Uncategorized Battle of Natural Bridge, Battle of Olustee, Civil War, Confederate, Florida, Florida Agricutlrual and Mechanical University, Florida Department of State, Florida State University, Florida's Territorial Period, Historic Cemeteries, Historic Tallahassee Preservation Board, James D. Wescott, John G. Riley, NAACP, Old City Cemetery, segregation, St. Johns Episcopal Cemetery, Tallahassee, Thomas Vann Gibbs (Florida State Normal Industrial School, Union, United Daughters of the Confederacy, vandalism
Yellow fever victims are buried in these graves.
This past Saturday, as many of you know, we hosted a tour of the Old City Cemetery in Tallahassee. It was a great success, due in large part to our great tour guide, Erik Robinson!
We had about 35 people attend and I have received a ton of good reviews! I like to think of historic cemeteries as outdoor museums. There is so much history to be learned at these sites, and this cemetery is no exception. This cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Tallahassee, established in 1829 during Florida’s Territorial Period. It was later acquired by the city in 1840 and in 1841 it twas laid out in a system of squares and lots when a yellow fever epidemic swept through the city. During the time of it’s establishment it was actually located outside of the city, although now it is located downtown. The cemetery was bordered on its far side y a 200 foot wide clearing that surrounded the town to protect it from Indian attacks. The cemetery was segregated, the whites buried in the eastern sections and the African Americans buried in the western sections. Originally various religious denominations had their own plots, but there are few indications today of the Presbyterian and Catholic areas. The majority of the Jewish burials have since been moved to other cemeteries.
This is the final resting place for many men and women who contributed to the development of Tallahassee and the State of Florida. For a long time it was Tallahassee’s only
Constructed in 1890s, this platform is still used for memorial services.
public burial ground it represents a cross section of Tallahassee residents during the 19th century. As you walk through the cemetery you will recognize many names from Tallahassee and Florida’s rich history – James D. Wescott (Wescott Building at Florida State University), John G. Riley (his house is now a museum and the headquarters for the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP), Thomas Vann Gibbs (founder of Florida State Normal Industrial School, now Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University)…well, you get the picture! I could go on and on. The graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers that fought in the Battles of Natural Bridge and Olustee are also buried in this cemetery. A platform was constructed next to the Confederate graves by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in the 1890s. Today that same platform is still used to for commemorations and memorial services by the UDC.
Memorial Service at the Old City Cemetery in the early 1900s.
Early Tallahassee was small and frontier-like. People had to make do with what they had and what was locally available. Many of the earliest graves were marked with wood head and footboards, which have since degraded and disappeared. The last plot was sold in 1902 and the cemetery is full, although many graves have no marker above ground anymore. During the Territorial Period there are newspaper accounts of hogs and cattle roaming through the cemetery and running over the graves. There are also articles complaining about the unkept appearance of the cemetery. Today there is a fence around the cemetery and it underwent a major restoration in 1991, with financial support from the Florida Department of State. This project was sponsored and administered by the Historic Tallahassee Preservation Board. Unfortunately, due to limited funding not all of the gravemarkers in the cemetery were restored. They were able to restore the majority of those that had been badly damaged by vandalism and weathering. Unfortunately since the time of the restoration many of the monuments have been victims of vandalism once again! The cemetery is open to the public for visitation during daylight hours.
The marker for the oldest marked grave in the cemetery now lays face down in the dirt because of vandalism.
Another cemetery, located immediately north of this one, the St. Johns Episcopal Cemetery is also open to the public. We encourage you to visit these historic sites, however, please be aware that they are non-renewable historic resources that provide much valuable historical information about their community. They also provide valuable green space for both people and wildlife. Please be respectful and be sure not to damage any of the monuments. Although they are constructed of stone and metal and other very durable material, they are very old and very fragile.
If you are not able to make a trip to this cemetery, we have posted a photo tour on our Facebook page !
Uncategorized 150th Anniversary, Apalachicola, Baker County, Battle of Natural Bridge, Battle of Olustee, Chestnut Street Cemetery, Civil War, Civil War reenactment, Destination: Civil War, Florida, Florida State Parks, Fort Houstoun, Fort Ward, iPhone app, Live Oak, monuments, Old Fort Park, Sarah Orman, St. Marks, Suwannee River, Tallahassee, Thomas Orman, Wakulla
I recently came across a listing of the 12 fantastic Civil War sites, and to my dismay, none were from Florida! It was then that I realized that many folks in the North Central Region, as well as around the state, may not be familiar with the great Civil War sites that Florida offers. Florida seems to be the forgotten state of the Confederacy. Even in a 1860s Northern newspaper Florida was described as the “smallest tadpole in the dirty pool of secession”. The state’s role in the Civil War has not been as thoroughly researched as other states in the South, but there has been a recent revival in the interest of Florida’s role in the Civil War. Florida was still a very frontier-like state at the start of the Civil War, with its territorial period having ended in 1845. The 1860 census reports that the population of Florida at that time totaled 140,424 with almost 45 percent of those recorded being slaves. More than 15,00 Floridians served in the confederate military and others, including more than 1,000 African Americans served in the Union Army. They fought in battles both in Florida and outside of the state. Eventually, decades later the “smallest tadpole” would emerge from the war as a major and influential player in the New South. Of course, this war had a lasting effect on the state, and many remnants of the Civil War remain part of the state’s great cultural history and can be seen still today. There are so many FANTASTIC Civil War sites in Florida that it would be impossible to list them all in this post. I can give a few highlights though!
The Orman House in Apalachicola.
Apalachicola is famous for its oysters, but it also has a great history. During the Civil War Apalachicola was the largest cotton port in Florida. It was the third largest cotton port on the Gulf of Mexico, behind New Orleans and Mobile. This port was an active area for blockade running as you can imagine. It was also an active area for salt production. As you stroll through the historic town you can find multiple sites relating to the Civil War. At least 76 Confederate soldiers are buried in Chestnut Street Cemetery, along with other historical figures of the town of Apalachicola. Now a state park, the Orman House was constructed by Confederate sympathizer and businessman, Thomas Orman. Orman was arrested and detained by Union authorities during the Civil War. Local lore tells of Mrs. Sarah Orman warning Confederate soldiers up river of the approaching Union troops by walking on the roof and pretending to repair roof shingles. There are several other Civil War sites located in the town, including the Raney House and Trinity Episcopal Church. There are many surrounding communities that have ties to the Civil War as well including St. George Island, Sumatra and Port St. Joe.
Tallahassee has more Civil War sites than you can shake a stick at! One of the lesser known sites is that of Fort Houstoun, also known as Old Fort. This is an earthen fort , one of
The 2nd Infantry USCT Reenactment Troop at the Battle of Natural Bridge Reenactment.
the few left that was constructed to protect Florida’s capital. At the time it was situated on a plantation belonging to Edward Houstoun. Today it sits in the middle of a suburban neighborhood in “Old Fort Park”. Due to the Unions defeat at Natural Bridge (just south of Tallahassee in Woodville), this fort was never utilized to protect the capital. The Tallahassee Old City Cemetery, located downtown, includes the remains of both Union and Confederate soldiers, some of who died at the Battle of Natural Bridge.
South of Tallahassee and Woodville, down by the Gulf Coast is situated St. Marks. Here, now as a state park, are the remains of Fort Ward. This fort was fist constructed by the Spanish in 1678 at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers. Later this fort was occupied by Confederate forces in 1861. Union forces failed to take control of St. Marks and Ford Ward and the fort remained in Confederate control until the end of the war.
The Olustee Battlefield Monument.
