Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 18, 1864: The West Florida Raid Begins

Deer Point and Santa Rosa Sound
With heavy rain from a tropical system continuing to fall across the Florida Panhandle, the long mounted column of Union troops under Brigadier General Alexander Asboth began its move eastward along the Old Federal Road (see yesterday's post: Asboth prepares to move) during the predawn hours of September 18, 1864.

With a battalion of the 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.) and two mounted detachments from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops, the general pushed up the road from Deer Point (Gulf Breeze) to what is now Fort Walton Beach. The latter place was then known as Camp Walton, after an outpost established there in 1861 by the Walton Guards. This unit had been raised in Walton County and took up a position at the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound to provide protection to Southern vessels making their way in and out of Choctawhatchee Bay.

It is a little known fact that schooners, steamboats and other commercial vessels leaving the bay once had to do so by way of Santa Rosa Sound. The sound, which ran behind Santa Rosa Island from Choctawhatchee Bay to Pensacola Bay, was a deep natural channel that allowed easy navigation between the two bays.  The East Pass, the main inlet from the Gulf of Mexico into Choctawhatchee Bay, was too shallow most of the time and vessels could not safely pass. As a result they used the sound to travel down to Pensacola Bay and from there either to the wharves of Pensacola or out into the Gulf.

Camp Walton Cannon at Fort Walton beach
The natural choke point of Santa Rosa Sound was at the Narrows or today's Fort Walton Beach. Here the waterway narrowed considerably and the Confederates placed a cannon there an emplacement they dug into an Indian mound. They evacuated Camp Walton and buried the gun in 1862, when the need of troops for the Army of Tennessee became too severe and the men were called to the main front.

Asboth reached the former Camp Walton site on the afternoon of September 18, 1864, and established a second camp. The 2nd Maine Cavalry, which remained behind at Deer Point, would come up the next day. The quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis paralleled the movement via Santa Rosa Sound and came up to the camp with additional supplies.

I will continue to post on the West Florida Raid over coming days. Learn more or follow along with a copy of my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is also available for the Amazon Kindle reading device or software as well as in the iBook store.

Read more anytime at

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