Saturday, October 30, 2010

Florida Ghost Stories (and a monster tale) that you might enjoy

Since it is Halloween weekend, I thought you might enjoy reading a few Florida ghost stories and learning more about this unique part of the culture of the Sunshine State.

Florida, as you know, was permanently settled more than 445 years ago by the Spanish. People were living well here and even enjoying America's first public park decades before the first English settlers waded ashore at Jamestown, Virginia, and Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.

With nearly five centuries of recorded history, it is not surprising that Florida may well boast as many or more ghost stories and legends than any other state. Here are some of my favorites, along with the unique story of Two-Toed Tom, the demon-possessed alligator monster of Northwest Florida and Southwest Alabama.
You can read many other Southern ghost stories and legends at: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ghosts.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ghost Talk scheduled for Marianna on October 23rd


Ghost of Bellamy Bridge
If you are interested in combining some real history with a bit of a folklore chill, while helping disabled veterans in the process, I will be the guest speaker for an interactive telling of ghost stories in Marianna on Saturday evening, October 23rd.

The stories will include the true story of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge, a famed Jackson County ghost story; the tale of the lost soldier from the Battle of Marianna who is said to still haunt the scene of his death; the story of the ghost of Byrd Cemetery; the legend of the headless Creek chief who haunts the upper Apalachicola River; stories of ghosts and a strange bigfoot like creature from the Two Egg area and the fascinating legend of Two-Toed Tom, the notorious red-eyed, demon-possessed, 24-foot long alligator monster of Northwest Florida and South Alabama.

The evening will feature a storytelling, a short walk or two and the chance to see a supposedly haunted place up close and personal.

To reserve space in advance, please email by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ContactUs.  The event will begin at 5 p.m. on October 23rd at the Marianna High School Parking Lot on Caverns Road in Marianna. The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for teens and $1 for children.  100% of the money will go to the Blue Springs Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution, which will use the funds to support Paws for Patriots, a program that provides guide dogs for blind veterans.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grave of James D. W. Baxter - A Florida Hero at rest in Georgia

Walking through the Confederate Section of Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia, not long ago, I was surprised to come across the grave of James D. W. Baxter (misspelled "Boxter" on his headstone).

A private from Company I, Fourth Florida Infantry, Baxter had been captured in one of the most heroic actions of Florida troops in the entire War Between the States. The Fourth Florida was among the regiments that crossed Stones River under Breckenridge on January 2, 1862, to attack the massed Union artillery on the hills west of the river in a desperate attempt to end the brutal stalemate of the Battle of Stones River or Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The unit had already taken a key grove of cedars in heavy fighting on the battle's opening day.

The effort failed, but the Fourth Florida was the last Confederate regiment to leave the field, fighting heroically to save a battery of Southern guns. By the time the smoke cleared, the regiment had lost 194 of its 458 members, a loss of nearly 40%.

Of this number, at least 49 soldiers - many of them wounded - were taken as prisoners of war. Among these was Private James D.W. Baxter of Company I. A resident of Jackson County before the war, Baxter had enlisted at Greenwood, Florida, on July 3, 1861. Captured in the fighting on January 2, 1863, he was to the brutal prisoner of war camp of Camp Douglas in Chicago, where he spent the rest of the bitterly cold winter.

Paroled later in 1863, Baxter returned to service but by the summer of 1864 had fallen severely ill. He died in a Confederate hospital at Macon, Georgia, on September 3, 1864, and was buried in Grave #3, Row #2 of the Confederate Section at Rose Hill Cemetery in downtown Macon, a long way from his Jackson County home. James D.W. Baxter, a hero of Florida, was 32 years old.

You can learn more about his beautiful hometown, the antebellum community of Greenwood by clicking here: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/greenwood.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"We Yield but in Death" - The Grave of Col. W.S. Dilworth, 3rd Florida Infantry

While walking through the Old City Cemetery in Monticello, Florida, yesterday I happened across the grave of Colonel W.S. Dilworth, the commander of the Third Florida Infantry.

The Third Florida has always fascinated me, as has Col. Dilworth. Elected to command the officer in 1861, he served in that role throughout the entire War Between the States, a remarkable accomplishment when it is remembered that so many regimental commanders were shot down in fierce fighting.

The regiment was formed of companies from across North Florida in 1861 and served in the state at Fernandina, Cedar Key and elsewhere before assembling in full in Gadsden County in 1862 for redeployment to the Army of Tennessee. While waiting to head north, the regiment was presented a battle flag emblazoned with the motto "We Yield but in Death" by the ladies of Jefferson County.

The Third Florida became part of Brown's Brigade of Patton Anderson's Divison in the Army of Tennessee and fought at Perryville, Stones River (Murfreesborough), Jackson, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge (Chattanooga), the Atlanta Campaign, Franklin, Nashville and the Carolina Campaign before being surrendered at Durham Station, North Carolina, on April 26, 1865. By that time the Third had lost so many men that it had been consolidated with the First Florida Infantry, both serving together under Dilworth's command.

The survivors came home after the war, Dilworth among them, and tried to rebuild their lives. But on every battlefield that it fought, the Third Florida Infantry left heroes behind.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Treating the Wounded after Olustee (Ocean Pond)

I know this is a bit of a long shot, but if anyone can help I would greatly appreciate it. I'm looking for eyewitness accounts (letters, diaries or memories written down later) that describe efforts to treat the wounded in the days and weeks after the Battle of Olustee or Ocean Pond in 1864.

There were so many soldiers, both Confederate and Union, wounded in the battle that the Southern medical services on the battlefield and in Lake City were quickly overwhelmed. Many of the wounded were quickly carried on by train to Tallahassee, while others were treated at homes and in communities across North Florida and South Georgia.

I would like, if possible, to find any accounts or descriptions written either by soldiers or by citizens who helped provide care for the wounded in the month or two after the battle. If you are aware of anything along this lines, please drop me a note by emailing me at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ContactUs.

If you are interested in learning more about the Battle of Olustee, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.