Friday, October 31, 2008

A Post Civil War Ghost Story in Florida

Since it is Halloween, I thought you might enjoy a unique ghost story from the years after the Civil War.

This incident took place near Fernandina and was covered by newspapers across the country in 1892.

The story is that of a mysterious spectre that appeared in the night to plow the fields of a farmer. The ghost could be seen from the windows of the man's home, but when family members went out to investigate, the spirit could not be found.

To read an 1892 account of the "Plowing Ghost" of Fernandina, Florida, please visit:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fort Marion - St. Augustine, Florida (Part Two)

This is another historic 19th century image of Fort Marion or the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine from the collections of the Library of Congress.
This appears to be the west face of the fort and it looks very similar to its appearance today.
As the photograph shows, the moat surrounding the fort was kept dry and could also be used as a covered way during a siege of the old fort. When the Spanish designed the castillo, the envisioned being able to keep cattle and other livestock in the moat area to feed the garrison and city residents during a city. On the outside of the moat, the infantry positon designed by the Spanish is clearly visible here.
The Castillo de San Marcos, called Fort Marion by U.S. forces, was nearly two hundred years old at the time of the Civil War and was antiquated in comparison to more modern works such as Forts Sumter, Pickens or Pulaski. Even so, a Union navy officer described it as one of the strongest forts on the Southern coast.
I'll post some additional 19th century photographs of the fort over the coming days. You can read more and see modern pictures by visiting and clicking the link for "Castillo de San Marcos."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fort Marion - St. Augustine, Florida

This is one of a series of interesting photographs in the collection of the Library of Congress of what was then known as Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida.
The fascinating old fortress is now known as the Castillo de San Marcos and is maintained by the National Park Service.
At this time this photograph was taken, however, the fort was still an active military installation.
The picture shows the water face of the old Spanish fort and was taken from the northeast bastion, looking south along the east wall of the fort. The large stone structure to the right is the Spanish castillo, which dates from the 1600s, while the more modern looking fortification to the left running along the waterfront is the water battery built by U.S. troops and used up to and during the Civil War.
The Castillo, or Fort Marion, was seized by state troops in January of 1861 and held by the Confederacy until the following spring, when it was peacefully reoccupied by Union forces.
You can read more about the Castillo de San Marcos and other sites of interest in St. Augustine at

Friday, October 17, 2008

Interesting News on the Confederate Sub "H.L. Hunley"

If you haven't seen it yet, an interesting report came out today on the sinking of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley following her successful attack on a Union warship off Charleston Harbor.

The finding, in basic, is that the crew of the Hunley might have suffocated from lack of oxygen due to "human error" as opposed to the traditional theory that the sub was someone damaged in the attack and sank, drowning the men.

Here's a link to the article. I think you might find it interesting:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The White House - Quincy, Florida

Continuing our look this week at some of the unique Civil War era structures in Gadsden County, this is "The White House" in Quincy.
Built during the 1840s for Joseph Smallwood, it became the home of P.W. White in 1849 when he married Smallwood's niece. He had the house enlarged and remodeled to its present appearance during the 1850s.
White played a critical role in sustaining the Confederate war effort. As Florida's chief commissary officer, he supervised the movement of beef, pork and other vital necessities north to support the Confederate armies in the field. A letter he wrote outlining the situation in Florida fell into Union hands and served as one of the motivating factors for the Olustee campaign in 1864. Federal military commanders hoped to occupy Florida as far west as the Suwannee River to cut-off Florida's northbound beef shipments. The result was the massive Confederate victory at the Battle of Olustee.
The White family lived in the home until the 1921, when it became the parsonage for Centenary Methodist Church. It is not open to the public, but can be viewed from the adjacent sidewalk.
If you are interested in learning more about Gadsden County's early days, please consider my new book, The Early History of Gadsden County. Proceeds from the book benefit the West Gadsden Historical Society. You can obtain more information by visiting:

Quincy Academy Building

This beautiful old antebellum structure in Gadsden County, Florida, was once the home of the Quincy Academy.
One of the oldest schools in Florida, the Quincy Academy was officially incorporated in 1832 but likely was in operation for at least a couple of years prior to that. Closely associated with the local Masonic Lodge, it offered education for both boys and girls and was a vital part of life for the antebellum people of Gadsden County.
A prior building burned in 1849 and plans for the current structure were drawn in 1850. It was completed in 1851 and was operating at the time of the War Between the States.
After an interruption of classes during the war, the facility continued to be used for educational purposes until the early 20th century. Now beautifully restored, it used by several groups including a literacy program and the Girl Scouts.
If you would like to learn more about Gadsden County during the Civil War, please consider my new book, The Early History of Gadsden County. Proceeds from the book benefit the West Gadsden Historical Society. You can learn more about the book by clicking here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Series of Interest at Civil War Arkansas

I started a new series today on sister blog Civil War Arkansas that Florida readers might find of interest.
It covers the Battle of Honey Springs, Oklahoma, considered by some to have been the "Gettysburg of the West."
The battle is of unique interest to Floridians because the forces that battled there included Native American warriors that had fought either against or with U.S. and Florida militia forces during Florida's Second Seminole War.
These soldiers had relocated west to what is now Oklahoma either voluntarily or at bayonet point on the Trail of Tears. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, many Creeks and Seminoles volunteered to fight, some for the North and some for the South. The took part in a number of fights, including the Battle of Honey Springs.
You can follow the series over the next couple of weeks by visiting

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Book: - "The Early History of Gadsden County"

I'm pleased to announce the release of my latest book, The Early History of Gadsden County.

The book is now available for online ordering and delivery directly from the printer in both paperback and hardcover. Just click here for more information.

The book will be officially released to the public on Sunday, October 19th, at a special event hosted by the West Gadsden Historical Society, Inc., at the Gadsden Art Center across from the courthouse in Quincy. The event will begin at 3 p.m. (Eastern). Until then, it will be available only by online order.

Proceeds from sales of the book will assist the West Gadsden Historical Society in its effort to preserve and interpret the rich history of Gadsden County.

This book explores a number of episodes from the county's early history, including a number related to the War Between the States in Florida. Of particular interest to Civil War readers are the chapters on the U.S. Arsenal at Chattahoochee, the first Federal facility in Florida taken by state troops at the beginning of the war, and the warship C.S.S. Chattahoochee.

Chapters include:
  • Hernando de Soto
  • Santa Cruz de Sabacola
  • Chislacasliche and the Apalachicola Fort
  • Ellicott's Observatory
  • Nicolls' Outpost and the War of 1812
  • Scott's Massacre
  • Andrew Jackson in Gadsden County
  • Early Settlers and Neamathla's Reserve
  • King Cotton and Prince Tobacco
  • Early Scientists of Gadsden County
  • The Comte de Castelnau
  • The U.S. Arsenal at Chattahoochee
  • The Second Seminole War
  • The McLane Massacre
  • Seizure of the U.S. Arsenal
  • The C.S.S. Chattahoochee
  • Gadsden County and the Battle of Natural Bridge

Nice Information on a Union soldier

Thanks to a reader for passing along a link to an absolutely fascinating blog that covers Unionist Southern soldiers.

I found it to be very well done and one recent post included a great deal of information on a soldier that served in the 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry, one of the regiments represented at the Battle of Marianna.

Here's the link:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - Conclusion

This post will conclude our series on Asboth's raid on Marianna, a key event in the history of the Civil War in Florida.
Although it has often been called a "victory in defeat," the 1864 raid was actually a dramatic success for the Union troops. Other than liberating Union prisoners at Marianna - because there were none - Asboth achieved almost all of his other stated objectives.
The economic damage inflicted was astounding and, based on census data, Jackson, Washington, Holmes and Walton Counties suffered greater economic losses during the war than any other counties in Florida.
More than 600 people were liberated from slavery by the Union troops as they advanced, most of them from farms and plantations in Jackson County. Forty-three African American men from Jackson County volunteered for service in the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Infantries as a result of the raid. The total number enlisted in the four counties was the equivalent of a full company of men. A number of Confederate deserters and Southern Unionists also joined the Federals, signing up for service in the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry.
Total Union losses for the raid were 9 killed (one in an accidental shooting), 19 wounded and 8 captured. The total Federal loss about 4%. By comparison, the Union army at Olustee sustained losses approaching 26.5%.
Total Confederate losses for the raid were 11 killed, 17 wounded and 96 captured. The Confederates sustained a total loss of roughly 38%. The Marianna Home Guard, commanded by Captain Jesse Norwood, sustained a loss of 7 killed, 8 wounded and 24 captured, or more than 50% of the company's total strength.
Of the prisoners taken during the raid, 24 of the 96 Confederates would die in Union prison camps before the end of the war. One of the Union soldiers captured at Marianna died at Andersonville.
The raid is memorialized today only at Marianna. Markers on the grounds of St. Luke's Episcopal Church as well as at the courthouse tell the story of the battle, as do monuments in downtown Marianna and Riverside Cemetery.
If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Marianna and Asboth's raid, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. Click here for ordering information. You can also learn more about the battle by visiting