Friday, February 29, 2008

Natural Bridge, Part Eleven



This is Part Eleven of our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. To read the previous posts first, please scroll down the page.

Continuing today with our recounting of the Natural Bridge Campaign, there was not a February 29th in 1865. We'll resume our daily look backs to 1865 tomorrow. For today, we'll look at the Confederate status along the the coast south of Tallahassee as the Union warships gathered off shore.

The heavy fog that had descended in late February shielded the ships from the view of Southern pickets. Most of the men assigned to watch the coast were camped in small groups at various points around the mouth of the St. Marks and Aucilla Rivers. Primarily members of the 5th Florida Cavalry, commanded by Lt. Col. George Washington Scott (seen here), the pickets watched for any sign of activity by the blockade fleet. Their primary camps were at the East River Bridge just inland from the St. Marks Lighthouse, the old Port Leon site south of Fort Ward (San Marcos de Apalache) and at a few other locations along the coast.

A larger body of Scott's battalion (the 5th Florida never reached regiment size) was camped at Newport, upstream from St. Marks on the St. Marks River. As the Federal flotilla began to assemble off St. Marks, the camp at Newport and adjacent picket camps were under the command of Major William H. Milton. The son of Governor John Milton, Major Milton was a competent officer who had been in service for much of the war. His total force watching the coast was only of about company strength.

Fort Ward, at the end of February, was held by Campbell's Siege Artillery. This company-sized unit was composed primaily of men from Wakulla County, Florida and Decatur County, Georgia.

The only other troops in service immediately upon the coast around St. Marks were the sailors and marines aboard C.S.S. Spray. The total strength of these various commands was well under 250 men, a woefully insufficient force when compared to the more than 2,000 soldiers and sailors preparing to come ashore.

Our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge will continue. In the meantime, you can learn more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex. Please also consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, now available at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/, http://www.amazon.com/ or from Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna, Florida.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Natural Bridge, Part Ten


This is part ten of a continuing series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. To read the previous posts first, please scroll down the page.
On February 28, 1865 (143 years ago today), General John Newton and the Union land troops arrived in Apalachee Bay off the St. Marks Lighthouse. The general had established his headquarters aboard the steamer Alliance and the troops were quartered on the transports Honduras and Magnolia. The vessels were joined there over the next two days by the warships Mahaska, Stars and Stripes, Spirea and Fort Henry, as well as the support schooners O.H. Lee, Matthew Vassar and Twin Sisters. Other ships were on the way.
The assembling of the flotilla was obscured from the view of Confederate pickets on shore by a heavy winter fog that had settled over the coastline. While the thick mist created minor difficulties for the Union troops and sailors, it also benefited them by preventing Southern troops from spotting them.
The only Confederate warship in the St. Marks River to oppose the naval might being assembled by Federal forces was the C.S.S. Spray, a wooden steam-powered gunboat that had been converted from a civilian vessel earlier in the war. The Spray was armed by a force of regular Confederate sailors and marines and was tied up at Fort Ward.
Our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge will continue. To read more in the meantime, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com and look for the Natural Bridge heading. Also please consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, now available through www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.com or for order through most bookstores.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Natural Bridge - Part Nine


This is part nine of our continuing series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. To read the previous posts first, please scroll down the page.
This photograph, taken from the base of the St. Marks Lighthouse, looks out into Apalachee Bay, where the Union flotilla assembled at the end of February 1865.
On February 26, 1865 (143 years ago today), General Newton remained at Cedar Key, waiting for Major Edmund Weeks of the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry to return to base from a minor raid.
Although General Newton's objective has long been a topic for debate, documents from the time indicate that his primary target was a Confederate prisoner of war camp at Thomasville, Georgia. The camp had been established late in 1864 when Union prisoners were removed from the stockade at Camp Sumter (Andersonville) during Sherman's March to the Sea. Newton at that time was serving with Sherman and undoubtedly learned of the presence of the camp from his commanding officer. After Sherman's army reached Savannah, Newton was ordered to Key West. At roughly the same time, Sherman mentioned in his letters that he believed a raid up from the Gulf Coast could free many of the prisoners.
At the time Newton's expedition left Key West, reports circulated that his objective was the prison at Thomasville. To reach the prison, however, he would first need to reduce the Confederate fort at St. Marks and then march through Tallahassee. What he did not know, however, was that the prison no longer existed. The Confederates had abandoned it and returned the prisoners to Andersonville as soon as Sherman's army reached the Atlantic Coast.
Our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge will continue. In the meantime, you can read more by going to www.exploresouthernhistory.com and looking for the "Battle of Natural Bridge" heading.
In addition, please consider my book - The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee - available through www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.com or for order through most local bookstores.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Natural Bridge, Part Eight


