Sunday, March 15, 2009

Confederate Battery at Alum Bluff

These eroded earthworks are all that remain of the artillery battery built by Confederate troops at Alum Bluff in 1862 to defend Florida's Apalachicola River from Union attack.

Alum Bluff was an important post and river defense for much of the War Between the States. Service records of many of Florida's Confederate soldiers show they were mustered into the army here. Surviving documentation indicates the presence of parts of the 1st, 6th and 10th Florida Infantries here, along with other units. A number of men died while camped at Alum Bluff, primarily from fever, and remain buried in unmarked graves somewhere at the site.

The primary purpose of the post on the bluff was to defend the Apalachicola River against attack by the Union Navy. Confederate engineers marked off a semi-circular or "crescent-shaped" battery atop the bluff. Earthwork emplacements were prepared for seven pieces of heavy artillery, brought to the site from Ricco's Bluff downstream. The gun positions were connected by infantry trenches and commanded a sharp bend of the river.

The position was never attacked, but in 1863 soldiers and officers from Alum Bluff assisted in rescue operations following the accidental explosion aboard the C.S.S. Chattahoochee at Blountstown.

Alum Bluff was eventually abandoned in favor of a new location just upriver at Rock Bluff. Sadly, most of the Confederate fortifications have eroded into the Apalachicola River, but a few earthworks and one of the infantry trenches can still be seen.

The site is now preserved by the Nature Conservancy as part of its beautiful Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. The surviving earthworks can be reached via a more than 3-mile hike down the Garden of Eden Trail, which begins at a trailhead just north of Bristol, Florida. The trailhead kiosk is located on Garden of Eden Road, which leads to the left off S.R. 12 at Bristol.

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