Thursday, January 15, 2009
The Fort at the Suwannee River Bridge
With the coming anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, I thought it might be interesting to mention a surviving site connected to that campaign that is largely unknown. The Fort at the Suwannee River Bridge.
When he unveiled his plan for the Olustee campaign, Union General Truman A. Seymour noted that one of his primary objectives was to push rapidly west and seize control of the railroad bridge over the Suwannee River.
This bridge was a critical strategic goal as it provided the only link between East Florida and West Florida and was by far the quickest route by which Confederate reinforcements could reach the eastern part of the state. Located just northwest of present-day Live Oak, the bridge crossed the Suwannee River at what was then the town of Columbus.
Now a complete ghost town, Columbus was at one time a community of around 500 people. All that remains today are a few artifacts and an old cemetery at Suwannee River State Park.
In anticipation of a Federal move to capture the bridge - although they expected such an expedition would likely come up the river from the Gulf - Confederate forces constructed to substantial earthwork forts on the east bank of the Suwannee. One stood on each side of the railroad approach to the bridge.
One of these forts survives in remarkably good condition and is now preserved as part of Suwannee River State Park. For a closer look at the fort and its role in the Olustee campaign, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/suwanneefort.