This is part eight of a continuing series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. To read the previous postings first, please scroll down the page.
The Federal steamers Honduras and Magnolia, loaded down with General Newton's troops, reached Cedar Key at sundown on February 25, 1865. The commander of the Union post there, Major Edmund Weeks of the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry, was out on a raid and Newton had to send messengers to call him in. Meanwhile, everything was put in readiness to bring more troops aboard the transports. In addition to Week's 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry, a battalion of the 2nd U.S. Colored Infantry was also stationed at Key West. Men from both regiments would take part in the expedition.
Meanwhile, a large flotilla of U.S. Navy warships was in motion on the 25th with orders to assemble in Apalachee Bay off St. Marks. Among the vessels heading for St. Marks was the U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson, seen here. Built in New York before the war, the Hudson began her Civil War career as the Confederate blockade runner Florida (not to be confused with the Confederate warship C.S.S. Florida). She was captured at St. Andrew Bay (today's Panama City) while preparing to run the blockade with a shipment of cotton. Converted to a heavily armed warship by the Union navy, she was returned to the Gulf of Mexico.
Our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge will continue. In the meantime, read more by visiting my Natural Bridge site and please consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Natural Bridge, Part Seven


This is part seven of our special series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. To read the previous posts first, please scroll down the page.
As the Confederates were working to strengthen the defenses of Tallahassee and St. Marks, a series of events began in South Florida to quickly led to the beginning of the Natural Bridge campaign.
On February 20, 1865, Confederate troops from the Special Battalion of Florida Cavalry attacked the Union outpost at Fort Myers. The Southerners probably could have overrun the fort, but their commanding officer - Major William Footman - decided to be a gentleman about it and halted his troops to send in a demand to surrender before launching his assault. This move gave the surprised Federals time to prepare their defenses. The fort held and Footman retreated.
As the attack was underway, however, the commanding officer there sent the transport steamer Alliance to Key West with news of the battle. The steamer reached Key West on the night of February 21, 1865, also bringing news that had been received from Cedar Key of another sharp fight that had taken place at Station Number Four on the railroad in Levy County.
The news of these two encounters led Brigadier General John Newton, seen here, to believe that he might have a window of opportunity for an attack on St. Marks, Tallahassee, and Thomasville, Georgia. A seasoned general in command of the Federal troops in the District of Florida, Newton and Admiral C.K. Stribling of the U.S. Navy had been discussing the possibility of launching an attack on St. Marks. Stribling wanted to shut down the port and Newton wanted a base for a march inland to free Union prisoners he believed were being held at Thomasville.
The general immediately embarked the 99th U.S. Colored Infantry on the steamer Magnolia to reinforce Fort Myers and the steamer Honduras was ordered to prepare to load additional troops the next day. Although he later claimed that his intent was to land troops somewhere between Tampa Bay and Cedar Key to attempt to cut off the Confederate troops in South Florida, documents from the time indicate that Newton and Stribling had already agreed on St. Marks as the target for their attack.
General Newton left Cedar Key on February 23, 1865 (143 years ago from today) with his staff and Companies A, B and K of the 2nd U.S. Colored Infantry. Stribling, meanwhile, dispatched orders to his commanders up and down the Florida coast to assemble as many warships as possible in Apalachee Bay off St. Marks in anticipation of a joint expedition with Newton's troops.
The Natural Bridge Campaign was now underway.
Our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge will continue. In the meantime, if you would like to read more, please click here to visit my Natural Bridge website. Also please consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee.

