Monday, February 8, 2010

The Executions of Pelt and Fowler - March 7, 1865

On the day after the Battle of Natural Bridge, a tragic episode at the Wakulla County town of Newport placed a bloody exclamation point on the Confederate victory.

As exhausted Confederate troops reached Newport during the night of March 6th, they realized that the retreating Federals had gotten away and collapsed in and around the town. The night was dark and confusing and much of the ground along the St. Marks River was flooded. Weary soldiers climbed into any structures they could find and fell asleep on rough wooden floors.

What they didn't realize in one case, however, is that four exhausted Union soldiers were also sleeping in the same building. When these unfortunate Federals awoke the next morning to realize they had been left behind and had even spent the night surrounded by slumbering Confederates, they headed for the door. They didn't get far. Alert Confederate pickets spotted and fired on them, wounding one and capturing all four.

The prisoners were all members of the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry, a Union regiment formed using Southern Unionists and Confederate deserters. A battalion from the unit took part in the Natural Bridge expedition and was assigned to prevent Southern troops from crossing at Newport and striking the rear of the Federal column as it made its way north to Natural Bridge.

Unfortunately for the prisoners, two of them were quickly recognized as deserters from the 2nd Florida Cavalry (C.S.). Asa Fowler and Peter Pelt had left the Confederate unit and crossed through the lines to join the Union army. Among the troops present when they were captured were members of their old unit.

Brigadier General William Miller had arrived on the scene at Newport and immediately ordered that the prisoners be brought before a drumhead court martial. They were convicted of desertion and sentenced to death, a sentence that Miller had carried out immediately.

To read the full story of the Newport executions, please visit

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