Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Phase Two)

War-time sketh of Asboth (2nd from left)
The return of the Confederate cavalry to Marianna (please see Battle of Marianna: Phase One) initiated a general movement of the troops, home guards and volunteers there to the western edge of town.
Some ranking officer, probably Colonel Montgomery, ordered the men and boys to take up positions that it was hoped would allow the Southern forces to draw the oncoming Union soldiers into a trap. If the plan worked, it might allow the outnumbered and outgunned Confederates to defeat the Federals.

The plan called for the mounted men to form in line of battle on the very western edge of town. Their position, then called Ely Corner, was an open area adjacent to the Ely estate and is recognized today as the intersection of Lafayette and Russ Streets, where the beautiful Russ House now houses the Chamber of Commerce. The house was not built for several decades after the war and here it stands today was a wooded area in 1864.

As it approached Ely Corner, the narrow Campbellton road rounded a sharp bend just before reaching the edge of town. If things went as planned, the Federals would come blindly around this curve and directly into the guns of the Confederate cavalry. If the Southern horsemen were forced back, which their officers fully expected they would be, they were to retreat up Lafayette Street into town.

About half-way up the street between Ely Corner and Wynn Street, the Confederates placed a barricade of wagons and other debris across the road. While local legend holds that the men of the Marianna Home Guard took up positions behind this barricade, it reality it was not manned at all but instead was intended to delay a Union cavalry charge up the street. The Southern horsemen knew how to get through and around it, the Federals they expected to pursue them did not.

Ely Corner
Along both sides of the street between St. Luke's Episopal Church and this barricade, the home guards and volunteers took up positions behind fences, trees, shrubs and buildings. The objective was for the Confederate Cavalry, when forced back from Ely Corner, to lead the pursuing Union troops directly into an ambush. The home guards would open fire from both sides of the road and then the Confederate cavalry would turn back against the head of the Federal column. If all went well, the Federals would be stunned and trapped, taking fire at short range from three directions at once.

While home guards or militia were generally not held in high regard as a fighting force by regular soldiers, the men at Marianna was augmented by a large number of regular soldiers and officers who were home from the main fronts of the war on either medical furlough or leave. This solid core of seasoned, professional soldiers gave the home guards a backbone of experience.

Ely-Criglar House at Ely Corner
In addition, the men and boys of Marianna had been cheered by their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and other kin as they marched from the courthouse out to West Lafayette Street. They had no doubt as to why they were fighting and who they were defending.

Colonel Montgomery had waited out west of town when his cavalry returned to Marianna in order to scout the Federal approach. What he saw alarmed him. When the Federals reached the vicinity of today's intersection of Kelson and West Lafayette, they halted. After talking to his guides, General Asboth sent a portion of his force to the left, around the old logging trail or bypass that followed the rotue of what is now Kelson Avenue. He then led the main body of his column straight up the main road.

Colonel Montgomery (at left)
Realizing that his outnumbered men were about to be attacked both on the flank and front, he rode at full speed up the road to Ely Corner even as they Federal main body picked up speed behind him. When he arrived to find his horsemen formed in line of battle as planned, the colonel ordered an immediate withdrawal to the Chipola River. Obviously hoping that he still had time to extricate his men from what was now turning into a Federal trap, he hoped to pull back across the bridge and make a stand there.

In the words of one eyewitness, though, there was "demurring" about abandoning Marianna without a fight. Before Colonel Montgomery could explain the situation, the head of the Federal column rounded the curve at Ely Corner.

I will continue to post on the Battle of Marianna over the next several days. If you are interested in reading more, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It can be ordered by clicking the "Books" section at the upper right of this page and is also available as an instant download for Amazon Kindle and at iBooks. You can also read more online at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 27, 1864: The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Phase One)

Battle of Marianna Monument
The morning of September 27, 1864, dawned clear, blue and cool. The lingering tropical system that had drenched the Florida Panhandle with rain for more than twelve days had pushed on during the night and the citizens of Marianna awakened to their first hint of fall.
It was court day in Marianna. Plantiffs and defendants joined with lawyers and judges at the Jackson County Courthouse, most dressed in their finest in anticipation of having their day in court. Elsewhere around town, people began to open their businesses and childreen and teens started for the community's wooden schoolhouse. Despite the misery that three years of war had brought on the people of the county, it was an idyllic morning for most.

That changed suddenly when the alarm bell at the courthouse began sounding. As the men and boys ran to find out what was wrong, other bells joined in until every citizen of Marianna knew that something serious was taking place. The new struck the community like a thunderbolt. Colonel Montgomery had sent in a rider to alert the people that a large force of Union soldiers was advancing from Campbellton and would likely reach Marianna by midday.

As the men of the Marianna Home Guard ran for their weapons and assembled at the courthouse to await the orders of their captain, local attorney Jesse J. Norwood, the women and slaves loaded wagons and carts with valuables to save from the oncoming raiders. Most of the noncombatants fled the city, crossing the Chipola River and spreading out to the homes of friends in the country. Others, it is said, hid in the caves both beneath the city and at the Natural Bridge Cave in what is now Florida Caverns State Park.

Additional riders went out from Marianna to summon in Captain Henry J. Robinson's Greenwood Club Cavalry, Captain George Robinson's Jackson County Home Guards, Captain Luke Lott's Calhoun County Home Guards and Captain W.B. Jones' Vernon Home Guard. Only the Greenwood unit would make it in time, although a few of Captain George Robinson's men were already in town and took part in the fight.

Old Campbellton Road
Meanwhile, to the northwest of town, Colonel Montgomery and his mounted men fell back ahead of General Asboth's advance. The force with the colonel by this time included Captain Alexander Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry, Captain Wilson W. Poe's Battalion from the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves (Mounted) and Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts from the Alabama State Militia (Mounted).

As Asboth pushed down the Campbellton road past the Waddell, Russ and Webbville (Barnes) plantations, Montgomery realized that he was coming on too fast and that his own reinforcements would not have time to reach Marianna before the Federals themselves arrived in the city. Determined to slow down the Union column if possible, he formed his men into a line of battle on the east side of Hopkins' Branch, a swampy stream about three miles northwest of town.

While the branch is seasonal, it was then flowing well because of the nearly two weeks of rain that had fallen on the area. This meant the swamp would likely be too wet for Asboth's soldiers and would funnel them onto the main road at the point it crossed the branch.

Chipola River near Marianna
As the Federals approached the crossing, Montgomery's men opened fire. The Union soldiers returned the gunshots and the opening encounter of the Battle of Marianna took place. The Confederate colonel's hope that the swamp might present a natural barrier of sorts to the enemy horses was dashed when Asboth swung his own men into a line of battle and charged directly through the muddy water at the Southern soldiers. Armstrong Purdee, an 8-year-old liberated from slavery at the Waddell Plantation, was riding on the back of one of the Union soldier's horses when the man told him to hold fast and not fall. He later recalled how the men were firing their carbines as they charged over fallen trees and logs.

Unable to hold back the larger Union force, Montgomery began a slow retreat for Marianna, fighting as he went. A member of the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry later recalled that his company had approached the city from the northwest, fighting a sharp skirmish with Confederate cavalry.

The fighting finally broke off on the outskirts of town as the Confederates ended contact with the Federals and headed into Marianna while Asboth paused his column briefly to consider tactics and form his men. The main fighting of the Battle of Marianna was about to begin.

I will post more on the Battle of Marianna over coming days, so check back regularly. You can read more in my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, which can be ordered by clicking the Books section at the upper right of this page. It is also available as an instant download for Amazon Kindle and at iBooks.

Read an online overview of the battle at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26, 1864: The Raid closes in on its target

Faded Image of Col. A.B. Montgomery, C.S.A. (at left)
The late afternoon of September 26th found the Union column of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth pitching camp in and around the town of Campbellton in northwestern Jackson County.
At about the same time, Confederate Colonel A.B. Montgomery in Marianna received his first reliable intelligence of the approach of the Federal troops. The news that they were only eighteen miles away in Campbellton must have been a considerable surprise.

Montgomery had known since the 23rd that a raid was underway in Walton County. A few of Captain Chisolm's men rode cross-country from Eucheeanna to alert the post at Marianna of the attack on the Walton County village. This news was confimed on the 25th, when Arthur Lewis (described in Battle of Marianna legend as the "boy courier" even though he was a private in the 5th Florida Cavalry) arrived in town with a similar report of Federal movements in Walton County.

Neither Chisolm's men nor Lewis brought any intelligence that the Union troops were attempting to cross the Choctawhatchee River, nor did the Vernon Home Guard under Captain W.B. Jones or Captain Jeter's company from the 5th Florida Cavalry report any movement by enemy forces up the main road from Douglas's Ferry to Marianna. Similarly, the Holmes County Home Guard made no report of any problems from the river crossing at Cerrogordo. As late as midday on September 26, 1864, just 24 hours before the Battle of Marianna, Colonel Montgomery did not know that Asboth was across the Choctawhatchee and pushing hard for Campbellton.

Campbellton Baptist Church, Built in 1858.
That changed on the afternoon of the 26th when a courier sent to headquarters by Captain Godwin of the Campbellton Cavalry reported that a large column of the enemy was in northwestern Jackson County. Ordering that the intelligence be kept quiet in town to avoid unduly alarming the citizens of Marianna until he could get a better idea of the situation, the colonel rode out from Marianna with two companies of mounted troops. He reached the outskirts of Campbellton by dark and was informed that the Federals were bedding down for the night.

From Captain Godwin and his men, Colonel Montgomery likely learned that the long Union column had crossed at Cerrogordo and advanced through Holmes County to Campbellton. What had become of the Holmes County Home Guard he did not know and apparently never would learn.

Historic Cemetery at Campbellton Baptist Church
He also had no idea where the Federals were going. While on the surface Marianna might appear to be the obvious target, this was not as clear as it might seem. Campbellton was a vital road junction from which it would be possible for Asboth to move in a number of directions, ranging from a turn north into Alabama to a ride east to Neal's Landing on the Chattahoochee River and on across into Georgia. Another road led southeast to Marianna and yet a fourth struck south to Orange Hill and from there down Econfina Creek to St. Andrew Bay.

Until he could figure out what the Federals were up to, the Confederate colonel's options were limited. He did send a courier to alert Captains Milton and Jeter (Companies A and E, 5th Florida Cavalry) and convey orders for them to prepare to break camp the next morning as soon as possible and move for Marianna. He hoped they would be reach the town in time to reinforce him should he find it necessary to fall back to that point.

To better observe the Federal movements and scout the size of their force, Colonel Montgomery remained outside Campbellton on the night of the 26th. His available force at that point consisted of Captain Godwin and his Campbellton men, the main body of Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts (Alabama State Militia) and Captain W.W. Poe's Battalion from the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves (Mounted). Asboth's 700 man force outnumbered him by more than 2 to 1.

I will post several times tomorrow on the Battle of Marianna, so be sure to check in throughout the day for updates. You can learn more in my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, which can be ordered by clicking the Books section at the upper right. It is also available as an instant download for Amazon Kindle and at iBooks.

Learn more about the raid and battle 24 hours a day at www.battleofmarianna.com.

September 25-26, 1864: The Raid in Holmes and Jackson Counties

Monument at site of Cerrogordo
The morning of September 25, 1864, found Brigadier General Alexander Asboth and his 700 Union soldiers camped in the little town of Cerrogordo on the Choctawhatchee River. Rain from a tropical system continued to fall, just as it had been doing for at least the previous ten days.
Located atop what was then called Hewett's (or Hewitt's) Bluff, Cerrogordo was a small village that consisted of a courthouse, jail, store, a few homes and around 25 inhabitants. The county seat of Holmes County, it was the location of a ferry and was surrounded by woods and occasional farms. The river was then navigable for small paddlewheel steamboats and in the years before the war, such vessels routinely stopped at the town to take on passengers or cargo. The blockade, of course, had ended this traffic for the duration of the war.

Site of Cerrogordo on the Choctawhatchee River
The ferry flat was put to use ferrying the men and horses across the rising Choctawhatchee. Fighting the rain and growing current of the river, the soldiers spent a long exhausting day just getting from one side of the river to the other. It would have been the ideal point for even a much smaller Confederate force to stop the Federals in their track, but no resistance took place. Captain Sam Grantham's Holmes County Home Guards did patrol the area, but they do not appear to have become aware of Asboth's presence until it was too late, as the unit was never called out.

Looking across the Choctawhatchee where Asboth Crossed
Having completed the crossing from Cerrogordo to the east bank by nightfall, the soldiers slept in the mud and rain before rising early on the morning of September 26th to continue their advance. The route of the raid now pushed across Holmes County along a road that then led from Cerrogordo to the Marianna ford on Holmes Creek (near today's Tri-County Airport) and into Jackson County. Homes along the way were raided as the soldiers continued to confiscate food, supplies, weapons and livestock.

As the Union column pushed through eastern Holmes County, word reached Captain A.R. Godwin of the Campbellton Cavalry, a Jackson County home guard unit, that something "was up" west of Holmes Creek. Calling his men out, he formed them at the Campbellton town square and rode southwest across the creek into Holmes County to see what was going on. According to one participant, they soon came up with the head of the Federal column and quickly realized that a major raid was underway.

Godwin skirmished with the vanguard of Asboth's oncoming column, his men approaching, shooting and then retreating on horseback in a futile effort to somehow delay the powerful raiding force. At least three men fighting with the Campbellton Cavalry were captured in these skirmishes, but there is no record of other casualties.

In my next post, later today, I will look at Asboth's arrival in Campbellton and the sounding of the alarm in Jackson County. You can read more or follow along in my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available by clicking the Books ad at the upper right of this page and can also be downloaded for both Amazon Kindle and any device using iBooks.

More information is also available at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 23-24, 1864: The Raid in Walton and Holmes Counties

Road through Euchee Valley
The brief fight on September 23rd (see The Skirmish at Eucheeanna) was just the beginning of the misery for the people of Walton and Holmes Counties.
No sooner had the smoke cleared that did the Union soldiers begin rounding up the men and boys of the Euchee Valley area. Most were too young or too old for regular military service and were in their homes when the Federals arrived in Eucheeanna. Not taking any chances that they might resist his command's foraging efforts, General Asboth had them placed in confinement at the community's jail. They were held there until he left Eucheeanna on the morning of the 24th.

Grave of Giles Bowers. Asboth commandeered his Home.
The general himself then set up his field headquarters at the home of Giles Bowers. Troops from the 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.) were sent to escort the prisoners, 16 liberate slaves and unserviceable horses down to Four Mile Landing and the Lizzie Davis. Another detachment was sent to destroy the boat at Douglas's Ferry, along with all of the other small craft in the vicinity.

Destroying Douglas's Ferry might seem like a strange decision, as it was the primary means of crossing the Choctawhatchee River on the main road from Eucheeanna to Marianna. Asboth, however, planned to approach the latter place from an unexpected direction and destroying the ferry not only concealed his intent, but also prevented its use by any Confederate force that might try to come in behind him.

A small detachment was sent out in Confederate uniforms under Lt. Col. Andrew Spurling of the 2nd Maine Cavalry in an attempt to capture the Southern cavalrymen that had escaped from Eucheeanna during the skirmish. Their tracks were found leading up the road to Geneva, Alabama, so Spurling and his men set off in that direction. Please click here to learn more about their activities.

The rest of the men set up camp in Eucheeanna and immediately began to move out in small squads to forage for food, seize wagons and livestock and liberate slaves. They undertook these activities with enthusiasm and the misery inflicted on the families - white and black - of Walton County was severe. Corncribs and smokehouses were cleaned out. Slaves were forced to hook up wagons and carriages and go along, although in many cases they did not wish to leave (a number escaped by hiding in the woods until the soldiers left). Homes were ransacked and at least two women were sexually assaulted.

Ponce de Leon Springs in Holmes County
The foraging and looting continued into the night of the 23rd and the soldiers camped in and around Eucheeanna until the morning of the 24th. Asboth then ordered the local civilians released from the jail and moved his column north up the road to Holmes County. The soldiers broke up the log inn at Ponce de Leon Spring and in that vicinity a soldier from the U.S. Colored Troops detachment was mortally wounded in an accidental shooting.

From Ponce de Leon the column continued north to Cerrogordo, then the county seat of Holmes County, which was reached on the afternoon of the 24th. I'll have more on events there in the next post.

To learn more about the West Florida Raid, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It can be purchased by clicking the Books section on the upper right of this page and is also available for Amazon Kindle and at iBooks.  To read an overview of the raid, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.

Friday, September 23, 2011

September 23, 1864 - The Skirmish at Eucheeanna

Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church
The Federal troops of Asboth's column moved through the night from the vicinity of Lake Defuniak (see The Advance into Walton County) in order to attack the small Confederate camp at Eucheeanna on the morning of September 23, 1864.

Then the county seat of Walton County, Eucheeanna took its name from the Euchee Valley. Noted for its fertile soil and early Scotch settlement, the valley in turn was named for the Euchee or Yuchi Indians that once made it their home. At the time of Asboth's West Florida Raid, it was a center for farming and the main village of Eucheeanna was also the site of the county courthouse and jail, stores, homes, churches and a cemetery that was already four decades old by the time of the raid. The Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church was the oldest of that denomination in Florida.

Eucheeanna Area Today
Located along what had developed as the primary road linking Pensacola with Marianna, Eucheeanna was a logical target for the raiders. From the community, a quick movement east would lead to Douglas's Ferry on the Choctawhatchee River and from there Marianna could be reached via a good and direct road.

Asboth's primary target that morning, though, was a camp of Confederate cavalry in the village. These troops, made up of detachments from Captain W.B. Amos' Company I, 15th Confederate Cavalry and Captain Robert Chisolm's "Woodville Scouts," a militia cavalry company from Henry County, Alabama, were in Eucheeanna enforcing the "conscription" or draft. Commissary negotiations appear also to have been underway in the village between Confederate officers and the ranchers of the area.

