Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Attack on Ricco's Bluff, Florida

Although it had been a Confederate outpost within striking distance of the coast since 1862, it was not until January of 1865 that Union forces finally attacked Ricco's Bluff. Surprisingly, when the attack finally came, it came not up the Apalachicola River from the Gulf, but across country from St. Andrews Bay.
In January of 1865 a small detachment of Union sailors rowed a boat up one one of the creeks flowing into St. Andrews Bay (today's Panama City). Traveling as far up the creek as possible, they met a group of Southern Unionists who showed them a short cut and provided a wagon to help transport their boat across country the short distance to the Chipola River. Once in the Chipola, they rowed down to its confluence with the Apalachicola hoping to capture a steamboat they heard would be passing by.
The steamboat did not appear as expected, but the sailors continued their mission against Ricco's Bluff. After scouting the Confederate camps there, they surrounded and captured a detachment from Captain Jeter's Company E, 5th Florida Cavalry. The Southern troops were camped at the Nixon Plantation, seen here, just a short distance from the bluff were a few actual sentries were posted. The sentries were taken as well and, after burning the camp and a store of government corn, the sailors set out down the river with their prisoners of war.
The attack came so fast that no actual fighting took place, but the loss to Jeter's company in prisoners of war was the largest sustained by the 5th Florida Cavalry during the Civil War.
Ricco's Bluff today is located on private property and is not accessible to the public.

The Battle of Blakeley, Alabama

During the spring of 1865, a column of Union troops from Pensacola joined thousands of others in attacking the Confederate defenses of Mobile at Spanish Fort and Blakeley, Alabama. After the fall of Spanish Fort on April 8, 1865, the Union army focused its attention on Blakeley, which was stormed on the afternoon of April 9, 1865, in one of the last major battles of the Civil War.
The site of the Battle of Blakeley is today preserved at Historic Blakeley State Park, located off Highway 225 just north of Spanish Fort, Alabama. The park preserves the scene of the heaviest fighting of the battle, along with 3,800 acres of earthwork fortifications, breastworks, batteries, trenches and more.
I've added a new section on the Battle of Blakeley and Historic Blakeley State Park to To learn more, just follow the link and scroll down the page to the Index section and look for the link under the Alabama heading.

Ricco's Bluff - Liberty County, Florida

This view looks across the fields of the old Nixon Plantation toward the trees growing on Ricco's Bluff, the site of an important Confederate post on the Apalachicola River during the War Between the States.
Following the evacuation of Apalachicola by Southern troops in March of 1862, the Confederates relocated ten pieces of artillery upstream to Ricco's Bluff, a strategic point on the river in southern Libery County. They established a battery here to oppose any attempt by the Union navy to come up the river, but due to the unhealthy nature of the bluff itself, the main encampment for the troops garrisoning the bluff was established back from the river in the open fields of the Nixon plantation.
The installation at Ricco's was maintained as a major post for less than a year and the guns were eventually removed and placed at new locations along the river (primarily at the "Narrows" downstream and Alum Bluff, upstream).
A small picket post, however, was maintained here to watch for any enemy movement on the river and to intercept Confederate deserters and Southern Unionists trying to make their way downstream to the Union blockade vessels at Apalachicola Bay.
In our next post, we'll take a closer look at a bizarre attack on the Ricco's Bluff post carried out by the Union Navy in January of 1865.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Union grave in Washington County, Florida

This is the grave of John T. Gilbert on Orange Hill in Washington County. He served on the Union side during the Civil War, a clear demonstration of the "brother against brother" nature of the conflict.
Many other members of Gilbert's family served in the Confederate armies, but rather than fight for the South, he slipped away and crossed over into Union lines in 1864. Taken to Cedar Key, he joined Company E of the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry on August 10, 1864 as a private.
The 2nd Florida (U.S.) served in the Natural Bridge campaign during March of 1865 and fought in the action at Newport Bridge leading up to the Battle of Natural Bridge.
Gilbert was furloughed from the unit in November of 1865 and discharged with the rest of the regiment the next month. He died in Washington County in 1938.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Captain Harrison Tillinghast

Located in Riverside Cemetery in Marianna, this stone memorializes Captain Harrison Tillinghast, an officer from Jackson County who was killed at the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), Maryland.

Born in 1841, Tillinghast was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in Company F, 2nd Florida Infantry, on May 10, 1861. Promoted to 1st lieutenant one year later and finally to captain, he was with the 2nd Florida during Lee's 1862 invasion of the North. The son of a prominent Jackson County family, the 21 year old captain served in some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

During the Peninsula campaign, he was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia. This was the same battle that resulted in the wounding of General Joseph E. Johnston and the assumption of command by General Robert E. Lee.

