This is part twelve of a continuing series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. To read the previous posts first, please scroll down the page.
On March 1, 1865 (143 years ago today), still shielded from view by the heavy fog that had settled on the Florida coast, the ships of the Union flotilla continued to converge. A meeting was convened involving General Newton and the other officers from both the army and navy to consider plans for the attack.
After discussing several possibilities, the officers settled on the following course of action:
- A party of seamen and dismounted troopers from the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry would be landed on Lighthouse Island to capture the pickets stationed there and seize the wooden bridge over East River.
- Troops would be landed near the lighthouse in anticipation of an inland march that was to begin at daylight on March 4th.
- The expedition would advance to Newport, destroy any public facilities found there, take possession of the bridge and cross the St. Marks River to either attack St. Marks from the rear or take position on the railroad between St. Marks and Tallahassee to attack Confederate forces before they could concentrate.
- To assist in these movements, demolition parties would be landed to disrupt transportation and communications by destroying the railroad and other bridges over the Ochlockonee River west of Tallahassee, the railroad bridge over the Aucilla River east of the city and the Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad. The Navy would send ships up the St. Marks to silence and capture Fort Ward and land a force of 500-600 seamen at the site of the old town of Port Leon to prevent Confederate forces from crossing in the rear of the main body as it advanced from the lighthouse to Newport.
The first of these actions would take place the next day. Our daily recounting of the Natural Bridge Campaign will continue, in the meantime you can read more by visiting http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ and looking for the Natural Bridge heading. Also please consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, available through http://www.barnesandnoble.com/, http://www.amazon.com/ or for order through most local book stores. It is available in Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea downtown.