Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Confederate carvings found near Marianna

Confederate carvings near Marianna, Florida
Carvings evidently left by Confederate soldiers nearly 150 years ago have been found in a recreation area just outside of Marianna, Florida.

The area where the inscriptions were found is part of a 19th and early 20th century limestone quarry in a new addition to Blue Springs Recreation Area just outside of Marianna. The location of the carvings is not yet open to the public, but plans are underway for future public use.

Blue Springs near Marianna, Florida
Blue Springs, now officially labeled Jackson Blue Spring, is one of Jackson County's key landmarks. A beautiful first magnitude spring (the only one in the Chipola River basin), it has been noted in the accounts and journals of explorers and travelers as far back as the 1670s. Spanish missioners, soldiers and explorers once camped there and it is Stop #1 on Jackson County's new Spanish Heritage Trail, a driving tour of 11 Spanish colonial sites in the county.

By the time of the War Between the States, Blue Springs was on the Sylvania plantation of Florida's Confederate governor, John Milton. Because it offered a remarkable supply of fresh water, it was selected in 1862 to become the site of Camp Governor Milton, a Confederate military camp that was used from 1862-1865.

Carving dated July 7, 1864
Records relating to Camp Governor Milton - not to be confused with Camp Milton in the outskirts of Jacksonville - are fragmentary, but enough have been found to show that businessmen in Marianna were selling lumber, bedding, forage, corn and other supplies to the military companies posted there.

By 1864, the date of the carvings, the camp was the home post of Companies A and E, 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion, and Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts, a mounted militia unit from Alabama that later became Company I, 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion. These units came in and out of the camp on a rotation, spending two weeks there and then two weeks out watching the coastline or responding to deserter raids.

Shangri La Spring
The carving was found on a high limestone bluff that overlooks Shangri La Spring, a second spring just a few hundred yards downstream from Blue Springs. Most of the carving cannot be read, but it includes names and a date - July 7, 1864.

It was found on the wall of a small limestone quarry, where blocks of limestone were cut during the 19th and early 20th centuries for use in chimneys, piers for houses and even complete buildings. The original St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Marianna, for example, was built of limestone but it crumbled so quickly that it was never used and had to be replaced with a wooden structure that was burned during the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864.

I'll keep you up to date on any additional discoveries in the vicinity.

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