Tillinghast was killed in the brutal fighting at Antietam (Sharpsburg) and buried in Maryland, far from home. Like many Southern soldiers and officers, he was memorialized by his family at home through the erection of a stone in a local cemetery.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Civil War Florida Top Ten (1/26/08)

Here are this week's ten best selling nonfiction books about the Civil War in Florida, based on the statistics at

  1. The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Cox)
  2. The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee (Cox)
  3. Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy (Taylor)
  4. Florida in the Civil War (Wynne and Taylor)
  5. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee (Nulty)
  6. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War (Hurley)
  7. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862 (Driscoll)
  8. Stephen Russell Mallory: A Biography of Confederate Navy Secretary and United States Senator (Underwood)
  9. Discovering the Civil War in Florida (Taylor)
  10. The Battle of Olustee, 1864: The Final Union Attempt to Seize Florida (Broadwater)

All of these books are available at

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to helping making my books, The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida so successful. I donate the profits of these books to historic preservation efforts in Florida and your support has made it possible for me to provided much needed assistance and funding to a number of worthy organizations. Thank you.

The Calhoun County War, Part Five

I'm continuing today with a look at the little known "Calhoun County War" of 1860. This event, on the eve of the War Between the States, was declared an insurrection and resulted in a campaign by the Florida Militia. To read the previous posts on this, just scroll down the page.

The 1st Brigade of the Florida Militia began operating from the McIntosh home at West Wynnton shortly after arriving on the scene. In a series of marches through the country side, they encountered and apprehended small parties of Regulators. Matilda Dunham, the teacher who had been evacuated from the McIntosh home with the other women and children, wrote on October 7th that she had heard from Calhoun County and that the militia had "captured a few of the insurgents, regulators, or whatever they may be, but none of their leaders."

The campaign continued, however, until finally the main body of regulars was encountered and subdued. "The troops have captured 60 or 70 of the rascals," wrote Dunham on October 10th." Judge McIntosh informed his family in a letter that the disturbance was almost over.

By October 17, 1860, the Marianna Patriot was able to report that the war was over:

Our Militia, under Gen. Anderson, have returned from Calhoun County, in good health &c., bringing with them twenty seven prisoners. And we are gratified to hear that all is peace and quietness in that distracted county.

A total of 57 men were charged with crimes against the state or federal governments. Thirty were released and ordered to appear before the next session of the circuit court. Twenty-seven were held in custody and placed in the jails at Marianna and Apalachicola.

In the time between the end of the "war" and the next session of the court, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. Judge McIntosh resigned from his post and Florida joined other Southern states in calling a secession convention. The first regulator trial was set to take place in Apalachicola in December of 1860 and drew observers not only from Florida, but from the neighboring states of Alabama and Georgia as well. The unnamed regulator was acquitted. The judge then ordered the rest of the trials moved to Marianna, evidently believing that such a move was necessary.

There is no evidence that any other trials ever took place. Many of the men who fought in both the regulator and "Durden party" wound up serving in the Confederate forces during the Civil War. Gen. Anderson continued to serve as a militia general until 1862, when the state militia was disbanded. In 1864 he joined the Marianna Home Guard as a private and was captured during the Battle of Marianna. He was carried away to a Northern prison camp for the rest of the war. Judge Finley became a brigadier general in the Confederate service. Solicitor Barnes became the lieutenant colonel of the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves.

In the tumult of the war, the Calhoun County revolt was largely forgotten and remains an obscure footnote in Florida history to this day.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Calhoun County War, Part Four

For the last several days, I've been posting about the little known "Calhoun County War" of 1860. If you are new to the blog or haven't checked in lately, you can browse down the page to read the other posts first.

Some interesting insights to the events that took place in Calhoun County in 1860 can be found in the letters of Matilda Dunham, a 22 year old teacher from St. Augustine who had been hired by Judge McIntosh to tutor his children. She resided with the McIntosh family at West Wynnton and witnessed the events there first hand:

The Regulators, 75 in number, are a set of lawless men who have taken the law (as they style it) into their own hands, threaten to kill everyone in Calhoun County, except fifteen. Who are the 15? No one knows. The camp is about 6 miles from Wynnton and they have scouts out at all times.

By the morning of October 2nd, the militia was forming in Marianna and preparing to march south. The editor of the local newspaper described the situation and termed the Regulators a "band of outlaws" that was "creating confusion and terror among the good citizens." He went on to explain that "outrageous and unlawful acts" had been perpetrated in Calhoun County and that the violence had spilled across the border into Jackson County.

