The December 28, 1835 Seminole surprise attacks on Major Dade's Command and the Indian Agent Wiley Thompson shocked Florida and the Nation. Both were perfectly executed tactical strikes by presumed ignorant savages. It wasn't supposed to happen.
Three days later the Seminoles summarily defeated General Duncan L. Clinch while he was in the process of crossing the Withlachoochee River at what is now the SR 200 bridge. Clinch's men who had crossed the River were struck with a galling fire and pushed back across the River.
Meanwhile Seminole Chief Philip and his son Coacachee, known to the Whites as 'Wildcat' had begun a systematic attack on all of the sugar plantations east of the St. Johns. The plantations at Bulow, Dunlawton, and New Smyrna were torched and all of the Black Slaves freed to join the ranks of the Seminoles. Rout turned into panic and despair.
In February 1836, the two commanding field Generals of the Army, Edmund Pendelton Gaines and Winfield Scott converged on Central Florida with their Armies planning to make short work of the Seminoles. Gaines was checkmated in a week long siege on the north bank of the Withlachoochee and Scott was outmaneuvered by the Seminoles and left Florida in disgrace. Both Generals quickly left Florida and were lucky to escape with their lives.
By May 1836 all of the Army's high command, i.e., Generals Clinch, Gaines, Scott, and Eustis had pulled out of Florida. Command of what was left of the Regular Army troops stationed at Forts King, Brooke (Tampa), Drane (Irving), and Defiance (Micanopy) was devolved to Florida's Governor, Richard Keith Call. In a rare instance in U.S. military history, a Territorial Governor now issued commands for the Federal Army.
Enraged by Scotts 'search and destroy' tactics of burning their towns and destroying their crops and cattle, the Seminole struck back with unremitting fury. Forts King, Drane, and Defiance now came 'Under Siege'. Soldiers could not walk outside the picket walls without fear of being shot and scalped.
In May 1836, under constant attacks with no new troops arriving and supplies diminishing, the Army began a retreat from the interior of Florida. It started at Fort King. On May 25th, Fort King was evacuated with the garrison transferred under dragoon and infantry escorts to Fort Drane. Two months later, Fort Drane was evacuated. The retreating columns had to fight their way out all the way to Fort Defiance (Micanopy). Finally Fort Defiance was abandoned on August 25th.
The Seminoles proceeded to burn to the ground not only the Forts but all of the buildings associated with the Forts - The Indian Agency and Sutler house at Fort King, Clinch's Plantation House at Fort Drane, and the entire town of Micanopy. The Seminoles had erased all physical monuments of the Americans from the Forest.
The Seminoles stood victorious. In six months of battle, they had defeated the U.S. Army, routed the Settlers, and destroyed the Slave Plantations. They had proved that Native Americans could stand in battle against a technologically superior force, the mightiest Army on the face of the Earth. The Army which had, in the last 50 years twice defeated England had been whipped by the Seminoles. The only question now was, 'How long would the Victory Last?'