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January 22 , 2011

Nobody's Hero


In December 1835, eight officers and one hundred men of the U.S. Army under the command of Brevet Major Francis Langhorne Dade set out from Fort Brooke at Tampa Bay, Florida, to march north a hundred miles to reinforce Fort King (present-day Ocala). On the sixth day, halfway to their destination, they were attacked by Seminole Indians. By four o’clock in the afternoon, only three wounded soldiers survived what came to be known as the Dade Massacre. Only two of those men managed to struggle fifty miles back to Fort Brooke. One of them—wounded in the shoulder and hip, a bullet in one lung—was Private Ransom Clark.

It is the story of great duplicity, not on the part of Seminole Indians, but of the politicians and officers who sent the men of Dade’s command to their death. The Dade Massacre was the pretext the U.S. government needed to begin the Second Seminole War, the longest and most expensive Indian war in American history.

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In 1839 Ransom Clark wrote a brief account of his ordeal, entitled The Surprising Adventures of Ransom Clark, Among the Indians in Florida. Although he promised to later supply an entire account, he didn’t live long enough to do so, succumbing to his grave wounds. In Nobody’s Hero, Frank Laumer completes Clark’s story.

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