The militia marched from Marianna on the morning of October 4, 1860. The exact number of men taking part in the campaign is not known, but surviving records indicate that the force consisted of the 1st Brigade. Companies from Jackson, Washington and Gadsden Counties are known to have participated, all under the command of state Brigadier General William E. Anderson.

The troops pushed into Calhoun County and marched to Judge McIntosh's home at West Wynnton, which was converted to a military headquarters. The soldiers camped in the plantation buildings and on the grounds.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Calhoun County War, Part Three

For the last several days I've been posting about an unusual and violent event that took place in Northwest Florida during the days leading up to the Civil War. If you would like to read the previous posts first, just scroll down the page and then come back to this posting.

Following the Regulator attacks on the Durdens and Musgroves, fighting quickly spread through much of Calhoun County. Local legend holds that a significant gun battle took place on the grounds of the courthouse in Abe Springs and other attacks and reprisals rippled across the landscape.

It did not take long for news of all this to reach the home of U.S. District Judge McQueen McIntosh at West Wynnton, a small community on the Apalachicola River south of Blountstown. Alarmed by the severity of the outbreak, Judge McIntosh spread the alarm to Marianna and Circuit Judge Jesse J. Finley. Immediately upon receiving the call for help from McIntosh, Judge Finley set out for Calhoun County with his solicitor (prosecutor) W.D. Barnes.

It is interesting to note that all three of these men soon would be serving important positions with the Confederacy. Judge McIntosh because a C.S. District Judge. Judge Finley, giving up the practice of law for the practice of arms, became a Confederate general who served in some of the heaviest fighting of the war. W.D. Barnes became the lieutenant colonel of the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves and fought at the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida in March of 1865.

Upon reaching West Wynnton, Finley and Barnes met with Judge McIntosh and other officials and learned more about the situation in Calhoun County. Concerned over the spreading danger, they helped arrange the evacuation of the women and children from McIntosh's home and then attempted to meet with the leaders of the Regulators to arrange a truce.

The Regulators, however, refused to end their attacks and threatened to exterminate numerous other Calhoun County families. They warned that they could muster as many as 500 men by calling in reinforcements from other locations. The Durden and Musgrove party, on the other hand, had fewer than 60 men in arms and were in danger of being massacred.

Unable to bring the fighting to a peaceful resolution, Judge Finley declared that an insurrection was underway in Calhoun County. He dispatched a courier to Marianna with orders for Brig. Gen. W.E. Anderson of the Florida Militia to call out the First Brigade of the State Militia (today's National Guard). Judge McIntosh also dispatched a message to Apalachicola, calling U.S. Deputy Marshal H.K. Simmons to Calhoun County with instructions to prepare to serve such processes as ordered by the court.

The stage was now set for a showdown between the Florida Militia and the U.S. Government on one side and the Regulators of Calhoun County on the other.

We will continue our postings on the "Calhoun County War" tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Calhoun County War, Part Two

We continue today with our discussion of the 1860 "Calhoun County War," a violent outbreak that took place in Northwest Florida on the eve of the War Between the States. For more on the events leading up to this incident, scroll down the page and read yesterday's post.

During the fall of 1860, with the national election in an uproar and threats of secession spreading across the South, the other great issue of the time - slavery - ignited outbreaks across the South. It is a little known fact that thousands of white Southerners, many of whom would fight for the Confederacy, opposed slavery before the war. During the last months of 1860, pro-slavery regulators attempted to suppress these views and violence often resulted.

The Northwest Florida counties, where only a very small percentage of the population owned slaves, were fertile ground for anti-slavery sentiments. In Calhoun County, a small group of people opposed to slavery began meeting at the home of Jesse Durden during the late summer of 1860. Thirty-one years old, Durden was a farmer with family spread through Calhoun and Jackosn Counties.

The meetings quickly drew the attention of a group of pro-slavery men, who circulated a petition calling for either the expulsion of the Durdens and their friends from the county or their extermination. A band of "regulators" was formed and threats were issued, but despite the warnings, the meetings continued.

Events finally came to a head on September 24, 1860, when the regulators attacked the Durden home. The Marianna Patriot filed a report on the incident the following day:

Yesterday a party in Calhoun, styling themselves 'Regulators,' went to the house of one Jesse Durden, and we learn shot him, giving him a mortal wound. They then met and shot Willis Musgrove from his horse, who died instantly, also wounding Larkin C. Musgrove. These are the facts as we have been able to gather them, but it is believed that last night another battle was fought between the Regulators and the Durdens. All this happened near Abe's Spring Bluff, in Calhoun Co.

The report that Willis Musgrove had been killed was premature, he actually survived the fight, but Jesse Durden was killed as reported. Their outraged families and neighbors fought back with a vengeance and fighting soon erupted through the piney woods of Calhoun County. In less than a day, the county deteriorated into a state of open warfare.