Civil War Florida Top Ten (2/23/08)

Here are this week's Top Ten nonfiction books on the Civil War in Florida, according to the statistics at www.barnesandnoble.com:

  1. The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Cox) Click here to Order
  2. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War (Hurley)
  3. Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy (Taylor)
  4. Florida in the Civil War (Wynne & Taylor)
  5. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee (Nulty)
  6. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862 (Driscoll)
  7. The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defence of Tallahassee (Cox) Click here to Order
  8. Stephen Russell Mallory: A Biography of the Confederate Navy Secretary and United States Senator (Underwood)
  9. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide (Taylor)
  10. A Woman Doctor's Civil War: Esther Hill Hawk's Diary (Schwartz)
All of these books are in stock and available for order through www.barnesandnoble.com or your favorite local bookstore.

Thank you again to everyone who has helped make The Battle of Marianna and The Battle of Natural Bridge such successful projects. Profits from these books are donated to historic preservation efforts in Florida, so if you are aware of a project in need of support, please let me know.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Natural Bridge, Part Six


This post is part of a continuing series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. To read the other parts first, just scroll down the page.
Continuing now with our look at Confederate efforts to defend Tallahassee from attack, this is Newport Bridge in Wakulla County. A wooden bridge spanned the St. Marks River here during the War Between the States and the town of Newport stood on the opposite shore.
The Newport Bridge was a key strategic point as any Union force attacking from a landing east of the mouth of the St. Marks River would undoubtedly try to cross the river here. As they fortified the southern edge of Tallahassee and strengthened Fort Ward at St. Marks, Confederate engineers also fortified the west end of the bridge here at Newport.
Eyewitness accounts indicate that during the winter of 1864-1865, a long line of breastworks was thrown up on the west bank of the river, extending both above and below the end of the bridge. This would allow Confederate troops to rake the structure with musket fire should an enemy force attempt to cross. The ability to hold the bridge was considered vital to the defense of both Tallahassee and Fort Ward at St. Marks. If an enemy force could get across the river here, they would be able to strike the Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad, break the line, and then turn either on the capital city to the north or invest Fort Ward from the rear by turning south.
Our series will continue, but in the meantime if you would like to read and see more about the Battle of Natural Bridge, just click here and scroll down until you see the heading.
Also, please consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee, available for order now through www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.com or your favorite bookstore.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Natural Bridge, Part Five


This is Part Five of a continuing series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. If you would like to read the previous parts first, just scroll down the page.
Over the last couple of days we have been exploring the Confederate fortifications at St. Marks, Florida. The primary purpose of these works, named Fort Ward, was to guard the water approaches to St. Marks and protect the Gulf gateway to Tallahassee from attack by the Union Navy.
The fort, built atop the ruins of the earlier Spanish fort of San Marcos de Apalache, was situated in the point of land at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers. The confluence (seen here) was a vital strategic point because small ships could come up river to this point and then turn into the St. Marks River (flowing in from the left of the photo) and go as far upstream as the docks at St. Marks and nearby Newport. Such a move would allow the Union Navy to capture and close the port, one of the last still operating in Florida by the winter of 1864-1865, and open the short land approach to Florida's capital city.
To protect since such a move, the Confederates had built Fort Ward on the point at the confluence and oriented its two batteries of heavy artillery to sweep the confluence and fire downstream across the marshes. This would allow Southern gunners to fire on Union warships long before they could reach a suitable point for turning their cannon on the fort.
The Navy had long considered Fort Ward and St. Marks a target and had attempted to surprise and capture the fort with a boat attack on a previous occasion. The boat party had been detected by Confederate pickets stationed downstream, however, and was forced to turn back before coming in range of the fort. Their hopes of taking the fort would lead Navy officers to cooperate fully when General John Newton developed plans for the Natural Bridge Campaign.
Our series will continue, but in the meantime, to read more about the Battle of Natural Bridge, simply go to www.exploresouthernhistory.com and look for the Natural Bridge heading on the main page.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Natural Bridge, Part Four


This is a continuation of our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. If you would like to read the previous posts first, just scroll down the page.
Yesterday our discussion centered around the Confederate efforts to improve the fortifications at St. Marks during the months leading up to the battle. Today we continue to look at the St. Marks defenses.
The large mound of earth seen in this photograph was the main gunpowder magazine of Fort Ward, the earthwork fort constructed by the Confederates over the ruins of the old Spanish fort of San Marcos de Apalache (Fort St. Marks). The powder was actually kept in a small room in the mound and the huge pile of earth was designed to protect it from artillery fire.
Both Union and Confederate reports, however, noted one glaring weakness in the design of Fort War. The huge powder magazine soared high above the walls of the fort, making it an obvious target for Union artillery during an attack. Whether the earth piled atop the magazine would have provided sufficient protection for the cannon powder stored inside is questionable.
Fort Ward (and the ruins of the earlier Spanish forts on the site) is today part of San Marcos de Apalache, a state park and museum in St. Marks, Florida. The park provides a museum and trails winding through the ruins and earthworks. It provides spectacular views of the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers and is a great place to learn more about the rich history of the area, including the Natural Bridge Expedition.
Our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge will continue, but in the meantime to read more or see additional photographs, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com and look for the Battle of Natural Bridge heading. Also please consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee. It is available through www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.com or for order through your favorite local bookstore.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Natural Bridge, Part Three

Our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida continues today. If you are interested in reading the previous postings first, just scroll down the page.

As they worked to improve the defenses of Tallahassee during the winter of 1864-1865, the Confederates also attempted to strengthen their artillery battery at the junction of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers in St. Marks.

This site had been fortified since the 1600s and had been occupied by Spanish, British, Native American and United States troops prior to the Civil War. The old fort (called San Marcos de Apalache by the Spanish and Fort St. Marks by the English and Americans) was no longer in use, but an important Marine Hospital was still located just outside the ancient walls.

Earlier in the war, the Confederates had reoccupied San Marcos de Apalache, naming it Fort Ward. They constructed artillery batteries in the old Spanish fortifications, piling earth against the old stone walls and aiming cannon down the river to oppose any Union warships that might try to steam upriver and take St. Marks.

Realizing that St. Marks was one of the keys to Tallahassee, Confederate engineers began strengthening Fort Ward following the Battle of Marianna in Northwest Florida. They erected the earthworks seen here to protect the artillery batteries from land attack and improved the condition of the main gunpowder magazine and cannon emplacements.

By doing so, the created a significant fortress that would have to be reduced before a Union army could march on Tallahassee. Fort Ward and St. Marks would prove to be major objectives for General John Newton's Federal troops during the Natural Bridge Campaign.

Our postings on the Battle of Natural Bridge will continue, but in the meantime if you would like to read more or see additional photographs, please click here. Also please consider my new book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee.

The book is also available through www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.com or for order through your favorite bookstore.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Natural Bridge, Part Two


This is part two of our ongoing series of posts of the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. If you are interested in reading the previous posts first, just scroll down the page.

Following the September 1864 attack on Marianna in Northwest Florida, Confederate authorities in Tallahassee became concerned that the capital city could be next. Confederate forces had been taken by surprise at the Battle of Marianna and Southern commanders in Tallahassee hoped to avoid a repetition of the disaster.

Consequently, during the winter of 1864-1865, they launched an ambitious program to strengthen the defenses of the Capital City. A series of earthwork forts and batteries were constructed in a ring around the southern half of Tallahassee (because this was the part of the city most likely to come under an attack from Union troops moving north from the Gulf of Mexico). Most of these fortifications have vanished over time, but one substantial redoubt can still be seen at Old Fort Park in Tallahassee. Although tradition holds that Fort Houstoun (seen here) was constructed as an emergency measure during the Battle of Natural Bridge, it actually dates to the months prior to the battle.

The fort included interior traverses, a dry moat and embrasures for artillery. Although the location is now in the center of a residential neighborhood, in 1865 it was an open hilltop on the Houstoun Plantation. Artillery placed here could sweep a wide range of open ground fronting the State Capitol building.

