Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Presentation of Interest in Gadsden County

I will continue the series on the Apalachicola River in the next post, but I wanted to let you know about a presentation in Gadsden County this weekend that might be of interest to you.

I will be speaking on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. (2 p.m. central) to the West Gadsden Historical Society. The topic will be the Native American history of the Gadsden County and the Apalachicola River Valley.

Due to illness, I severely limit my public appearances these days, but I am doing this one because I wanted to show my support for this outstanding organization and its wonderful members. They have an active, vibrant organization developing at a time when so many historical societies have all but faded away.

I am donating my time for the presentation, so all proceeds will go directly to the society. Admission is $10 for the general public and $8 for current WGHS members. Lifetime members of the society and children under 12 will be admitted for free.

The presentation will take place at Old Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church on U.S. 90, five miles east of Chattahoochee. The time will be 3 p.m. (2 p.m. central) and there will be a question and answer time after the presentation.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Apalachicola River, Part Five


This is part five of a continuing series on Civil War sites along Florida's Apalachicola River. To read the previous posts, please scroll down the page or consult the Archives section.
This structure, located across the street from the historic Officer's Quarters building, was constructed using the walls from the ground floor of one of the old arsenal buildings. The indentation just to the left of the door marks the point where the original arsenal compound wall intersected the building. The upper floor is a later addition.
The building here at the the time of the Civil War was the gun carriage storage facility. The exterior (left) of the building faced the outside of the complex while the interior (right) wall faced the parade ground around which most of the other structures of the arsenal were located. The main quadrangle of the arsenal covered four square acres and there were several additional external buildings, including a magazine that survives today.
As soon as the state took possession of the U.S. or Apalachicola Arsenal in early January of 1861, the facility became an important military post for state and then Confederate troops. Then Captain James Patton Anderson (later a general in the Confederate army) brought two companies of state troops here from Leon and Jefferson Counties in January. They remained 10 days before going home.
On April 5, 1861, the same two companies, along with eight others from Middle Florida, and were mustered here into the 1st Florida Infantry. Anderson was elected its colonel and the men went through their military training on the arsenal grounds. The 6th Florida Infantry, commanded by Colonel J.J. Finley of Jackson County, was formed here during the spring of 1862.
The arsenal site and surviving structures today are located on the grounds of the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee. The officer's quarters is today the administration building of the hospital. The grounds are open to the public, but photography is not allowed. The photographs included in this series were taken a couple of years ago with permission. A historic marker for the arsenal is located on U.S. 90 on the west side of Chattahoochee.
Our series on Civil War sites along the Apalachicola River will continue.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Last Days of Special Book Sale


Just a quick reminder that if you would like copies of any of my 2007 books, now is a great time to purchase them at special prices, but time is running out!

To celebrate the upcoming release of my new The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One, my publisher is having a special online sale on the three books published last year.
The sale includes Two Egg, Florida, The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida and all are available at the lowest prices you will find this year.

The special offer ends ends this coming week, so if you would like to take advantage of it, please do before April 30th. Normal prices remain in effect in bookstores and other online sellers.

For more information and to order, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/booksale.

Apalachicola River, Part Four


This is part four of a series on historic sites along Florida's Apalachicola River.
The structure seen here was the Officers' Quarters of the historic U.S. Arsenal at Chattahoochee. Also called the "Apalachicola Arsenal" (named for the river and not the city), it was located in Chattahoochee near the head of the river. Early in its history it had been called the "Mt. Vernon Arsenal" (Chattahoochee was called "Mt. Vernon" early in its history), but the name was changed due to mail confusion with the Mt. Vernon Arsenal in Alabama.
On January 5, 1861, Florida Governor Madison S. Perry ordered the Quincy Guards to seize the arsenal from the small detachment of U.S. troops then guarding it. Headed by Colonel Gunn, a militia officer who is sometimes incorrectly identified as "Colonel Dunn" or "Colonel Duryea," the Quincy militiamen proceeded to Chattahoochee and demanded the surrender of the arsenal.
The arsenal was actually a large complex of buildings. In addition to the structure seen here, there were storehouses, magazines, workshops, barracks, a main arsenal building and a "shot tower." Since Ordnance Sergeant Edwin Powell, commanding the arsenal, had only three men, he was unable to resist the Quincy Guards. He initially refused to surrender the keys to the armory, but finally agreed to do so after he could not reach superiors in Washington, D.C. by telegraph.
It was one of the first actions of the Civil War in Florida, but the only shots fired were a few rounds fired from a cannon at the facility by the Quincy men to celebrate their successful mission.
I'll have more on the Civil War history of the arsenal in the next post.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Apalachicola River, Part Three