The area surrounding Live Oak and Lake City also has several wonderful Civil War sites. Earthenwork fortifications are visible at Suwannee River State Park in Live Oak. These earthworks were created to protect the railroad bridge that crossed the Suwannee River. Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park is located in Baker County, east of Lake City. Here is the site of the state’s largest Civil War battle. The Confederates successfully defeated the Union Army, which were forced back to Jacksonville. A monument was erected at the site in 1899. In 1909 three acres of the battlefield were donated to the State of Florida, and the Olustee Battlefield became the first Florida State Park. Each year the largest Civil War reenactment in the state is held at this site in February.
As you can see, Florida has a ton of Civil War sites. This post just barely scratches the surface of Florida’s vast Civil War history. There are several great resources available to those wishing to learn more about Florida during the Civil War. Online you can check out FPAN’S Destination: Civil War. You can even take Destination: Civil War along with you as you visit these sites with our Civil War iPhone App. You can also check out the permanent Civil War exhibit at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee. The Florida Association of Museums has produced the Florida Civil War Heritage Trail booklet which is available at your local FPAN office or by contacting the Florida Division of Historical Resources. This year is the beginning of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. So take some time to reflect on this influential time in our history by visiting some of our states fantastic Civil War sites. To learn about events happening nationwide you can visit the Civil War Trusts website.
Uncategorized African Americans, Battle of Natural Bridge, Battle Reenactment, Capital, Civil War, Confederates, Destination: Civil War, Florida, Florida History, Florida Public Archaeology Netowork, Florida State Parks, Google Earth, Google Maps, John G. Riley House Museum, John Gilmore Riley, Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park, Natural Bridge Historical Society, Second Regiment United States Colored Troops, Tallahassee, Tourism, Travel, Union, United States Colored Troops, Woodville
The 34th reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge
During the final weeks of the Civil War, the Battle of Natural Bridge prevented Tallahassee from being taken by Union Troops. Tallahassee was the only capital city east of the Mississippi River to not fall into Union hands during the Civil War. Many people, from many different backgrounds fought on both sides at this battle. However, not many people realize that African American Soldiers fought and led the charge in the battle. Under Union General John Newton, troops from the Second and Ninety-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry Regiments fought in the Battle of Natural Bridge. In this battle the Union lost twenty-one men and the Confederates lost three men, with many more men on both sides being injured or captured. The site of this historic battle is now owned by the state and is open to the public as a Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. Every year, in March, a reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge takes place at this park.
2nd Regiment USCT
This last reenactment on March 6 was special for several reasons. First, March 6th is the actual date the battle took place in 1865. It is also significant for one other, very historic reason. As mentioned, African American troops fought and led the charge in this battle. These men were members of the Second and the Ninety-ninth Regiments United States Colored Troops (USCT). This year the John Gi. Riley and House Museum of African American History and Culture, along with the Natural Bridge Historical Society, formed the Second Infantry Regiment USCT to participate in the reenactment. This was an effort to assure the authenticity and accuracy of the battle as it actually occurred on March 6th, 1865.
The John G. Riley House Museum’s mission is to preserve the cultural and educational history of African Americans in the Tallahassee area and in Florida. The Riley house was named in honor of John Gilmore Riley. Riley was a prominent member in the African American community in Tallahassee. In 1857 he was born into slavery, but he died a millionare in 1954. The Jonh G. Riley House Museum is open to the public, and for more information about the museum you can visit their website at www.rileymuseum.org.
The reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge is held each year in March to commemorate this significant event in Florida’s history. To learn more about this battle you can visit the Natural Bridge Historical Society’s website at www.nbhscso.com or the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park’s website at http://www.floridastateparks.org/naturalbridge/. Also, don’t forget that the Florida Public Archaeology Network has launched our Civil War internet resource, “Destination: Civil War”. Here you can learn about Natural Bridge and other Civil War heritage sites in Florida. From “Destination: Civil War” you can also see the locations of sites throughout Florida via Google Maps or Google Earth. So check it out, you may just find a site near you or a great destination for your next road trip!