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!
Uncategorized archaeological sites, Archaeologist, Archaeology, Artifacts, Aucilla River, canal construction, canoe, challenge, Civil War, Cotton, cotton barges, Cotton Merchant, deadfalls, Florida, Florida Archaeology, Florida History, florida public archaeology netowrk, Goose Pasture, gulf of mexico, History, intermediate paddle, John Gamble, Kayak, Native Americans, nature, North Florida, paddling, Plantation, Slave, Slave Canal, Southeast, Tourism, Wacissa River
This past weekend, like I mentioned in my previous post, I had the opportunity to paddle the Wacissa River and the Slave Canal. It was something I had heard about and have wanted to do for awhile now, but something always came up that took priority to a day of kayaking (very unfortunate, I know!). Well, my brief encounter with the beautiful waters of the Wacissa and the historic setting of the Slave Canal has left me wanting more!
|Slave Canal Entrance from the Wacissa River
Now, you are probably wandering what the Slave Canal is and why it is named such. The Slave Canal was constructed in the 1850s using slave labor. John Gamble, a nearby plantation owner decided it would be a benificial project for local cotton merchants. The purpose of the canal was to connect the Wacissa River to the nearby Aucilla River so that cotton barges could be floated to the Gulf. You see, the Wacissa River diffuses into an almost impenetrable swamp, impossible for cotton barges to pass through to get to the Gulf of Mexico so that the cotton could be loaded on to larger ships for export. Unfortunately for the cotton merchants, the canal scheme did not work very well-it was too shallow. In some places the canal never reached more than a foot deep, and the canal was never able to be used by large boats. Shortly after the Civil War the canal was abandoned.
|Signage for Slave Canal
Luckily for us adventurous types, the canal remains open today as a premier three mile paddling trail connecting the Aucilla and Wacissa Rivers-that is, if you can find it. The entrance to the canal can be a bit tricky to find (there are signs though, so keep an eye out). Once you do find it though, you are in for a treat. The deadfalls and swift current at high water create a somewhat challenging, but delightful paddling trip. The Slave Canal is part of the Wacissa River Paddling Trail. According to the trail guide it is an intermediate paddle. I only had a chance to kayak a small portion of the canal, but I already have plans in the works to kayak the whole thing. Paddling is a wonderful way to experience, not only nature, but history as well. There is no documentation of who the slaves were that constructed the canal, but kayaking the canal somehow brings to light the challenges that they must have faced.
In addition to the history of the Slave Canal, don’t forget about the people that made their homes on these waterways long before the canal’s construction. The wonderful thing about the Wacissa and Slave Canal is that there are no houses or buildings visible from the river starting from Goose Pasture (where I launched ) to the Slave Canal. It is almost as if you are kayaking into a time long, long ago. You can almost imagine people paddling in dugout canoes along this stretch of remote wilderness. And remember, you may encounter archaeological sites along these waterways, you can look, but don’t touch. Leave any artifacts you might encounter where they are so that the next visitor can enjoy looking at them (and not picking them up) and so that archaeologists in the future can have the opportunity to study them and learn about the people that lived along these rivers in Florida’s past. Hopefully my future plans for kayaking the whole canal will come to fruition soon, and of course, I will tell you all about it!