Friday, May 30, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson selected Prospect Bluff, site of the destroyed fort, for a base of operations during the First Seminole War.
Invading Spanish Florida, he marched down the Apalachicola River to Prospect Bluff in March of 1818. Maj. James Gadsden, an engineer attached to Jackson's army, was ordered to design and build a new fort at the site. Pleased with Gadsden's efforts, Jackson named the new post Fort Gadsden in his honor.
Fort Gadsden was much smaller than the original British post. Gadsden incorporated the ruins of the British water battery into his design, using it as the river face of a new bastioned fort.
U.S. troops occupied Fort Gadsden for several years, but abandoned the post when Spain ceded Flroida to the United States in 1821. For the next 40 years, the site functioned as a riverboat landing. A town was projected on the site by early developers, but never came into existence. Troops did return from time to time during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), making use of the solid earthworks from Gadsden's fort.
In our next post, we will look at the Civil War history of the Fort Gadsden site.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
In 1863, deciding that the defenses at Ricco's Bluff were too far upstream and perhaps not placed well to provide a suitable defense, the Confederates set about building new fortifications and batteries at the Narrows.
The task was extremely difficult. The land around the Narrows was low and swampy. At high water, the swamps overflowed. At low water, the location was covered with a mosquito population so thick that clouds of them often darkened the sky.
Despite these hardships, the Confederates constructed two batteries at the Narrows. Known as Battery Gilmer and Battery Cobb, these installations were created by taking pre-built frames downstream and then filling them with earth. Two large mounds were created, atop which the artillery batteries were constructed.
In addition, the Confederates obstructed the river at the Narrows, by placing similar pre-built frames in the river and allowing the river itself to pile driftwood against them until finally a mass so thick was created that the soldiers could walk back and forth across the river on the tangle of driftwood.
The Confederate warship Chattahoochee came down to guard the work crews as they built the batteries. It was bittersweet duty for the officers and men on the ship, however. The same obstructions that would prevent Union ships from coming upstream also doomed the Chattahoochee to a career of service in the river.
The batteries at the Narrows never came under fire and the location proved so unhealthy that the Confederates soon abandoned it. In addition, it was quickly realized that the batteries could be bypassed using a series of smaller streams and sloughs. As a result the guns were removed and taken upriver to Alum Bluff.
The Apalachicola River has since been straightened and no longer flows by the battery site at the Narrows. The mounds still exist, but are far back in the river swamp and very difficult to reach today. Curiously, one of Florida's top archaeologists mistook them for a major Native American mound complex, despite the fact that no significant Native American artifacts have been found there. Another group of archaeologists, also thinking they were investigating a Native American mound complex, learned the truth when they found a few rusty nails and recognized the pattern of the earthworks atop the mounds as fortifications.
Our series will continue.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
By January of 1865, the Confederates had abandoned their batteries at Ricco's Bluff. The guns were moved first to the "Narrows," a winding section of river downstream, but eventually were relocated to Alum Bluff and finally to Rock Bluff at today's Torreya State Park.
Despite the removal of the artillery, however, Southern troops maintained a small presence at the bluff. Cavalry detachments were kept here to keep watch on the lower river and round up deserters and escaped slaves trying to make their way through to the Union blockade ships at Apalachicola Bay.
By January of 1865, the force at the bluff consisted of around 30 or so men from Company E, 5th Florida Cavalry. Most of the men camped here at the Nixon plantation, but a few pickets were kept on the bluff itself to watch for Union warships.
A Union boat party came up Bear Creek from St. Andrews Bay and portaged over into the Chipola River that month. Rowing down into the Apalachicola, they came up at night and surrounded the camp at Ricco's Bluff. Most of the Confederates there were captured without the firing of a shot. A storehouse filled with corn was burned and the slaves working the plantation were liberated.
The prisoners were carried first to Key West then eventually onto New Orleans. The war soon ended, however, leading to their exchange.
Our series will continue.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
This was an important site throughout much of Florida's early history. The trading post of John Mealy stood here at the time of the American Revolution. He provided horses, supplies and warriors from the adjacent Lower Creek village of Ocheesee to the British army during the Revolution.
In 1817, this was the site of an important battle of the First Seminole War. A convoy of U.S. Army supply boats were making their way upriver to Fort Scott (in Decatur County, Georgia), when they were attacked from both sides of the river at this point by Native American and African American Creek and Seminole warriors. The battle lasted for a number of days for a sudden cold spell brought the fighting to an end.
During the 1820s and 1830s, an important community developed here. Ocheesee was the county seat of Fayette County, now remembered as one of Florida's "lost counties." Established during the 1830s, the county was abolished after only a couple of years.
By the time of the Civil War, however, Ocheesee remained an important settlement and riverboat landing.
More discussion of the site's Civil War history is coming in the next post.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
I received a number of requests that I extend the offer through the weekend, so it is still available. You can purchase any or all of the books at the best price that will be available this year.
Just visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/dalecox and you will find ordering information.
Continuing a look at the surviving structures of the historic Apalachicola Arsenal in Chattahoochee, this photograph shows one of the few surviving portions of the original brick wall that surrounded the complex.
Nine feet high and 30 inches thick, the wall surrounded the 4 square acre main compound of the arsenal and was built into the walls of the post buildings. The surviving section seen here projects from the original office structure, which adjoins the arsenal guardhouse and officers' quarters. The three buildings, along with one of the external magazines, are the only remaining intact structures from the compound.
Confederate troops remained based here throughout the war and in 1864, even as he was continuing his March to the Sea and through the Carolinas, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman noted in a letter to General U.S. Grant that the arsenal was a place of "importance" and should be taken by an expedition up from the Gulf. He believed its capture would open the door for an invasion of South Georgia.
Sherman's recommendation apparently revolved over subsequent months into the ill-fated Union attack that ended at the Battle of Natural Bridge near Tallahassee on March 6, 1865. A section of Confederate field artillery was stationed at the arsenal when that expedition began and arrived on the field in time to participate in the battle.
When the war ended, the arsenal reverted to the control of the U.S. military. It was reported to be in poor condition by that point and never again served much of a military role, although detachments of troops were based there. It was soon turned over to the State of Florida for use as a prison, a role that it served for a number of years. It eventually became the central core of today's Florida State Hospital.
Many of the original buildings were still intact as late as 1958, but were demolished during the 1960s. The surviving four structures, however, are no preserved as important parts of the hospital campus.
Our series will continue.