|Antebellum Architecture in Apalachicola|
Thousands of bales of cotton came down the Apalachicola River from the plantations of Northwest Florida, Southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama. Brought down to Apalachicola on paddlewheel steamboats and barges, the "white gold" was loaded aboard ocean-going vessels for trips to New England, Europe and beyond. The "floating palaces," as the beautiful river steamers were often known, carried cargoes of both necessities and luxury items back upriver in return.
This all changed in 1861. The Union Navy blockaded the port and the Confederates sent a military force to defend Apalachicola. Fortifications were erected and cannon mounted along the bayfront and Southern soldiers prepared to resist attacks by the Federal warships offshore. The standoff continued until March of 1862, when the soldiers were called away and Apalachicola became, for all practical purposes, a city without a country.
Union troops were not sent to occupy it, although the navy sent shore patrols ashore from time to time. Neither did the Confederacy try to maintain a presence, although again Southern patrols occasionally came down the river for visits. This left the citizens of Apalachicola without the protection or support of either government and they suffered accordingly.
|Oyster Boats on Apalachicola bay|
Agriculturally, Apalachicola was unfortunately situated, being built on a sand bank. Almost every one who could get away had gone, and there were few negroes to cultivate what little soil there was. No steamers could come down the river, and if any one went down the bay for fish and oysters, he was suspected of sympathizing with the Northerners. That left the city dependent on an occasional barge coming down the lower part of the river with corn meal. Of other food there was none except a few sweet potatoes. There were no cattle, consequently no meat; no poultry, as there was no food for them. Our cow had died from lack of food. She had lived quite a while on cotton seed, but gave very little milk, and at last was buried in the back yard.
|Riverfront in Apalachicola|
Life in Apalachicola, according to Mitchel, grew progressively worse for both blacks and whites as both starved together. In one part of her account she mentioned how two deserters were captured by a Confederate patrol, tied to trees in the woods and shot. In another part, she noted that a Union boat party came ashore to "burn some houses."
In the end her mother took the family aboard a Federal transport for passage to Key West and eventually to the North. It was either that or starve.
Apalachicola today is a beautiful historic city that is known for heritage tourism, outstanding seafood and spectacular scenery. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/apalachicola.