We'll continue our series on Natural Bridge over the coming days. In the meantime, to read more and see additional photographs, please visit http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ and look for the Battle of Natural Bridge heading. You might also find my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee, of interest. The book is also available through http://www.barnesandnoble.com/, http://www.amazon.com/ or for order through your favorite local bookstore.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Civil War Florida Top Ten (2/16/08)


Here are this week's top ten best selling nonfiction books on the Civil War in Florida, according to the statistics at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/:


2. Florida’s Lighthouses in the Civil War (Hurley)

3. Rebel Storehouse: Florida’s Contribution to the Confederacy (Taylor)

4. Florida in the Civil War (Wynne & Taylor)

5. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee (Nulty)


7. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862 (Driscoll)

8. Stephen Russell Mallory: A Biography of the Confederate Navy Secretary and United States Senator (Underwood)

9. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide (Taylor)

10. A Woman Doctor’s Civil War: Esther Hill Hawk’s Diary (Schwartz)

All of these books are in stock and available through http://www.barnesandnoble.com/. Thank you again to everyone who has helped make The Battle of Marianna and The Battle of Natural Bridge successful. As I've mentioned before, I donate the profits from these books to historic preservations efforts in Florida and your purchases have helped a number of worthwhile organizations.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida


The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida is seldom mentioned in histories of the Civil War, yet it was one of the most significant encounters of the final months of the conflict.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will take time here at Civil War Florida to explore the history of the Natural Bridge campaign in depth. I will spend time looking at the fighting of the campaign, but will also take you on a tour of some of the important sites as they appear today and share other information I put together while researching my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, it is available through www.barnesandnoble.com, www.amazon.com or for order through your favorite bookstore.
This photo shows the Natural Bridge itself. For those not familiar with the site, the name often brings to mind the natural arches sometimes seen in the Southern mountains. Most of Florida's natural bridges, however, are low passages like this where rivers or streams run underground a short distance due to sinks and underground caverns.
Located near the border of Wakulla and Leon Counties, the Natural Bridge is created by a short underground passage of the St. Marks River. The river flows into a large sink adjacent to the bridge and then flows underground for a short distance before surfacing again in a series of rises.
As might be expected, the Natural Bridge allowed easy passage of the St. Marks River for early explorers. Native Americans used the bridge before the cession of Florida from Spain to the United States. After settlers began to move into the region during the 1820s, the Natural Bridge remained an important crossing point.
A log fort was constructed on the west side of the Natural Bridge (in the vicinity of today's Natural Bridge Battlefield state park) during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). State militia troops camped here during the war, but there are no indications of fighting in the immediate vicinity.
By the time of the Civil War, the old fort had rotted away. The crossing, however, remained an important way of traveling from one side of the St. Marks River to the other.
I will continue our series on the Battle of Natural Bridge over coming days. In the meantime, if you would like to read more, just go to www.exploresouthernhistory.com and look for the Battle of Natural Bridge heading.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Natural Bridge Campaign


I wanted to give you a heads up to a series of postings I have planned for the coming weeks here at Civil War Florida.
March 6th will mark the 143rd anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. To share some of the information I gathered while researching my book on the battle, I will start a series later this week giving a daily recounting of the Natural Bridge campaign. We'll look at troops, events, ships and sites connected with the battle.
The series will start on Friday, so be sure to check in. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about the battle, please visit http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ and look for the heading on the home page. Also please consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida now available at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/, http://www.amazon.com/ or for order through your favorite local or online bookstore.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Castillo de San Marcos - St. Augustine, Florida


The oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine is more than three hundred years old.
The tenth in a series of forts constructed to protect the old Spanish city, the fort was built by Spain during the late 17th century. Over time, it was held by Spanish, English, U.S. and Confederate troops.
Florida state troops seized the fort, then called Fort Marion, in January of 1861 and it soon became a Confederate post. The Confederates, however, evacuated the fort in the Spring of 1862 and it once again became a U.S. Army installation.
Today it is a national monument, beautifully preserved and maintained by the National Park Service. To learn more about Castillo de San Marcos, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com and look for the link under the "Battlefields and Forts" heading in the column at left or scroll down to the Index section and look for the link under the Florida heading.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Civil War Florida Top Ten (2/9/08)