We will continue the story of the Calhoun County War in our next post.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Calhoun County War of 1860

Continuing with a theme I started yesterday in my posting about the "Julee Cottage" and free people of color in Florida at the time of the Civil War, I want to continue today with more on this topic and a little known event that took place in Calhoun County on the eve of the war.
In looking back today, it is difficult for us to conceive how violent and chaotic things had become by 1860. The secession movement was picking up speed across the South and the national elections taking place had fragmented the Democratic Party and feelings were running very high.
Although they are little written about today (with the exception of the "Kansas War" and John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry), a series of violent outbreaks took place across the South in 1860 as citizens fought amongst themselves over the future of their states and regions.
One of the most serious and least known of these outbreaks took place in rural Calhoun County, Florida, during the fall of 1860 and involved a host of individuals who would later figure prominently in Florida's Confederate government and military commitment. Among these were Jesse J. Finley(pictured here), a Circuit Judge based in Marianna, who would go on to become a Confederate general from Florida, and U.S. District Judge McQueen McIntosh, who happened to be at his home at West Wynnton in Calhoun County when the outbreak took place.
As late as September of 1860, the secession of Florida from the Union was not a certainty. Like the rest of the nation, the then southernmost state awaited the outcome of the Presidential election before setting its course. In Florida, like in many other Southern states, politics in those days sometimes involved a lot more than debates and voting. Bands of armed men, who called themselves "Regulators," often rode through the countryside to intimidate those they suspected of "disloyalty" to one side or the other. In 1860, most of these groups were Secessionist in their views and used violent tactics to intimidate their Unionist opponents. Others targeted anyone they suspected to be involved in Abolition movements or other efforts that might upset the social balance in the state.
Calhoun County, like much of Florida, was not a large slave-holding area. There were a few plantations scattered through the county, but nothing on the magnitude of neighboring Jackson and Gadsden Counties. Most of the inhabitants lived by their own labors and worked as farmers or lumbermen. Among these were the Durden and Musgrove families, who worked as farmers near Abe Springs, then the county seat for Calhoun, and also owned lands across the line in southern Jackson County. Unexpectedly, in the fall of 1860, they became the targets of a bloody and violent attack by a Regulator band that sparked what would become known as the "Calhoun County War."
I'll continue on with this topic in my next post, so please check back soon!

Learn more about Southern History

We've launched a new look for our main website at When you have a few minutes, drop by and let us know what you think. You will find information on historic sites and natural wonders all around the South.

We'll also be expanding the site quite a bit this month, with the addition of new sites in Texas and Virginia.

You will find a wealth of information about Civil War sites across the South, including many in Florida.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Julee Cottage - Pensacola, Florida

This well preserved little cottage in Pensacola was constructed in 1805 and was the home of Julee Panton, a free woman of color, well before the Civil War.

Little has been written about Florida's antebellum population of free African Americans, yet they represented an important part of the state's black history.

More common in seaport communities like Pensacola than in the interior farming counties, free African Americans worked in a variety of trades. They worked as sailors, carpenters, blacksmiths, farmers, seamstresses and in a variety of other occupations. Most of their homes, like the Julee Cottage seen here, were simple, but so too were the homes of the vast majority of the state's white residents prior to the war. The number of people involved in operating large plantations or who held slaves was actually very small in comparison to the total population of the state.

Free people of color in Florida before the Civil War also included little known Native American communities that dotted the landscape, especially across Northwest Florida, along with the few remaining Seminoles hidden deep in the swamps of South Florida. Census records for the Northwest portion of the state often identify these Native Americans as "mulattos," but others avoided the census taker or concealed their race out of fear they would be forced from the state. More on that over coming days.

The Julee Cottage is preserved as part of the Historic Pensacola Village complex in downtown Pensacola. For information, visit their website at:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Civil War Florida Top Ten

Now that the holidays are behind us, we resume our weekly list of the Top Ten nonfiction books on the Civil War in Florida, based on the statistics at

  1. The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Cox)
  2. Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy (Taylor)
  3. Florida's Lighthouses in the Civil War (Hurley)
  4. Florida in the Civil War (Wynne & Taylor)
  5. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee (Nulty)
  6. The Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862 (Driscoll)
  7. The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee (Cox)
  8. Stephen Russell Mallory: A Biography of the Confederate Navy Secretary and United States Senator (Underwood)
  9. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide (Taylor)
  10. The Battle of Olustee, 1864: The Final Union Attempt to Seize Florida (Broadwater)

Thank you to everyone who continues to make the Battle of Marianna and Battle of Natural Bridge books so successful!

