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Robert R. Mudge graduated at West Point Military Academy in June, 1833, was attached to the 3d Reg. Artillery, as Second Lieutenant, and stationed at Eastport, Me. In 1834 he was recalled and appointed "Assistant Instructor of Military Tactics" at West Point; and in September, 1835, was ordered to Florida, where he was killed December 28, 1835, under the command of Major Dade, whose company of 117 men were all massacred by the Indians except three, two of whom afterwards died of their wounds. Thus died one of the noblest young men of modern times at the age of twenty-six years six months twenty-four days.
We here insert a few extracts, which will illustrate the manner in which he received his death.
Although we have published the bloody details of the destruction of Major Dade's detachment by the Indians, the following letter from an officer at Tampa Bay to the father of Lieutenant Mudge, who was killed in the action, cannot fail to be read with the most painful emotions:—
Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay, Jan. 1836.
Dear Sir, — It is with the profoundest feelings of grief and melancholy that I undertake to inform you of the probability that your son, Lieutenant Robert R. Mudge, of the 3d Artillery, was killed upon the field of battle in an engagement with the Indians on the 28th of December, •sixty-five miles from this post on the road to Fort King.
On the morning of the 23d ult., the detachment to which Lieutenant Mudge belonged, being one hundred strong, B company, 3d Artillery, and C company, 2d Artillery, under the command of Brevet Major F. L. Dade, of the 4th Infantry, set out for Fort King, in compliance with the instructions some time previously received from General Clinch. Although there had been a few hostile demonstrations, p384we were most sanguine the command would go through safe. But how wofully deceived! We heard from the field of battle on the 29th by a wounded soldier, who had escaped, and his account has been confirmed by the statement of two others, who have since come in.
At eight o'clock on the morning of the 28th, when sixty-five miles from Fort Brooke, and north of the forks of the , the detachment was attacked by an immense body of Indians in ambuscade and completely cut to pieces. Lieutenant Mudge was in the right wing, and fell among the first. He died bravely and nobly, and struggled to exert himself to the last. He was wounded in the right breast, from which blood was seen to flow.
He for a moment leaned against a tree, and was finally seen to fall. No officer appears to have survived.
The above are all the particulars we can glean. The detachment fought with the most desperate but unavailing bravery.
The names of the other officers are as follows: Major Dade, Captains Fraser and Gardiner, Lieutenants Basinger, Keais,º Henderson, and Assistant Surgeon Gatlin. They were a noble set, but have met with a disaster rarely equalled in our contests with the Indians.
There were two attacks, separated by about an hour and a half. It was in the first part of the fight that Lieutenant Mudge fell.
Lieutenant Mudge was a classmate of mine, and it is quite needless to mention our estimate of his virtues, of his industry, of his officer-like qualities, and our profound sorrow for his loss to us as a friend and an officer. Would to Heaven it were in my power in any way to convey this information in a manner to diminish the distress it will occasion.
If any further particulars are known, I will certainly communicate them, — but there is no doubt left in our minds.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
2d Lieutenant 4th Infantry.
Among the many valuable young men who fell at the late Seminole battle in Florida, there was probably no one who gave higher promise of future usefulness, or died more deeply and universally lamented, than lieutenant Robert R. Mudge, of this town. His acquaintance all speak of him as a young man of rare accomplishments — of superior talents, of extensive acquirements, interesting in his manners, person and conversation, of unblemished morals and life, and of the most amiable disposition.
He graduated at West Point in June, 1833, at the age of 24, and held a high rank in his class as a scholar, a soldier and gentleman. On leaving West Point he was stationed about one year at Eastport, Me., after which he was recalled to West Point as an instructor, and continued there for one year. During his connection with the institution there, he made an excursion with several other young gentlemen to Montreal and Quebec, visiting the British officers in those places, examining their system of discipline and tactics.
He is reported as having received his death-wound at the first shot he received, in the early part of the battle, but continued to stand and fight, with great bravery, till he was overpowered, with several additional wounds, and fell.
We yesterday took down from the unfortunate Clark's lips the following account of the bloody engagement in which he received his wounds:—
"Our detachment, consisting of 110 men, under command of Major Dade, started from Fort Brook,º Tampa Bay, on the 23d of December, and arrived at the scene of action about eight o'clock on the morning of the 28th. It was on the edge of a pond, •three miles from the spot where we had bivouacked on the night previous. The pond was surrounded by tall grass, brush, and small trees. A moment before we were surprised, Mr. Dade said p386to us, 'We have now got through all danger — keep up good heart, and when we get to Fort King, I'll give you three days for Christmas.'
"At this time we were in a path, or trail, on the border of the pond, and the first notice that we received of the presence of the enemy, was the discharge of a rifle by their chief, as a signal to commence their attack. The pond was on our right, and the Indians were scattered round, in a semicircle, on our left, in the rear, and in advance, reaching at the two latter points to the edge of the pond, but leaving an opening for our entrance on the path, and a similar opening at the other extremity, for the egress of our advanced guard, which was permitted to pass through without being fired on, and of course unconscious of the ambuscade through which they had marched. At the time of the attack, this guard was •about a quarter of a mile in advance, the main body following in column, two deep. The chief's rifle was followed by a general discharge from his men, and Major Dade, Capt. Frazier, and Lieut. Mudge, together with several non-commissioned officers and privates, were brought down by the first volley. Our rear guard had a six-pounder, which, as soon as possible, was hauled up, and brought to bear upon the ground occupied by the unseen enemy, secreted among the grass, brush, and trees. The discharge of the cannon checked, and made them fall back, for about half an hour. About twelve of us advanced, and brought in our wounded and the arms, leaving the dead. Among the wounded was Lieut. Mudge, who was speechless. We set him up against a tree, and he was found there two months after, when General Gaines sent a detachment to bury the bodies of our soldiers. All hands then commenced throwing up a small triangular breast-work of logs, but just as we had raised it •about two feet, the Indians returned and we renewed the engagement. A part of our troops fought within the breast-work, and a part outside. I remained outside till I received a ball in my right arm, and another near my right temple, which came out at the top of my head. I next received a shot in my thigh, which brought me down on my side, and I then got into the breast-work. We gave them forty-nine discharges from the cannon, and while loading for the fiftieth (the last shot we had), our match went out. The Indians chiefly levelled at the men who worked the cannon. In the meantime, the main body of our troops kept up a general fire with musketry.
p387 "The loss of the enemy must have been very great, because we never fired till we fixed upon our men, but the cannon was necessarily fired at random, as only two or three Indians appeared together. When the firing commenced, the advanced guard wheeled, and in returning to the main body were entirely cut up. The battle lasted till about four in the afternoon, and I was about the last one who handled a gun, while laying on my side. At the close, I received a shot in my right shoulder, which passed into my lungs, — the blood gushed out of my mouth in a stream, and, dropping my musket, I rolled over on my face. The Indians then entered the breast-work, but found not one man standing to defend it. They secured the arms, ammunition, and the cannon, and despatched such of our fallen soldiers as they supposed still to be alive. Their negroes then came in to strip the dead. I had by this time somewhat revived, and a negro who observed that I was not dead, took up a musket and shot me in the top of the shoulder, and the ball came out at my back. After firing, he said, 'There, damn you, take that.' He then stripped me of everything but my shirt.
"The enemy then disappeared to the left of the pond, and, through weakness and apprehension, I remained still till about nine o'clock at night. I then commenced crawling on my knees and left hand. As I was crawling over the dead, I put my hand on one man, who felt different from the rest, — he was warm and limber. I roused him up, and found it was De Coursey, an Englishman, and the son of a British officer, resident in Canada. I told him that it was best for us to attempt to travel, as the danger appeared to be over, and we might fall in with some assistance. As he was only wounded in the side and arm, he could walk a little. We got along as well as we could that night — continued on till next noon, when, on a rising ground, we observed an Indian ahead, on horseback, loading his rifle. We agreed that he should go on one side of the road, and I on the other. The Indian took after De Coursey, and I heard the discharge of his rifle. This gave me time to crawl into a hummock, and hide away. The Indian soon returned, with his arms and legs covered with blood, having, no doubt, according to custom, cut De Coursey to pieces, after bringing him down with his rifle. The Indian came riding through the brush in pursuit of me, and approached within •ten feet, but gave up the search. I then resumed my route back to Fort Brook, crawled and limped through the nights and forenoons, and p388slept in the brush during the middle of the day, with no other nourishment than cold water. I got to Fort Brook on the evening of the fifth day, and in five months afterwards was discharged as a pensioner at eight dollars per month. The doctor attributes my not dying of my wounds to the circumstance that I bled a great deal, and did not partake of any solid food during the first five days.
