Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shipping Florida Cattle North - The Conversion of the Steamboat Munnerlyn

Chattahoochee River at Bellview Landing
In the Confederate Citizens File of David S. Johnston, a Georgia plantation owner who also operated a navy yard on the Chattahoochee River just north of the Florida line, can be found a unique notation about the Confederate military's efforts to move beef cattle north from Florida to the battle fronts.

June 13, 1864 “For arranging & fitting Stalls & Bulwarks to Steamer Munnerlyn for transporting Beef Cattle for Confederate States from Belle View to Fort Gaines, by order of Capt. Graybill"            $717.85

The Fort Gaines mentioned here was a military post and railhead up the Chattahoochee River in Clay County, Georgia, and shouldn't be confused with Fort Gaines at the mouth of Mobile Bay in Alabama.

The Belle View mentioned, however, was a riverboat landing in Jackson County, Florida, about 15 miles north of today's town of Sneads (45 minutes or so west of Tallahassee).

Near today's Parramore Landing Park, Bellview (as it is spelled today) was an important ferry crossing and landing where the mails crossed on their way from Tallahassee to Marianna. It had security from being well above the obstructions and batteries on the Apalachicola River, of which the Chattahoochee is a tributary. It was connected by good roads to the cattle herding areas of Jackson County, then one of the three largest counties in Florida in both population and economy.

Much has been written about the cattle industry in Central and South Florida during the war, but West Florida was also a major source of beef cattle during the war. Unionists tried to drive their cattle to the blockade ships at St. Andrew and Choctawhatchee Bays, while Confederate cavalry companies and commissary agents did their best to make sure the cattle of the region went to support the Southern armies in the field.

As the primary Confederate post in West Florida after the evacuation of Pensacola, Marianna emerged as a centerpiece of commissary efforts in the region. Cattle from throughout the interior counties of West Florida were driven there by state and home guard companies, but the army supply service needed a viable way to move so much beef on the hoof north to where it was sorely needed.

The answer was the steamboat Munnerylyn. A paddlewheel riverboat that steamed up and down the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers carrying cotton and passengers before the war, it was converted to a cattle boat at Johnston's navy yard at Saffold, Georgia. It would make the trip down the river to Bellview to take on loads of cattle and then turn around and steam up to Fort Gaines where the herds were unloaded and placed aboard train cars for passage to the Army of Tennessee then fighting in North Georgia.

Ironically, Johnston was finally paid for his work on the Munnerlyn on September 20, 1864, eighteen days after the fall of Atlanta.

To learn more about the War Between the States in Jackson County, please consider my books:

The History of Jackson County, Florida: The War Between the States (Volume 2)

The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition

Both are also available in Kindle format by visiting and clicking the "Kindle Books" button near the top of the page.