This post is part of a continuing series on historic sites along Florida's Apalachicola River.
This view, also taken from Chattahoochee Landing, shows one of the most significant historic sites in Florida.
Although it was not a Civil War action, an incident that took place here on November 30, 1817 is worth noting. On that date, Creek and Seminole warriors formed along the bank of the Apalachicola River ambushed a U.S. Army boat carrying 40 soldiers, 7 women (wives of soldiers) and four children. The attack was a reprisal for attacks on the Native American village of Fowltown (in present-day Decatur County, Georgia) a few days earlier.
Commanded by Lt. R.W. Scott, the boat was forced to navigate near the east bank of the river (to the left of the photograph) due to the strong current at this point. As it came within range, the warriors opened fire and then stormed the vessel. When the smoke cleared, 34 of the soldiers, 6 women and four children were dead. Four other soldiers were injured, but managed to escape, as did the only two soldiers who were not wounded. One of the women was taken prisoner by the attackers.
The event became known as "Scott's Massacre." To the Native Americans it was a reprisal for the attacks on Fowltown. To the U.S. Government, however, it was a bloody massacre of men, women and children. When news of the event reached Washington, D.C., orders immediately went out to Gen. Andrew Jackson in Nashville, authorizing him to invade Florida and punish those responsible.
The battle fought here was one of the opening actions of the First Seminole War of 1817-1818. The war ended with Jackson's invasion of Spanish Florida. Just four years later, Florida became a U.S. Territory. The relative ease with which Jackson invaded Florida convinced the Spanish of their inability to defend the colony and prompted them to negotiate it away. The event that took place here on the Apalaachicola River started the chain of events that led to the establishment of the modern state of Florida.
Our series will continue.

Apalachicola River, Part Two


This is another view of the Apalachicola River at Chattahoochee Landing. In the last post I mentioned that the gunboat C.S.S. Chattahoochee tied up here from time to time during the Civil War.
One of the more interesting visits by the ship took place on the Chattahoochee's maiden voyage downstream from her construction site at Saffold, Georgia. The ship ran aground and damaged her rudder and stern post.
Despite leaks, the steamboat Uchee towed her own down to Chattahoochee Landing. A crew came down from the navy yard and build a coffer box around the ship here at the landing. Constructed using 6,300 board feet of lumber, the coffer box was not big enough to contain the entire ship, but was instead designed to fit the hull. Weighted down and floated under the Chattahoochee's stern, the box was the unweighted and pumped out. This gave the workers dry access to the stern of the gunboat and they were able to repair the ship without taking her back up to the navy yard.
Our series on the Apalachicola River will continue.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Apalachicola River, Part One


This view of the upper Apalachicola River was taken from the top of the large Native American mound at Chattahoochee Landing. The bridge visible in the right of the photograph carries U.S. 90 across the river.
The landing was the site of an important ceremonial complex during the Mississippian era (A.D. 900-A.D. 1540). There were originally at least seven mounds at the site, but four have almost completely disappeared. Remnants of three can still be seen, the largest of which is known locally as the "Indian Mound" and stands in the center of Chattahoochee Landing Park.
At the time of the Civil War, the landing was an important stop for riverboats cruising up and down the river. The C.S.S. Chattahoochee, a warship that cruised the river in 1863, docked here from time to time and the crew entertained guests from the local community.
A tavern or inn stood atop this mound during the Civil War and was used as an overnight stop for both military officers and civilians. The landing was a key crossing point for Confederate troops during the war. Reinforcements responding to calls for help crossed here on September 28, 1864, following the Battle of Marianna.
Chattahoochee Landing Park is open daily. There is a small interpretive sign at the mound, but no other historical markers or monuments. To reach the park from U.S. 90, just turn at the Hardee's and the street ends at the landing.
Our series on the Apalachicola will continue.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Apalachicola River


Let me apologize first for being a little slow with the postings lately. As most of my friends know, I have been battling with illness for the last year or so. I haven't felt so great lately, so the posts have slowed down a little. We'll see if we can't get things picked up a little for the rest of the week.
The Apalachicola River is such an incredible Florida treasure that I thought I might take the next week or two and share some of its rich Civil War history with you and give a tour of some of the important historic sites along its banks in the process. Although it is not often thought of as a Civil War destination, the Apalachicola has the largest concentration of public Civil War sites in Florida.

Friday, April 18, 2008

New Book Released: The Battle of Massard Prairie


It is not about Florida, but I wanted to let everyone know that my new Civil War book is now in print.
The Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas is about a fascinating cavalry fight that took place on the outskirts of Fort Smith, Arkansas on July 27, 1864. One participant called it "a right gallant little affair."
The battle was unique for several reasons: 1) it included a mass charge on horseback across miles of open ground, 2) white and Native American Confederate soldiers fought side by side, and 3) it resulted in one of the few documented cases of Union soldiers scalping Southern dead after the fight.
As is the case with my other Civil War books, all profits are being donated to historic preservation efforts. 50% will go to help establish a new driving tour at the Cane Hill Battlefield in Arkansas.
The books are available now through www.exploresouthernhistory.com (just look for the Battle of Massard Prairie heading) and will start popping up on most of the standard online bookstores over the next 30 days. It will also be available at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park's giftshop in Arkansas and Chipola River Book & Tea in Marianna, Florida in 7-10 days. Other locations will be announced soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Maple Leaf Shipwreck Exhibit

Thanks to Don Hatch for passing along word of a new exhibit of the traveling display on the Maple Leaf, a Union steamer that went down in the St. Johns River in 1864. The exhibit will part of the grand opening of the new Civil War Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin. You can obtain more information by clicking here: www.kenosha.org/civilwar/index.html

The Maple Leaf was steaming down the St. Johns River in April of 1864 when she came into contact with a Confederate "torpedo" or mine. The torpedo went off, killing four men and sinking the steamer instantly. Everyone else was able to get off safely.

Archaeologists have recovered more than 3,000 artifacts from the Maple Leaf and many of them, along with other information on the incident, can be seen now in both a traveling exhibit and at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville.

If you aren't familiar with the Maple Leaf shipwreck and the archaeological project there, it really is fascinating. They have a great website at www.mapleleafshipwreck.com and I encourage you to give them a visit. You can also learn more about the Museum of Science and History, where the permanent exhibition is housed, by visiting: www.themosh.org.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Civil War Florida Top Ten (4/12/2008)

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

  1. The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida (Cox)
  2. The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Cox)
  3. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War (Hurley)
  4. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee (Nulty)
  5. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862 (Driscoll)
  6. Stephen Russell Mallory: A Biography of the Confederate Navy Secretary and United States Senator (Underwood)
  7. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide (Taylor)
  8. Florida in the Civil War (Wynne & Taylor)
  9. America's Fortress: A History of Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas, Florida (Reid & Arsenault)
  10. Yankee in a Confederate Town (Clancy & Clancy)

All of these books are available through www.barnesandnoble.com and most other online bookstores.

The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida are also included in a special sale that will continue until April 30th. Please click here for more information.

Friday, April 11, 2008

An early event in the life of Gov. John Milton


Nearly three decades before he became the Confederate governor of Florida, John Milton was a businessman and speculator living in Columbus, Georgia.

Like many businessmen in the city, he became involved in the practice of acquiring property from Creek Indians who had agreed to leave neighboring Alabama and relocate to what is now Oklahoma under the terms of recent treaty. Many of these deals were outright frauds that resulted in the claiming of property belonging to Native Americans who had no desire to sell. Milton, unwittingly it seems, became involved in such a fraud that wound up being decided by a Federal Judge in Florida.

At issue were a number of African Americans who lived in the town of Econchattico, a Lower Creek chief who lived on the Chattahoochee River in Jackson County, Florida. The chief was not a party to the treaty and had no intention of selling any of his property, especially any African Americans living among his people. The whites considered these individuals slaves, but their status in Econchattimico's eyes was much different. He considered them as members of his band who lived under his protection.

The issue came to a head when John Milton purchased a bill of sale that supposedly conveyed to him legal rights to the blacks living with Econchattimico. The old chief defied the whites who came to demand possession of the individuals in question and the confrontation resulted in one of the most remarkable court cases in American history.

If you would like to read the entire story, please visit http://twoegg.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Two Egg, Florida - A Community with Civil War roots


On July 1, 1857, two residents of Jackson County filed for ownership of adjoining parcels of land a few miles east of the prosperous plantation center of Greenwood.
One of these men seems to have died before the Civil War, as children were living with another family by the time of the 1860 census.
The other property owner was Alfred Knowles. He enlisted in Company E, 2nd Florida Infantry Battalion (Confederate) on August 8, 1862 at Merritt’s Bridge near Marianna. He fought at the Battle of Olustee and was still with his battalion when it was consolidated with other companies to form the 10th and 11th Florida Infantry Regiments in June of 1864.
Sent to Virginia, Knowles fought as a member of Finegan’s Brigade in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Like tens of thousands of other soldiers, however, he became severely ill and was hospitalized at Howard’s Grove, Virginia, on October 5, 1864.
A few days later he was given furlough to return home. His destination was officially listed as Port Jackson, a riverboat landing on the Chattahoochee connected by direct road with Marianna.
Like many others of his era, however, Alfred Knowles never recovered. He died shortly after reaching home. The little community he helped found, however, lives on. We recognize it today as the quaint Florida community of Two Egg.
If you would like to learn more about Two Egg, please visit www.twoeggfla.com.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Special Sale of Books by Dale Cox

To celebrate the upcoming April 30th release of my looooooooooong awaited multi-volume book, The History of Jackson County, Florida, www.exploresouthernhistory.com is having a special sale this month on my 2007 releases. Included in the sale are:
  • The Battle of Marianna, Florida - Regularly $19.95; on sale for $15.00
  • The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee - Regularly $19.95; on sale for $15.00
  • Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts - Regularly $16.95; on sale for $12.00

For the first time, a package deal on all three is also available for $40.

This sale is for a limited time only and will end with the release of the new book on April 30th. It is available only through www.exploresouthernhistory.com/booksale. Prices through stores and other outlets remain as normal.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Last Major Battle of the Civil War


On April 16, 1865 (Easter Sunday), Union forces stormed the city of Columbus, Georgia, in what became the last major battle of the Civil War.
The battle resulted in the fall of the South's last significant industrial center and resulted in some of the last casualties of the war. It also had a direct impact on the outcome of the war in Florida.
At the time Union troops attacked Columbus, crews there were putting the finishing touches on a massive new ironclad, the C.S.S. Jackson. The vessel had been launched and was floating in the Chattahoochee River when the Federals attacked. Given a few more weeks, she would have been finished and ready to carry out her objective: the breaking of the Union blockade at Apalachicola Bay, Florida.
The Jackson was to operate as part of a small flotilla of warships being assembled at Columbus near the end of the war. The other vessels included the recently repaired C.S.S. Chattahoochee and a new steam-powered torpedo boat, the C.S.S. Viper, as well as a number of support vessels. Had the flotilla been turned loose in Apalachicola Bay, the blockade might well have been broken.
The capture of Columbus, however, also resulted in the destruction of the flotilla. The Jackson was captured and destroyed by Union troops. The Chattahoochee was burned to the waterline by her own crew and sank in the Chattahoochee River south of the city. The Viper survived and was taken downstream by her crew, but was soon turned over to Union forces due to the end of the war. She sank during a storm while being towed across the Gulf of Mexico to Key West.
If you would like to read more about the Battle of Columbus (also called the Battle of Girard), please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/battleofcolumbus.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

External Magazine of the U.S. Arsenal - Chattahoochee, Florida

The structure at the center of this photograph is one of the surviving buildings of the historic U.S. or Apalachicola Arsenal at Chattahoochee, Florida.

This building was one of the original external magazines of the arsenal and was located outside the main complex (for safety reasons). It is now on the grounds of the Florida State Hospital.

The appearance of the magazine has been altered significantly since the Civil War. The flat part of the roof is not original and covers what was open space at the time of the war. The outside wall was then not part of the original building, but surrounded the actual magazine for security purposes. The intervening space between the wall and the magazine has since been roofed over, forming one large building instead of a smaller building surrounded by a defensive wall.

This was one of the structures seized by the Quincy Guards in January of 1861, even before Florida withdrew from the Union. To see some of the other surviving arsenal buildings, just look back through the archives here and you will find an earlier series I posted about it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Falling Waters State Park - Chipley, Florida


One of Florida's little known landmarks at the time of the Civil War is still a landmark today.
Falling Waters State Park, just outside of Chipley, preserves Florida's tallest waterfall. The falls are created by a small stream that falls into a unique cylindrical sink and tumbles more than 70 feet before disappearing from sight into a cavern at the bottom.
The waterfall has been an object of curiosity for centuries. Native American hunters frequented the area and early settlers made note of the scenic beauty of the spot. By the time of the Civil War, the water flowing to the falls powered a gristmill, the timbers of which can still be seen in the park.
Although mill lay near the route followed by Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth's Union command during its return march from the Battle of Marianna, it escaped destruction and continued to operate through the Reconstruction Era. Asboth's column, however, passed within view of Falling Waters Hill and inflicted serious damage on the nearby farms at Orange Hill and Holmes Valley before moving on to the skirmish remembered locally as the Battle of Vernon, Florida.
To read more about Falling Waters State Park, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/washingtoncounty and look for the link under the "Historic Sites" section.