Two other soldiers by the name of Thomas and Sprague, also came in afterwards. Although badly wounded, they ascended a tree, and thus escaped the enemy on the evening of battle. They joined another expedition, two months after, but before their wounds were healed, and soon died of them."
Western Dep't, Fort King, Fla., Feb. 22, 1836.
General, — Agreeable to your directions, I observed the battle ground, •six or seven miles north of the Ouithlacooche River, where Major Dade and his command were destroyed by the Seminole Indians on the 28th of December last, have the honor to submit the following report:—
The force under your command, which arrived at this post to‑day, from Tampa Bay, encamped on the night of the 19th instant on the ground occupied by Major Dade on the night of the 27th of December. He and his party were destroyed on the morning of the 28th of December, •about four miles in advance of that position. He was advancing toward this post, and was attacked from the north, so that on the 20th instant we came upon the rear of his battle ground about nine o'clock in the morning. Our advanced guard had passed the ground without halting, when the General and his staff came upon one of the most appalling scenes that can be imagined. We first saw some broken and scattered boxes, then a cart, the two oxen of which were lying dead, as if they had fallen asleep, their yokes still on them. A little to the right, one or two horses were seen. We then came to a small enclosure, made by felling trees in such a manner as to form a triangular breastwork for defence. Within the triangle, along the north and west faces of it, were about thirty bodies, mostly mere skeletons, although much of the clothing was left upon them. These were lying, almost every one of them, in precisely the position they must have occupied during the fight — their heads next to the logs over which they had delivered their fire, and their bodies stretched with striking regularity parallel to each other. They had evidently been shot dead at their posts, and the Indians had not disturbed them, p389except by taking the scalps of most of them. Passing this little breastwork, we found other bodies along the road, and by the side of the road, generally behind trees, which had been resorted to for covers from the enemy's fire. Advancing about two hundred yards further, we found a cluster of bodies in the middle of the road. These were evidently the advanced guard, in the rear of which was the body of Major Dade, and to the right that of Captain Fraser.
These were all doubtless shot down on the first fire of the Indians, except, perhaps, Captain Fraser, who must, however, have fallen very early in the fight. Those in the road and by the trees fell during the first attack. It was during a cessation of the fire that the little band still remaining, about thirty in number, threw up the triangular breastwork, which, from the haste with which it was constructed, was necessarily defective, and could not protect the men in the second attack.
We had with us many of the personal friends of the officers of Major Dade's command, and it is gratifying to be able to state that every officer was identified by undoubted evidence. They were buried, and the cannon a six-pounder, that the Indians had thrown into a swamp, was recovered and placed vertically at the head of grave, where it is to be hoped it will long remain. The bodies of the non-commissioned officers and privates were buried in two graves, and it was found that every man was accounted for. The command was composed of eight officers and one hundred and two non-commissioned officers and privates. The bodies of eight officers and ninety-eight men were interred, four men having escaped, three of whom reached Tampa Bay; the fourth was killed the day after the battle.
It may be proper to observe that the attack was not made from a hummock, but in a thinly wooded country; the Indians being concealed by palmetto and grass, which has since been burned.
The two companies were Captain Fraser's of the 3d Artillery, and Captain Gardiner's of the 2d Artillery. The officers were Major Dade, of the 4th Infantry, Captains Fraser and Gardiner, Second Lieutenant Basinger, Brevet Second Lieutenants R. Henderson, Mudge and , of the artillery, and Doctor J. S. Gatlin.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, your obedient servant,
Captain 1st Infantry, Act. Insp'r General.
