Friday, August 31, 2007

The Battle of Natural Bridge - Book Review

Andrew Wagenhoffer of "Civil War Books and Authors" tells me his review of my new book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, will be posted on his site soon (http://cwba.blogspot.com).

If you aren't familiar with Drew's blog, I highly recommend it. He reviews books about the Civil War (or the War Between the States, if you prefer!). His site is one of the best resources available for thorough, good reviews on books and I often use it as guidance in deciding what reading material to buy next. Good, bad or indifferent, I'll post a link to his review of Natural Bridge as soon as it is available.

Thanks also today to Dimitri Rotov of Civil War Bookshelf (http://cwbn.blogspot.com). Dimitri had trouble accessing Civil War Florida and thought maybe the site was defunct but I sent him a note and he quickly took a second look and was kind enough to post a quick note about it.

Port Leon, Florida


Just beyond the trees on the left side of this photograph is the site of Port Leon (Wakulla County, Florida). It takes several hours of walking through the marshes on foot to reach the site, so I photographed it from the point at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers which is a bit easier to reach.
Port Leon was an important town and seaport in early Florida history. The Gulf terminus of the state's second railroad (the Tallahassee-St. Marks) was located here and seagoing vessels used to come up the the St. Marks River seen here to unload at Port Leon. The town was utterly destroyed in a hurricane during the 1840s, however, and disappeared as a town and port. The rail terminus was moved upriver a short distance to St. Marks.
During the Civil War, Port Leon was an important sentry or picket post for the Confederate army. Men stationed at the site kept watch for any attempt by the Union navy to come up the river to attack St. Marks and Fort Ward (the battery located on the ruins of the old Spanish fort of San Marcos de Apalache at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers).
One attempted boat attack on Fort Ward was turned back when pickets at Port Leon spotted and challenged the Union sailors and then fired on them when they failed to respond. During the Natural Bridge expedition of 1865, the Union navy expected to land a force of 600 sailors at the site to act in support of the army column under Brigadier General Newton. The plan failed when the large vessels had trouble making their way up the twisting channel of the river.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A battlefield practical joke in Marianna


This is the Holden House on West Lafayette Street in Marianna. Constructed during the 1850s, the home was one of a number of similar structures that overlooked the fighting of the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864.


Two interesting battle-related stories are told about this house. The first involves a bit of a practical joke played on the occupants of the home by Union soldiers following the battle. In the hours after the fighting ended, Union soldiers "raided" homes all over Marianna, including the Holden House. A couple of them apparently decided to have some fun with the residents of the home and placed a 12-pound cannon ball in the middle of the parlor floor, warning the family members that it would explode if moved. The projectile was actually a solid shot, but the family had no way of knowing this so they left in in place in the middle of the parlor for more than 100 years. A local high school teacher picked it up for a closer look while visiting the home during the 1970s, much to the shock of the people then living in the house. They gave it to him as a keepsake once he convinced them it would not explode.


The cannonball undoubtedly was left behind by soldiers from Company M of the 2nd Maine Cavalry. This unit manned the two 12-pounder howitzers attached to the regiment. It was the only known use of artillery during the Battle of Marianna.


For more information on the Battle of Marianna, be sure to visit my site: http://www.battleofmarianna.net/.


Monday, August 27, 2007

More on the C.S.S. Chattahoochee


This site is not in Florida, but it isn't far away and was highly significant to the state's Confederate naval history. This is the riverbank cut in Early County, Georgia, where the C.S.S. Chattahoochee was launched.


The steam-driven Chattahoochee was built at Saffold, Georgia (just a few miles north of the Florida line) in 1862. She was the most powerful warship ever to float on Florida's Apalachicola River.


The Chattahoochee was originally built to be used in breaking the blockade at Apalachicola. The fact that Catesby ap R. Jones was her first commander is evidence of the high hopes that the Confederates had for the vessel. Jones commanded the C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimac) during part of her famed battle with the U.S.S. Monitor. Much to his disgust, however, the Confederate army sank obstructions in the lower Apalachicola River before he could get his ship to sea. As a result, the ship never tasted salt water. Instead, she spent her entire career patrolling the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers.


The Chattahoochee ran aground at Blountstown, Florida, in 1863 and was severely damaged when her boiler exploded as her crew was trying to refloat her. A number of men died and were buried in Chattahoochee (see my earlier posting on this). The ship was eventually refloated, however, and taken to Columbus, Georgia, where she was repaired and refitted. She was ready for action again by the end of the war and waiting for the completion of the powerful ironclad C.S.S. Jackson. Along with the torpedo boat Viper, the three ships would have made a powerful flotilla and given another month likely would have turned Apalachicola Bay into the scene of a major naval battle.


Columbus was captured as the final work was being completed on the Jackson, however, and both of the larger warships were destroyed by the Confederates themselves. Their remains can now be viewed at the Port Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus. The Viper survived the war, but was captured by Union forces. The little torpedo boat sank in the Gulf of Mexico while being towed to Key West.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fort Pickens - Gulf Islands National Seashore


Located on the western tip of Santa Rosa Island, Fort Pickens was constructed by the U.S. Army to control the entrance to Pensacola Bay. The original intent was to keep enemy ships from coming into the bay, but when the Civil War erupted, the task was reversed. Instead of protecting Pensacola against foreign aggression, Fort Pickens became the key instrument in Union efforts to keep Confederate forces bottled up in the bay.
The largest of the fortifications surrounding Pensacola, the fort dominated the entrance to the harbor. The Union never gave up control of the works and Pickens was on the verge of achieving the status claimed by Fort Sumter as the site of the first battle of the war. Instead, the two sides agreed to the "Fort Pickens Truce" in a futile effort to avoid bloodshed. The war opened in South Carolina instead and two angry forces faced off across the waters of the bay for months. The fort was unsuccessfully attacked by Confederate forces in October of 1861. Fought in the sand dunes outside the fort, the Battle of Santa Rosa Island was a victory for the Union. The two sides battled again in November and in January of 1862 when massive bombardments erupted at Pensacola. The Federals in Fort Pickens and the Confederates in Forts Barrancas, McRee and numerous sand batteries along the shoreline battled it out in days of fighting with heavy artillery. Casualties were few but the cannonades were among the most severe ever witnessed on the North American continent.
After the Confederates abandoned Pensacola, Fort Pickens was used as a prison, etc., for the rest of the war and remained an important military post through World War II. The fort is now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore and is open to the public. Getting there is a bit of a trick, however. The road to the fort was washed out by hurricanes several years ago and the rebuilding process is likely to go on for at least another year or longer. In the meantime the only way to get to Fort Pickens is by boat or by making a long (miles) hike down the beach.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Battle of Vernon, Florida


One of the least known events of the Civil War in Florida, the Battle of Vernon took place on September 28, 1864, as Union troops were withdrawing from the Battle of Marianna. At the same time, Captain W.B. Jones and his home guard company from Vernon (then the county seat) were marching to Marianna in response to a call for help. The two forces collided head on at Hard Labor Creek near today's Washington Church and Cemetery.


The Federals, who believed they were being pursued by Confederate cavalry, were in no mood to be delayed so they ordered the home guards out of their way. According to legend, one of Jones' men responded by voicing his opinion of them in a string of expletives. Whether the legend is true or not, gunfire quickly erupted. Confederate casualties included Stephen Pierce, formally a soldier in the 4th Florida Infantry, who was killed and at least one other man who reported being wounded. Eleven Confederates, including Captain Jones, were captured and the rest scattered in a running skirmish that continued for several miles to Vernon.


More information on the Battle of Vernon can be found in my books, The Battle of Marianna, Florida and Two Egg, Florida. Order information can be obtained at http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Roster of Company H, 6th Florida Infantry

By request, here is the roster of Company H, 6th Florida Infantry. If you have additions or changes, please let me know by posting a comment. Thanks!

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Stephen A. Cawthon, Captain
Angus McLean (original captain, promoted to regimental staff)
James McClelland, 1st Lieutenant (Died of Disease)
Alexander McCloud, 1st Lieutenant (Transferred to Reserves)
Phillip McSween, 2nd Lieutenant (Resigned in 1863)

Malcolm Baxter
Mathew W. Bedsole
Robert W. Bell
Thaddeus Bell
James Arthur Bird (Discharged due to Disability)
William W. Bray
J.H. Burgess
Mark Burk
William Burk (Deserted)
Joseph S. Burks (Died of Disease)
William F. Busby (Died of Disease)
Daniel Campbell
John Angus Campbell
William L. Campbell
William M. Campbell (Died of Disease)
Henry Milton Cannon
Henry R. Cannon (Discharged)
Emanuel A. Carter
Calvin Chestnut (Discharged)
Henry Clark
William P. Clary
George W. Cook (Promoted to different company)
Harvey Crain
Washington Crain
W. Patrick Crawford
Thomas P. Daniel (Died of Wounds)
Isaac Davis (Died of Disease)
Robert D. Divine (Died of Disease)
Jesse Edge
Obediah Edge (Discharged due to disability)
Zion Foley (Died of Disease)
Daniel Fountain
James Gainer
Joseph E. Gainer
T.G. Garner
Joseph Garrett
A.M. Gillis
Daniel P. Gillis (Died of Disease)
Normal W. Gillis (Killed at Chickamauga)
William C. Gillis (Died of Disease)
Angus Gordon (Died of Wounds)
F.C. Hagan (Killed at Chickamauga)
Lawrence Hall (Deserted)
Rayford Hall (Deserted)
William H. Hart
Hardy J. Herring
Isaac C. Hurst (Deserted)
Thomas Jackson (Died as a POW)
W.B. Jones
Lorenzo D. Jordan (Dropped from the rolls)
James M. Kimmons
William J. Kimmons
John Kinnington (Killed at Chickamauga)
John H. Kinnington
Reace Kirkland
Richard Levins (Deserted)
John W. Linn (Discharged)
Francis A. Londay (Died as a POW)
Stephen Londay
John Lott
William Lott
Finley McCaskill
Spear McCaskill
William McCurley
Daniel L. McDonald (Died of Disease)
Daniel P. McDonald (Died of Disease)
Peter McDonald
James C. McLean
Duncan McLeod
John D. McLeod
John G. McLeod
Malcolm McPherson
Jacob Meeks
John Minger
Archibald G. Morrison (Died of wounds)
Daniel Morrison
Joel Morrison (Discharged due to disability)
Wiley Nickels
Dozier Padgett (Killed at Chickamauga)
G.W. Padgett
Isham Padgett
Samuel Perry
Griffin Pippin (Discharged)
Daniel Powell (Died as a POW)
John Preachers (Died of Disease)
Colin G. Ray (Died of Disease)
Benjamin Reeves (Deserted)
James Rice
John L. Rolling (Deserted)
Joseph Rutherford (Deserted)
John J. Simmons (Died of Disease)
Thomas Simmons (Died of Disease)
Green Smith
John Smith (Died of Disease)
Alexander Steel
Samuel Terry
William A. Turner
W.M. Vaughn
Andrew J. Ward (Discharged)
George T. Ward
Jacob Weeks
John T. Welch (Died as a POW)
Robert H. West
Kinnon E. White
John E. Williams (Killed at Chickamauga)
Rice Williamson (Killed at Chickamauga)
Seth Williamson
Uriah Woodham
W.H. Yearty
C.T. Yon
John W. Zinn

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The "Other" Florida


This image is of the U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson, one of the warships stationed off the Florida coast to enforce the Union blockade. The vessel was part of the flotilla that supported the Natural Bridge expedition in 1865.


A little known fact, however, is that the ship was once the blockade runner Florida. Not to be confused with the Confederate cruiser of the same name, this Florida was captured by a Union expedition in St. Andrews Bay near present-day Panama City. The steamer came into St. Andrews Bay carrying a shipment of arms and other supplies for the Confederacy. The weapons were unloaded and carried inland to Marianna for shipment to the Confederate army, but the ship remained in the bay near the mouth of Bear Creek taking on a load of cotton to run back through the blockade.


Union sailors learned of the presence of the Florida and came in under cover of darkness, captured the vessel and sailed her back out of the bay.


The ship was sent north for conversion into a warship and served out the rest of the war as the Hendrick Hudson.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Col. J.J. Daniel - 1st Florida Infantry Reserves


This is a photograph of Col. J.J. Daniel, the commander of the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves. Daniel's regiment was formed in 1864 after most of the regular Confederate forces were withdrawn from the state. Made up of companies formed from across the state, the 1st Florida Reserves served in several key actions. Company C of the regiment fought at the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864, and at least seven (and possibly nine) companies were on the field at the Battle of Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865.
Daniel was the senior commander on the field at the Battle of Natural Bridge during the early stages of the battle. He was wounded during the second charge by Union troops when his horse panicked and smashed him against a tree. Disabled by the injury, he turned command over to Lt. Col. G.W. Scott who remained in charge of the Confederate troops until Generals Samuel Jones and William Miller arrived on the scene.
After the war, Col. Daniel was an active civic leader in Jacksonville. He worked heroically to relieve the sufferings of the victims of a yellow fever outbreak that struck the city and continued to do so as other healthy citizens fled. He fell ill from the fever himself and died as a result of this service.
For more information on Daniel's role at the Battle of Natural Bridge, please consider my book The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. To learn more, just go to: http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex

Confederate Nitre Bureau in Florida


One of the seldom remembered efforts of the South during the Civil War was the development of operations to manufacture gunpowder and other munitions to supply the Confederate armies. To obtain the components they needed to make gunpowder, Confederate agents attempted to mine caves in Florida. The efforts proved that the caves were too wet for successful use, unlike drier caves in other areas of the South.

Records indicate that Nitre Bureau tested caves near Marianna (like the one at right) and Gainesville.

The bureau also attempted to develop ammunition components from plantation waste materials and achieved a little more success, but never developed a major powder production industry in Florida.

The best place in Florida to see caves like those explored by the Nitre Bureau is at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. According to legend, the caves here were also used as hiding places by local civilians during the Battle of Marianna. The park is located on Caverns Road just north of Marianna.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Greenwood, Florida

The community of Greenwood in Jackson County is home to a beautiful collection of antebellum homes, some of which rival any in the South. "Great Oaks," seen here, was constructed in 1860 on the Bryan Plantation and was one of the last antebellum homes constructed in Florida.

Greenwood was an important trading and planting community at the time of the Civil War. Numerous men from the community served in Confederate units from Florida and in 1864 the students of the Greenwood Academy organized a military unit of their own called the "Greenwood Club Cavalry." Headed by their teacher, Captain Henry Robinson, they conducted drills and prepared to defend their community should the need arise. On September 27, 1864, the students from Greenwood fought as a unit in the Battle of Marianna. Many of the older men of the community were unwilling to let the teenagers go off to fight alone, so they joined with them and served in their ranks at Marianna. The company served active duty several additional times during the war and was summoned to Tallahassee at the time of the Battle of Natural Bridge, but arrived too late to take part in the fighting.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Alum Bluff Confederate Battery


Among the defenses established by the Confederates along Florida's Apalachicola River during the Civil War was the artillery position at Alum Bluff. This position was established after guns from another downriver emplacement were moved upstream to a more commanding position.


