The next morning, the Seminoles woke to reports of dragoons in the vicinity. On December 31, as they crouched in a thicket on the Withlacoochee, they spotted the enemy: 250 Army regulars and 500 Florida volunteers under General Clinch. Clinch and his soldiers had not yet heard of the Dade massacre.
Clinch had been searching for the Seminole stronghold, which he knew to be located somewhere along the "Cove of the Withlacoochee," the swampy region where the river met the Tsala-Apopka Plain. Unbeknownst to the general, he had narrowly missed happening on the Seminole camp earlier that morning. Now instead, he would meet the allies on their chosen ground.
Clinch reached a ford in the river, where he spotted an old canoe. Carelessly, he divided his forces, sending the regulars over in groups of seven or eight.
Sources: Sprague Origin 92-94, Potter 112-16, Bemrose 48, Mahon 108.
Part 2, War: l