Major Gen. Edmund P. Gaines, Com. West'n Dpt. Fort King, Fla.
p390 The remains of the force have since been disinterred and deposited in tombs in St. Augustine, Florida. We subjoin an account of the burial.
The burial of Major F. L. Dade's martyred dead, and those officers and soldiers who have died in Florida, took place on Monday last. So solemn and interesting an event excited on the part of our citizens the liveliest sympathy and feeling, and afforded them, by joining in with the military, the heartfelt satisfaction of commingling their tears in union with those who had assembled to pay the last sad duties of love to their fallen comrades. At half-past ten, a gun was fired from the battery in front of the green by a detail of 3d Artillery under Lieutenant Churchill, when the Mayor and Council, the Masonic Fraternity and St. Augustine City Guards, Capt. P. R. Lopez, proceeded to the St. Sebastian Bridge to await the arrival of the remains. In a short time the melancholy wail of music was heard in the distance, the bright glitter of arms was seen glancing among the deep green of the woods, and the wagons covered with the stars and stripes, containing all that was of the honored dead, moved slowly onward. It was indeed a brilliant, a melancholy spectacle. On arriving at the public square, the wheeled to the right, and proceeding up George Street, continued down St. Francis Street, when moving up Marine Street they were brought to the spot appropriated for interment, the garden of St. Francis' Barracks.c The procession under the orders of Major Belknap, 8th Infantry.
Captain Gwynne, 8th Infantry, commanding escort. Lieut. A. T. Lee, Acting Adjutant.
Composed of Company K, 8th Infantry — Lieut. J. Selden.
Company A, 8th Infantry — Lieut. L. Smith.
Company B, 3d Artillery — Lieut. W. H. Shover.
Company E, 3d Artillery — Lieut. B. Bragg.
Colors and Band of the 8th Infantry.
Field music of the Artillery.
Platoon of the Guard of Honor.
p391 Details from the different regiments now serving in Florida, consisting each of one sergeant, one corporal, and one private.
Contained in seven wagons, each covered with the American flag as a pall, and drawn by five elegant mules.
1st and 2d wagons, soldiers and officers of Dade's command; 3d and 4th wagons, soldiers and officers killed in battle; 5th, 6th and 7th wagons, officers who have died in Florida.
Pall Bearers — Lieut. Benham, U. S. Engineers; Dr. Martin, U. S. A.; Major Van Ness, Pay Master; Lieut. Col. Hunt, D. Q. M. Gen.; Lieut. Jordan, 3d Infantry; Capt. Hanham, Antg. Ord. Officer; Capt. Sewall, 7th Infantry; Capt. Graham, 4th Infantry.
Platoon of the Guard of Honor — Lieut. Wallen. Colors and Band of the 3d Infantry.
Field Music of the 8th Infantry.
Company F, 4th Infantry — Capt. Page.
Company C, 8th Infantry — Capt. Kello.
Mayor and Aldermen of St. Augustine.
Members of the Bar and officers of the Court.
St. Augustine City Guards — Capt. P. R. Lopez.
Citizens generally of St. Augustine.
The remains being removed from the wagons, amid the firing of minute guns, the Rev. Mr. Waters, of the Catholic Church, addressed the assembled multitude with great eloquence and beauty. The service of the Episcopal Church was read by the Rev. Henry Axtell. The remains were then placed in vaults prepared for their reception; and after a salute of musketry, the troops retired, and were marched into quarters. The Masonic Fraternity proceeded from the tombs to the Presbyterian Church, where a monody on the dead was pronounced by D. W. Whitehurst, Esq. Half-hour guns were fired until sun set, closing the solemnities of the day.
