Monday, February 6, 2012

February 6, 1862 - Cannon for Apalachicola and the Milton Light Artillery

Replica Bronze Howitzer similar to those from Columbus
On February 6, 1862 (150 years ago today), the Columbus, Georgia, Sun reported that five cannon manufactured in that city had been shipped out for the defense of Apalachicola, Florida:
BATTERY FOR APALACHICOLA. - A splendid battery of three brass 6-pounders and two 12-pounder howitzers, were sent down the Chattahoochee yesterday, by the steamer Jackson, for the "Milton Artillery," stationed at Apalachicola. - They were cast and finished at the Columbus Iron Works, and are pronounced by competent judges to be equal to the best cast anywhere.

Apalachicola Bay
The "Milton Artillery" mentioned in the brief notice was the Milton Light Artillery, a Florida unit organized at Apalachicola by Captain J.L. Dunham in 1861. Named for Governor John Milton, Florida's Confederate Governor, the battery originally was organized for the defense of Apalachicola but would go on to serve throughout Florida and one section would also be posted to Georgia for a time.

The steamboat Jackson, mentioned by the Sun, was a relatively new sternwheeler that thad been specially designed to navigate both the Chipola River as far upstream at Marianna and the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee River as far up as Columbus, particularly during the summer months when the rivers normally became too shallow for regular steamboat traffic. A small fast boat, it was used by the Confederate army for much of the war.

Original bronze field piece at Vicksburg, Mississippi
By February of 1862, Apalachicola was only one month away from being evacuated by Confederate forces. No one knew it at the time the guns were shipped, however, and major effort was then underway to construct fortifications in and around the city.

The primary battery, mounting heavy guns recently removed from Fort Mallory offshore, was located in an area of the city still called "The Battery" today. In addition, Confederate engineers supervised the construction of a line of entrenchments on the west side of the city that protected it from attack via the St. Joseph Road. The field guns of Captain Dunham's battery would help defend this line, although it never came under attack.

After Apalachicola was evacuated in March of 1862, the Milton Light Artillery was moved first up to Ricco's Bluff on the lower Apalachicola River and from there to the Chattahoochee Arsenal. Later divided into two sections, the battery fought in East Florida at the Battle of St. Johns Bluff and the Battle of Olustee. It achieved perhaps its greatest success, however, in driving back 8 Union assaults during the Battle of Natural Bridge near Tallahassee on March 6, 1865.

To learn more about the historic port city of Apalachicola, please visit

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