Today is the 143rd anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. This is part of a continuing series on the battle.
Following the first two Union attacks, the Confederate troops worked to consolidate their position overlooking the Natural Bridge. This photo shows an earthwork (the mound in the center of the picture) thrown up to protect one of the Confederate artillery positions.
Additional Southern troops continued to arrive at the battlefield through the morning. General Miller arrived with the troops from Newport, leaving behind only a few local volunteers in the trenches there. By late morning, the Confederates had the following on the field:
- 1st Florida Infantry Reserves (7 Companies).
- 1st Florida Militia (Units from Gadsden, Leon, Wakulla and Madison Counties).
- 5th Florida Cavalry (3 companies).
- Corps of Cadets, West Florida Seminary.
- 6 pieces of artillery from the Milton and Kilcrease Light Artillery battalions and Gadsden County home guard.
- 20 C.S. Navy personnel from the C.S.S. Spray (acting as infantry).
- 25 men from Campbell's Siege Artillery (acting as infantry).
- A small medical detachment stationed to the rear of the lines.
The exact strength of this force is not known, but it was clearly much larger than the 500 or so "old men and young boys" of local legend. Based on the known strengths of units on the field, there were probably in the range of 1,500 Confederates at Natural Bridge by midday.
The Union troops, meanwhile, were receiving no reinforcements. Newton had marched north from Newport with only the 2nd and 99th U.S. Colored Troops and his three pieces of artillery. The battalion from the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry was left at Newport to prevent the Confederates from crossing over and striking his column from behind. There were no Southern troops left at Newport, just a few local citizens who were firing off shots and making as much noise as possible, but Newton had no way of knowing this. His total force on the field at Natural Bridge only numbered around 500 men.
Throughout the morning the two sides engaged in light skirmishing and sniping, but after the Union general realized he had no other options but to either force a passage or retreat, the intensity of the fighting quickly increased.
Our series will continue with additional postings this afternoon, so please check back throughout the day. In the meantime, you can read more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.