|East River at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge|
The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy had combined forces to launch an expedition against St. Marks and Tallahassee in Florida, as well as Thomasville in Southwest Georgia. The entire available force from Key West, Fort Myers and Cedar Key had assembled off the mouth of the St. Marks River, along with virtually every major warship assigned to blockade the Florida coastline between St. Andrew Bay and Key West.
|St. Marks Lighthouse|
The weather, however, did not cooperate with the Union forces. A fog that had been hiding their ships from view suddenly lifted on the morning of March 3, 1865, forcing the vessels to head out beyond the horizon lest they be discovered by Confederate pickets. When they returned after dark that night, wind and waves caused a series of problems for them.
|Site of the Skirmish at East River Bridge|
Despite the problems caused by the weather, the Federals went ahead with a plan to take the vital East River Bridge. A boat party of U.S. sailors was sent up the East River to secure the bridge and capture the Confederate pickets known to be stationed there. The bridge was captured, but the pickets got away.
The Southern cavalrymen stationed at East River Bridge fell back to Newport where they alerted Major William H. Milton of the situation. The Confederate officer immediately dispatched news of the attack to Tallahassee and then pushed forward with fewer than 60 men intent on retaking the bridge and denying its use to any invading force.
|St. Marks Lighthouse|
The reinforcements were moving forward up the road connecting the lighthouse to the bridge at sunrise when Major Milton's Confederates attacked. The Union sailors initially held their ground, but Milton's men were so aggressive and kept up such a volume of fire that the Federals quickly came to believe that they were outnumbered. In fact, with the reinforcements in sight coming up across the march, the Union force significantly outnumbered Milton's command.
|East River and the St. Marks Lighthouse are now part of|
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge near St. Marks, Florida.
The stage was being set for the Battle of Natural Bridge and the Confederates had quickly gotten the upper hand.
I'll post more on the events leading up to, during and after the battle over the next three days so be sure to check back often. If you would like to learn about the expedition in detail, please consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida:
The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida (Book) - $17.95
The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida (Kindle) - $9.95
You also can read more at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.