The Bradley massacre: "last such attack east of the Mississippi"

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The Bradley massacre: "last such attack east of the Mississippi"

Billy Bowlegs, Seminole Chief from History of the Indian tribes of North America (1872) McKenney, Thomas Loraine, 1785-1859; Hall, James, 1793-1868

The Bradley massacre was an indian attack on a Capt. Robert Duke Bradley's homestead during the Third Seminole War. Two of Bradley's children were killed in the attack which happened in Hernando County on May 14, 1856. On June 2, 1887, Hernando county was split into three counties the site of the Bradley massacre was located in the new Pasco county. It is located about five miles south of Hernando county on Bellamy Brother's Road. There is a historical marker on the east side of the road just past Darby Road as you head south. The marker states that this was the "last such attack on a settler’s homestead east of the Mississippi."

In the months preceding the massacre at the Bradley homestead there had been a several indian attacks. On April 16, 1856 a farmer John Carney near present day Brandon was shot five times and killed. Mr. Carney had sent his family to Tampa for their safety because of recent the indian attacks, while he remained to prepare his fields for spring planting. He stayed at the house of John Vickers and when he failed to return one evening, Mr. Vickers looked for him and headed to Alafia and informed the militia. John Carney's body was found in his field on April 17.

Capt. Bradley had fought in the the second Seminole War for the Florida Foot Volunteers. The indian campaign took its toll on the health of Capt. Bradley, so he resigned his commission and attempted to heal. He was said to have hemorrhages of the lungs which he had treated by an army surgeon at Fort Brooke. He moved around before settling in the homestead located on the stage road from Brooksville to Tampa. It was known as the 26th mile house. Before the attack it was reported that moccasin tracks were frequently found around the Capt Bradley homestead.

Darby, Florida- Bradley Massacre Memorial via DanTD, wikipedia

The Palatka Democrat reported on May 22, 1856 on the attack, "Bradley’s family had returned from supper, and the children were in an open passage of the house, when Indians fired a volley which killed a little girl and mortally wounded a boy fifteen years old; he ran into the house, got a gun and returned to the passage to return the fire when he fell dead. The mother, Mrs. Bradley, ran out and carried her children into the house. The Indians shot at her without hurting her or any more of the children.

Capt. Bradley, who was prostrated on his bed with sickness, arose and returned a fire on the Indians with two or three guns which he had in his house, which caused them to withdraw."

Capt. Bradley is reported to have believed that there were at least fifteen indians in the attacking party. In some of the accounts of the attack, the Seminoles were led by Billy Bowlegs, in others accounts they were led by Billy Munday. According to an account in the Dade City Banner on August 4, 1922 by C. B. Taylor, "Mrs. Bradley always declared that the Indians were led by a white man and insisted that she heard him talking to the savages during the battle directing their movement."

The attack on the Bradley family greatly concerned the residents of Hernando county. A committee of concerned citizens from Spring Hill (Original Spring Hill community located near the intersection of Fort Dade and Citrus Way, unrelated to later Spring Hill development) sent a letter to Gen. J. Carter requesting "send to our relief a force sufficient to protect us from the cruel barbarities of this insidious foe, or, at least, to aid us in protecting our lives and property, provided you have the direction or control of such force, and, if not, that you exert your influence to obtain it from the officer commanding the troops in Florida; for we are fully persuaded, from the indications here and the reports from other places, that there are now more Indians on this side of the Hillsborough River than there are beyond it." The letter was signed by Postmaster W. T. Mayo, Frederick Lykes, and other prominent citizens. The letter was reprinted in an article in the June 3, 1956 edition of the Tampa Tribune. That article stated that the letter led to the creation of Fort Broome which was located two miles southeast of Dade City in Tuckertown.

The Third Seminole War ended in 1858, with many of the seminoles sent to an indian reservation in Oklahoma. A small group of Seminoles retreated further into the swamp and stayed in Florida. The area received a brief respite before being plunged into the trials and tribulations of the Civil War.