Sunday, March 4, 2012

March 4, 1862 - The Occupation of Fernandina

Union Troops Occupy Fernandina, 1862
On March 4, 1862, 150 years ago today, the Union army and navy occupied the city of Fernandina on Amelia Island, Florida.

The following account was written by a war correspondent who accompanied the troops. It was filed from Fernandina on March 5, 1862. For details on the Confederate evacuation of Fernandina and the deaths of the Savage brothers, please see: The Shelling of Refugees at Fernandina.

Old Town Fernandina, 1862
...Passing Fort Clinch, we approached the old town Fernandina, an old Spanish settlement, consisting of a few ancient and picturesque houses, situated on a beautiful green slope; and about a mile further on is the new town of Fernandina. It is a town of about 2,500 inhabitants, prettily situated on the Amelia River, possessing a beautiful harbor, which is almost landlocked. The population is composed chiefly of foreigners - French, Spanish, German Jews and Irishmen.

Upon reaching the town we found it nearly deserted, not more than a hundred white people remaining in the place. A small portion of this number express themselves Union men, while others are either silent or openly avow themselves disloyal.

Fernandina and the Harbor, Taken in 1870s
Upon repairing to the railroad depot, I found the two brothers of the young man SAVAGE seeking some means of conveyance to bury the two bodies. They were both Irishmen, and of strong secession proclivities. One of them acknowledged the only reason why he remained on the island was because he could not effect his escape. Our excellent Brigade Surgeon, Dr. CRAVEN, took the matter in charge, and not only procured a conveyance, but also accompanied the bodies to the cemetery, going, on this errand of mercy, a distance of two miles, and armed only with the consciousness of his good intentions.

The town presents a peculiarly desolate and deserted appearance as we land. The few white people who are left touch their hats or bow as they pass, but they all have a half-frightened half hang-dog look, as if they feared some injury. The Jack-tars are overrunning the place, and indulging in the absurd antics characteristic of a Jack-tar on shore. A party of twenty have brought in a locomotive, pulling it all the way from the bridge with ropes. This, together with two locomotives found at the depot, and two or three platform cars, compose all of the rolling stock of the road which we have secured....

...The gunboat Senica is at the bridge which the rebels have attempted and partially succeeded in destroying by fire. Guns are heard at intervals in that direction, and it is supposed that there is still a small part of rebels near the bridge on the main land.

(Account by unidentified war correspondent and dated Fernandina, March 5, 1865.)

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