Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year's holiday and that 2008 is a great year for all of us.

I will resume posting after the holiday. Until them, please know that I appreciate all of you and am very appreciative for the blessings I have received this year.

Dale Cox

Friday, December 28, 2007

Isaac Adams - 2nd Maine Cavalry

The photograph at right is a rare wartime image of Isaac Adams, an officer in the 2nd Maine Cavalry who was mortally wounded in the Battle of Marianna, Florida on September 27, 1864.

According to eyewitness accounts, Adams was wounded multiple times as his unit charged Confederate cavalry on Lafayette Street in Marianna and was ambushed by local homeguardsmen who had taken positions behind trees, bushes and fenches along the sides of the road.

He was taken to the home of Marianna Mayor Thomas White, where he died in the days following the battle. Adams was buried first at Riverside Cemetery in Marianna, but his remains were eventually relocated to Barrancas National Cemetery near Pensacola.

A monument to him remains at Riverside Cemetery, one of only two that have been erected to Union casualties of the battle in Marianna.

For more information on the Battle of Marianna, visit

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!!!!

Just taking a second here to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

2007 has been an interesting year, with its share of challenges and blessings. Thank you all for being a part of it. I hope 2008 is all that you hope it to be.

Here are a couple of my favorite Christmas quotes for you. I hope you enjoy them:

The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
Luke, 2:33-35

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset....
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Civil War Florida Top Ten (12/22/07)

Here is your weekly list of the ten top selling nonfiction books on the Civil War in Florida according to the data at
  1. The Battle of Marianna, Florida

  2. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862

  3. Yankee in a Confederate Town

  4. Discovering the Civil War in Florida

  5. Florida in the Civil War

  6. The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee

  7. Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy

  8. Stephen Russell Mallory: A Biography

  9. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War

  10. The Battle of Olustee, 1864: The Final Union Attempt to Seize Florida

Thank you again to everyone who made The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida such successes this year.

All of these books are available at

Monday, December 17, 2007

Books still available before Christmas

If you would like to receive one (or more) of my books by Christmas, I checked this morning and both and are still promising delivery by Christmas Eve. They have copies of The Battle of Marianna, Florida, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida and Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts in stock.

If you are in Northwest Florida, signed copies of the books are available at Chipola River Book and Tea at 4402 Lafayette Street in Downtown Marianna (across the street from the Battle of Marianna monument). As of this morning they still had a few of each in stock.

Thank you again to everyone who has made this a successful year for my writing efforts. Profits from the books are donated to a variety of historic preservation organizations, so you have helped in many ways.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Civil War Florida Top Ten (12/15/07)

Here is your weekly Saturday list of the ten best selling books about the Civil War in Florida according to the data at
  1. The Battle of Marianna, Florida

  2. The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida

  3. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862

  4. Florida in the Civil War

  5. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide

  6. Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy

  7. Stephen Russell Mallory: A Biography

  8. Florida's Lighthouses during the Civil War

  9. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee

  10. The Battle of Olustee, 1864: The Final Union Attempt to Seize Florida

Thank you again to everyone who has helped make my two books, The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, so successful this year. I donate the profits from these volumes to heritage-related organizations and, thanks to you, a number of worthwhile projects have received funding as a result of the success of these volumes.

In addition, you have helped prove that there is a market for detailed histories of smaller historical events. This is very encouraging both to me and other writers who are considering similar projects. Hopefully it will also encourage more traditional publishers of historical work to broaden their horizons a little.

Autographed copies of the books can be purchased online at and, as always, they are available at,, etc. If you are in Northwest Florida, signed copies are also available at Chipola River Book and Tea at 4402 Lafayette Street in downtown Marianna (across the street from the Battle of Marianna monument).

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Florida Monument at Vicksburg, Mississippi

The photograph at right is of the Florida Monument at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Erected in 1954 and funded by the Florida members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the monument is located along the section of the Confederate lines held by Florida troops during the Battle of Vicksburg.
The area of the monument was part of the Vicksburg National Military Park at the time it was placed, but the land has since been turned over to the City of Vicksburg by the National Park Service. Despite the change of ownership, the property is preserved and well maintained.
The monument can be found on Confederate Avenue in Vicksburg. To reach it, follow either the Scenic Drive into town from the Visitor Center on the Mississippi River or turn left on Confederate Avenue up the hill from the entrance to the National Military Park.

The Capture of the Apalachicola Arsenal

This photograph shows another surviving portion of the historic Apalachicola Arsenal in Chattahoochee, Florida. This building, although heavily renovated, incorporates part of the original Gun Carriage Storage facility and exterior wall of the arsenal. The second story of the building is an addition. The photograph was taken from about the location of the west gate of the complex. If you look closely, you can see an "indentation" on the left face of the building where the original arsenal wall connected with the structure.
In January of 1861, the facility at Chattahoochee was the only arsenal in Florida and of critical interest to the state's leaders. On January 2, 1861, Senators Yulee and Mallory of Florida requested a report from the War Department on the condition and inventory of the arsenal. Although the report was prepared, the acting-Secretary of War declined to turn it over to the senators on the grounds of national security.
Although some historians have claimed, apparently without basis, that the arsenal contained 500,000 musket cartridges, 300,000 rifle cartridges and 50,000 pounds of gunpowder on the eve of the Civil War, the actual report reveals the inventory was 173,476 cartridges and 5,122 pounds of powder, along with 57 flintlock muskets and a 6 pounder iron cannon.
On January 5, 1861, prior to the secession of Florida, Governor Madison S. Perry issued secret orders for state militia troops to take possession of the arsenal. The task was assigned to the Quincy Guards, commanded by Captain William Gunn (whose name is sometimes incorrectly stated as "Colonel Dunn" or "Coloney Duryea"). Dunn and his men appeared outside the gates at sunrise on the morning of January 6, 1861, and demanded the surrender of the facility from Ordnance Sergeant Edwin Powell and his three man garrison.
Sgt. Powell debated the issue and refused to turn over the keys to the magazines and armory. Dunn contacted Governor Perry by telegraph for instructions and was told to force the issue. With no means of resisting and unable to contact his own superiors, Powell finally surrendered the keys. Supposedly he told Dunn that had he been in command of a larger garrison, he "would be damned" if the state troops would have ever entered the gates.
Dunn and his men took possession of the arsenal, announcing their bloodless victory by firing the cannon. Local diarists recorded hearing the booming of the gun that morning.
Sgt. Powell and his men went to St. Augustine where, oddly, they were discharged from the U.S. Army by order of the Secretary of War on February 6, 1861. Powell later served in the Confederate army.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Last chance to order autographed copies before Christmas

Today and tomorrow are pretty much the last days to order autographed copies of any of my books before Christmas. After tomorrow, due to mail volume I can't guarantee that they will be received by December 25th.

If you would like an autographed copy, please visit and place your order. Just include a note explaining how you would like the book inscribed.

Copies of all three books - The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, and Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts - are available.

More on the Apalachicola Arsenal - Chattahoochee, Florida

This is the officers' quarters of the Apalachicola Arsenal at Chattahoochee, Florida, as they appear today. The structure is now the Administration Building of the Florida State Hospital. One note, the grounds of the hospital are open to the public but cameras are not allowed without prior permission. This photograph was taken a couple of years ago through the courtesy of the hospital staff.

The officers' quarters and the small structure adjoining it to the left were part of the original quadrangle of the Apalachicola Arsenal at Chattahoochee. The name came from the Apalachicola River, not the city of Apalachicola.

The site for the compound was selected and surveyed in January of 1833 and clearing of the site began that same year. A brick factory was set up in the nearby river bottom and by the end of 1834, more than 1.5 million bricks had been manufactured for the arsenal project. Actual construction began during the spring of 1834 and was completed in 1839. The total cost of the project was $226,932.50 in 19th century dollars.

