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Theater of the Sea

Historic Sites

Dade Battlefield State Historic Site
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." Major Francis L. Dade spoke these words of encouragement to 108 cold, tired soldiers in a pine forest on the morning of December 28, 1835. Within eight hours, only three soldiers would survive the battle that marked the beginning of the Second Seminole War. The story of this momentous battle in Florida history is told in the visitor center at Dade Battlefield State Historic Site. An annual reenactment of the historic battle is co-sponsored by the Dade Battlefield Society, a citizen support organization. The reenactment is held on the weekend falling closest to the actual battle date. The weekend event includes many displays of historic memorabilia of the battle era. Festivities begin at 9am and continue until sunset both days. The park consists of the historic battlefield, beautiful visitors center and museum located on 50 acres of pinelands which contains graceful large live oak trees, magnolias, gopher tortoises, woodpeckers, songbirds and many other species of wildlife. For information call: (352)793-4781


Gamble Plantation State Historic Site
The Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation State Historic Site serves as a memorial to a way of life and an economic system that existed before the War between the States. Gamble Mansion is the only surviving antebellum plantation house in south Florida. The mansion was the home of Major Robert Gamble and the headquarters of an extensive sugar plantation of over 3,500 acres. In May of 1865, after the fall of the Confederacy, Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin took refuge in the house until his safe passage to England could be secured. In 1925, the mansion and 16 acres were saved by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and donated to the state. Today, it is furnished in the style of a successful mid-19th century plantation. A guided tour through the mansion depicts a time and way of life that were very much a part of Florida's unique history. For information call: (941)723-4536


Paynes Creek State Historic Site
In the decade following the second Seminole Indian War, friction continued between the Seminoles and the white settlers who were continually encroaching on the land. The Seminoles often traveled from the interior of Florida to the Gulf coast to trade, passing white settlements -- a potential source of conflict. The U.S. authorities attempted to eliminate this volatile situation by establishing a trading post for the Seminoles in the interior. They calculated the post would eliminate the necessity to pass near white settlements and would establish, for the first time, a contact point where the Seminoles could easily be reached whenever the need arose to communicate with them. Therefore, the Darling Store was established in the spring of 1849. The spot selected was Paynes Creek (un-named at that time) on the northern boundary of the Reservation. It was attacked by five Seminoles on July 17, 1849. They opened fire on three clerks; Captain George S. Payne, Dempsey Whiddon and William McCullough. Whiddon and Payne were killed. Their grave site is now marked with a stone monument near the location of the old store. McCullough escaped with this wife and child, although he was wounded in the shoulder and leg. The attack resulted from the action of five individuals, one of whom had been previously outlawed by his tribe. The Seminoles wished to avoid a conflict. They captured three of the culprits and killed a fourth. The fifth man escaped. The prisoners were turned over to the government in an attempt at appeasement. However, it took the government a while to realize the misunderstanding. In the meantime, federal troops were sent to Florida and plans were made for a campaign against the Seminoles. The strategic plan for removing them called for establishing a chain of forts, 10 miles apart, from the Manatee River to the Indian River. This line of outposts across the northern boundary of the Reservation would be to protect the settlers to the north and to establish bases from which the Seminoles could be pursued and harassed until they surrendered. Work began on the first fort on October 26, 1849, on an elevated spot of ground, one-half mile north of the trading post. The fort took its name from the name of the store which had come to be known as "Chokonikla," a variant spelling of the Native American word for "burned house." No fighting occurred at the fort, although a number of men died from disease. Sickness, particularly malaria and fever, were constant problems and ultimately caused the fort to be abandoned (July, 1850). As many as 223 men, including a regimental band, were garrisoned at the fort at one time, but usually the number was smaller. The events of 1849 did not immediately lead to war. The conflict was postponed until 1855 when a band of Seminoles attacked a military surveying party near Fort Myers. Although some of the Seminoles surrendered and were sent to Oklahoma, others remained hidden in the swamps of southern Florida where their descendants remain to this day. The remaining Seminoles never surrendered. They later signed a peace treaty with the U.S. Government in 1936 during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Trails lead through the woods to the high ground where Fort Chokonikla once stood and to the location of the Kennedy Darling store. Near this feature is the stone monument marking the burial place of George Payne and Dempsey Whiddon. Exhibits interpreting the Seminoles, Fort Chokonikla, the trading post and events that occurred here are located in the visitor center. Picnic tables and shelters are available for visitors to relax and enjoy lunch and the surroundings. For information call: (941)375-4717


San Marcos De Apalache State Historic Site
The site's history began in 1528 when Panfilo de Narvaez arrived with 300 men. Having traveled overland from Tampa, Narvaez impressed by the area located at the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks rivers, built and launched the first ships made by white men in the New World. In 1539, Hernando de Soto, along with 600 men, followed the same route taken by Narvaez. Banners were hung in the trees near the river to easily mark the river's entrance. (A lighthouse now stands near the site.) By 1679, the Spanish Governor of Florida started construction on the first fort built at the junction of the two rivers. The logs used were coated with lime to give the appearance of stone. The fort stood only three years, then was burned and looted by pirates. Not until 1718 did Captain Jose Primo de Ribera arrive to construct a second wooden fort. Today, a visitor center containing exhibits and artifacts covering the area's history is built on the foundation of the old marine hospital. The historic site and visitor center are open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday and closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. A trail takes visitors on a journey through the historic fortification ruins. For information call: (850)922-6007


Indian Key State Historic Site
Indian Key has had a colorful past which is very much a part of early Florida history. It dates from the time of prehistoric Indians to the 1830s, when this small key was the seat of newly created Dade County. The foundations of buildings and cisterns on the island date back to this prosperous time. For information call: (305)664-4815

Tourist Attractions

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Take a tour for an up-close view of Space Shuttle launch pads. See the new International Space Station Center and the Apollo/Saturn V Center where guests relive America's race to the moon through dramatic multi-media shows, hands-on displays and an actual 363-foot moon rocket. Climb aboard a Space Shuttle replica, see real rockets and experience an IMAX film on a five-and-a-half-story screen. For information call: (800)KSC-INFO


Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament
Enjoy a four-course medieval banquet while watching knights on Andalusian horses competing in tournament games and jousting matches. For more information call: (800)229-8300


Disney-MGM Studios
A working TV and film studio and theme park. Attractions include: Fantasmic; Star Tours; Rock 'n' Rollercoaster (opening spring 1999); The Great Movie Ride; The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular For information call: (407)934-7639


Disney World
Disney World and Cinderella's castle. Disneyworld is almost synonymous with Florida. This playland for children of all ages was the brainchild of Walt Disney himself and has grown to be one of the largest theme parks in the world.

For information call:
(407)W-DISNEY


Epcot
A permanent international and discovery showplace covering 260 acres. Two major areas include Future World and The World Showcase. For information call: (407)934-7639


Universal Studios Florida
The largest working motion picture and television studio outside of Hollywood, and theme park. Shows include Terminator 2 3-D, Back to the Future, Jaws and Twister. For information call: (407)363-8000