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Civil War, Natural BridgeA History of Florida
Attempted Invasion of Middle Florida. The Union army had more than once attempted to reach the interior of the State. In February, 1865, a party of 700 men started from Cedar Keys, but was repulsed by Captain Dickison. Another expedition was planned for the purpose of taking Tallahassee and cutting off from the Confederacy the supplies from middle Florida. General Newton was in charge of this expedition. He had a large force and every reason to expect success. His plan was to sail front Cedar Keys to St. Marks and ascend the river.
What products were there in middle Florida? Tell of some of the substitutes the people used in place of common necessities.
The Defenders of the Capital. On March 4 Colonel Scott discovered the approach of the Union transports and men-of-war, and immediately reported the fact at head quarters in Tallahassee. It was plain that the Federals would try to cross the St. Marks River at Newport, so all of the Confederate troops were ordered to concentrate at that place. There was a small force of regular troops, and they were aided by the militia. Farmers left their fields and clerks their counters. Old men formed themselves into a company. The cadets of the West Florida Seminary with the teacher in command, shouldered their rifles, and with brave hearts marched proudly away to their first battle. The little boys of the school, too young to keep up on the march, were left in Tallahassee to guard the fortifications and defend the city from attack. They were bitterly disappointed at being left, and some cried, thinking it hard they should have no part in the danger and glory of the day.
Landing and March of the Invaders. Meanwhile the Federals had anchored at Spanish Hole, and the men landed at the lighthouse had begun their march inland. They reached Newport on the morning of the 5th, but could not cross the river, for the Confederates, under General Miller's command, had burned the bridge. Now they determined to cross at Natural Bridge, eighteen miles from Tallahassee, and leaving a small detachment at Newport to keep up the appearance of trying to cross there, the main force moved hurriedly up the river.
Tell of the invasion attempted by way of Cedar Keys. Give the purpose, commander, and place of another expedition. Describe the forces which met Newton. What school contributed to the defense of Tallahassee? Where did the Federals land?
The Conflict at Natural Bridge. General Miller at once sent Colonel Scott with a small body of cavalry to Natural Bridge. Then, leaving behind the fortifications at Newport two pieces of artillery and a small infantry force, followed with his remaining troops. He also ordered the reenforcements now on their way to meet him there. They arrived before day, and formed across the river in front of the bridge. The Federals had formed under cover of a thick hammock, and about daybreak made their charge. Driven back by a heavy fire from the Confederates, they reformed and charged again, but were again driven back.
Losses. In the early afternoon General Newton ordered an advance along his whole line, and a desperate attempt was made to force the passage. Again the Federals were driven back with heavy loss, and they began a retreat. As soon as they were out of the hammock, General Miller ordered pursuit. The Federals had cut down a great deal of timber in the hammock, which had to be removed before the artillery or cavalry could be gotten through. This caused loss of time to the pursuing troops, who, after following the Federals until late at night, found it impossible to overtake them.
What river had they to cross? How were they prevented from crossing? What was their next attempt? Describe the several charges and repulses at Natural Bridge. Tell of the results, losses, and the importance of this battle.
Importance of this Battle. In this battle three Confederates were killed and twenty-two were wounded. The Federal loss was very heavy. The small Confederate force had fought with greatest gallantry, and we cannot too highly honor them and their commander. By this battle the interior of the State was again saved from invasion and its capital from seizure. Florida is the only Southern State east of the Mississippi whose capital was not reached and occupied by the Union army.
The Return. There was great rejoicing when couriers brought the news of the victory, and a hearty welcome from grateful hearts was given to the victors when they reached Tallahassee next day. The little band of cadets was not forgotten. The ladies of Belleair, who had come out to meet them on the return march, singing a little song of triumph one had hastily composed, presented the young victors with crowns of wild olive.
Excerpt from Part Two, 15, "Natural Bridge" A History of Florida, 1904. Next Section; Table of Contents.
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