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 Captian James M. Tucker, Civil War, Florida Archaeology Month, Scuba Diving, ship wreck, Snorkling, steamboat, Suwannee River, The Madison, Troy, Troy Spring State Park, Troy Springs
The lower ribs of the steamship, Madison, in Troy Spring Run at Troy Spring State Park.
The remains of the steamship, Madison, are located within the boundaries of Troy Spring State Park in Troy Springs, Florida. The Madison was originally constructed sometime between 1844 to 1854 for Captain James M. Tucker. It was named for Tucker’s hometown, Madison, Florida and it originally served as a floating mail service and trading post. In the 1850s, there were few road going into or out of Troy, and those that existed were often in poor condition. Additionally, the railroad had not yet arrived. For transportation, commerce and basic necessities, area residents relied on the service of Captain James M. Tucker and the steamboat Madison.
In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War the Madison was used by the Confederates as a privateer and jerry-rigged gunboat. Lafayette county was a known refuge for Union sympathizers and Confederate deserters. This put Captain Tucker at odds with many locals. In 1863 it was scuttled and set on fire in the spring run at the request of Captain Tucker in order to prevent the Union from taking it over. Today some remains of the Madison are still visible in the spring run, mainly metal spikes, the keel and lower ribs.
Troy Spring State Park is a recent addition to the Florida State Park system. The 70-foot deep, first magnitude spring offers opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Troy Spring State Park is located off of County Road 425, 1.3 miles north of U.S. 27. While we are on the subject, this is a great opportunity to remind you that the theme for Florida Archaeology Month in March 2012 is the Civil War. What a perfect excuse to check out Troy Spring and explore the Madison! Please remember the old scouting motto though, “take only pictures, leave only footprints” (or in this case, bubbles!). We want everyone to be able to enjoy their scuba or snorkel adventure on the Madison, now and long into the future!
Uncategorized Florida History, Florida Tourism, Friends of Suwannee Springs, Suwannee County, Suwannee River, Suwannee Springs
Last week I was contacted by a newly formed group, Friends of Suwannee Springs (you can find them on Facebook!). They were formed to preserve and protect this little known historic site. I say little known, perhaps because I
Look for this sign off of Hwy 129, right before you cross over the Suwannee River. It will be on your right.
was previously unaware of its existence. However, after meeting with them, I have come to find out that many people were previously unaware of its existence besides the locals. To the local population however, it has been a popular gathering place for generations and many of the people I spoke with grew up learning how to swim in this spring! I decided that in order to work with them, I needed to become familiar with this site, so a road trip was in order! The site is located approximately 7 miles north of Live Oak and a few miles north of I-10 off of Highway 129, and thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Suwannee Springs, the Florida Department of Transportation has recently posted a road sign pointing the way! The property is currently owned and maintained by the Suwannee River Water Management District. They have created a nice picnic area and a walkway overlooking the spring. There is a hiking trail and a swimming area on the Suwannee River as well. The area is open from 8:00 AM until 7:00 PM every day. No overnight camping is allowed, but the area is open to swimming, biking, hiking and fishing.
Historic ad for Suwannee Springs.
The history of Suwannee Springs goes back quite a ways, but in the mid- to late-1800s it was a popular notion that sulfur and mineral springs had unique healing qualities. It became popular for resorts and sanitariums to be constructed on or next to these springs. Often times the water was also bottled and sold. Suwannee Springs, thus, became a popular destination for tourists to the area. The water from the spring was also bottled and sold and was available for sale by druggists. A wall was constructed out of local limestone around the spring in the mid-to late-1800s. A hotel and approximately 18 private cottages were eventually also constructed at the site. It is important to note that the site passed through many owners’ hands and that several hotels were constructed at various times throughout its history. In all, three hotels were built at the site. Unfortunately, the reason so many hotels were constructed is because there were multiple structural fires that destroyed some of these buildings. The last hotel burned down in 1925 and up until sometime in the 1970s visitors would spend their summers in one of the private cottages near the spring.
Suwannee Springs was so popular as a vacation and convalescing destination that old advertisements for the resort can be found in newspapers from around the country. Many of these newspapers
Visitors can still enjoy the refreshing spring water today!
advertise the spring as a location with amusements, pleasant evenings, bathing, freedom from malaria and other ailments, and of course, the healing virtues of the spring water itself! It was
Old postcard of cottages at Suwannee Springs.
marketed as a sure cure for rheumatism and blood diseases, appetite loss and insomnia (among other ailments). The spring was also listed by the railroads as one of the best summer resorts. It could be reached via the Savannah Florida and Western Railway, Georgia Southern and Florida Railway and the Florida Central and Peninsular Railway.
Today all that remains of the site are the ruins of the spring wall and two dilapidated cottages. Apparently some of the other remaining cottages are held in private
Current condition of two remaining cottages.
ownership and have been restored, but only two remain on public lands. I was amazed at the beauty, even in its current ruinous shape, which this site possesses. Looking at it I can picture children in the early 1900s jumping off the sturdy limestone wall into the spring! It was as if I could almost hear the people laughing and splashing! People still visit the site to take a quick dip, either in the spring or the Suwannee River. In fact, a family was there swimming during my visit. This site is reminiscent of a unique period in Florida’s history. This site is a surviving example of the birth of Florida tourism as we know it today. Our fancy, high-end resorts, as they exist today, look quite different from the resorts and sanitariums of the late 1800s and early 1900s! You have to wonder though, did the early spring resorts lay the foundation for Florida as a resort destination?
So, the next time you are passing through Live Oak, take a detour to the Suwannee Springs to check it out yourself. I am sure you will fall in love with this unique piece of Florida history just as I recently have. Just remember, these sites are fragile and deserving of respect. Hopefully, one day, this site will be returned to its previous state, but as of now, it demands a certain amount of caution to prevent it from further destruction. Let us do what we can to ensure that future generations can enjoy this site just as people have for over 100 years. Pack a picnic, bring your swim suits and enjoy the beauty that Florida’s unique history has to offer!
Photo shows the fragile state of the wall surrounding the spring.