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!