Friday, December 14, 2007
The Capture of the Apalachicola Arsenal
This photograph shows another surviving portion of the historic Apalachicola Arsenal in Chattahoochee, Florida. This building, although heavily renovated, incorporates part of the original Gun Carriage Storage facility and exterior wall of the arsenal. The second story of the building is an addition. The photograph was taken from about the location of the west gate of the complex. If you look closely, you can see an "indentation" on the left face of the building where the original arsenal wall connected with the structure.
In January of 1861, the facility at Chattahoochee was the only arsenal in Florida and of critical interest to the state's leaders. On January 2, 1861, Senators Yulee and Mallory of Florida requested a report from the War Department on the condition and inventory of the arsenal. Although the report was prepared, the acting-Secretary of War declined to turn it over to the senators on the grounds of national security.
Although some historians have claimed, apparently without basis, that the arsenal contained 500,000 musket cartridges, 300,000 rifle cartridges and 50,000 pounds of gunpowder on the eve of the Civil War, the actual report reveals the inventory was 173,476 cartridges and 5,122 pounds of powder, along with 57 flintlock muskets and a 6 pounder iron cannon.
On January 5, 1861, prior to the secession of Florida, Governor Madison S. Perry issued secret orders for state militia troops to take possession of the arsenal. The task was assigned to the Quincy Guards, commanded by Captain William Gunn (whose name is sometimes incorrectly stated as "Colonel Dunn" or "Coloney Duryea"). Dunn and his men appeared outside the gates at sunrise on the morning of January 6, 1861, and demanded the surrender of the facility from Ordnance Sergeant Edwin Powell and his three man garrison.
Sgt. Powell debated the issue and refused to turn over the keys to the magazines and armory. Dunn contacted Governor Perry by telegraph for instructions and was told to force the issue. With no means of resisting and unable to contact his own superiors, Powell finally surrendered the keys. Supposedly he told Dunn that had he been in command of a larger garrison, he "would be damned" if the state troops would have ever entered the gates.
Dunn and his men took possession of the arsenal, announcing their bloodless victory by firing the cannon. Local diarists recorded hearing the booming of the gun that morning.
Sgt. Powell and his men went to St. Augustine where, oddly, they were discharged from the U.S. Army by order of the Secretary of War on February 6, 1861. Powell later served in the Confederate army.