Friday, December 11, 2009

An Inspection of Fort Ward - 1863

For most of the War Between the States, the earthwork battery at St. Marks was the primary defensive work for Florida's capital city of Tallahassee.

Built atop the stone ruins of the earlier Spanish fort of San Marcos de Apalache, the battery was named Fort Ward in honor of Major George T. Ward who had been killed in action at Williamsburg while serving with the 2nd Florida Infantry.

In the summer of 1864, as part of a Confederate effort to evaluate the defenses of North Florida, Major G.U. Mayo, the Assistant Inspector of Artillery for the Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, was sent to inspect the batteries at St. Marks and on the Apalachicola River.

He reported his findings to Colonel A.J. Gonzales, Chief of Artillery, on July 12, 1864:

...The battery at Saint Mark's is at present in an inefficient state as a defense, being now in the hands of the engineers. When it shall have been completed its complement will consist of two 32-pounders smoothbores; two 32-pounders, rifled, and one 24-pounder. This last gun is not properly mounted, the front wheels of the chassis (center pintle) being adjusted with an iron flange over them which prevents the carriage from running into battery. This defect is apt to impair the sighting of the gun. I cannot discover the necessity for a full circle to this gun. A banquette should be affixed to the head of the chassis to facilitate loading. It has been requested of the headquarters at Tallahassee and approved....

...The magazine is in such a condition that nothing but confusion and delay could arise in the event of an attack, as no arrangment is apparent. It needs sodding. No planking is upon the floor, yet boxes of cartridges and powder are kept upon it and in the gallery, where the ground is proverbially damp. The carriages will be ruined unless protected from exposure...The barrack quarters are neatly kept. The roof needs repairing. The kitchens should be floored to enhance the neatness and approve the hygiene....

The earthworks of Fort Ward can still be seen today at San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in St. Marks, Florida. To learn more and see photographs, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/sanmarcos1.

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