Euchee Valley Cemetery
The Federal troops approached Eucheeanna through the falling rain during the predawn hours, completely undetected by the Southern cavalrymen. As the soldiers neared the village, Asboth spread the 2nd Maine Cavalry into a line of battle and ordered Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Spurling to take his men and charge the Confederate camp. The attack was successful, not there was any doubt as to whether the Federals could overwhelm a few dozen Southern cavalrymen, but it was not planned particularly well.

Instead of trying to surround the Confederate camp or approach stealthily, Spurling and his men went in shouting and shooting. This, of course, ended the element of surprise and, while they were able to capture a handful of the Southern soldiers, quite a few had time to get to their horses and escape. This was bad news for Asboth, who was hoping to bag the whole lot so they could not alarm the countryside ahead of his approach.

The skirmish was over in minutes. So far as is known, no one was killed, although Spurling and his men managed to capture 9 prisoners of war, 6 political prisoners, 46 horses, 8 mules, 26 stand of arms and a quantity of bar lead bearing the mark of Merchants' Shot-Works in Baltimore, Maryland (an interesting discovery, as Maryland was technically a Union state).

The following Confederates were taken as prisoners of war at Eucheeanna:
  • Lt. Francis M. Gordon (15th Confederate Cavalry)
  • John Pitts (15th Confederate Cavalry)
  • William Clayton (15th Confederate Cavalry)
  • J.C. Thomas (Chisolm's Company)
  • J.W. Brett (Chisolm's Company)
  • C.H. Parker (Chisolm's Company)
  • Daniel Neel (Gillis' Company, Walton Home Guard)
  • Daniel McDonald (1st Florida Reserves)
  • James W. Skipper (Crosby's Company)
The last three individuals seem to have been in the Confederate camp for some reason, but there is no indication that other men from their units were there.

The Federal troops spread out through the Euchee Valley area, subjecting the residents there to a day and night of terror that has not been forgotten to this day.  More on that in my next post.

To learn more about Asboth's raid, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida (available by clicking the Books area at the upper right of this page). It is also available as an instant download for both Amazon Kindle and iBooks. You can also learn more about the raid at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 22, 1864: The Advance into Walton County

Lake Defuniak in Walton County, Florida
Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's main column turned inland from Four Mile Landing (Freeport) on the morning of September 22nd, aiming for the populated areas of Walton County.

His smaller foraging column hit the cattle ranches along the Shoal River in what is now eastern Okaloosa and western Walton Counties that same morning. The area was then all part of Walton County, as Okaloosa was not created until 1915, but was sparcely populated. Its primary industry was cattle ranching and a number of large ranches then operated along the Shoal River and its tributaries, supplying beef to the Confederate armies.

Part of Asboth's plan was to raid these ranches to secure beef not only for his own movement, but to supply the forces at Pensacola. He accomplished this goal on the 22nd when part of his force moved through the ranches rounding up cattle. Several Southerh soldiers, among them William J. Cawthon and Lafayette Cawthon of the 15th Confederate Cavalry, were found at home on leave and were taken as prisoners of war. The Cawthon brothers were sons of William Cawthon (Sr.), one of the largest landowners in Northwest Florida and South Alabama.

Daniel Campbell of Walton County
There is no evidence of Confederate resistance during the day and by late afternoon Asboth's men reformed a single column and moved into the vicinity of what is now known as Lake Defuniak. A stunning natural body of water, the lake forms the heart of Defuniak Springs, a town that was not founded until after the Civil War.

Without Confederate opposition to battle, the Union soldiers helped themselves to fresh beef from the herds of the Campbell family, which grazed in the natural grasslands that then surrounded Lake Defuniak.

Asboth was now within a few miles of the county seat at Eucheeanna. The Confederates there, likely because of the heavy rain that continued to fall, had no idea that he was coming and consequently made no effort to prepare for attack. This would lead to disaster when the first gunfire of the raid was exchanged the next morning.

I will discussed the Skirmish at Eucheeanna in the next post as I continue a look at Asboth's 1864 West Florida Raid. If you would like to read more or follow along, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available by clicking the books section at the upper right of this page. The book can also be purchased as an instant download for Amazon Kindle and can also be found at iBooks.

To see an overview of the raid, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21, 1864: Asboth continues moving inland

Longleaf Pines like those seen by Asboth's Troops
Rain continued to fall on September 21, 1864, as Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's columns continued their move into the interior of the Florida Panhandle.

They were now three days out from Pensacola Bay, but the Confederate forces assigned to Walton and Santa Rosa Counties (Okaloosa did not then exist) still had not detected their presence. Part of the reason for this was that the Federals were moving along a route they had not previously used. The other reason was the rain. The tropical system that had come up the Gulf days earlier still hovered over the Panhandle, drenching men and horses alike. The Confederates, it seems, were simply staying in their camps.

Moving through what one of his soldiers called "some of the darndest mud holes you ever saw," Asboth reached Four Mile Landing on the afternoon of September 21, 1864. The Lizzie Davis had made her way across the bay and was waiting there for him.

Four Mile Landing in around 1900
This landing was an important port for the farmers of Walton County, particularly those of the Euchee Valley area. Their crops and timber could be brought down by wagon and ox cart to what is now the town of Freeport at the confluence of Fourmile and Lafayette Creeks. Fourmile Creek (then usually spelled "Four Mile") was navigable from that point the short distance down into LaGrange Bayou and Choctawhatchee Bay. Steamboats and schooners made their way up to the docks at Four Mile Landing and from there carrying the commerce of much of Walton County to Pensacola and beyond.

Its use as a resupply point shows that Asboth was extremely well-informed on the topography of Northwest Florida and that his guides knew the region extremely well. Using Four Mile Landing allowed him to move his force without having to make use of a long train of supply wagons.

Additional provisions and other supplies were brought ashore from the Lizzie Davis and the men were also ordered to slaughter fresh beef and prepare two days worth of rations. The general clearly expected to reach an area where his men could live off the land in that time and the obvious target was the Euchee Valley.

Euchee Valley seen from Knox Hill
An area of rich farmland in eastern Walton County, it was then one of the county's most populated area. The county seat - Eucheeanna - was there, as were a handful of commercial establishments, churches, farms and homes. The famed Knox Hill Academy, a place of higher learning, overlooked the valley. The farms here were among the finest in the western Panhandle and with the harvest season in full force, Asboth knew that a wealth of foodstuffs and other supplies waited there for him.

I will continue to post on the 1864 West Florida Road throughout this month. You can read more and follow along in my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, which is available in both print and as a Kindle instant download at the upper right of this page. It is also available for users of Nook, Ipad and other devices at iBooks.

You can also access an overview of the raid by visiting www.battleofmarianna.com.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 20, 1864: The Federals advance into the interior

Four Mile Landing
While troop movements had been underway both across Pensacola Bay and then down Santa Rosa Sound to what is now Fort Walton Beach for five days, it was on September 20, 1864, that the Federal column under General Alexander Asboth made its initial inland push.
Have spent two days supplying, feeding and resting his force, Asboth turned inland via the Ridge Road on the early morning of the 20th. The heavy rain of the last five days continued to fall as the soldiers moved on horseback into the vast longleaf pine forests that characterized the coastal plain. One member of the 2nd Maine Cavalry wrote in his diary that there was "not a house" to break the monotony.

Leaving the Camp Walton site at Fort Walton Beach, the soldiers appear to have moved in two columns. One followed the sandy pathways around that curved around the north side of Choctawhatchee Bay, while a second smaller force appears to have pushed north for the Shoal River in what is now eastern Okaloosa and western Walton Counties (then all part of Walton). The Shoal was the center of an area of large cattle ranches operated by the Cawthon, Hart and other families and the beef herds there were the target of this secondary movement.

The main body rode for Four Mile Landing (near present-day Freeport) on the north side of the bay. The Quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis had been ordered to that point to provide the force one last opportunity to receive supplies before it disappeared fully into the interior.

No known damage was inflicted by either force on the 20th of September as both spent the day passing through the towering pines that one Federal soldier remarked would make a lumberman rich if he only had the resources to harvest them. No Confederate troops were encountered and so far as is known, the main headquarters for the region at Pollard, Alabama, and the outposts at Milton in Santa Rosa County and Eucheeanna in Walton County remained oblivious to the movement.

Col. A.B. Montgomery (at left)
The movements around Choctawhatchee Bay were well removed from the subdistrict of Colonel A.B. Montgomery at Marianna, who was depending on the Confederates to the west to alert him of any danger approaching from that direction. Their failure to do so would prove catastrophic for Confederate forces east of the Choctawhatchee over the coming days.

I will post more on the 1864 West Florida Raid over coming days. To learn more or to follow along, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida (available at the upper right of this page). The book is also available as an instant download for your Amazon Kindle reading device or software as well as for Nook, Ipad and Iphone users at iBooks.

To see an overview of the raid, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 18, 1864: The West Florida Raid Begins

Deer Point and Santa Rosa Sound
With heavy rain from a tropical system continuing to fall across the Florida Panhandle, the long mounted column of Union troops under Brigadier General Alexander Asboth began its move eastward along the Old Federal Road (see yesterday's post: Asboth prepares to move) during the predawn hours of September 18, 1864.

With a battalion of the 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.) and two mounted detachments from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops, the general pushed up the road from Deer Point (Gulf Breeze) to what is now Fort Walton Beach. The latter place was then known as Camp Walton, after an outpost established there in 1861 by the Walton Guards. This unit had been raised in Walton County and took up a position at the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound to provide protection to Southern vessels making their way in and out of Choctawhatchee Bay.

It is a little known fact that schooners, steamboats and other commercial vessels leaving the bay once had to do so by way of Santa Rosa Sound. The sound, which ran behind Santa Rosa Island from Choctawhatchee Bay to Pensacola Bay, was a deep natural channel that allowed easy navigation between the two bays.  The East Pass, the main inlet from the Gulf of Mexico into Choctawhatchee Bay, was too shallow most of the time and vessels could not safely pass. As a result they used the sound to travel down to Pensacola Bay and from there either to the wharves of Pensacola or out into the Gulf.

Camp Walton Cannon at Fort Walton beach
The natural choke point of Santa Rosa Sound was at the Narrows or today's Fort Walton Beach. Here the waterway narrowed considerably and the Confederates placed a cannon there an emplacement they dug into an Indian mound. They evacuated Camp Walton and buried the gun in 1862, when the need of troops for the Army of Tennessee became too severe and the men were called to the main front.

Asboth reached the former Camp Walton site on the afternoon of September 18, 1864, and established a second camp. The 2nd Maine Cavalry, which remained behind at Deer Point, would come up the next day. The quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis paralleled the movement via Santa Rosa Sound and came up to the camp with additional supplies.


I will continue to post on the West Florida Raid over coming days. Learn more or follow along with a copy of my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is also available for the Amazon Kindle reading device or software as well as in the iBook store.

Read more anytime at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 17, 1864: Asboth prepares to move

Indian Mound at Fort Walton beach
The night of September 17, 1864, found the 700 man force of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth largely across Pensacola Bay and ready to begin its move on Marianna.

The soldiers would spend the night camped in the Deer Point area of today's Gulf Breeze before moving out early the next morning. The initial plan called for the mounted force to follow the Federal Road from Deer Point along the inland side of Santa Rosa Sound to the Narrows of the sound at present-day Fort Walton Beach.

Built during the 1820s, the Federal Road was the first major "super highway" across Florida. It led from Pensacola, the old capital of colonial West Florida, to St. Augustine, similarly the colonial capital of East Florida. Prior to the construction of the road, the only land route linking the two cities was the old Pensacola-St. Augustine road. Although it was called a road, this route was really a series of linked Indian trails that had been in use for centuries. The new road wasn't much better. Soldiers and civilian contractors opened a path wide enough for wagons, but simply went around trees too big to cut down and did not remove stumps from the road, but instead sawed them off low enough to the ground that theoretically wagons could pass over them. This didn't always work, especially as wagons cut ruts deeper and deeper into the ground.

