|Monument at Natural Bridge Battlefield|
One of the last significant Confederate victories of the War Between the States, the battle was fought for control of a vital crossing of the St. Marks River. The winning side would maintain control of Tallahassee and the Big Bend region of Florida as well as parts of Southwest Georgia.
The actual engagement took place on March 6, 1865. Having been prevented by a small Confederate force from forcing a passage over the river via the wooden bridge at Newport, Union general John Newton turned his invading force up the east side of the St. Marks hoping to reach the Natural Bridge before Southern forces could move into position to defend it. The water was high and Union soldiers noted in their diaries and letters that they waded through water and dragged their cannon by hand as they marched north up the narrow road to the geological oddity.
|Natural Bridge of the St. Marks River|
Over the hours that followed, the two sides shelled each other with cannonfire that could be heard in Tallahasse and as far east as Monticello and Madison. Eight different times the soldiers of the 2nd and 99th U.S. Colored Troops charged the Confederate lines and eight different times they were repelled. The Confederates finally counterattacked, but also were thrown back.
In the end, though, General Newton knew the battle was lost and evacuated the battlefield, leaving his dead and a number of his wounded in Confederate hands. Tallahassee and the nearby city of Thomasville, Georgia, were saved for the South and the last major Union offensive in Florida was defeated.
The annual reenactment commemorates the battle and takes place on the ground where it actually was fought. To learn more about the battle, obtain directions and see a schedule of events, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.