Friday, March 6, 2009

Fight at Newport Bridge - March 5, 1865

The Confederates reached the bridge over the St. Marks River at Newport ahead of Major Weeks and the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry.

When the Federals arrived, they found one end of the bridge in flames and the flooring already torn up from the other week. Weeks ordered his men to charge, hoping to save the span before it was too late. He did not realize, however, that Col. Scott's cavalrymen and the company of Gadsden County Home Guards had taken up positions in previously prepared entrenchments on the west bank.

As the Federals came into the open, the Confederates opened a concentrated fire on them from the shelter of their entrenchments. The dismounted Union cavalrymen returned the fire, moving from position to position due to the fact that Southern troops had set fire to several buildings on the east bank.

The rest of the Union force came up and General Newton positioned two pieces of artillery to the north of the bridge hoping to drive the Confederates from their breastworks. The effort failed, however, although several structures were damaged and some civilians in the town killed.

Additional Confederate troops continued to arrive and Newton finally realized he could not hope to force a passage at Newport. He checked another crossing just upstream, but found it already guarded. His scouts told him the only other reasonable crossing point was upstream at the Natural Bridge. With no other choice, he prepared to move in that direction.

From the west bank of the river, the Confederates watched these activities with interest. As the Federals started north, Colonel Scott shadowed them, moving up the west bank of the river.

I'll have more on the Battle of Natural Bridge in the next post. Until then, you can read more at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.

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