Academy Graduates Remembered
By Michael Isam
Last Saturday, the West Point Society of North Florida held their annual ceremony at the St Augustine National Cemetery to commemorate the end of the Florida-Indian wars, and honor those, including West Point graduates, who perished in them.
A re-enactor encampment on the parade field of the Florida National Guard Headquarters offered many talks on military life in Florida at the time. Personal weaponry, clothing, daily life of food preparation and preservation drew quite a gathering.
The Peace River Artillery re-enactors maintained a display of munitions and hardware. Of special interest was the 6-pound artillery piece; an actual part of Major Dade’s command. One item of interest to many was the 6-pound time-delay shot. The fuse was set with a special key to “time” the detonation of the shot. The desired detonation time was while it was over the heads of the enemy. More often than not, it hit the ground before exploding, or not at all.
The piece played a particular roll in the ceremony when it was fired to honor Dade and those in his command. During the time of Dade, the signal corps would use special flag code to tell the artillery when to fire, raise or lower elevation for downrange accuracy. Today the signal corps used a cell phone.
According to Col. Joe Naftzinger, USA (Retired), during the war with the Native Americans, most new West Point graduates were assigned to Florida. The chances of surviving were not good. Many were killed in action, or died of wounds and a large number succumbed to disease and pestilence.
Three pyramids stand silent vigil at the St Augustine National Cemetery; each marking gallantry and sacrifice. The most poignant time was the placing of the wreath by Major Elizabeth Evans and distinguished guests commemorating Major Dade and the 1467 buried with him under the pyramids.
“Taps” played by Master Sergeant, USA (Retired) Arthur Tenney, as always, marked the solemnity of the ceremony with the sound that carries one across time and space to honor our fallen.
After the ceremonies, the audience and re-enactors retired to the Officer’ Club for lunch and a program featuring Robert Thrower, Tribal Preservation Officer for the Poarch Band, Creek Indians, and descendant of Major David Moniac, USMA, 1822.