Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grave of Capt. Charles G. Campbell - Bainbridge, Georgia

Grave of Captain Charles G. Campbell
While walking through historic Oak City Cemetery in Bainbridge, Georgia, recently, I came across the grave of one of Florida's most important Confederate defenders: Captain Charles G. Campbell.

It is an often overlooked fact of Florida and Southern history that the last Confederate coastal fort east of the Mississippi to surrender was Fort Ward at St. Marks, Florida. Captain Campbell was the commander of the fort and did not lower his flag until after General Samuel Jones had brought down the one over the state capitol in Tallahassee on May 10, 1865.

Magazine of Fort Ward at St. Marks, Florida
May 10th, the date that Campbell gave up Fort Ward, was also the date that Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured at Irwinville, Georgia. The Battle of Palmitto Ranch, Texas, considered by many to be the last "real" battle of the War Between the States, was fought just two days later.

Captain Campbell entered the service of the Confederacy as an officer in the Decatur Guards, a volunteer unit that formed in Bainbridge during the summer of 1861. The unit arrived at Atlanta, Georgia, on August 15, 1861, where it became Company D, 17th Georgia Infantry. This was the famed regiment of hard-fighting Colonel Henry "The Rock" Benning, for whom Fort Benning at Columbus is named today.

As captain of Company D, Campbell led his men through the fighting on the Peninsula in 1862 when General "Prince" John Magruder confused and hoodwinked Union General George McClellan at Yorktown. The Bainbridge men went on to fight at Malvern Hill, Second Manassas, Antietam (Sharpsburg) and Fredericksburg.

Disabled after the last battle, Captain Campbell resigned his commission on January 12, 1863, and returned home to Bainbridge. Not long after, however, he began the organization of a new unit: Campbell's Independent Company, Georgia Siege Artillery.

Earthworks of Fort Ward
This unit was assigned to man the heavy guns at Fort Ward, the earthwork fort built on top of the ruins of the old Spanish fort of San Marcos de Apalache. Also called Fort St. Marks, this fort played a vital if bloodless role in keeping the port of St. Marks open throughout the war. One attempt by the U.S. Navy to storm the batteries was driven off without bloodshed on the Confederate side when pickets below the fort spotted the Federal boat parties in the darkness. Otherwise, the fort did not fire its guns in anger during the war.

A large detachment of Campbell's men, however, did serve as volunteer infantry at the nearby Battle of Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865. A second attempt by the U.S. Navy to take Fort Ward at that time turned back after the large warships of the Federal flotilla were too slow in navigating the shallow and twisting river below the fort.

Campbell surrendered Fort Ward on May 10, 1865, and was paroled by Federal forces two days later. He had the unique distinction of being the last commander of a Confederate coastal fort east of the Mississippi to lower his colors.

He is buried at Oak City Cemetery in Bainbridge.

To learn more about Fort Ward, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/sanmarcos1.

No comments: