Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Monument to Col. W.D. Chipley - Chipley, Florida
This monument in downtown Chipley was erected by that Northwest Florida community to commemorate the role played by Col. W.D. Chipley in the founding and early growth of the city.
Col. Chipley is perhaps best remembered in Florida as a businessman and railroad promoter who finally achieved the dream of connecting Pensacola with the Atlantic Ocean by rail. His railroad brought to life numerous communities - including Chipley, Bonifay, Defuniak Springs, Crestview, etc. - and may well have been the greatest single economic boost that North Florida ever received.
Less well known in Florida, however, was the fact that Col. Chipley was an accomplished and controversial Civil War officer. Although he was born in Georgia, he was living in Kentucky in 1861 where he was teaching at Transylvania University. He cast his lot with the South and became an officer in the famed "Orphan Brigade" from Kentucky (so named because Union troops quickly occupied Kentucky and the Confederate soldiers from the commonwealth became, literally, soldiers without a state).
Fighting with the 9th Kentucky Infantry, Chipley was wounded at Shiloh and Chickamauga before being captured at the Battle of Peachtree Creek (Atlanta) in 1864. He spent the rest of the war at a Union prison camp in Illinois.
After the war, Col. Chipley was one of the few former Confederate officers put on trial by the U.S. Government. He was accused of having ordered his men to murder captured Union prisoners during the war. He was defended by former Confederate vice president Alexande Stephens and was acquitted in a jury trial.
In later years, a letter was discovered among his wife's possessions that revealed the U.S. Government had tried to drop its case against Chipley (after making public accusations against him) due to lack of evidence. The colonel, however, refused to allow the charges to be dropped and demanded the trial to clear his name.
The monument is located in downtown Chipley, Florida adjacent to the Chamber of Commerce information center. For more information on Chipley and Washington County, please visit www.exploresouthernhsitory.com/washingtoncounty. This section of the site is a work in progress, so check back often!