Saturday, December 5, 2009

Point Washington - Union Base on Choctawhatchee Bay

One of my favorite Florida places, Point Washington has largely escaped (at least so far) the sprawling development that has taken place along the state's famed Emerald Coast.

Located just north of U.S. 98 between Panama City Beach and Destin, Point Washington is a charming bayou community blessed with beautiful views, ancient oak trees shrouded with Spanish moss and an array of historic sites. Brigadier General William Miller, second-in-command of Confederate forces at the Battle of Natural Bridge, once called Point Washington home, as did a number of other Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate. A small sign points out the location of Miller's home and a walk through the community's historic cemetery reveals the graves of a number of Civil War soldiers.


An important port in 1861, Point Washington served as a place where cotton, timber, sugar and other commerce coming down the Choctawhatchee River could be transferred to schooners, sloops and steamers for the trip on down the coast to Pensacola, Mobile and New Orleans.


Union forces established a post there at about the mid-point of the war, both to serve as base for minor operations in the vicinity and to assist Confederate deserters and Unionists in making it through the lines. As a result, Point Washington was a major recruiting station for the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry when efforts began to organize that regiment during the winter of 1863-1864.


Troops from Point Washington staged a disastrous raid up the Choctawhatchee River in February of 1864. Although the Federals succeeded in capturing Captain Gabriel Floyd's company at Cedar Bluff near present-day Ebro, they were counterattacked by Confederates who freed Floyd's men and captured almost the entire raiding party.


The steamer Lizzie Davis, moving in support of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's raid on Marianna, was ordered to Point Washington in September of 1864 after Asboth and his men turned inland. The command reunited with the steamer here at the end of the raid.


Point Washington became an important lumber mill town during the years after the war and today is home to the magnificent Eden Gardens State Park. To learn more about the gardens, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/edengardens.

1 comment:

RoadDog said...

We'll be going to your fair state in January, probably to Panama City Beach for a week.

I'll have to check out this place.

Thanks.