Old Federal Road
To save money, the Federal Road had been built primarily over land that was still in government hands by the mid-1820s. The problem with this plan was that it also took the road far away from most of the key settlements in the vast expanse of Florida between Pensacola and St. Augustine. Since the road didn't pass through the settlements, no one really used it and for most of its length it was forgotten within a decade or two. Some sections, however, did remain in use and among these was the stretch that ran from today's Gulf Breeze to the modern city of Fort Walton Beach.  Although the stretch was called the "Jackson Road" by 1864, it really had not been built by Andrew Jackson.

Accounts by individual soldiers in Asboth's command indicate that the road was knee deep in mud. The tropical system that had moved up the Gulf over the previous week remained stalled out over the Panhandle and heavy rain continued to fall.

The West Florida Raid would officially begin the next morning. I will continue to post on the history of the raid throughout this month. If you would like to follow along or learn more, please consider ordering a copy of my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. You can also learn more at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15, 1864 - The Crossing of Pensacola Bay Begins

Pensacola Bay from Fort Barrancas
From his notice to the headquarters of the Department of the Gulf on September 12th that he planned a raid on Marianna, it took General Alexander Asboth only three days to get organized for and begin his movement.
Using the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis as an improvised ferry, he began moving troops across the biggest natural barrier he would encounter during the entire raid: Pensacola Bay. The initial beachhead was established at Deer Point in today's city of Gulf Breeze, which is located on a peninsula that extends out into the bay. A detachment of 3 officers and 43 enlisted men from the 82nd U.S. Colored Troops went across first, landing with horses they had been loaned by the 2nd Maine Cavalry and establishing a secure perimeter for the troops that were to follow.

It was undoubtedly a difficult landing. The tropical storm that U.S. Navy ships had encounted in the lower Gulf of Mexico earlier in the week had reached the Florida Panhandle. While the weather was not severe, heavy rain began to fall across the entire region. It would continue for days to come.

Over the previous weeks, Asboth had launched several raids in the immediate Pensacola area, the most noteworthy of which was against Milton in late August. These had given his men the chance to gain experience in amphibious landings, experience that now paid off as they began to come ashore on the sandy beach at Deer Point.

Confederate Map of West Florida
It would take three days for the crossing to be completed, a fascinating indication of the complexity of moving 700 men, more than 700 horses, artillery and supplies across the wide expanse of open water from the wharf at Fort Barrancas to Deer Point.

As the men came over, they were moving into an area patrolled by Confederate cavalry companies based in Milton. Detached from the main headquarters of the 15th Confederate Cavalry just above the state line at Pollard, Alabama, these units were assigned to scout the coastline and watch for Union raids. The heavy rain, however, kept them close to camp and the Federals encountered no pickets as they began their landing.

I will continue to post on Asboth's 1864 West Florida Raid throughout September. To learn more or follow along, please consider my book: The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available by clicking the ad at above right or as an instant download for your Amazon Kindle device or software. It is also available as an instant download on iBooks.

To read an overview of the raid and the Battle of Marianna, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 13, 1864 - Organizing a Force for the West Florida Raid

View of Santa Rosa Sound
Having notified the headquarters of the Department of the Gulf on the previous day of his plans to strike Marianna (see Asboth's West Florida Raid takes shape), Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth spent the 13th of September (1864) organizing a force to carry out his planned raid.
He ultimately decided on a mixed force of cavalry and mounted infantry. It would include three battalions from the 2nd Maine Cavalry, one battalion from the 1st Florida Cavalry U.S. and two detachments of picked men from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops. The total strength of the command would be 700 men and all would be mounted. Heavy firepower would be provided if necessary by the two 12-pounder howitzers manned by men from Company M, 2nd Maine Cavalry.

Four Mile Landing
To provide support, a floating hospital and a mobile supply depot, the general also arranged for the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis to accompany the raid. A former Confederate blockade runner from New Orleans, the Lizzie Davis had been captured in the Gulf of Mexico by the Union navy, which had in turned loaded it to the army for use at Pensacola. The vessel would follow the mounted troops up Santa Rosa Sound to Choctawhatchee Bay. From there it would move first to Four Mile Landing at Freeport and then eventually over to Point Washington on the east side of the bay, both points from which it could effectively support the land movement. The ship would be protected by field guns and additonal troops.

Discussing his planned movement with men from the 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.), Asboth decided to expand the scope of his operations. Scouting parties had just come in from Walton County and from them he learned that two small detachments of Confederate cavalry were camped at Eucheeanna enforcing the conscription (i.e. the draft). They also told him that the fall harvest was underway and that it was the ideal time to strike farms in that area.

Old Jackson or Federal Road
As a result, the general altered his original plan and decided to advance to Choctawhatchee Bay via the old Jackson or Federal road along the inland shore of Santa Rosa Sound instead of down the length of Santa Rosa Island. Then, instead of swimming his horses across East Pass near present-day Destin and Fort Walton Beach, he would turn inland and strike at the farms and cattle ranches around Eucheeanna and along the Shoal River in what are now Walton and eastern Okaloosa Counties.

In the process, Asboth hoped to capture the Confederate cavalry camped at Eucheeanna to prevent Southern scouts from carrying word to Marianna of his advance.

Meanwhile, as the general continued his planning and organizational work, U.S. Navy ships in the lower Gulf of Mexico encountered a strong tropical system. It does not seem to have been a hurricane, but was a wide tropical storm. Over the coming days, it would play a major role in how the raid turned out.


I will continue to post on the West Florida Raid throughout this month. If you would like to learn more or follow along, I encourage you to consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. You can order it by clicking the ad at left. It is also available as an instant download for Amazon Kindle users by clicking here: The Battle of Marianna, Florida. The book is also available for instant download at iBooks.

You can always read more about the raid by visiting www.battleofmarianna.com.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Asboth's West Florida Raid takes shape - September 12, 1864

Gen. Alexander Asboth
The intelligence that Gen. Alexander Asboth received at Pensacola Bay on September 11, 1864 (see Asboth's Report No. 1045) was so precise that he immediately began preparations to act on it.

