|Marker at Fort Walton Beach|
The Walton Guards, a Confederate unit formed by the men of Walton County in 1861, had established a camp at the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound in 1861. The sound, shielded from the Gulf of Mexico by the dunes of Santa Rosa Island, is a waterway that leads from Choctawhatchee Bay west to Pensacola Bay. At the time of the war, it was the most common outlet for commerce leaving Walton County. Schooners and steamboats would leave Choctawhatchee Bay by passing through the Narrows and then moving down the sound to Pensacola Bay.
The Walton Guards had excited the ire of Federal forces by firing on boat parties sent into the bay area by the Union Navy, so in March of 1862 a force was sent up Santa Rosa Island from Fort Pickens to retaliate.
Bringing a rifled cannon through the dunes and natural growth of the island, Captain Henry W. Closson of the 1st U.S. Artillery took up a position opposite the sound from Camp Walton on the night of March 31, 1862:
...I remained here until there huts could be seen in the dawn, and then directed Lieutenant Jackson to open fire. The shells burst right in their midst. Loud cries and yells were heard; and the rebels could barely be seen through the brush in their shirt-tails making rapidly for the back country. A scattering volley was fired from what I supposed to be their guard, who then disappeared also.
|Carronade at Fort Walton Beach|
The attack was one of the many minor episodes of the war in Florida and, so far as is known, resulted in no casualties. It did lead Confederate commanders in Pensacola to send over an 18-pound carronade (a short naval cannon) to be mounted at the camp for its defense.
To learn more about Camp Walton, the original "fort" from which Fort Walton Beach takes its name, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortwalton.