Tuesday, March 10, 2015

150th of Battle of Natural Bridge a spectacular success

A four-gun Confederate battery fires during the reenactment.
The 150th anniversary commemoration of Florida's Battle of Natural Bridge drew one of the largest crowds in memory over the weekend.

State park officials estimate that more than 4,000 spectators visited Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park for the event. Sunday afternoon's main battle reenactment saw crowds that stretched from one end of the reenactment field to the other.

Buzz Gifford speaks at the eagle dedication.
The reenactment itself was the largest ever staged on the battlefield. Union and Confederate reenactors from throughout the Southeast attended the battle, which is hosted by the Leon Rifles. Pyrotechnics, barrages of cannon fire and heavy volleys of musketry thrilled the crowd as Union troops relived the charges made by the 2nd and 99th USCT (U.S. Colored Troops) during the real battle on March 6, 1864. Among the units participating was the 2nd USCT reenactment group.

The event was made noteworthy by the dedication of a new sculpted eagle atop the main battlefield monument. The original eagle had deteriorated over time, but a massive effort by the Natural Bridge Historical Society (CSO), the Florida Park Service, the staff of Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park, and others led to the sculpting of a new eagle. It was lifted into place shortly before the weekend and its dedication was an important part of this year's memorial service.

Visitors learn about artillery from Capt. Allen Gerrell
Other activities included a heavily attended memorial service in which the soldiers and casualties of both sides were remembered, a civilian camp recreating life in the town of Newport, demonstrations, a ball and a recreation by Union troops of the seven mile march from the St. Marks Lighthouse through the marshes of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge as they headed for the Battle of Natural Bridge.

The event takes place each year on the weekend closest to the battle anniversary (March 6). For more information on the history of the battle, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.

Here are some additional photos from this year's event:

Dale Cox, author of The Battle of Natural Bridge, speaks at the memorial service.
A Confederate line of battle stands its ground.
A battery fires by section during the reenactment.
Column of Union troops takes heavy fire.

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