On September 12th he sent a notification up to the headquarters of the Department of the Gulf that he anticipated launching a raid deep into the interior of West Florida:

...I am to start a cavalry raid in the northwest portion of West Florida. Going up the Santa Rosa Island and swimming the horses across the East Pass to the mainland, I will proceed to Point Washington and from thence to Marianna and vicinity, returning via St. Andrews salt works. My object is to capture the isolated rebel cavalry and infantry in Washington and Jackson Counties, and to liberate the Union prisoners at Marianna, to collect white and colored recruits, and secure as many horses and mules as possible. - Alexander Asboth, September 12, 1864.

While a few historians have claimed that the general sent his notice and then immediately launched the raid before his superiors could countermand the plan, in truth the report had plenty of time to reach headquarters and Asboth's superiors in New Orleans were well aware of his plan.

The scope of the expedition would be expanded over coming days, but from the beginning the objective was Marianna and the city would remain the primary goal of the raid. Some writers have long speculated that Tallahassee was the ultimate objective of the coming raid, but this was simply not the case. As Asboth wrote six days before the beginning of the raid, Marianna was his target and nothing in his reports indicates that he anticipated advancing beyond that point.

There are some obvious reasons for this. First and foremost, Tallahassee was not in his area of command. Federal commanders had divided Florida along a line that carved the part of the state west of the Apalachicola River off from the rest of the peninsula. Asboth's District of West Florida ended at the river, with the commander at Key West responsible for other parts of the state. Second, a raid from Pensacola Bay

 to Marianna was more of an ambitious undertaking than many writers seem to think.


Antebellum Doctor's Office in Marianna
If the general could successfully reach Marianna, his raid would be the deepest penetration of Confederate Florida since the beginning of the war. Even the 5,500 man Federal army defeated at the Battle of Olustee earlier in the year had not covered one third of the distance that Gen. Asboth proposed raiding. In linear miles, in fact, his raid would cover a greater distance than Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's coming March to the Sea through Georgia.

It was an extremely risky undertaking, but if successful would all but end West Florida's ability to contribute to the maintenance of the Confederate armies in the field. And this would be a major blow to the Southern war effort as the region, especially Jackson County, was a major source of provisions and other supplies.


I will continue to post on Asboth's raid throughout this month. If you would like to read more or following along in more detail, please consider my book: The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available by clicking the ad at left and also can be downloaded directly to your Amazon Kindle reading device (or Amazon's free Kindle software for your computer or smartphone) by clicking: The Battle of Marianna, Florida.  The book is also available for download at iBooks.

You can also see an overview of the raid at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Asboth's Report No. 1045 - September 11, 1864


Holden House in Marianna
One of the least known facts about Gen. Alexander Asboth's 1864 West Florida Raid is that he used the newly organized 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.) to conduct scouting and recruiting missions deep into the interior of the Panhandle during the weeks before the raid.

Service records of individual members of the regiment reveal that such operations were common in West Florida during the final year of the war and that Walton, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties were often targeted, as were the border counties in South Alabama. Usually carried out by small detachments of men who often went inland on foot and split up with orders to reassemble in a few days at a designated location, these parties provided not just a steady flow of intelligence and recruits for the Federal forces at Pensacola Bay, but also damaged infrastructure, captured an occasional Confederate soldier and made off with horses, mules and other livestock from isolated farms and communities.

On September 11, 1864, Gen. Asboth revealed the depth of intelligence he was receiving from such operations in his Report No. 1045:

Blue Springs near Marianna
On the northern portion of my district there are in and around Marianna the following troops, in charge of Colonel Montgomery, commanding district: 300 infantry (militia) and 100 Cavalry, Captain Poe, in the city; one small company of cavalry at Chipola Spring, Captain Chissen; one company below Hickory Hill, Captain Gida; one at Vernon, Captain Jones, and one at Sweetwater, on the Saint Andrew's Road, Capt. William H. Milton. Their strength averages 80 men.

The units named by Asboth's informant can be identified with real companies and their locations as of early September of 1864 were accurately stated.

The "300 infantry (militia)" in Marianna referred to the home guard force that had formed in West Florida during the summer under orders from Governor John Milton. This force was made up of seven companies of men and boys either too young, too old or too disabled for service in the regular army. Asboth's informant may have observed their original organizational meeting which was presided over by Governor Milton in person, since as soon as that session was over they returned to their home communities. The "100 Cavalry, Captain Poe" was Captain W.W. Poe's mounted battalion (often identified as Company C) of the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves.

The company at "Chipola Spring, Captain Chissen" was Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts, a cavalry company of Alabama militiamen stationed at what is now Blue Springs. From Woodville (today's Gordon), they had been sent to Marianna by order of authorities in their home state and would later become Company I, 5th Florida Cavalry.

The company "below Hickory Hill, Captain Gida" was Captain William A. Jeter's Company E, 5th Florida Cavalry. Hickory Hill, now known as Orange Hill, is a significent elevation in eastern Washington County. The unit at Vernon was Captain W.B. Jones' Vernon Home Guard and the unit at Sweetwater (Econfina) was Captain William H. Milton's Company A, 5th Florida Cavalry.

The odd spellings of the names of some of the Southern officers likely result from an attempt by Asboth or one of his staff members to spell them phonetically as they were given in the Southern drawl of the informant.

In addition, Report No. 1045 conveyed information on the military situation in Marianna itself:

At Marianna there are several hundred prisoners confined. They have commenced to fortify Marianna and expect artillery. The negroes of the neighborhood are placed at work on the fortifications.

The reference to prisoners in the city is difficult to reconcile with actual Confederate records unless these men were the conscripts or draftees forced into the service, often at bayonet point, at the Marianna Conscription Camp. There is evidence that efforts were underway to fortify the city, but the work was just beginning and the defenses still useless in protecting Marianna against an attack.

The report was immediately dispatched up to the headquarters of the Department of the Gulf and would be followed the next day by Asboth's report on how he planned to take advantage of the newly obtained intelligence.