All of the books on our Top Ten are available through

Friday, January 18, 2008

Murder in the Ranks at Pensacola, 1861

I found the following item this week and thought it might be of interest. It comes from the April 13, 1861, issue of the Pensacola Gazette:

"UNFORTUNATE OCCURRENCE. – We regret to learn that an unfortunate difficulty occurred last night between two members of the Chipola Rifles, from Jackson county, which is likely to terminate fatally to one of the parties. The difficult arose as to the relative strength of the two men, when a lie was passed, and a man named Joel Brown received a blow on the head from a stick of wood in the hands of the other man, whose name we could not learn. Brown’s skull was badly fractured, and he was conveyed to the hospital of Dr. R.B.S. Hargis. The assailant escaped. We have since learned that Brown is dead."

The Chipola Rifles were organized in Marianna shortly after Florida left the Union. H.H. Baker was the captain. They were added to Col. Patton Anderson's 1st Florida Infantry in March when that unit was formed and served at Pensacola Bay. I have not been able to find anything else about Joel Brown, so far.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

St. Andrews Bay on the Eve of the Civil War

This image is a section from an 1840 map of Florida in the National Archives. It shows St. Andrews Bay (today's Panama City) as it appeared on the eve of the Civil War.
The bay was then a resort area for families from the interior counties who came down to fish, swim and enjoy the cool sea breezes.
The small resort community of St. Andrews, seen here near the center of the map, had developed on the bay front during antebellum times. A number of comfortable homes had been built here on the low bluff overlooking the water and some of the most prosperous planters and businessmen from the interior counties of Northwest Florida frequented the resort, especially during the hot summer and "sickly" months.
In addition, the bay was the scene of a small amount of commerce. A large lumber mill had been constructed here during the years before the war and barge traffic also came down Econfina and Bear Creeks, bringing cotton and other agricultural products to the bay, where they were placed aboard small ships for transport on to Pensacola, New Orleans and beyond.
The Union blockade quickly brought this commerce to an end and by the end of the war the beautiful little community of St. Andrews had been burned to the ground.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lt. Col. Uri B. Pearsall - 99th U.S. Colored

This is a photograph of Lt. Col. Uri B. Pearsall of the 99th U.S. Colored Troops. Col. Pearsall was wounded at the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida on March 6, 1865, while helping to lead the attacks on the entrenched Confederate line.
Pearsall had also served in the Red River Campaign into Louisiana and was credited with helping to construct the dam at Alexandria that raised the level of the river enough to save the Union fleet from destruction or capture.
Wounded at Natural Bridge, he recovered and lived in Kansas after the war where he was active in business, politics and community affairs.
If you would like to read more on the Battle of Natural Bridge, please visit my website at

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wartime Sketch of Asboth in Action

This is a wartime sketch done by an artist as he watched General Alexander Asboth ride past. Asboth is the man accompanied by the dog on the horse in the foreground.
A Union general who had served in Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky, he assumed command of the Federal District of West Florida in November of 1863. Noted for his abilities as a cavalry leader and administrator, Asboth was described by Phil Sheridan (who once served under him) as "personally couragous." Sheridan, like others who knew the general, also noted, however, that Asboth often doubted his own abilities. He took part in numerous raids and small actions around Northwest Florida, including the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864, where he was seriously wounded.
Numerous eyewitness accounts indicate the general was very popular with his men and this sketch captures two commonly noted observations about him. First, he usually wore an old striped blanked "poncho style" instead of a uniform coat. Second, he was always accompanied by his two large pet dogs. It was reported of him that while stationed in Pensacola he usually fed his dogs from the table. A lover of animals, he also sent unique animals from his various posts back to New York to expand the collection of the Central Park Zoo. The zoo's first Florida black bear, for example, was captured by Asboth somewhere in Northwest Florida and sent to New York by ship.
Often confused with his predecessor, the colonel of the 7th Vermont Infantry who was a noted "piano raider" in Northwest Florida, Asboth is sometimes blamed for much of the looting and furniture stealing that took place around Pensacola during the war. While his men unquestionably inflicted damage to the areas through which they passed, many of the actions sometimes blamed on Asboth were actually carried out by Col. William Holbrooke.

Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park

Located 15 miles east of Lake City and 50 miles west of Jacksonville on U.S. 90, the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park is the site of the 1864 Battle of Olustee (or Battle of Ocean Pond), Florida.
Olustee was the largest battle fought in Florida during the War Between the States. The action took shape when Union Brigadier General Truman A. Seymour, contrary to orders, advanced west from Jacksonville planning to push as far as the Suwannee River and cut the vital railroad bridge there. His scouting efforts were particularly weak and he does not seem to know that he was advancing into the teeth of a Confederate army roughly the same size of his own.
Headed by Brigadier General Joseph Finegan, the Confederate army was engaged in erecting a fortified line at Olustee Station east of Lake City when Seymour made his move.
As the Federals pushed west, Finegan sent forward troops to engage the front of their column. The two forces collided on February 20, 1864. The result was a rapidly developing fight that erupted in the open pine woods well in advance of Finegan's uncompleted fortifications. The Confederates successfully overlapped the head of the Union column. Realizing the opportunity presented, Finegan and his second in command, Brigadier General A.H. Colquitt, began pushing more and more men into line, bringing them up faster than the confused Federals could respond.
The Confederates pushed forward throughout the afternoon, driving back the Federals in a series of fierce attacks. It finally became obvious to Seymour that the battle was lost and he moved forward two famed African American units - the 35th U.S. Colored Troops and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry - to make a stand while he withdrew his army. Thanks to the the fierce fight they waged, he was able to get most of his army off the field before the Confederates completely destroyed him.
When the smoke cleared, the Confederates had sustained casualties of around 93 killed, 847 wounded and 6 missing. The Federals, on the other hand, had lost more than twice as many men with reported casualties of 203 killed, 1,152 wounded and 506 missing.
The Battle of Olustee was a major victory for the Confederacy and ended a major effort by the Union government to "reconstruct" the state in time for it to participate in the 1864 Presidential elections.
Olustee Battlefield today is a well-preserved state park. In addition to monuments and interpretive signs, there is a small museum and walking trails leading through the battlefield.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Four Mile Landing - Walton County, Florida

This rare photograph shows a paddlewheel riverboat pulling into Four Mile Landing in Walton County. Located just off Choctawhatchee Bay near present-day Freeport, the landing was an important Northwest Florida port and landmark. It was one of the key points to which farmers in Walton County carried their crops for shipment out to Pensacola and beyond.
During Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth's 1864 raid on Marianna, the U.S. quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis tied up at the landing while Asboth's Federal troops were making their way through Walton County.
On the morning of September 23, 1864, Asboth attacked a small Confederate camp at Eucheeanna, then the county seat of Walton County. Following the bloodless skirmish, he sent two companies of troops to escort his prisoners, lame horses, and a number of African American recruits liberated from local plantations to Four Mile Landing. There they were placed aboard the Lizzie Davis, which then steamed across Choctawhatchee Bay to Point Washington to await the return of the expedition.
For more on the Marianna raid and the Battle of Marianna, please visit, or consider my book - The Battle of Marianna, Florida - now available at, or from Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Gregory House - Torreya State Park

This beautiful old structure is the historic Gregory House. Now located on the high bluff overlooking the Apalachicola River at Torreya State Park in Gadsden County, the home originally stood across the river at Ocheese in Calhoun County.
Constructed during the antebellum years by Jason Gregory, the home was the centerpiece of one of Calhoun County's largest plantations. Ocheese then was a prosperous community and important cotton shipping point.
The house was often visited by Confederate troops during the Civil War and members of the Gregory family served military duty as did most of their neighbors. The C.S.S. Chattahoochee often tied up at Ocheese and following the tragic explosion of the ship's boiler at Blountstown, some of the victims of the accident were brought here.
In later years the home fell on hard times and by the years of the Great Depression it was in bad repair. As Torreya State Park was being developed across the river, however, note was taken of the home and it was disassembled and carried across the Apalachicola on barges. Restored on the top of Rock Bluff, it is now a focal point of the park. Located just down the slope from the home, which provides a spectacular view of the Apalachicola River and Calhoun and Jackson Counties beyond, are the remains of a Confederate artillery battery constructed to protect the river during the war.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A New Blog of Interest - Arkansas in the Civil War

If you enjoy reading Civil War Florida, you might also enjoy another new blog that I started this week, Arkansas in the Civil War. The address is

As many of you know, I'm a native of Two Egg, Florida, but divide my time between the Sunshine State and the Natural State. I've developed an attachment for Arkansas. It is, quite honestly, a beautiful state. The people are warm and friendly and the mountains are stunning. The Ozarks, in particular, are so connected to their past that it feels almost possible to reach out and touch it.

To share a little of Arkansas and its special history, I've started the new blog and I hope you will take time to check it out from time to time and learn more.

Waddell Mill Pond - Jackson County, Florida

Waddell Mill Pond, located just off the old Campbellton to Marianna Road in Jackson County, was an important Northwest Florida landmark at the time of the Civil War.
Located on the massive plantation of John R. Waddell, the pond was formed to power a mill constructed by Waddell decades before the war. The mill no longer stands, but the refurbished dam still exists on private property.
On the morning of September 27, 1864, just hours before the Battle of Marianna, Union troops halted at the Waddell house (located on the ridge overlooking the pond). Among the family members and enslaved laborers who gathered at the front gate to see the soldiers was young Armstrong Purdee, the 8-year-old son of one of the Waddell slaves. According to Purdee, the soldiers remained in column in the road while "scouts" or foragers went out to survey the area. They also ransacked the plantation, taking livestock and provisions and destroying items that might be of value to the Confederate war effort. They did not have time, however, to destroy the mill.
As the column prepared to move on, Purdee remembered that one of the Union soldiers asked him if he wanted to go. He answered, "yes." The soldier then pulled him up onto the back of his horse and they rode off together. Purdee witnessed the Battle of Marianna first hand as he rode through the fight on the back of the soldier's horse. Taken to Pensacola, he was retrieved by his father after the war and eventually became Jackson County's first African American attorney.
The Waddell Plantation is one of the few original large farms in Jackson County that retains its name and is still largely preserved as a single block of land. The property is fenced and not open to the public, but the pond can be seen through the trees from the grounds of Springfield A.M.E. Church.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Webbville - Plantation of Lt. Col. W.D. Barnes

This hilltop a few miles northeast of Cottondale in western Jackson County was the site of Webbville, the plantation of Lt. Col. W.D. Barnes of the 1st Florida Infantry Barnes.
Webbville was originally the site of a small town established during the 1820s. For a time the community rivaled nearby Marianna for the title of County Seat of Jackson County, but by the time of the War Between the States the town had vanished. The rich farmland of the area remained important, however, and Webbville transitioned from town to plantation during the 1840s and 1850s. By the time the war began in 1861, the farm was the property of W.D. Barnes.
Born in 1830 and an officer of the circuit court before the war, Barnes began his military career on August 5, 1862, when he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in Company G, 2nd Florida Cavalry. He was promoted to 1st lieutenant and named adjutant of the 2nd Cavalry in September of the same year.
When the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves were formed during the late spring and summer of 1864, Barnes was transferred to the new regiment and promoted to lieutenant colonel. In this role, he commanded a portion of the main battle line during the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, on March 6, 1865, and assumed command of the regiment following the wounding of Colonel J.J. Daniel.
He served until the end of the war and returned to Jackson County to resume his prewar agricultural and legal occupations. He is buried at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Marianna.
During the Union raid on Marianna in September of 1864, the Webbville plantation was severely damaged by Federal troops. Eyewitness accounts report that Union foragers ransacked the plantation on the morning of September 27, 1864, just hours before the Battle of Marianna. As much damage as possible was done to the property and, in addition, most of the enslaved laborers there were liberated and joined the Union column as it advanced on the county seat.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

This might be of interest...

If you are enjoying my blog on the Civil War in Florida, you might also enjoy my blog on the history of Jackson County, Florida. The address is:

You will also find quite a bit of Florida history on my websites at:

New Battle of Marianna Monument

This is the new monument to the Confederate soldiers killed during the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864. Located at Riverside Cemetery in Marianna, it was placed by the Dr. Theophilus West Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans during ceremonies last September.

There are many SCV Chapters around the South, but the West Camp is one of the most proactive when it comes to preserving history that I have encountered. The members have initiated a very impressive Graves project to clean up and restore graves of Confederate soldiers throughout Jackson County. This project has really impressed me because the West Camp is going beyond just talking about heritage and is doing something to make sure that the men who fought for the South are honored and remembered. Every soldier who fought in the war deserves a decent headstone, well-maintained grave and to be remembered now and then.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Davis-West House - Marianna

This beautiful old structure is the historic Davis-West House in Marianna. Originally constructed during the 1840s, it became the home in 1859 of Dr. Theophilus West.
Dr. West served in the Confederate forces from Florida during the Civil War and was a surgeon attached to the Army of Northern Virginia. He was among the men who surrendered with Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomatox Courthouse in 1865.
The home stands in the northeast corner of the old section of the city of Marianna and, in 1864, was on the edge of town near the bluff overlooking the Chipola River. Confederate troops under Colonel A.B. Montgomery fortified part of the West estate during the spring and summer of 1864, but the earthworks were not used during the Battle of Marianna as the Union attack came from the west. C. Slade West, now deceased, remembered during the 1980s having seen the remnants of these works when he was a small boy. His father told him they were trenches dug by Confederate soldiers. No trace of them remains today.
The home itself, however, survives and is beautifully preserved. Now own by a local historic preservation group, it is open by appointment.
The local camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is named in honor of Dr. Theophilus West.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Campbellton Baptist Church

Located on State Highway 2 in the Jackson County town of Campbellton, the Campbellton Baptist Church houses the oldest Baptist congregation in Florida and was an important landmark during the Civil War raid on Marianna.
Originally called the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, the church was founded in 1825 and its history might surprise many who are interested in the antebellum and Civil War history of the South. Church records indicate that fellowship in the congregation was not limited to whites or certain social classes. Rich, poor, black, white, slave and free all participated in the fellowship.
The current wooden building was constructed in 1858 and the name of the church was changed from Bethlehem to Campbellton Baptist in 1859.
A centerpiece of the town of Campbellton, the church was an important meeting location during the Civil War years. The town square and muster ground of Captain A.R. Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry was only a few blocks from the church. During the 1864 raid on Marianna by Federal troops, legend holds that minor skirmishing took place on the grounds around the church as Godwin's men exchanged shots with the lead elements of the Union column commanded by Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth.
Asboth's men camped on the grounds of the church on the night of September 26, 1864, before moving on to the Battle of Marianna the next day.

Owens-Bellview Cemetery - Jackson County

This is the Owens-Bellview Cemetery near Parramore in eastern Jackson County. Located roughly 15 miles north of Sneads on River Road, the cemetery is one of the oldest in the Chattahoochee River country of Jackson County.
The Owens settlement was the site of a major plantation during antebellum times and was located near several important Chattahoochee River landings. The oldest graves at the cemetery are not marked, but can still be identified by the depressions in the ground.
A number of Confederate veterans are buried here. Among these are W.D. Owens, who served in Captain Robert Chisolm's Company (Co. I, 5th Florida Cavalry). This unit, originally part of the Alabama State Militia, was formed just across the Alabama line at Woodville (today's Gordon) and incorporated men from both Southeast Alabama and Northwest Florida. Chisolm and his men fought at Marianna on September 27, 1864 and served in Northwest Florida until the end of the war. By the request of Florida Governor John Milton they were made part of the 5th Florida Cavalry by the Confederate War Department in late 1864.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Fort Barrancas, 1861

The wartime image at right shows Fort Barrancas near Pensacola as it appeared in 1861 while occupied by Confederate troops. The irregular dress and lax manner of these men shows that they had not yet undergone the training implemented by General Braxton Bragg for his "Army of Pensacola" during the summer and fall of 1861.
Although Bragg is controversial for his later role as commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, there is no dispute that he was one of the best officers in the Southern service when it came to organizing and training raw troops. The men he trained at Pensacola became crack fighters and performed spectacularly at the Battle of Shiloh the following spring.
The artillery seen in this photograph later took part in the massive bombardments that rocked Pensacola Bay in November of 1861 and January of 1862. These gunners, along with others assigned in earthwork batteries and nearby Fort McRee, battled Union artillerymen firing from Fort Pickens across the bay. Although the massive cannonades ended in stalemates, they were the represented the most severe bombardments in Florida history.
Fort Barrancas today is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and is open to the public on a daily basis. Located aboard the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the fort can be accessed via the Pine Forest Road exit off Interstate 10 (which leads to Blue Angel Parkway and the west gate of the Naval Air Station). Just follow the signs for the Naval Aviation Museum and the sentry at the gate will give you a pass to visit the forts, museum and historic Pensacola Lighthouse.
For more information on the fort, look back through our archives here and you will find modern photographs and more that I posted in November.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The C.S.S. Jackson in the Chattahoochee River

This rare photograph in the collection of the Naval Historical Center shows the ironclad C.S.S. Jackson shortly after she was launched at Columbus, Georgia. One of the most powerful warships ever designed by the Confederate Navy, the Jackson was the planned flagship of a significant flotilla of vessels assembled late in the war for a planned effort to break the blockade of Apalachicola bay.

The Jackson was just days away from completion when a Union army commanded by General James H. Wilson attacked and captured Columbus in April of 1865. The ironclad was captured by the Union soldiers, who were astounded by its advanced design and weaponry. They destroyed it before leaving Columbus.

The ship vaguely visible behind the Jackson in this photograph may be the C.S.S. Chattahoochee, a second warship constructed on the Chattahoochee River during the war. A third vessel, the C.S.S. Viper, was also operational at war's end. The Viper was a torpedo boat designed for use in ramming torpedos into the sides of Union ships.

The Confederates hoped to steam the three warships down the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers to attack the Union warships blockading the port of Apalachicola. Had they been completed in time, there is little doubt that the Jackson, Chattahoochee and Viper could have easily overpowered the poorly maintained Union ships off Apalachicola.

The wrecks of both the Jackson and Chattahoochee can be seen today at the Port Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Georgia. The Viper was captured intact by the Federals, but was lost during a storm as she was being towed from Apalachicola to Key West after the war.