a surviving officer tried to surrender his sword. He was shot down. Clark and several other wounded soldiers "played dead" and the Seminoles were content to take all of the muskets and swords and other items from the dead or "playing dead" soldiers as the "Spoils of War."

After the Seminoles left, a party of Negroes came up on horseback and commenced to slaughter the wounded using axes and knives. Again, Ransone Clark and another wounded soldier, Edward Decourcey "played dead" and the negroes left shortly. Keep in mind that during the 1830's Florida was a haven for run-away slaves from Georgia and other Southern states. They often lived with the Seminoles and from time to time, fought with them as their allies.

The next day, Clark and Decourcey decided that it was safe to leave the massacre site. They decided to head back to Fort Brooke [Tampa] even though it was approximately 60 odd miles away. Several miles down the road, the two wounded soldiers ran into a Seminole, armed with a rifle, on horseback. They decided to split to try to elude the indian. Clark went to the left of the road, Decourcey to the right and into the brush. The Seminole went after Decourcey and a few minutes later, Clark heard one shot soon followed by another. Clark assumed that that was the end of Decourcey, and it was.

Clark eluded the Seminole and after a while, made it back to the road. Clarks' troubles were not over though because several wolves, smelling his bloody uniform began to follow behind him. Clark managed to keep them at bay. Two [?] days later Clark arrived at Fort Brooke and spread the word of the massacre.

It was not until almost two months later that the army sent out a force to the site of the massacre to to bury the dead soldiers. Later their remains were moved to St. Augustine, Florida and there are there today in a military section of the cemetery. Clark lived to be an old man and was known as "The Only Survivor of the Dade Massacre."

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The Ghost

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2012, 11:18:13 PM »

Southron,  very good post. Now I know where Dade County got its name. :)
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quigleysharps4570

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2012, 02:01:43 PM »

Traveling 60 miles thru hostile territory wounded and afoot would be quite a feat...good read.  ;)
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flagaman

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2012, 08:30:25 PM »

Quick question please. For an average shot, what is the range difference between the rifle vs. the smoothbore? Say about man size, say 12" X 16" target. I know what I've read, but I want to hear some real world experience examples from people who have observed it. Thanks.
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The Ghost

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2012, 11:09:18 PM »

A British Officer told his troops that anyone hit with a musket at 75 yards was a Damn unlucky fellow. Maybe some truth in that story. The smooth guns can be very deadly at 50 yards. A well managed custom fowler shooting round balls can make hits at 100 yards on man sized targets. This is not as repeatable as with a rifle however. I consider a good smooth gun very dependable at 50 yards.
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flagaman

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2012, 06:43:06 PM »

Thanks ghost, I've read that a 60-70 yard hit by a good shot with good rifle and ball, was as much luck as anything else. But from what I seen, 125 yard or so hits with the traditional style BP rifle is also somewhat on the rare side.

I have been told that the correct ball, patch, grease combo makes a world of difference in the range of a smoothbore. Also told that soldiers of that period seldom had the best combo for their guns and that was one of the biggest reasons for the shortened range.
Will a modern reproduction of the traditonal smoothbore shooting the correct combo get me a reasonably consistent 75 yard deer size hit? If not, what range could I expect?
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quigleysharps4570

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2012, 09:32:55 PM »

But from what I seen, 125 yard or so hits with the traditional style BP rifle is also somewhat on the rare side.

Don't stand in front of my .40 or .54 at that range unless you have all your paperwork in order.  :)
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Southron

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2012, 05:33:23 PM »

The "Suprise Massacre" of Dade's command actually kicked off the 2nd Seminole War.  Matter of fact, a few months before the Dade Massacre, an inkling of "trouble brewing" that was basically ignored was when an Indian Agent reported to the army that the Seminoles had used almost all of their Annual Cash Annuity from the government to purchase powder and lead from trading posts!

The Seminoles were well hidden and could take the time to pick their targets because the soldiers were exposed and in the open because. The first Indian volley completely surprised the soldiers and produced many, many causalities. Obviously, the Seminoles were superb shots. The triangular breastwork that was hastily thrown up by the surviving soldiers a few minutes later was next to useless in providing protection from incoming rounds.

 Could things have turned out differently? Maybe IF the soldiers that survived that first volley had fixed bayonets and charged the wood line. They might have caught the Seminoles reloading their rifles. Traditionally, Indians could never stand up to bayonet charges, but consider that by then the soldiers were outnumbered by 2 to 1, so might have been a futile attack.

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quigleysharps4570

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2012, 02:32:32 AM »

A bayonet charge probably would've just hastened their demise.  :)
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Southron

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2012, 12:08:29 PM »

Maybe some of the Viet Nam Vets on this BB will correct me IF I am wrong, but I understand that during the Viet Nam War it was pretty much Army doctrine that when a platoon or company was ambushed while on patrol, the immediate response was to attack the ambushers. The theory being that you want to exit the Kill Zone as fast as possible.

During the early part of the march, Major Dade had used both Scouts and Flankers to provide security for his column. Apparently, by the time the column got to the massacre site, Major Dade felt that there was no danger of a Seminole ambush because several miles before, Dade had called his Flankers back to the column-which turned out to be a fatal mistake.

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Geraldo

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2012, 03:09:07 PM »

I'm going to have to check that out when I get over to that side of the state.  Here's a link to the battlefield:

http://www.dadebattlefield.com/index.html

While I haven't been there, I wouldn't jump to a conclusion about the Seminoles having rifles.  Palmetto and other ground cover is pretty thick down here any time of year, and they might have been able to work into easy smoothbore range.

If you read about the battle of Lake Okeechobee, the Army attacked a smaller force of Seminoles head on and got their clocks cleaned.  They were using the same tactics that would be used in the Civil War with high casualties, and it doesn't seem like they'd work better in muck and sawgrass.
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Southron

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2012, 11:42:47 AM »

I naturally assumed that the Seminoles were using rifles, but that might have been a "semi-mistake." Firearms of the American West, 1803-1865" states "During the 1830's government contracts for Indian rifles called for significant quantities of both flintlock and percussion arms, which in the main came from Henry Deringer, Tryon, Henry Leman and Melicoir Fordney..." p. 351

Rifles were always popular on the frontier for ONE HUGE ECONOMIC REASON-with each shot fired a smaller caliber rifle consumed LESS POWDER & LEAD per shot compared to a smooth bore musket.

I have no doubt that some Seminoles at the Dade Massacre had smooth bore arms, but when you look at the way the battle "played out" after the initial ambush, the soldiers retreated to an open space, built a triangular log barricade and were literally "picked off" one by one, by Seminole marksmen shooting from well camouflaged positions in the wood line. To me this indicates that the soldiers were killed by expert riflemen.

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Hawg

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Re: Flintlock Rifles vs Smoothbore Muskets-The Dade Massacre!
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2012, 01:17:17 PM »

Depending on the range. A smoothbore is capable of pretty good groups out to 100 yards and for somebody that only has one gun and knows how to use it that could be stretched considerably further.
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