Alum Bluff is the largest exposed section of the Earth's crust in Florida and is now protected as part of the Nature Conservancy's Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve.


The Confederate fortifications here originally included earthwork batteries, barracks, magazines and other facilities. Most of the fortifications have eroded into the river, but a few sections of the supporting trenches can still be scene. Access to the battery site is via the Garden of Eden Trail just north of Bristol. It takes a hike of more than three miles to get to the bluff, but the view is among the most spectacular in Florida

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fort Gadsden Historic Site


Located in the Apalachicola National Forest near the town of Sumatra (north of Apalachicola), old Fort Gadsden is one of the most important historic sites in Florida. This was the site of the so-called "Negro Fort," where in 1816 U.S. forces attacked and destroyed a colony of free African Americans living in what was then Spanish territory. Two years later, during the First Seminole War, Andrew Jackson constructed Fort Gadsden on the site.


The Confederates maintained small numbers of troops here during the Civil War, using the earthworks of the old fort as a sentry post. They also considered placing a battery of heavy artillery here, but never actually did so. In January of 1865, a small boat party of Union sailors over ran the fort and captured the small group of pickets stationed there without firing a shot.


The fort is now maintained as a historic site by the National Forest Service and is open during daylight hours. There are displays, interpretive signs and the earthworks of the old forts. For more information, please visit http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ and follow the link for Fort Gadsden.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Torreya State Park Confederate Battery


The withdrawal of Confederate forces from Apalachicola in 1862 left the Apalachicola River open to Union attack. The threat thus created was signfiicant, as tributaries of the Apalachicola - the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers - watered much of the state of Georgia. The Chattahoochee was navigable as far north as the industrial center of Columbus, while the Flint could be used as far as Bainbridge and at times even as far north as Albany.


To defend the river system against an advance by the Union navy, Confederate forces constructed a series of artillery positions and other defenses at key points. One of the best preserved of these is the earthwork fortification at Torreya State Park between Chattahoochee and Bristol.


Designed for seven heavy cannon, the fortification was located on a high bluff overlooking the Apalachicola nearly opposite the important plantation center of Ocheesee. The earthworks and emplacements can still be seen on the trail just down the slope from the historic Gregory house, an antebellum home that has been restored and is open for tours. The battery never came under attack.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Battle of Natural Bridge book is now available!

My new book on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida is now in print and available.

This volume is a companion book to my narrative on the Battle of Marianna that was released earlier this year. Over 200 pages long, it includes a detailed account of the battle that preserved Tallahassee's status as the only Southern capital east of the Mississippi not taken by Union troops during the Civil War. In addition, the book includes maps, photographs and a detailed listing of every known soldier who fought in the battle, both Union and Confederate.

The price is $19.95 and you can order (and learn more about the battle) by going to: http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex

C.S.S. Chattahoochee Monument


Just off U.S. 90 in Chattahoochee is the burial site of the Confederate sailors who died in the boiler explosion and sinking of the C.S.S. Chattahoochee in 1863. If you turn south off U.S. 90 at the entrance to the Florida State Hospital, you'll see the monument marking the gravesite on the right.


The Chattahoochee was a large gunship constructed at Saffold, Georgia, during the early years of the war. Her first commander was Catesby ap R. Jones, a veteran of the ironclads battle between the Monitor and the Virginia. The vessel was moored at Chattahoochee when word came of a minor Union incursion up the Apalachicola River near the Gulf. The ship raised steam and headed downriver, but got aground at Blountstown. The next morning, as the crew of the Chattahoochee was raising steam to get her off the sandbar, the ship's boiler exploded and she sank in shallow water.


The men who died were brought here to Chattahoochee and buried. The ship itself was eventually raised by the Confederates and taken to Columbus, Georgia, for repairs. She was burned to the waterline by her crew at the end of the war and a portion of her hull can be seen today at the Port Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus.