Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Old Federal Road - Gulf Breeze, Florida


This is a surviving section of Florida's historic Old Federal Road. Built during the 1820s, the road was the first cross-Florida "highway" and linked Pensacola with St. Augustine.

On September 18, 1864, Union troops moved east along this section of the old road on the opening day of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's raid on Marianna. They followed the Federal Road east from Navy Cove at Gulf Breeze to the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound in present-day Fort Walton Beach. From there the troops turned inland into Walton and Holmes Counties, finally striking Marianna on September 27, 1864.

Asboth described this part of his route as the "Jackson" trail or road in his official reports, a common mistake based on tradition that it was opened by Andrew Jackson when he marched across Northwest Florida in 1818. In reality, Jackson did not follow this route. The road was actually opened by U.S. troops during the 1820s after its construction was authorized by Congress.

Much of the old Federal Road has disappeared, but this section near Gulf Breeze looks almost the same today as it did when Asboth's force used it during the War Between the States.

This stretch of the road is preserved at the Naval Live Oaks section of Gulf Islands National Seashore. The nation's first managed forest, the Naval Live Oaks was set aside to provide oak timber for the construction of the U.S. Navy in 1823. Now a National Park area, it is accessible from U.S. Highway 98 between Gulf Breeze and Fort Walton Beach.

To learn more about Asboth's 1864 raid and its climactic action at the Battle of Marianna, please visit http://www.battleofmarianna.net/.

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