And thus closed the honors awarded the victims of Indian treachery, battle and disease. From the Withlacoochee, whose banks have drank the blood of Izard, to the Okachobee, the field of fame as of death, from the plain where untimely fell Mellon, McNeil, and Sanderson, to the rivers of our Atlantic border, has p392the earth given up in part its dead to rest among us. The stream, the lake, the margin of our rivers, had witnessed the daring of these gallant spirits — the open pine barren had resounded with the fire of their musketry, and the grass water heard their rifles in the discharge of duty. Gathered by their companions in danger and glory, from the recesses of the forest and the solitude of the plain, to rest amid the habitations of man and civilized life, we leave them, — sepulchred among the green of the orange tree and the aroma of its flower, with the shadow of our country's flag, as its folds catch the breeze from the staff of the cupola resting on their tomb, amid the booming morning gun, the clear note of the bugle, the music of the drum, the ring of the musket, and the quarters of the garrison. Fitting home for the martyred and the honored dead! And when we, who have been the witnesses of this melancholy scene shall have passed away, when the wilds of our border shall have again bloomed with culture, and its solitude send forth the busy hum of men, and the song of thanksgiving in grateful voices be heard in the land, that hallowed ground will be the resting spot of the pilgrim, as he bends at the sepulchre of the dead! — from which, if the fires of his patriotism should ever grow cold, they will be kindled anew as he treads the sacred abiding place of their honored remains.
The tombs, three in number, erected by the troops of the Post, in which the remains are deposited, are vaults each •about ten feet square, surmounted by a pyramid of •five feet high, rising from a grassy mound enclosing the body of the tomb. It is designed to cover these pyramids entirely with marble, on which will be placed the names of all other officers who have died or been killed in Florida, in addition to those deposited beneath.
F? Near the close of the year 1835, the Seminole Indians of Florida commenced hostilities against the settlements of the whites in their vicinity. The immediate cause of the war was the attempt of the government to remove the Indians to lands west of the Mississippi, in accordance with the treaty of Payne's Landing, executed in 1832, which, however, the Indians denied to be justly binding upon them. Micanopy, the king of the nation, was opposed to the removal; and Osceola, their most noted p393chief, said he "Wished to rest in the land of his fathers, and his children to sleep by his side."
The proud bearing of Osceola, and his remonstrances against the proceedings of General Thompson, the government agent, displeased the latter, and he put the chieftain in irons. Dissembling his wrath, Osceola obtained his liberty, gave his confirmation to the treaty of removal, and, so perfect was his dissimulation, that he dissipated all the fears of the whites.
At this time, General Clinch was stationed at Fort Drane, in the interior of Florida. Being supposed to be in imminent danger from the Indians, and also in great want of supplies, Major Dade was dispatched from Fort Brooke, at the head of Tampa Bay, with upwards of one hundred men, to his assistance. He had proceeded about half the distance, when he was suddenly attacked by the enemy, and he and all but four of his men were killed; and these four, horribly mangled, afterwards died of their wounds. One of them, supposed to be dead, was thrown into a heap of the slain, about which the Indians danced, in exultation of their victory.
At the very time of Dade's massacre, Osceola, with a small band of warriors, was prowling in the vicinity of Fort King. While General Thompson and a few friends were dining at a store only two hundred and fifty yards from the fort, they were surprised by a sudden discharge of musketry, and five out of nine were killed. The body of General Thompson was found pierced by fifteen bullets. Osceola and his party rushed in, scalped the dead, and retreated before they could be fired upon by the garrison. The same band probably took part in the closing scene of Dade's massacre on the same day.
a The text on this page reproduces pp383‑393 of Memorials: being a Genealogical, Biographical and Historical Account of the Name of Mudge in America, from 1638 to 1868, by Alfred Mudge, printed in Boston "by Alfred Mudge & Son, for the family", 1868. As we see, it consists of a collection of accounts, which I've marked by letters in the left margin: they're not carefully sourced — or maybe, in one case, even not separated: the paragraphs that start with my marker F? may be a continuation of the newspaper report that precedes it with no break, or some other quoted item, or (as I think most likely) a bit of background by the author Alfred Mudge.
b The reburial ceremony was on Monday, August 15, 1842; the newspaper article was published August 20.
c The cemetery has since become St. Augustine National Cemetery. See the official site (Veterans Administration); for interment records, Interment.Net; a photograph of the Dade pyramids can be found on Florida Cracker's interesting page.
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