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  Week 17   Florida Battlefields   Program Menu
  Program 81 Florida's Battlefield Landscapes
      Some of America’s fiercest battles took place just beyond the entrance gates of Florida state parks.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Every year re-enactors, wearing uniforms and armed with firearms, assemble at Battlefield Historic State Parks like Olustee, Natural Bridge, Dade and Okeechobee.

They come to mark the anniversary of the battles and to honor those who fought and died at the battlefields during the state’s war-torn infancy.

Reenactments are a way for participants and spectators to connect with past human experiences at the places, where they occurred.

 In a similar way, archaeology allows us to connect with locations where significant events happened, on a level that historical documents are often unable to.

Archaeological excavations of the camps, earthworks, frontlines, and other features associated with these battlefield landscapes provide us with tangible evidence to help understand and authenticate how the conflicts actually unfolded.

It is because sites like these are in state parks that they are protected for professionals to study and the public to enjoy.

  Program 82 Battle of Okeechobee 
      In the year 2000, a portion of the largest battleground of the Second Seminole War was purchased by the state and designated as Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

The battle occurred on Christmas Day of 1837 on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee.

Although the Seminoles retreated after 2-and-a-half hours of fighting, they inflicted serious casualties on Colonel Zachary Taylor’s men and the war continued another five years.

 Archaeologist Bob Carr and his team from the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy led the effort to study and preserve the site, which was threatened by development.

Not only did they locate the battlefield, but they actually found the future President Zachary Taylor’s camp site.  It is here that many of the wounded were treated and dead buried after the battle ended. 

 Some of the artifacts recovered that helped identify the camp include musket balls, gun barrels and other weapon fragments, as well as pewter General Service uniform buttons

  Program 83 Dade's Massacre 
      When Major Francis Dade marched his troops from Fort Brooke in Tampa to Fort King in Ocala - in the winter of 1835 - they had no idea it would ignite the longest Indian war in American history.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

At about the halfway into their 100 mile trek, near Bushnell, FL, the soldiers were surprised by a well-planned and coordinated ambush by Seminole warriors armed with rifles.

When the smell of black powder dissipated, only three of the 100 soldiers from the column managed to survive what became known as “Dade’s Massacre.”

Considered by many historians to be the opening battle of the Second Seminole War, the site of Dade’s Massacre is now one of Florida’s Battlefield Historic State Parks.

Today a replica of the log barricade the soldiers quickly threw together for defense stands near the park visitor’s center. In 1964, excavations inside the barricade turned up evidence of the carnage that occurred on that fateful day- including skeletal fragments and a number of buttons from the fallen soldier’s uniforms.

  Program 84 Battle of Olustree 
      The 1864 Battle of Olustee was by far the largest battle fought in Florida during the Civil War and yielded a plethora of battlefield artifacts.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense and this is Unearthing Florida…

Nearly 11,000 soldiers engaged in the battle -- that ended in more than 2800 casualties and a Confederate victory. Tens of thousands of bullets were exchanged during the battle, with 20-thousand of them fired by the men of the U.S. 54th Massachusetts, an all-African American federal unit that fought there.

In 1994, archaeologists studied the Baker County site -- near Lake City--where the Battle of Olustee unfolded. Here they uncovered artifacts and identified features of the battle including the sites of field hospitals, earthworks, and camps. Not surprisingly, most the metal artifacts recovered were rifle bullets.

The size of the bullets varied but several were identified as coming from one particular type of rifle -- the Enfield. This British gun was used by both the North and South throughout the war. 
  Program 85 Battle of Natural Bridge 
      One of the largest Civil War battles on Florida’s soil occurred at a place called Natural Bridge.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

The Battle of Natural Bridge ensued in March 1865 on the banks of the St. Marks River south of Tallahassee. Heavy fighting broke out after Union soldiers attempted to cross the area, where the river flows underground and forms a natural land bridge.

Confederate troops blocked their path and eventually won the battle. Consequently, Tallahassee remained the only capital in the South, east of the Mississippi, not to fall into Federal hands during the hostilities.

Not surprisingly, an archaeological survey in 2010 resulted in the discovery of several different types of ammunition from the battle.

One item found was a flattened musket ball. The backside of this artifact reveals to archaeologists that it probably was tumbling in flight when it hit something somewhat backwards and likely was crushed upon impact.

The musket ball, and other artifacts from the Natural Bridge battlefield site are now housed inside the Bureau of Archaeological Research in Tallahassee. 

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