The facility included the officers' quarters, barracks, workshops, the tower, magazines, storehouses and a shop for constructing artillery carriages and wagons. All of these except the magazines were grouped around the edges of a square, four acre compound. The exterior walls of the structures helped form the outer perimeter of the quadrangle. The buildings were linked by a 9-foot high, 30-inch thick brick wall penetrated by gates on the east and west sides. The external magazines, located a short distance away from the main complex, were surrounded by similar brick walls. A government wharf serving the facility was located at today's Chattahoochee Landing on the Apalachicola River.

On the eve of the Civil War in 1861, the post was garrisoned by Ordnance Sergeant Edwin Powell and a detachment of three men. This left the arsenal extremely exposed at a time when Southern governors were considering moves to take possession of military posts within the limits of their states.

In our next installment on the Apalachicola Arsenal, we will look closer at the capture of the facility by state troops in January of 1861.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More about the Apalachicola Arsenal - Chattahoochee, Florida

This photograph, from an old postcard dating from the the early 20th century, shows the main arsenal building and tower at Chattahoochee, Florida, when they were still standing.

These are the same structures visible in the sketch by the Comte de Castlenau that I posted yesterday. It is generally believed that the large brick building was the "arsenal proper" or main storage facility of the Apalachicola Arsenal. This is the place where weapons were storehoused when the facility was still used as a military depot and was the primary target of the Quincy militia when they took control of the arsenal in January of 1861.

Gunpowder and explosives were stored nearby in a separate vaulted magazine that was separated from the main arsenal compound for reasons of safety.

The purpose of the tower is not entirely clear, but it probably was a "shot tower." These towers were used to mass produce lead musket balls by dropping the molten lead down a shaft leading from the top of the tower to a container of water at the bottom. The lead would form into a round ball as it fell and would cool instantly upon hitting the water.

Neither of these buildings still stand, but several other structures from the old complex can still be identified on the grounds of Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Apalachicola Arsenal - Chattahoochee, Florida

The sketch at right shows the Apalachicola Arsenal as it appeared during the 1840s to the Comte de Castlenau, a visiting French nobleman.
Originally called the Mt. Vernon Arsenal, the name was changed to Apalachicola (after the river) due to confusion originating from the fact that there was also a Mt. Vernon Arsenal in Alabama.
As the sketch shows, the front of the arsenal was dominated by an imposing brick building and tower. This building no longer stands, having been demolished during the 1960s along with most of the connecting wall that is also visible in the sketch. The building at the far left, the officers' quarters, however, still stands and is used today as the Admininistration Building for the Florida State Hospital.
The sketch provides a great idea of how the arsenal appeared in January of 1861 when it was captured by militia troops from Quincy at the order of Governor Madison S. Perry of Florida.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Civil War Florida Top Ten (12/8/07)

Here is your weekly Saturday list of the ten best selling books about the Civil War in Florida according to the data at
  1. The Battle of Natural Bridge Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee

  2. The Battle of Marianna, Florida

  3. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862

  4. Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy

  5. Stephen Russell Mallory

  6. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War

  7. The Battle of Olustee, 1864: The Final Union Attempt to Seize Florida

  8. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee

  9. Florida in the Civil War

  10. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide

Once again, thank you to everyone who has helped to make The Battle of Natural Bridge and The Battle of Marianna so successful. I donate the profits from these books to a number of worthwhile community organizations and your interest has helped in a wide variety of historic preservation efforts.

I didn't include it here, because it isn't completely about the Civil War in Florida, but my other book, Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts is also doing very well. It includes the stories behind the stories about a number of Northwest Florida legends, including several about the Civil War.

All of the books are available through,,,,, etc., and there is still plenty of time to have them delivered before Christmas.

If you are in Northwest Florida, signed copies are also available at Chipola River Book and Tea at 4402 Lafayette Street in downtown Marianna (across the street from the Battle of Marianna monument).

Friday, December 7, 2007

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day.

Please join me in remembering the hundreds of thousands of American men and women who served in World War II. It was a war that our country did not seek, a war that was fought with enormous sacrifice and a war in which American servicemen and women brought peace and freedom millions.

The sacrifices of our fathers and mothers should never be forgotten.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

St. Joseph Bay, Florida

The photograph at right is of St. Joseph Bay, one of the more beautiful spots on the Northwest Florida coastline. The primary community here, Port St. Joe, was once known as an industrial center because of its paper mill, etc., but the mill is gone now and the area has been reborn as a major resort area.

During the Civil War, the shore of the bay was the location of a number of Confederate saltworks, the remains of some of which can still be seen. A shore party from the U.S.S. Kingfisher destroyed a number of these early in the war and other expeditions by the Union navy carried out similar operations over the following years.

St. Joseph Bay was occasionally used by Confederate blockade runners, prompting the U.S. Navy to routinely keep vessels on patrol off the mouth of the bay.

No major skirmishing took place in the area during the war.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Greenwood Club Cavalry

This fine gentleman was William Henry Cox, my great-grandfather and a member of a little known company of cadets at the academy at Greenwood, Florida, during the final years of the War Between the States.
The cadets originally were students at the academy, but as the possibility of raids into the interior of Northwest Florida increased in late 1863 and early 1864, their teacher - Henry J. Robinson - began providing them with military training. By the spring of 1864, the school boys took on the identity of the Greenwood Club Cavalry.
They fought at the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864, as part of Colonel A.B. Montgomery's cavalry forces. Arrayed on the edge of town in a line of battle, they drove back the first Union advance but were themselves pushed back during the second Federal charge.
One member later rememebered how he escaped the overwhelming Union attack by riding his horse through the "dogtrot" or breezeway of a house. Others made it across the Chipola River and were involved in the fighting there as they held back the Federals until they could take up the flooring of the bridge.
William Henry Cox survived the battle and served with his unit until the end of the war. He lived out the rest of his life in eastern Jackson County and was known throughout the Parramore area for the annual Fourth of July picnics he hosted at his home. Most of the members of the Greenwood Club Cavalry never applied for state pensions offered to Confederate veterans. He was among those who did not take advantage of the opportunity to do so.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The community of St. Andrew, Florida

This view of St. Andrew Bay was taken from the site of the old village of St. Andrew. Now a part of modern Panama City, the old village was a small coastal resort community prior to the Civil War. Residents of the inland counties used to come here at times of the year to escape the sweltering heat of the plantation district of Florida. The gentle breezes coming off the bay made for a pleasant climate and the scenery was spectacular.
The area was also a popular location for fishing, etc., during the years prior to the war and many early accounts of life in Northwest Florida describe trips down to St. Andrew Bay followed by return trips with wagon loads of fish.
The appearance of Union blockade vessels off the entrances to St. Andrew Bay in 1861 led to a quick abandonment of the resort community, most of which was burned after being shelled by Union warships. By the end of the war, St. Andrew had vanished. In subsequent years, the community came back to life, but this time as Panama City. Today it is one of the major commercial and resort areas on the Florida Gulf Coast.
The old St. Andrew area lay along Beach Drive near Downtown Panama City.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

This Week's Civil War Florida Top Ten (12/1/07)

Here are this week's top ten best selling nonfiction books about the Civil War in Florida at

  1. The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida

  2. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862

  3. Stephen Russell Mallory: Biography

  4. Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy

  5. The Battle of Marianna, Florida

  6. The Battle of Olustee, 1864: The Final Union Attempt to Seize Florida

  7. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War

  8. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee

  9. Florida in the Civil War

  10. Discovering the Civil War in Florida

As always, thank you to everyone who has helped make The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida successes. The books are available at, and

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Book signing on Saturday

This is just a reminder that if you are in the Northwest Florida area and would like autographed copies of my books either for yourself or to give as gifts this holiday season, I plan to attend only one book signing in December.

It will be this Saturday (December 1st) at Chipola River Book and Tea on Lafayette Street in downtown Marianna (right across the street from the Battle of Marianna monument).

They will have copies of The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida on hand, as well as copies of my third book, Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts.

The event gets underway at around 10 a.m. and will continue until either 2 p.m. or the books sell out.

I'll be glad to do special inscriptions during that time and I hope to see you there. If you can't make it, all three books are in stock through and and there is still time for them to arrive by Christmas.

Capture of the Florida at St. Andrew Bay

St. Andrew Bay, surrounded by the Panama City metro area today, was a key Union blockade station for much of the Civil War. Union vessels lay off the entrance to the bay from the time of the establishment of the blockade in 1861 until the close of the war in 1864.

Despite the presence of ships such as the U.S.S. Roebuck, Confederate blockade runners were still able to slip in and out of the bay from time to time. They brought in badly needed military supplies and even a few luxuries while transporting out bales of cotton. One of the most significant vessels to come into St. Andrew Bay during the war was the blockade runner Florida (not to be confused with the Confederate warship of the same name). Built in Greenpoint, New York, in 1859, the Florida brought a shipment of munitions into St. Andrew Bay in early 1862.

The Union navy became aware of her presence in the bay and, on the early morning of April 6, 1862, a boat party from the U.S.S. Reckless slipped into the bay and captured the Florida off the mouth of Bear Creek. After a harrowing journey out of the bay, the sailors managed to get the blockade runner into open water.

Taken to Philadelphia as a prize of war, she was purchased by the U.S. Navy Department on September 20, 1862. Refitted as a warship, the vessel was commissioned as the U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson on December 30, 1862.

Sent south to patrol the Florida coastline, the Hendrick Hudson captured several blockade runners in 1863 and then rammed and sank the blockade runner Wild Pigeon near Key West in 1864.

In 1865, she was one of the Union warships that assembled off St. Marks, Florida, during the Natural Bridge expedition.

Sold after the war, the Henrick Hudson returned to service as a commercial vessel. She was lost off Cuba in 1867.

The wartime photograph above shows the Florida after she was renamed the Hendrick Hudson.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

St. Andrew Bay Saltworks

The salt kettle at right was once one of hundreds used by Confederates to extract salt from the waters of St. Andrew Bay in Northwest Florida. It now rests in a beautiful park setting along Beach Drive in the old St. Andrew area of Panama City.
From 1861-1865, as many as 2,500 men worked at the saltworks around the bay and its tributaries. The facilities were repeatedly raided by the Union navy. During one raid, sailors from the U.S.S. Roebuck believed they had destroyed property worth more than $3,000,000.
Despite such raids, which sometimes resulted in the destruction of salt boilers using artillery fire, the Confederates continued to rebuilt and the saltworks remained in use throughout the war.
Salt was vital to the Southern war effort. It was used to preserve meat used to feed the armies.
Similar saltworks could be found all along the Florida coast.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

St. Andrew Bay Skirmish - Panama City

On March 30, 1863, Confederate cavalrymen under Captain Walter J. Robinson engaged a Union landing party from the U.S.S. Roebuck at this site on St. Andrew Bay in modern Panama City.

The sailors were coming ashore at the abandoned village of St. Andrews on a scouting mission and were surprised by Robinson's men, who demanded their surrender. When the sailors refused, Robinson ordered his men to open fire and six Union sailors were killed and three wounded. Only two escaped unharmed. No Confederates were injured in the brief firefight.

At this point of the war, Robinson and his men comprised an independent cavalry company operating out of Marianna. The unit later became Company A of the 11th Florida Infantry.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Book Signing scheduled for December 1st

If you are in Northwest Florida and would like to obtained autographed copies of my books The Battle of Marianna, Florida or The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, I will be at a book signing on Saturday, December 1st, at Chipola River Books and Tea in Marianna.

They are located on Lafayette Street downtown (on the same block as the Gazebo restaurant and directly across the street from the Battle of Marianna monument).

The event begins at 10 a.m. and will continue until 2 p.m., unless the books sell out earlier. If you want personalized inscriptions for gift-giving purposes, I'll be glad to do that for you.
Copies of my other book, Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts, will also be available. This book provides the "stories behind the stories" of a number of Northwest Florida legends, including several dating from the Civil War era.

Due to my health, this is the only signing I have scheduled for December, so I hope to see you there. As always, non-autographed copies of my books are available at and You can order autographed copies for Christmas delivery so long as you place your order by December 15th at

Thanks to Bob Hurst - Wakulla Area Times

A special note of thanks today to Bob Hurst for his very kind words in the November issue of The Wakulla Area Times.

Bob writes a regular "Confederate Journal" column for the publication and in addition is the Commander of the Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans in Tallahassee and 2nd Lieutenant Commander of the Florida Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

I had the opportunity to meet him recently when he attended a brief presentation I gave on the Battles of Marianna and Natural Bridge and he included some very nice comments in his column this month.

By the way, my books The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida are in stock and available for pre-Christmas delivery at both and If you would like autographed copies inscribed as gifts, they can be ordered at
Autographed copies are also available at Chipola River Book and Tea on Lafayette Street in downtown Marianna (across the street from the Battle of Marianna monumnet). Non-autographed copies can also be ordered through Borders, Books-A-Million and Target, as well as pretty much any other book store.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blue Spring - Jackson County

Blue Spring (or Blue Springs, as it is often called) has been a key landmark in Jackson County for hundreds of years. Early Spanish explorers visited the spring, which they called Calistoble, as early as 1674 and Andrew Jackson's army camped there during the First Seminole War of 1817-1818.

By the time of the Civil War, the spring was on the property of John Milton, Florida's Confederate governor, who had inherited the land from his father-in-law. Milton's plantation, Sylvania, was one of the largest in the Marianna area.

The spring itself was the site of a Confederate army encampment for much of the war. Captain Walter J. Robinson's independent cavalry company was based there during early years of the war. After Robinson's company left the area, Blue Spring (in those days called "Big Spring") became the station of Captain Robert Chisolm's company of militia cavalry from Henry County, Alabama. The unit was sent down into Florida by the governor of Alabama to assist in protecting the area after most of the regular Confederate troops in the region were shipped north.

Chisolm's company was praised for courage following the Battle of Marianna and, at the request of Governor Milton, became Company I, 5th Florida Cavalry.

The governor committed suicide at Sylvania, not far from Blue Spring, at the end of the war.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Civil War Florida Top Ten

Here are this week's top ten best selling nonfiction books about the Civil War in Florida at Barnes and Noble:
  1. The Battle of Marianna, Florida
  2. Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy
  3. The Battle of Olustee, 1864: The Final Union Attempt to Seize Florida
  4. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War
  5. Florida in the Civil War
  6. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee
  7. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862
  8. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide
  9. Pensacola during the Civil War: A Thorn in the side of the Confederacy
  10. Tampa in Civil War and Reconstruction.

As always, thank you to everyone who has helped make The Battle of Marianna, Florida a success. The book is available at, and

Friday, November 16, 2007

Saffold Confederate Navy Yard

This photo was taken from the site of David S. Johnston's Confederate Navy Yard at Saffold, Georgia. It was here that the 141-foot ship C.S.S. Chattahoochee was constructed and launched in 1861-1862.

The site is now fenced and on private property, so thank you very much to the owners for the invitation to visit and the hospitality while I was there.

As I've mentioned several times here, the Chattahoochee was the primary Confederate warship on Florida's Apalachicola River. 141-foot long, with both steam engines and sails, and armed with six heavy cannon. Her builder, David S. Johnston, was a planter at Saffold, a small community near the Chattahoochee River in Early County, Georgia (only a few miles upstream from the Florida line). He had no prior experience in boat construction, but successfully built the Chattahoochee using lumber and hardware prepared at the navy yard he constructed near his home.

Although the project came in behind schedule, the ship was completed and sailed downstream to Chattahoochee, Florida, in 1862. The first captain of the Chattahoochee was Lt. Catesby ap R. Jones, a seasoned officer who had commanded the ironclad C.S.S. Virginia during part of her historic battle with the U.S.S. Monitor. Jones oversaw the fitting out of the vessel and put her through her trials on the river. He hoped to take her into Apalachicola Bay to engage the Union blockade ships there, but was blocked by obstructions placed in the lower Apalachicola by the Confederates themselves. Jones was eventually sent on to another assignment and replaced by Lt. J.J. Guthrie.

While under Guthrie's command, the Chattahoochee experienced a boiler accident and sank at Blountstown, Florida, while responding to a reported Union expedition on the lower Apalachicola. Sixteen members of her crew were killed.

The vessel was eventually raised and towed upstream to Columbus for repair. She was burned by her own crew in 1865 to prevent her from falling into the hands of Wilson's raiders.

Following his successful construction of the Chattahoochee, Johnston signed another contract with the Confederate navy to produce two more vessels. They were under construction in 1864, but how close they came to completion is not known.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The C.S.S. Chattahoochee

This photograph shows one of the propellers and part of the stern of the wreck of the C.S.S. Chattahoochee, a warship designed to protect Florida's Apalachicola River from Union attack. Constructed at Saffold, Georgia, during 1862, the Chattahoochee was a large heavily armed ship, with twin screws powered by steam engines, as well as masts and sails. Her first commander was Catesby ap R. Jones, second-in-command of the famed ironclad C.S.S. Virginia during her historic battle with the U.S.S. Monitor.
The Chattahoochee was 141 feet long and displaced 300 tons. With a crew of 130, she mounted six pieces of heavy artillery (four 32 pounder smoothbores, one 32 pounder rifle and one 9" Dahlgren), making her by far the most heavily armed warship ever to sail on the Apalachicola River.
On May 24, 1863, the Chattahoochee suffered a disastrous boiler explosion near Blountstown, Florida, while responding to reports of a Union incursion on the lower Apalachicola River. A number of men died in the accident and were buried near the old arsenal in Chattahoochee. I posted about the grave site a few months ago and you can find it by looking back through my old postings.
The ship was eventually raised and towed to Columbus, Georgia, for refitting. She had been repaired by the end of the war and was awaiting completion there of the C.S.S. Muscogee, perhaps the most powerful Confederate-built ironclad of the war, when Wilson's troops struck Columbus and seized the naval facilities on the Chattahoochee River there. The crew of the Chattahoochee carried her downstream a short distance, but finally set the ship on fire and sank her to prevent her from falling into Union hands.
The wreckage of the ship remained in the river for many years, but during the 20th century the stern of the Chattahoochee was raised and now comprises one of the major exhibits at the Port Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus. The rest of the wreckage remains buried under sand in the Chattahoochee River.
Despite her misfortunes, the Chattahoochee had a remarkably long career for a Confederate warship. From her construction in 1862, she served until the end of the war and was never taken by Union forces.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New book coming out soon...

This is not Florida related, except that I'm originally from Florida, but since it is my blog, I don't think you'll mind me posting it!

My newest book - The Battle of Massard Prairie: The 1864 Confederate Attack on Fort Smith, Arkansas- will be released in about two weeks. The book tells the story of a significant cavalry battle that took place on the outskirts of Fort Smith during the summer of 1864. It was one of the most complete Confederate victories of the war west of the Mississippi and was described by the Confederate Trans-Mississippi command as a "gallant and dashing affair." The battle was also unique in that it involved both white and Native American troops.

This book means a lot to me because it is the first that my son Will is putting out as part of his new publishing venture. He and I have long shared a common interest in history and his new effort is special to me not just because it is nice to see him following in his Dad's footsteps, but also because my health is declining and I am no longer able to do the research and writing to produce new material. I am in the process of turning over to him several dozen unpublished manuscripts that I wrote over the last ten years or so and he is reviewing them and expects to publish several over the next two years.

In addition, he is looking for new non-fiction material from writers interested in Civil War history. His emphasis will be lesser known events, battles and campaigns and the reprinting of older source material that is no longer available. His website will be up soon and I'll let you know the url as soon as it is ready. If you have a project in mind and want to make contact, though, feel free to email me at in the meantime and I'll put you in touch.

I hope to see him do well in this venture. I've learned from the release of my books on Marianna and Natural Bridge this year that there is definitely a market for detailed studies of smaller events. I also think there is enormous demand for a "non-subsidy" publisher interested in something other than the standard material.

Pensacola Lighthouse

Located at the Pensacola Naval Air Station adjacent to Fort Barrancas and the Naval Aviation Museum, the old Pensacola Lighthouse has been a landmark on Pensacola Bay since the decades prior to the Civil War.

The tower was built to provide navigational assistance to ships negotiating their way through the harbor entrance into Pensacola Bay.

The Confederates took possession of the lighthouse at the same time they occupied Forts Barrancas, McRee and the Advanced Redoubt. It was used as an important observation point in 1861-1862. Important earthwork or "sand" batteries were constructed adjacent to the tower and it served to attract the fire of Union gunners during the heavy bombardments that took place in Pensacola in November of 1861 and January of 1862.

The lighthouse was returned to usable condition after the war. The tower itself is not accessible to the public, but the grounds are open on a daily basis. To access the lighthouse, simply enter the Naval Air Station via its west gate by following the signs from Interstate 10 to the Naval Aviation Museum via Pine Forest and Blue Angel Parkway. Visitors can obtain passes at the gate that allow them access to the lighthouse, Fort Barrancas, the Advanced Redoubt, Barrancas National Cemetery and the Naval Aviation Museum.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Battle of Santa Rosa Island

The site of the Battle of Santa Rosa Island lies within Gulf Islands National Seashore just east of Fort Pickens.

One of the first significant large scale encounters of the war, the battle took place on October 9, 1861, when General Braxton Bragg ordered Brigadier General Richard "Dick" Anderson to cross Pensacola Bay with 1,200 men for a surprise attack on the Union troops camped in the sand dunes around Fort Pickens. The raid was a retaliatory strike for the destruction of the Confederate privateer Judah off the Navy Yard wharf in September.

Anderson came ashore on the island and formed his men in three columns for the advance west through the dunes to Fort Pickens. The initial attack went well, but the inexperienced Confederates became confused following the night attack on the Union camps. Under heavy fire from Federal reinforcements, they fell back down the island and returned to their boats.

Union casualties during the battle were reported at 14 killed and 29 wounded. Confederate casualties were 17 killed and 39 wounded.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Update on the Blog

I'm sorry to have been delinquent on posting lately. I'll resume again tomorrow, so check back then and we'll get caught up!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fort Pickens - Pensacola Bay

This view of Fort Pickens was taken several years ago. The road to the fort is still closed due to hurricane damage and, although the fort is still open to the public, it can only be reached by a long walk down Santa Rosa Island or by boat.
It looks like it will be at least a couple more years before the road to the fort can be rebuilt. Santa Rosa Island is extremely sensitive from an environmental standpoint and engineers are also trying to come up with a plan for a road that has at least a chance of surviving another major hurricane.
Fort Pickens was one of the three major fortifications built by the U.S. Army to protect Pensacola Bay from foreign attack. The others were Forts McRee and Barrancas. In January of 1861, realizing that he could not hope to hold the more exposed Fort Barrancas, Lieutenant Adam Slemmer moved his small garrison of U.S. soldiers across the bay to Fort Pickens under cover of night. Southern troops demanded that he surrender the fort, but he refused. Hostilities, however, were averted by the negotiation of the "Fort Pickens Truce." The truce basically constituted an agreement that Southern troops would not attack the fort as long as Union troops did not reinforce it.
Union forces broke the truce following the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter in Charleston by landing additional men and supplies on Santa Rosa Island. Over the months that followed, both sides built up their defenses and erected as many cannon as possible aimed at each other across the bay.
Tomorrow we'll continue our look at Fort Pickens with a posting on the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, now virtually forgotten but one of the most important early battles of the war.

Monday, October 15, 2007

One of the last real Sons of a Confederate Veteran

I had an opportunity today to spend a few minutes conversing with Mr. Newton Brooks of Chattahoochee, Florida. Mr. Brooks is one of the last real sons of a Confederate veteran. His father fought as a member of Forrest's cavalry during the campaign resulting in the Battle of Johnsonville, Tennessee.

Mr. Brooks told a fascinating story of how his father became involved with Forrest and his men. Apparently his father was too young to join the service at the time, but went to visit two older brothers who were serving in the Confederate army. Since Forrest's command was about to launch its move into Tennessee, his father simply stayed with the command and went along for the "adventure." He fought at Johnsonville and was involved in the well known capture of a Union steamboat carrying a shipment of badly needed shoes. Mr. Brooks remembers his father describing how each of the Confederates carried away several pairs of shoes, trying on various ones until they finally picked out the ones they liked best.

His father, he says, never actually enlisted in the Confederate service, but fought with Forrest's men never the less. In later years, when the state of Tennessee offered his father a Confederate pension, it was declined by Mr. Brooks' father on the grounds that the family was not in need.

The current Mr. Brooks is a fascinating individual and one of the last of a disappearing generation. But, as he put it best, he's "still kicking."

Pensacola Bay

This photograph, taken from the top of Fort Barrancas shows the modern entrance to Pensacola Bay. The inlet has shifted some since the time of the Civil War. Originally it extended to the left (east) and Foster's Bank would have been visible to the right (west). The guns of Fort Pickens swept the inlet from the left while the guns of Fort McRee formed a converging fire from the right. The heavy artillery at Fort Barrancas fired straight forward to form yet another arc of fire against any enemy vessels that might run between Pickens and McRee.
In addition, the Confederates ringed the bay with what they called "sand batteries." Earthwork emplacements constructed in the shifting white sands of the bayshore, these batteries were used during the major bombardments in November of 1862 and January of 1863. Remains of them are occasionally uncovered during construction work along the bay. A two-gun battery was uncovered during construction on the Naval Air Station several decades ago. The Navy halted its construction project and allowed archaeologists to uncover the entire battery. They found that the representative sand battery had been constructed by digging out a shallow spot in the sand and then covering it with a rough wooden floor. The front of the battery was protected by wooden barrels filled with sand. Additional sand was then heaped up in front of these to provide a rampart. The two guns of this battery were mounted on pivot carriages and the tracks for the wheels of the guns were found still in place, after having been buried in the sand for more than one century.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

First Shots of the Civil War?

This photo shows the drawbridge and sally port at Fort Barrancas. Many believe that the first hostile shots of the Civil War were actually fired here on January 6, 1861.
U.S. Army sentries were on high alert during the predawn hours that morning because of reports that state militia troops might be moving to sieze the fort. Lt. Adam Slemmer, the commander of the fort, was preparing to move his men over to Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, but was concerned that state forces might move against him before he could do so. Consequently he had instructed his sentries to take no chances.
In the pre-dawn gloom, the soldiers standing guard at the sally port saw several men appear on the opposite end of the drawbridge. The mysterious figures did not respond when challenged. Following their standing orders, the sentries promptly opened fire. The strangers on the bridge scattered. The rest of the garrison was summoned to quarters, but no further action took place.
A Southern militiaman later wrote that he and a couple of his comrades had gone onto the bridge during the night and were fired on by the soldiers in the fort. No one was injured.
The incident took place months prior to the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter and three days before troops in South Carolina opened fire on the supply ship Star of the West.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fort Barrancas - Pensacola

Fort Barrancas, now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, was one of the three principal fortifications constructed by the U.S. military to protect Pensacola Bay from foreign attack. Located on the site of earlier Spanish forts, the fortification actually incorporated a Spanish water battery dating from the 1790s into its design.

In this photograph, the Spanish battery is the white structure in the left hand side of the image. Constructed of plaster-covered brick, the battery was captured by Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812 and again in 1818 during the First Seminole War. To further strengthen the position, American engineers designed and constructed Fort Barrancas on the bluff above the water battery. At the same time, they refurbished the old Spanish defense and incorporated it into the design.

Fort Barrancas, the brick structure in the right of the photograph, mounted a number of pieces of heavy artillery and was of unique construction. The brick walls and arches of the fort actually held a massive mound of earth in place that incorporated the parade ground. This design resulted in a fort that was almost entirely a mound of brick and earth, making it extremely strong. The rear of the fort was protected by another high bank of earth, a dry moat and scarp and counter-scarp galleries that made the work very difficult to attack from its land face. In addition, the Advanced Redoubt (described yesterday) and a line of earthworks protected the rear of the fort during the Civil War.

The batteries at Fort Barrancas were positioned so as to cooperate with Fort Pickens and Fort McRee at the entrance of the harbor to create a brutal crossfire through which any ship attacking Pensacola would have to pass.

Ironically, the three forts that were designed and constructed to oppose a foreign invasion wound up opposing each other. Forts Barrancas and McRee, along with the Advanced Redoubt, were seized by Southern troops at the beginning of the Civil War. The Union garrison from Fort Barrancas, however, moved across the bay to Fort Pickens and refused to surrender. In November of 1861 and again in January of 1862, massive bombardments took place across the waters of the bay as the forts attempted to blast each other into submission.
Fort Barrancas is open to the public daily and is located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station. To reach the fort from Interstate 10 at Pensacola, exit onto Pine Forest Road and then turn south (right) onto Blue Angel Parkway. The Parkway will lead you to the west entrance of the Naval Air Station (just follow the signs to the Naval Aviation Museum). There you will be given a pass to visit the historic forts, lighthouse and Naval Aviation Museum. Go straight ahead from the gate and turn left at the Fort Barrancas sign just past the Naval Aviation Museum. The fort entrance is ahead on the right. There is a visitor center and bookstore on the grounds and National Park Service personnel are on hand to answer questions.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Advanced Redoubt - Pensacola

This is the Advanced Redoubt, one of four fortifications constructed by the U.S. military to defend Pensacola Bay. Now a part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, the redoubt was begun in 1845 and completed in 1860. Constructed of brick and earth, the redoubt was unique among the Pensacola fortifications in that it was designed for defense against an attack from land instead of from sea.

The fort is located several hundred yards inland from Fort Barrancas, one of the primary harbor fortifications, and was designed to be defended by infantry and light artillery. Its position allowed the Advanced Redoubt to protect the landward approaches to Fort Barrancas and to the adjacent Pensacola Navy Yard and Barrancas Post. At the time of the Civil War, the redoubt anchored a line of entrenchments stretching from Fort Barrancas across the peninsula to the large bayou in the rear.

The Advanced Redoubt never came under attack, but was occupied by Confederates in 1861-1862 and then by Federal troops for the duration of the war. Located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the grounds are open to the public on a daily basis and include a walking tour of the exterior of the fort. The interior of the Redoubt is sometimes open for ranger guided tours.

To visit the Redoubt and nearby Fort Barrancas, just exit off Interstate 10 onto Pine Forest Road in Pensacola and turn south on Blue Angel Parkway (follow the signs to the Naval Aviation Museum). The parkway will lead you to the west gate of the Naval Air Station where you will be given a pass to allow you to visit the old forts, Pensacola Lighthouse and, if you like, the Naval Aviation Museum. The forts are directly ahead after you enter the gate. You will see the Naval Aviation Museum on the left and will then take an immediate left at the sign pointing the way to Fort Barrancas. Barrancas is on your right after you make the turn and the Redoubt is ahead on your left. There is a visitor center and book shop at Fort Barrancas that offers interpretation for both forts.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pensacola Bay

Over the next few days, we will continue a look at some Civil War points of interest around Pensacola Bay. Just as beautiful today as it was at the time of the war, Pensacola was (and is) a critical port on the Gulf of Mexico. Before the outbreak of the war, the U.S. Navy maintained a large Navy Yard here with all of the facilities necessary to repair and supply large vessels. To defend the entrance to the harbor, seen here, the government had constructed a series of large masonry fortifications. The largest of these, Fort Pickens, stood on the western end of Santa Rosa Island where its guns could sweep the harbor entrance. Directly opposite Fort Pickens stood Fort McRee, a smaller masonry fort that combined with Pickens to create a brutal crossfire through which any attacking fleet would have to pass.

On the land side of the bay stood Fort Barrancas, a third powerful fort that could bring heavy artillery to bear should an enemy vessel successfully run the gauntlet created by Forts McRee and Pickens. Immediately below Barrancas, on the same site, was the Water Battery. Originally constructed by the Spanish, this facility mounted guns that could send solid shot skipping across the water of Pensacola Bay.

Finally, to the rear of Fort Barrancas and connected to it by a line of earthworks stood the Advanced Redoubt, unique among the Pensacola fortifications because it was a masonry fort designed to protect against an attack from land instead of water.

Over the next few days we'll discuss these various fortifications and their current state of preservation. We'll also provide some information on Civil War activity in and around Pensacola Bay, so be sure to check in with us.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Christ Church in Pensacola

Pensacola's Christ Church, located in the downtown historic district facing Seville Square, is a beautiful landmark with a rich Civil War history.
When the Confederates withdrew from Pensacola in early 1862, they left the historic old church standing. Union troops, who occupied the city in the wake of the Confederate withdrawal, used the structure for a variety of purposes. It served as a hospital and was used for storage, etc., for the duration of the war. A Union field fortification stood in the square near the church.
Today the church is one of the landmarks protected as part of the Historic Pensacola Village complex. The University of West Florida provides guided tours through the church and several other nearby structures on a daily basis.
The structure is beautifully restored. Although the main sanctuary dates from the 1830s, the tower and gabled roof were added during the late 1800s.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Susannah Smith - 2nd Maine Cavalry

This photograph is one of my favorite Civil War images. Discovered in a collection of photographs of members of the 2nd Maine Cavalry, it is of a woman armed and in uniform. A notation accompanying the photograph identifies here as Susannah Smith.
The 2nd Maine spent most of its career in Florida as part of the command assigned to the District of West Florida. From its base at Barrancas Post near Pensacola, the regiment participated in numerous raids and expeditions in Northwest Florida and South Alabama. The 2nd Maine sustained its heaviest casualties during the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864.
I will confess, I know very little about this photograph. Some sources have speculated that she was a soldier in the regiment, but I also think it entirely possible that the photograph was taken as a prank. If anyone has any thoughts, I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ocheese Landing - Apalachicola River

This photo is of Ocheese Landing, an important riverboat landing and port on the Apalachicola River in Calhoun County, Florida. Ocheese (sometimes spelled Ocheesee) had been a site of some importance for decades. An important Lower Creek village was located here at the time of the War of 1812 and during the First Seminole War of 1817-1818 the warriors of this village sided with the Seminoles and their Red Stick Creek allies against the U.S. Armies led by Andrew Jackson and Edmund P. Gaines (who later surrendered U.S. facilities in Texas at the beginning of the Civil War). In mid-December of 1817, a sharp battle was fought here between hundreds of Seminoles and Creeks lining the riverbanks and a supply flotilla of U.S. Army vessels trying to make its way upriver.

During the 1820s the site gained prominence as an important riverboat landing and by the 1830s was a community of some size. It briefly served as the county seat for Florida's short-lived Fayette County and was the location of the Jason Gregory plantation which continued to operate here through the Civil War.

Confederate troops often camped here briefly during the war and the warship C.S.S. Chattahoochee also regularly moored at Ocheese Landing during its operations on the Apalachicola. Some of the victim's of the accidental explosion and sinking of the Chattahoochee in 1863 were brought here temporarily before being taken on upriver to Chattahoochee and Columbus.

An artillery battery was established by Confederates across the river on Rock Bluff in Gadsden County and a large chain stretched across the river here to delay any attempted ascent of the river by the U.S. Navy. The earthworks of these gun emplacements can still be seen at nearby Torreya State Park as can the original Gregory plantation house, which was moved from Ocheese across the river to the park during the 1930s.

Nothing remains at all of the old town of Ocheese, although one of the large oak trees that once stood in the yard of the Gregory house can still be seen. The other was destroyed in an act of random vandalism.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Roster of the West Florida Seminary Cadets

This is a recreated roster of the Corps of Cadets from the West Florida Seminary that I was able to assemble while working on my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. The cadets played a key roll in the battle at Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865, but not all were present on the field. The younger members of the corps were held back by Confederate officers and assigned to non-combat duties in Tallahassee during the campaign. The others, however, held a salient near the center of the Confederate line and were heavily engaged in the battle.

If you know of any members I have missed, please let me know so I can verify them and add them. For more information on the Battle of Natural Bridge, please visit:

Capt. V.M. Johnson, Instructor (VMI Graduate)
J.W. Adams
William H. Anderson
Tom Archer
Jack Baker
George L. Baltzell
Charles L. Beard
Eddie Blame
Curtis Brown
Elijah Bryan
John Call
Byrd Coles - Cadet 2nd Lieutenant
Franklin P. Damon
Herman Damon
Henry Ware DeMilly
James B. Dickson
Charlie Donaldson
John Dubose
Charlie Dyke
Charlie Ellis
Tom Frazier
Lonnie Gunn
Richard Hayward
George Houston
Miles Johnson
Jessie King
Bob Ledsmith
Dan Meginais
John Milton (Joined March 5, 1865)
Charlie Mims
Charlie Munnerlyn
Tom Myers
W.W. Pearce
Charlie Pearce
William W. Perkins
Hunter Pope
Egbert Nims
Thomas A. Polhill
William F. Quaile
L.H. Raines
Arthur L. Randolph
Henry Randolph - Cadet 1st Lieutenant
William A. Rawls
Dick Saunders
D. Shepard Shine
T.G. Pratt Thompson
Sam Tonge
Luther Tucker
Milton Tucker
George Ward
J.W. Wethington - Cadet Captain
Sam Weathington

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Cadets at the Battle of Natural Bridge

While working on my new book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, I devoted considerable time to trying to identify all units that participated in the battle and as many of the individual soldiers who fought there as possible. This data was included in the appendices, which comprise about half of the volume.

Much has been written about the role of the cadets from the West Florida Seminary during the battle. These boys were really not any younger than the teenagers serving in any number of Florida units, but there is something moving in the legend of the young school boys of Tallahassee marching out to fight as tearful mothers and sisters watched them go.

In truth, the cadets were probably the best trained unit on the field at Natural Bridge. They drilled daily under the command of their instructor, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. They had been called out at the time of the Battle of Olustee, but as best as can be determined did not arrive on that field in time to fight. The did do service after the battle, however, as guards over prisoners, etc.

By the time of Natural Bridge (March 1865), the cadets were officially considered a company in the 1st Florida Militia (the identity assigned the state's home guard units) and were one of the few properly armed and uniformed companies to fight in the battle. Most of the younger boys were left behind to perform non-combat duties in Tallahassee during the campaign, but the older ones held an important salient in the center of the Confederate line. One of the primary Union assaults was directed at their position in the defenses.

A few accounts that on the surface appear disdainful of the cadets still survive, but upon closer review it is possible to determine that these writers were actually describing one of the 1st Florida Infantry Reserve companies and not the cadets, who were at a different position in the lines.

The boys served under fire at both Newport (March 5, 1865) and Natural Bridge (March 6, 1865) and performed extremely well in battle.

For more on the Battle of Natural Bridge, please visit Also, please consider my book on the topic.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Florida's Historic "Old Capitol"

Located in the heart of downtown Tallahassee, Florida's historic "Old Capitol" building is now preserved as a museum. The central portion of the beautiful old strature dates to the 1840s.

It was here that Florida's Secession Convention in 1861 voted in favor of secession from the Union. Governors Madison Perry, John Milton and A.K. Allison all worked from an office in the Old Capitol during the Confederate era.

In addition, the building served as the primary military headquarters in Tallahassee. It was here that Major General Samuel Jones and Brigadier General William Miller developed their successful strategy for the 1865 Natural Bridge campaign. Cannon were placed here during the war and it was the sound of these guns that summoned out the local Home Guard units prior to the Battle of Natural Bridge. Following the battle, many of the Confederate troops were honored here. The ladies of Tallahassee presented the cadets from the West Florida Seminary with a new flag during a ceremony in the Old Capitol a few days after the fight at Natural Bridge.

The building was slated for demolition during the 1970s, but Floridians rose up against the plan and the Old Capitol was, instead, preserved and restored. It is now open to the public during regular hours and includes numerous exhibits on Florida's history.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Black Confederates in Florida

The subject of African Americans serving in the Confederate armies has been much debated over the last decade or so, with some holding that tens of thousands served while others have maintained that some did serve and actually fight, although usually as the servants of white Southern soldiers.

Curiously, some of the greatest evidence for active service by black Confederates comes from Florida. This is curious because the state had enacted codes that prohibited non-whites from owning or carrying firearms during the days prior to the war.

In August of 1864, a small Union force from Pensacola attacked a Confederate camp at Milton in Santa Rosa County. The Confederates were from a company of Alabama cavalry and a local militia or "home guard" company and were removing iron for use in military manufacturing. Following a running skirmish, Brigadier General Alexander Asboth reported that the 2nd Maine Cavalry had captured several of the Confederates including three armed and mounted "colored" men. The records of the Alabama unit involve do not reveal any African American members, but one member of the local home guard reported in his pension application that the prisoners were from his company. They were held briefly by the Federals and released. Their names are unknown.

During the fall of 1864, Brigadier General William Miller in Tallahassee sought and obtained permission from the Florida Legislature to conscript a force of 1,000 enslaved laborers from plantations for use in improving roads, railroads and building fortifications. By December he was able to report that 100 of these men were working on a road in Gadsden County, while others were at work on the railroad to Live Oak.

Subsequently, following the Battle of Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865, Union officers reported that the Confederates had established training camps at Tallahassee and Andersonville, Georgia, and were giving military instruction to a force of more than 2,000 black soldiers. The Tallahassee camp likely included the men conscripted the previous fall by General Miller, but further research is needed to verify this.

Records also indicate that during the spring of 1865, shortly before the end of the war, Major General Samuel Jones issued orders from Tallahassee naming white captains for companies of "Negro troops" then being formed across the state. What became of these units at the end of the war is not known. They were not included in Jones' surrender and apparently just disbanded.

Additionally, at least one African American is known to have served with the Confederate artillery at the Battle of Natural Bridge. Washington Taylor was a member of Captain Patrick Houstoun's Kilcrease Light Artillery. He appears on the muster rolls of the unit, along with the notation "Negro." He has a Confederate service record that indicates he was a cook.

I would love to hear from anyone with family connections to African American soldiers who served in either the Union or Confederate forces in Florida. Documenting their experiences would prove valuable to future generations.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Return of the Flag of the 4th Florida Infantry

This photograph, taken during the United Confederate Veterans reunion in Marianna on September 27, 1927, shows the return to Florida of the regimental flag of the 4th Florida Infantry. The colors were captured by the 111th Ohio at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864. The three men in the center of the photograph were Union veterans from Ohio. The identity of the man on the left is not known, but he appears to be a Florida Confederate veteran.

The 4th Florida could only be described as a "fighting" regiment. When formed in 1862, the regiment included 926 men and 47 officers. When it surrendered in North Carolina at the end of the war, only 23 were left. At Stones River, the 4th carried 458 men into battle and in two days of fighting lost 163 killed and wounded and 31 missing. By the time of the Battle of Chattanooga, only 172 men were left. After the battle, there were only 18. The entire rest of the regiment was either killed, wounded or captured.
During the Atlanta campaign, the 4th was consolidated with the 1st Florida Cavalry (dismounted) and the two regiments fought combined during the rest of the Atlanta and during the Franklin and Nashville Campaign. During Hood's ill-fated charge against the Union forces at Franklin, the consolidated 1st and 4th Regiments were severely mauled and the 4th lost its regimental colors.

For many years after the war, Confederate veterans gathered in Marianna on the anniversary of the 1864 Battle of Marianna. The 1927 observance was marked by the return of the colors of the 4th Florida to their rightful home.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The End of the Raid

Concluding our retracing of the Marianna raid of 1864, the expedition ended with the end of September. Asboth's forces reached Point Washington on Choctawhatchee Bay without further opposition. The general and the other wounded were taken aboard the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis for transport back to Pensacola.

Asboth soon underwent surgery performed by Union doctors, including Admiral Farragut's personal surgeon, assisted by Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan's surgeon, who had been captured at Mobile Bay. The general's wounds never healed, however, and he died from infection one year later while serving as a representative for the U.S. government in South America.

The 81 Confederate prisoners captured during the raid went on to New Orleans and soon Ship Island. Most went on to Elmira, New York. Nearly half of them died in prison before the end of the war. Colonel Montgomery was sent to officers' prisons in the north and was not released until well after the end of the war because he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.

Eight Federals were captured at Marianna and most were eventually sent to prison at Macon and Andersonville. At least seven are known to have survived their incarceration.

The counties impacted by the raid suffered severely. Census data indicates that Jackson, Washington, Walton and Holmes Counties sustained greater losses during the war than any other counties in Florida. It would take decades for the economy of the region to rebound.

More than 600 African Americans were liberated by Asboth's raid. Many went on to live lives of significant accomplishment. Armstrong Purdee, who at the age of 8 was taken from the John R. Waddell Plantation by a Union soldier and rode through the Battle of Marianna on the back of the man's horse, became Marianna's first African American attorney. He became a lawyer thanks to the influence of Major William H. Milton, a former Confederate officer and attorney.

Much of the scene of the fighting at Marianna is now a four-lane highway, but the grounds of St. Luke's Episcopal Church have been preserved. A number of homes in Marianna date from the antebellum era and at least one, the Holden House, still preserves scars from the battle. Markers to the Battle of Marianna can be found at St. Luke's Episcopal Church and Courthouse Square in Marianna. A large monument to the Southern defenders is a focal point of the city and another memorial was unveiled this year at Riverside Cemetery. Headstones for at least two Union soldiers can also be seen in the city. The weathered stone for Lt. Isaac Adams of the 2nd Maine Cavalry remains, although his body was long ago moved to Barrancas National Cemetery. Local citizens have also erected a headstone for Private Nicholas Francis, the U.S. Colored Infantry soldier killed in the battle.

For more, please visit and consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida.

Friday, September 28, 2007

September 28 - The Battle of Vernon, Florida

On this date, 134 years ago, members of the Vernon Home Guard collided with Union forces withdrawing after the Battle of Marianna. The incident took place at Hard Labor Creek in Washington County as the men from Vernon were riding for Marianna after being called out by their captain, W.B. Jones, to respond to a summons for help from officials in Jackson County. They had not yet heard of the Battle of Marianna.

As they came down the hill on the old Marianna to Vernon road and approached the creek, they ran head on into the vanguard of Asboth's Federal column. The Union troops, trailed by large herds of confiscated livestock and more than 600 liberated slaves, had left Marianna before dark and were on their way back to Choctawhatchee Bay. In no mood to be delayed, they ordered Captain Jones and his men out of the road.

Although details are somewhat sketchy, a "large man" named Stephen Pierce verbally taunted the Federal soldiers. Before anyone knew what was happening, they opened fire on Jones and his men. Pierce was killed and at least one other man wounded. A running skirmish broke out that continued from Hard Labor Creek to Vernon, a distance of several miles. Captain Jones and a number of his men were taken prisoners and the rest scattered. Pierce, a former soldier in the 4th Florida Infantry, was carried up the hill to today's Washington or Hard Labor Cemetery and buried.

Pushing on to Vernon, the Federal column halted briefly before continuing its march to Choctawhatchee Bay. Some of the younger prisoners captured at the Battle of Marianna were released at Vernon and made their way back to Marianna on foot.

For more on the Battle of Marianna and the 1864 raid, please visit And, of course, I encourage you to consider my new book on the topic, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available now through all major online bookstores or for order through your favorite local bookstore. It is stocked in Marianna by Chipola River Book & Tea on Lafayette Street downtown and can be ordered online at

Thursday, September 27, 2007

September 27 - The Battle of Marianna, Florida

Today is the 143rd anniversary of the September 27, 1864, Battle of Marianna, Florida. Over the past couple of weeks, we've been recounting the activities associated with General Alexander Asboth's West Florida Raid. We continue today with a look at the primary engagement of the expedition.

Leaving Campbellton on the morning of the 27th, Asboth and his 700 Federal troops pushed southwest to Marianna, raiding numerous plantations and farms along their route. By this point, the raid had become the deepest Federal penetration of Confederate Florida during the entire Civil War. Colonel A.B. Montgomery, the Confederate commander, fell back slowly ahead of the oncoming Federals, carefully watching their movements until he became convinced that Marianna was their ultimate destination.

About three miles northwest of Marianna at a small stream called Hopkins' Branch, Montgomery attempted to stall the Union advance. He formed his men in a line of battle on the Marianna side of the branch and opened fire as the Federals approached. After a sharp exchange of fire, the Union troops charged the Confederate position, forcing back Montgomery and his men. A sharp skirmish then ensued, which continued all the way to the outskirts of Marianna.

As the Federals approached the city, Southern forces organized for defense. Montgomery formed his mounted troops in a line of battle on the western edge of the city at today's intersection of Lafayette and Russ Streets. The rest of the Confederate force, composed primarily of "home guards" and local volunteers, lined both sides of the main street entering Marianna and hid behind fences, trees, shrubs and in buildings.

The first Union attack on the city was rolled back by Montgomery's cavalry. The second attack, however, came on before the Southern horsemen could reload and the colonel was forced to withdraw up the main street, drawing the Federals into the ambush prepared by the militia and volunteers.

By the time the fighting ended, 18 men were dead or dying, dozens were wounded and St. Luke's Episcopal Church and two nearby homes had been burned to the ground. The Confederate forces west of the Apalachicola River had been largely demolished and Asboth's men took control of Marianna. The city was severely looted during the evening hours.

To learn more about the Battle of Marianna, be sure to visit Also consider The Battle of Marianna, Florida, my book on the topic. It is available through all online retailers and at the Battle of Marianna website.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

September 26 - Skirmish at Campbellton

We continue today our recounting of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's raid on Marianna, Florida. The raid took place 143 years ago this week. On this date, September 26th, Asboth and his troops crossed Holmes Creek into the northwestern corner of Jackson County. As they moved on nearby Campbellton, then the second largest community in Jackson County, they were confronted by the men of Captain Alexander Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry, a small "home guard" or militia unit made up of men from throughout northern and western Jackson County.

Exactly how many men were with Godwin when he tried to oppose Asboth's 700 Union troops is not known, but at the most he had no more than 30-40 poorly trained and poorly armed citizen-soldiers. The Campbellton men, however, performed effectly as cavalry by skirmishing with the Federal vanguard and then pulling back as the Union troops formed for action. Over the course of the afternoon of September 26, 1864, three of Godwin's men were captured but otherwise neither side reported any casualties.

Godwin did send a courier to Marianna to alert Colonel Alexander B. Montgomery that the Federals were approaching. Montgomery assembled his available forces and rode north to Campbellton late that afternoon. His total command, in addition to Godwin's men who were shadowing the raiders, consisted of Captain W.W. Poe's Company C, 1st Florida Infantry Reserves (Mounted) and Captain Robert Chisolm's cavalry company from the Alabama State Militia.

The Federals camped in the Campbellton vicinity for the night, while Montgomery and his men approached from the south. Other couriers, meanwhile, rode out from Marianna to summon in other home guard units from the area along with Montgomery's other two cavalry companies.

Tomorrow we will continue our recounting of the raid with a look at the Battle of Marianna, Florida. Until then, be sure to visit our website at

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Marianna Paper to publish Battle of Marianna edition

The weekly Jackson County Times, a very nice community newspaper published in Marianna, will publish a special commemorative issue this week to mark the anniversary of the 1864 Battle of Marianna.

The issue will include photographs and coverage of local memorial events, historical articles looking back at the battle, and even a "Yanks are Coming" headline. It should make for a good read.

By the way, this is a good time to mention that autographed copies of my books, The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida are now available at Chipola River Book & Tea in downtown Marianna. As always, you can order them online at or

September 25 - Crossing the Choctawhatchee

Continuing our recounting of Asboth's raid on Marianna, on September 25, 1864, the Union troops crossed the Choctawhatchee River at Cerrogordo in Holmes County. They had moved north from Walton County the previous day, passing today's Ponce de Leon Springs along the way.

The first casualty of the raid was sustained on the afternoon of the 24th at Big Sandy Creek in Holmes County when one of the Union soldiers was mortally wounded in an accidental shooting. He was left behind in the care of a local family and his eventual fate is unknown, although it was believed by his comrades that he had died.

In 1864, Cerrogordo was the county seat of Holmes County (the modern city of Bonifay was not founded until some years later). The troops crossed here on the ferry, an operation that took all day. They camped on the night of the 25th on the east bank of the river. On the next day they would begin their final advance into Jackson County and fighting would begin with local home guard units.

For more information before tomorrow, be sure to visit

Monday, September 24, 2007

September 23 - The Skirmish at Eucheeanna

As we continue our look back at the 1864 raid on Marianna, September 23rd was the date of the first known fighting associated with the expedition. After spending two days moving through what is now western Walton County, Asboth's men reached the small community of Eucheeanna at sunrise on the 23rd.

Approaching the settlement, then the seat of government for the county, undetected, they charged a camp of Confederate cavalry. The Confederates were in town enforcing the conscription or military draft and undoubtedly numbered no more than a couple of dozen men. The 2nd Maine Cavalry swarmed down on them so fast there was little they could do but break and run.

A handful were captured, but the rest managed to escape. Otherwise, there were no reported casualties on either side.

Following the brief skirmish, the Federal troops spread out through the Eucheeanna area, raiding homes and farms and inflicting as much economic damage as possible. Boats on the Choctawhatchee River were destroyed and the community was severely looted.

We will continue our account of the raid tomorrow with details on the movement north into Holmes County, Florida. In the meantime, feel free to learn more by visiting