Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fort Ward - Confederate Bastion at St. Marks, Florida

As the War Between the States entered its final year, Confederate efforts to defend Florida's capital city of Tallahassee focused on an earthwork fort on the point of land formed by the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers.

Fort Ward was named after Colonel George Ward and stood atop the ancient stone ruins of the Spanish fortress San Marcos de Apalache. This was the Fort St. Marks captured by Andrew Jackson in 1818 and even earlier by the pirate and adventurer William Augustus Bowles. It was the scene of the hanging of the Creek Prophet Josiah Francis and the executions of Arbuthnot and Ambrister during the First Seminole War. All of these were major events in American history.

The strategic location of the old fort made it a key point in Confederate defensive plans. The small port of St. Marks was immediately upstream and within sight of the fort. This was the point where the Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad terminated and where the cotton, timber and other products of the countryside arrived for shipment out via the Gulf of Mexico. It was also the place where schooners came in and unloaded cargoes for transport up to the capital city and beyond.

Evacuating a fort they had built at the St. Marks Lighthouse because it was too exposed, Confederate engineers focused on the old Spansish ruins. The original fort was never complete, but included a moat cutting across the narrow peninsular, stone walls and a bastion overlooking the Wakulla River. Some of the old stonework had been dismantled before the war and the material used to build a Marine Hospital at the site.

The Hospital served as the barracks for the fort. The original Spanish moat was filled to form a floor for the new Confederate work. Earth was banked up against the old stone walls to form the ramparts of the new fort and batteries of heavy cannon were placed to control both the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers. A fortified magazine was built to house the ammunition and other vital supplies of the fortification. The rear of the battery was later enclosed with a breastwork to provide a stronger defense against a land assault.

I'll post more on Fort Ward tomorrow. Until then, you can read about the state park that now preserves the site at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/sanmarcos1.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Dale Cox, history of this area has been preserved.