Friday, March 6, 2009

Battle of Natural Bridge Anniversary - Part Two


The low mound visible in this photograph is what remains of some of the field fortifications on the battlefield at Natural Bridge.

These earthworks sheltered Confederate cannon near the center of the main Southern line of battle and are now preserved at Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park.

The Confederates took advantage of the lull following the initial three Union attacks to entrench in a long line that ran in a horseshoe shape from the St. Marks River at the northern edge of the battlefield, along the high ground west of the river and then back to the river at the southern edge of the field. Artillery was spaced at key points along this line. The 1st Florida Militia, the official regiment of the numerous Home Guard companies that poured onto the battlefield, occupied the left flank. The Cadets of the West Florida Seminary occupied a salient in the line in the left center. Immediately to their right were two pieces of artillery supported by the Gadsden Grays, a Home Guard company from Gadsden County. The right center was held by the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves and the far right flank was held by the dismounted men of the 5th Florida Cavalry under Major William H. Milton.

Colonel J.J. Daniel had taken over the command of the entire Southern line when he arrived on the scene with the 1st Flroida Reserves, but he was wounded during the initial attacks after his horse dashed him against a tree. Major General Samuel Jones soon assumed the overall command and, according to eyewitnesses, assisted in aiming the Confederate cannon.

As the morning progress, Brigadier General William Miller marched up from Newport with the men from that point and joined the fighting. He was placed in command of the main battle line and Jones assumed overall command in the rear.

On the east side of the river, General Newton sent scouting parties up and down the river to look for crossing points that might be used to flank the Confederate position. These efforts failed and he was forced to decide to launch additional attacks across the Natural Bridge. After consulting with his officers, it was decided to send two columns across to assault the Confederate lines. One would veer left to strike the Confederate right flank. The other would charge straight up the road at the center of the Southern lines.

I'll continue to look at the Battle of Natural Bridge in the next post. To learn more before then, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.

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