By Michael Isam
St. Augustine, Fla, (August 23, 2014) – “The "bright glitter of arms" and "melancholy wail of music" escorted "wagons covered with the stars and stripes containing all that was of the honored dead, to the spot appropriated for interment, the garden of St. Francis Barracks."
So read part of the article in the St Augustine News, the newspaper dated August 20, 1842.
August weather has changed little since August 15, 1842. At midmorning on Saturday last, the temperature was pushing the mid to high 80’s, and the humidity was off the chart. The only saving grace was the light breeze wafting from across the river.
Regardless of the weather, the faithful re-enactors of the Seminole War Foundation and the Dade Battlefield Society donned the clothing and uniform styles of the time. They assembled on the parade ground of St. Francis Barracks for the 7th annual commemoration of the end of the Second Seminole War, and to honor all soldier, civilian and Seminole who suffered and perished.
Many who live in the St. Augustine area are aware of the three coquina pyramids along the south wall of the St. Francis Barracks garden, which was renamed the St. Augustine National Cemetery in 1881.
The remains of Dade's 107 member command and eventually a total of 1468 officers and men killed in the Second Seminole War were interred in vaults under three coquina stone pyramids participants of the Seminole Wars are buried there.
The Florida National Guard provided tents for the audience on the extreme south end of the parade ground and just east was located an exact replica of the 6 pound cannon used by Major Dade’s column. At 10:00 a.m. the first of the many cannon volleys commenced announcing to the gathered that ceremonies were beginning.
The audience was greeted and welcomed on behalf of the Florida National Guard by Major Elizabeth Evans who is a West Point graduate. “Out of the 7 officers under Dade’s command, 5 were West Point graduates including the first Commandant of Cadets, Captain George W. Gardner.
Evans, one of the first female graduates of West Point, spoke of David Moniac, the first Native American to graduate there. According to west-point.org, Moniac, who graduated July 1, 1822, was returned to active military service as a Captain in the Mounted Creek Volunteers. There were 750 Creek Indians in the Regiment who wore white turbans to distinguish themselves from the enemy. Thirteen officers commanded the Mounted Regiment, including Captain Moniac, the only American Indian Officer.
On November 21, 1836, Major Moniac with his Mounted Creek Volunteers, the Florida Militia, and the Tennessee Volunteers moved into the foggy Wahoo Swamp where the Seminoles were massed in considerable force. They fought their way to the Withlacoohee River where Major Moniac was ordered to sound the depth of the water. When David Moniac entered the water, the Seminoles fired a deadly volley of musket fire, piercing his body with sixty-seven bullets and mortally wounding him.
According to Dade Battlefield Society, the records show Major Francis L. Dade spoke the following words of encouragement to 107 cold, tired soldiers in a pine forest on the morning of December 28, 1835. "Have a good heart; our difficulties and dangers are over now, and as soon as we arrive at Fort King you'll have three days to rest and keep Christmas gaily."
Within eight hours, only three soldiers would survive the battle that marked the beginning of the Second Seminole War.
According to historian Gregory Moore, Lt. Col., USA, Ret., the three men made their painstaking way to Fort Brooke. One died upon reaching the gate and one died of wounds, leaving one man alive from Dade’s command.
The ceremonies concluded with a solemn march, counted by the sound of drums, along the original path to the “garden,” the ceremonial laying of the wreath, words by dignitaries, the sounding of taps and a final cannon volley.