Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tallahassee's Old Fort


Not far from the Capitol Complex in Tallahassee can be found a remnant of the city's little known Confederate defenses.

A rectangular earthen redoubt in Old Fort Park is virtually all that remains of the fortifications constructed during the winter of 1864-1865 to defend Florida's capital. The fort was originally one of a series of such works and was positioned so that artillery placed here could sweep the approaches to the capitol building. The area is now the scene of heavy residential, governmental and commercial development, but in 1865 it was open ground sweeping up to the edge of town.

Brigadier General William Miller, then commanding reserve forces in the state, authorized the construction of Tallahassee's defenses following the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864. Union troops from Pensacola had penetrated deeply into Northwest Florida and attacked Marianna almost without prior detection. Miller and other authorities in Tallahassee realized that such a raid could easily target the capital of Florida and there was little they could do to stop it.

To better defend against such a possibility, the Confederates launched an ambitious effort to fortify Tallahassee and strengthen the coastal defenses to the South at Newport and St. Marks. A series of redoubts and battery positions were built on hilltops ringing the perimeter of the city, with particular emphasis on its southern approaches. Rifle pits and trenches were then dug to connect these defenses.

The earthwork fort that survives in Old Fort Park was originally known as Fort Houstoun (correct spelling) because it was located on a hilltop on the Houstoun plantation. The area is now a quiet residential community.

To learn more, please visit the new Old Fort Park page I've added to my website at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/oldfortpark.

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