Here is this weekend's list of the top ten nonfiction books on the Civil War in Florida, according to the statistics at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/:

  1. The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Cox)

  2. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War (Hurley)

  3. Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy (Taylor)

  4. The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee (Cox)

  5. Florida in the Civil War (Wynne & Taylor)

  6. Civil War Florida: The Road to Olustee (Nulty)

  7. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862 (Driscoll)

  8. Stephen Russell Mallory: A Biography of the Confederate Navy Secretary and United States Senator (Driscoll)

  9. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide (Taylor)

  10. A Woman Doctor's Civil War: Esther Hill Hawke's Diary (Schwartz)

All of these books are in stock and available at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/. Thank you again to everyone who has helped make The Battle of Marianna and The Battle of Natural Bridge so successful. The profits from these two books is donated to support historic preservation groups in Florida and your support is helping many worthwhile projects.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Fort Jefferson - Dry Tortugas, Florida


If you are fascinated with old forts, there really is no place else in the world like Fort Jefferson. Located 70 miles from Key West in Florida's Dry Tortugas Islands, the fort sits on tiny Garden Key and was the largest masonry fort ever constructed in the United States.
Work on the fort began in 1846 and 16,000,000 bricks and 30 years later, it was still unfinished when construction finally stopped. The advances in rifled artillery and armored ships had made the fort obsolete.
Held by Union troops through the Civil War, the fort's strategic but remote position at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico protected it from Confederate attack. After the war, three of the alleged conspirators in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln were imprisoned here. One of these, Dr. Samuel Mudd, had set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth.
Fort Jefferson is now protected by the National Park Service as part of the Dry Tortugas National Park and is accessible by commercial tour boat or sea plane from Key West.
If you would like to read more about the fort or see additional photographs, please go to: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortjefferson1.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Southern families need your help.

I'm sure you've seen by now coverage of the terrible tornado damage in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. More than 50 people were killed and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

These people are our Southern neighbors and they need our help. Please consider contributing to a local relief effort in your community or donating through the American Red Cross at: http://www.redcross.org/news/ds/profiles/disaster_profile_southerntornados.html.

Thank you and may God bless you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Veterans of the 1st Florida Reserves


This photograph, taken decades after the war, shows a handful of survivors of the 1st Florida Reserves, a unit that performed significant duty in Florida during the final year of the War Between the States.
The 1st Florida Reserves were organized in May of 1864 after the Confederacy withdrew most of the regular troops from the state, leaving Florida almost without a means of defense. Assembled in companies across the state in communities like Marianna, Chattahoochee, Tallahassee, Madison and Lake City, the 1st Florida Reserves were intended for use only during emergencies.
Required by law to assemble for training, the men went through military training in several locations, but primarily Marianna and Madison. Once trained and equipped, it was expected that they would serve on two-week rotations. For two weeks half of the regiment would serve while the men of the other half took care of their farms, businesses or other duties. Then, the two halves would switch duty. This would keep at least half of the regiment in service at all times, while also giving the members a chance to continue to pursue their normal occupations.
The plan was well-intentioned, but impossible. Florida's need for troops was so severe near the end of the war that many of the men wound up serving as full-time soldiers.
The 1st Florida Reserves served in a number of skirmishes and actions. Company C, commanded by Captain Wilson W. Poe, fought at the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864 and other companies took part in smaller encounters across the state. The full regiment assembled for battle only one time, during the Natural Bridge Campaign of 1865.
The largest Confederate unit on the field, the 1st Florida Reserves held key positions in the main battle line at the Battle of Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865.
The men were paroled at the end of the war and returned to their occupations. If you would like to read more about the Battle of Marianna, please visit www.battleofmarianna.net. The Battle of Natural Bridge can be explored at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More on Col. A.B. Montgomery

We continue now with our look at Colonel Alexander B. Montgomery, the commander of Confederate forces at the Battle of Marianna, Florida.

When he learned that Union troops were skirmishing with home guard forces near Campbellton in Jackson County on the afternoon of September 26, 1864, he moved north from Marianna with two companies of mounted men. Making contact with the approaching Union force, he fell back ahead of them the next morning and took up a position at Hopkins' Branch, a small stream about three miles northwest of Marianna. There Montgomery and his men, now joined by Capt. A.R. Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry (home guard) engaged the Federals in the opening scene of the Battle of Marianna.

After finally being forced back from the branch, he fought a delaying action as he pulled back ahead of the Union force to Marianna. There, Montgomery formed his cavalry force in line of battle on the western edge of town and drove back the initial Federal advance. General Asboth, commanding the Union command, launched a second attack, however, and drove the Confederate cavalry down the main street of the town before finding himself caught in a fierce ambush planned by local home guard troops.

In the fighting at Marianna, Montgomery tried to withdraw his troops across the Chipola River to make a stand on the east bank, using the river as a natural moat, but was unhorsed in hand to hand fighting opposite the southeast corner of Courthouse Square. Captured, he was sent away to Union prisons in the North where he remained until the end of the war.

Col. Montgomery remained in prison until June of 1865 because he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. Government.

After the war he settled in Floyd County, Georgia, where he became active in local civic and veterans organizations, including what is today known as the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

He is buried at Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Rome, surrounded by members of his family.

Fort McRee - Pensacola, Florida


This 1861 photograph shows Fort Mcree, the "lost fort" of Pensacola Bay.

Constructed between 1834 and 1839, the unusual boomerang shaped fort stood on Foster's Bank, opposite the entrance of Pensacola Bay from Fort Pickens. It was designed so that its guns could join with those of Pickens in forcing any enemy ship trying to sail into the bay to advance through an intense crossfire of heavy artillery.

Seized by the Confederates from its garrison of one man in January of 1861, Fort McRee (sometimes incorrectly spelled "Fort McRae") was severely damaged during the Battle of Pensacola Bay in November of 1861.

I've added a new page on Fort McRee at http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/, so if you would like to learn more and see the site as it appears today, simply follow the link and look for the new Pensacola, Florida heading on the home page.

The Grave of Col. A.B. Montgomery


This tombstone at Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Rome, Georgia, marks the grave of Col. Alexander B. Montgomery, the commander of the Confederate troops during the Battle of Marianna, Florida.
A native of Augusta, Georgia, Montgomery was an artillery officer in the U.S. Army before the war. He was serving on the Minnesota frontier when he learned of the secession of his native state. Resigning his commission, he returned south and offered his services to the Confederacy.
Appointed a lieutenant in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States (the regular army), he was assigned to the 1st Georgia Infantry to assist in training one of its companies as an artillery unit. In this capacity he fought at the Battle of Secessionville near Charleston, South Carolina, where the cannon of his unit inflicted severe casualties on attacking Federal soldiers.
Promoted to the rank of Major by order of General Robert E. Lee, Montgomery was assigned to the command of the 3rd Georgia Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia. He led the regiment in the Battle of Second Manassas (Second Bull Run). Wounded in the battle, he refused to relinquish command of his unit until the fight was over.
While disabled from command, he was promoted to full colonel at the request of General Howell Cobb and assigned to head the Confederate troops in Northwest Florida. Establishing his headquarters at Marianna, Col. Montgomery commanded the cavalry and reserve force assigned to protect the plantations of Jackson, Washington, Holmes and Calhoun Counties. He also was in charge of the batteries of heavy artillery guarding the Apalachicola River against attack by the Union navy.
I'll continue with the story of Col. Montgomery in the next posting, but in the meantime you can read more at www.battleofmarianna.net.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Seville Square - Pensacola, Florida


This is a view looking out at Pensacola Bay from beautiful Seville Square in downtown Pensacola.
A portion of the original plaza of the old Spanish city, Seville Square has been a landmark since the early days of Pensacola. A portion of the British fortifications of the city stood here during the American Revolution, but the works gradually deteriorated and were useless by the early 1800s.
By the time of the Civil War, Seville Square was a center of community life in downtown Pensacola. When the Confederates abandoned the city in May of 1862, Union troops camped on the square and built an earthwork redoubt here. The fort was intended as a defense in case the Confederate army tried to retake the city, but never came under fire. No trace of it remains today.
Seville Square today borders the Historic Pensacola Village, a major collection of historic sites and landmarks dating from all eras of the city's history. One of the finest historical attractions in the South, Historic Pensacola Village is open to the public six days each week (Monday through Saturday). Seville Square, the sidewalks and streets, however, are open daily.
To learn more about Pensacola, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com and look for the new Pensacola heading on the home page.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Civil War Florida Top Ten (2/3/08)



Here are this week's Top Ten best selling nonfiction books on the Civil War in Florida, according to the statistics at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/:

  1. The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Cox)
  2. The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee (Cox)
  3. Florida in the Civil War (Wynne & Taylor)
  4. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War (Hurley)
  5. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee (Nulty)
  6. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862 (Driscoll)
  7. Stephen Russell Mallory: A Biography of the Confederate Navy Secretary and United States Senator (Underwood)
  8. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide (Taylor)
  9. A Woman Doctor's Civil War: Esther Hawk Hill's Diary (Schwartz)
  10. Yankee in a Confederate Town (Clancey, Clancy & Gunn)

All of these books are available for purchase at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/. Once again, thank you to everyone who has helped make The Battle of Marianna and The Battle of Natural Bridge so successful. As I've mentioned before, the profits from these books are donated to historic preservation efforts in Florida, so your support has helped many deserving projects.

Advanced Redoubt - Pensacola, Florida


Another of the masonry fortifications built by the United States during the 19th century to protect Pensacola Bay is the Advanced Redoubt, seen here. Constructed between 1845 and 1870, the Redoubt protected Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Navy Yard from land attack. Now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, it is preserved by the National Park Service and the grounds are open daily.
Held by both Confederate troops from 1861-1862 and Union troops from 1862-1865, the Redoubt was an important fortification but played a minimal role in the 1861 and 1862 Pensacola Bay bombardments due to its location away from the shoreline.
The Redoubt is one of the sites you can now explore in more detail at www.exploresouthernhistory.com. Just look for the new Pensacola heading on the main page and follow the link. It will allow you to access the new Advanced Redoubt page and more.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fort Pickens - Pensacola, Florida



I have mentioned Fort Pickens here several times before. According to the latest from the National Park Service, it looks like it will be at least 2009 before the road leading to the fort will once again be open to the public. It was destroyed by hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

The fort, in the mean time, is open to the public, but getting there is a bit of a problem. You can either take a private boat or walk for miles down the island (and miles back).

The mainland forts (Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt) are your best bets for exploring old forts at Pensacola for the time being. They can both be reached by exiting Interstate 10 at Pine Forest Road and then turning onto Blue Angel Parkway and following it to the west gate of the Pensacola Naval Air Station. The personnel there will provide you with passes to see Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt, the old Pensacola Lighthouse and the Museum of Naval Aviation.

I've recently updated my Fort Pickens and Fort Barrancas pages at www.exploresouthernhistory.com. You can reach them by following this link to the new Pensacola section, which is under development: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/pensacola1.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Some Florida Blogs that might be of interest...

I've been doing some browsing around lately and have stumbled across several Florida blogs that I really enjoyed. I thought I would share a few that you might find interesting:

Moultrie Creek (http://www.moultriecreek.us)
This is a nice blog posted by Denise Olsen with information on genealogy and some really nice photographs of Moultrie Creek and the St. Augustine area in East Florida.

Florida Native Musings (http://flanativemusings.blogspot.com)
Scott, who has a lot of interest in the Civil War in Florida, posts here and his thoughts on life in Florida always make for interesting reading.

Florida Springs (http://www.floridasprings.info)
If, like me, you love Florida's beautiful springs, you will like this site. It has tons of information on the more than 700 springs in the Sunshine State as well as some really nice photographs.

I'll post others from time to time that I think you will enjoy, but that will do for now.