I will continue following the events surrounding Asboth's Raid throughout the rest of the month. If you would like to read more and follow along, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Expanded Edition). It can be ordered by clicking the ad at left and is also available as an instant download for your Amazon Kindle device or the free Kindle software Amazon provides for your computer or smartphone. Please click here to download the Kindle version: The Battle of Marianna, Florida. The book is also available for download at iBooks.

You can also learn more about the raid at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Marianna, Florida in 1864 - The Eve of Asboth's Raid


Downtown Marianna
To begin our month long coverage of the anniversary of Gen. Alexander Asboth's West Florida Raid, I thought a look at the raid's target would be appropriate.

The county seat of Florida's third oldest county, Marianna was established on hills overlooking the Chipola River in 1827. The unique name was created by combining the name of one of its founders, Anna Maria Beveridge, with the name of the wife of a business partner of the Beveridges. By 1864, the Jackson County city had emerged as the premier community in the interior of the Florida Panhandle.

Downtown Marianna in the 19th Century
A transportation hub from which a network of roads spread out to the coast, other interior counties, Georgia, Alabama and beyond, Marianna was also the key junction point for telegraph lines linking the capital city of Tallahassee and port of Apalachicola with the rest of the South. As the seat of one of Florida's three most populated counties, it held great political significance as was evidence by the fact that local planter John Milton was serving as Florida's Confederate governor. His Sylvania Plantation, located just northeast of Marianna, was one of the largest in the state.

The Confederate military recognized the significance of Marianna and the surrounding plantation district. While resources were limited, a considerable portion of the available military force in Florida was headquartered in the city. Colonel A.B. Montgomery, who had been wounded at Second Manassas while leading the 3rd Georgia Infantry, was assigned to command the military subdistrict headquartered in Marianna. His area of responsibility included the artillery batteries that defended the Apalachicola River as well as the coastal saltworks and interior farms and plantations in the eastern panhandle. The command stretched from the Apalachicola River west to the Choctawhatchee and from the Alabama line south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Col. A.B. Montgomery (at left)
Exclusive of the artillerymen stationed along the Apalachicola, Montgomery's command consisted of three companies of cavalry, a battalion of mounted infantry and seven companies of militia or home guards formed in August per the order of Governor Milton. The latter units were green, undrilled, for the most part poorly armed and were scattered in communities across the subdistrict.

In addition, Marianna was home to a 50-bed Confederate post hospital, military stables, a conscription camp where new recruits (i.e. draftees) were brought for training, provost marshal's office and commissary storehouses. The city was the center of military supply operations in the region and was the location to which herds of cattle and hogs were brought, along with stockpiles of grain, salt and other necessities prior to their shipment out to the Confederate armies in the field.

While barges, pole boats and small steamboats could navigate the Chipola River as far up as Marianna during high water, the primary supply line leading from Marianna to the rest of the South consisted of freight wagons that traveled the roads from the city to landings on the Chattahoochee River which formed much of the county's eastern border. From there, paddlewheeel steamboats carried the supplies north to the factories and rail connections at Columbus, Georgia.

It was just a matter of time before the city attracted the attention of Union commanders at Pensacola.

I will continue to post on Asboth's West Florida Raid throughout the rest of the month, so check back in regularly!  If you would like to read more and follow along, please consider my book - The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available by clicking the ad at left. The book is also available as an instant download for your Amazon Kindle reading device (or Amazon's free Kindle software for your computer, tablet or smartphone) by clicking here:  The Battle of Marianna, Florida. The book is also available for download via iBooks.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Asboth's West Florida Raid - September 1864


Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth
Over the coming weeks I will be posting on the history of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's West Florida Raid.

Launched from Pensacola Bay on September 18, 1864, this raid passed through the modern Florida counties of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Jackson, Washington and Bay. Not only was it the deepest penetration of Florida by Union troops during the entire war, it covered more linear miles than Sherman's March to the Sea. A classic example of "total warfare" by cavalry forces, Asboth's raid caused more economic damage in Walton, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties than was suffered in any other Florida counties during the entire four years of the war.

I think you will find the topic interesting and planned posts include causes of the raid, preliminary scouting missions, guerrilla activities, skirmishes and battles, impact on the civilian population, casualties, results and the climactic action at the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864.

In addition, I will be retracing the progress of the raid each day beginning September 18th, with looks at key locations as they appear today. Some of these are little known and all but inaccessible now, so I think you will enjoy seeing some of them and learning about their significance.

If you would like to follow along and read more about the raid as we go, please consider my book: The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition. It can be ordered by simply clicking the box at left.

The book is also available as an instant download for your Amazon Kindle reading device, or for the free Amazon Kindle software available for your computer or smart phone. Please click here for the Kindle version:  Kindle Download: The Battle of Marianna, Florida.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fort Pickens remains closed due to Storm Damage

Historic Fort Pickens at Pensacola remains closed as crews work to clean up damage caused over the weekend by Tropical Storm Lee.

The storm felled trees over hiking trails, covered boardwalks, picnic areas, roads and other facilities with sand and flooded restrooms and other parts of the Fort Pickens area of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Until the cleanup work can be completed, the National Park Service indicates that Fort Pickens will remain closed to the public.

Park staff did complete the removal of large deposits of sand from J. Earl Bowden Way (SR 399) between Pensacola Beach and Navarre. Parking Lot 1 has reopened for public use, but Parking Lots 9, 10 and Opal beach remain closed but should reopen by the weekend. Drivers are urged to use extreme caution in the Santa Rosa area of the National Park until the work is completed.

The Perdido Key area o fthe park ha spartially reopened. The area from the west gate to the main parking lot is now accessiible and lifeguards are on duty along the beaches there from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.For more information about the status of the Fort Pickens Campground call 850-934-2621, for general park information contact the Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center 850-934-2600, or the Fort Pickens Road hotline number at 850-934-2656.

The Fort Pickens area of Gulf Islands National Seashore has suffered considerable damage from hurricanes and tropical storms over the last decade, but fortunately the latest storm does not appear to have done significant damage to the main park road. As a result, the area should reopen as soon as sand removal and other necessary work can be completed.

To learn more about the historic antebellum fort, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortpickens1.