Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Marker to be placed at British War of 1812 fort site in Florida

Nicolls' Outpost stood atop this large American Indian mound
at River Landing Park in Chattahoochee, Florida.
 A new historical marker will be unveiled on November 9th to mark the site of the northernmost advance of British forces on the Gulf Coast during the War of 1812.

The marker is being placed at River Landing Park in Chattahoochee, Florida, on the site of Nicolls' Outpost, a fort built at the head of the Apalachicola River by British troops in November 1814. Its site marks the northernmost point reached by British forces during the Gulf Coast Campaign best remembered for the Battle of New Orleans.

The Apalachicola River from the site of the fort.
The marker is being placed by Chattahoochee Main Street, the City of Chattahoochee and the West Gadsden Historical Society. The new panel was funded through the sales of The Early History of Gadsden County and The Scott Massacre of 1817. No tax money was used in the purchase of the marker. 

Nicolls' Outpost was built by Royal Colonial Marines and a large force of Creek and Seminole warriors ahead of a planned British invasion of Georgia. The War of 1812 ended before that invasion could take place, but the site near the point where the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers (today's Lake Seminole) flow together to form the Apalachicola marked the northernmost movement of a large British force during the Gulf Coast Campaign of 1814-1815.

The Apalachicola River at Chattahoochee, Florida
The outpost was one of two British forts build on the Apalachicola during the war. The other stood on Prospect Bluff at today's Fort Gadsden Historic Site in the Apalachicola National Forest.


Chattahoochee Main Street will host an unveiling ceremony at River Landing Park on November 9th at 3 p.m. Eastern (2 p.m. Central). Living history participants will be on hand to represent the Creek Prophet Josiah Francis and U.S. Agent for Indian Affairs Benjamin Hawkins, both of whom played important roles in the history of the fort. There will be performances of 19th century music, special comments, light refreshments and other activities.

The public is encouraged to attend!




Saturday, June 28, 2014

4th of July Fireworks are underway!

4th of July Fireworks for 2014 are underway!
4th of July fireworks are underway across the South!

Tonight (Saturday, 6/28/2014) is the first big night of the week-long celebration, with shows scheduled for Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. More shows continue tomorrow with the big weekend set to get underway on Wednesday, July 3rd.

As always, you can check out locations, times and dates for the best fireworks in each state in the South by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fireworks.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

British arrive on the Gulf Coast, 200 years ago today

Union Jack flies over the Gulf Coast
Today marks the 200th anniversary of the arrival of British forces on the Gulf Coast as the War of 1812 shifted south.

The warships HMS Orpheus and HMS Shelburne arrived at Apalachicola Bay on May 10, 1814. Florida was then Spanish territory and Spain was ostensibly neutral in the conflict between the United States and Great Britain, but the British prepared to land on the Apalachicola to open a southern front against U.S. forces.

The commander of the expedition, Captain Hugh Pigot, had been directed to land a small force of British Royal Marines and a massive stockpile of arms and ammunition at the mouth of the Apalachicola River. The weapons would be delivered to Seminole and Creek warriors in order to secure their allegiance to the British.

Waters off Apalachicola Bay where the British arrived
To achieve this goal, Pigot ordered Brevet Captain George Woodbine of the Royal Marines to enter the river and make contact with any chiefs in the vicinity:

You are hereby directed to proceed up the river Appalachicola and endeavour by every means in your power to procure an interview with the Chiefs of the Creek Nation. You will inform them that the Orpheus Frigate has arrived on the coast with two thousand muskets, ammunition, &c. &c. for them, and...should cavalry be able to act inform me what arms and furniture they stand in need of. - Captain Hugh Pigot, Royal Navy, to Brevet Captain George Woodbine, Royal Marines, May 10, 1814. 


Apalachicola Bay, Florida
The British had come to Apalachicola Bay at the request of Chiefs Thomas and William Perryman, who lived on the lower Chattahoochee River in what is now Seminole County, Georgia, and Jackson County, Florida. The two leaders had headed a delegation that met with a British officer in September 1813 to request military support from the British. They had recently learned of the American attack on Red Stick Creek warriors at Burnt Corn Creek in what is now Alabama and were concerned that the United States was preparing to open an indiscriminate war on Creek towns, including their own.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
By the time their request was delivered to the Bahamas and then on to London, the Creek War of 1813-1814 had erupted into a full scale conflict between the Red Stick faction of the Creek Nation and the United States. When the British arrived at Apalachicola Bay 200 years ago today, they were unaware of the devastating defeat inflicted on the Red Sticks by the army of Major General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Thousands of Red Stick warriors and their families were fleeing into Florida.

Site of the British Post at Prospect Bluff
Over the days ahead, the British established a depot at Prospect Bluff on the lower Apalachicola River. This post would later be known as the "Negro Fort" and finally as Fort Gadsden. It would play a major role in the history not only of Florida, but of the entire United States.

To learn more about the fort, please visit: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgadsden.

Later in the year 1814, the British built a second fort at the head of the Apalachicola where the City of Chattahoochee stands today. Often overlooked or confused with the post on the lower river, this outpost was intended to serve as a base of operations for a major British invasion of Georgia.

Learn more about it at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nicollsoutpost.

I will follow the history of the British invasion of the Gulf Coast over coming days, weeks and months so be sure to check back often here at http://southernhistory.blogspot.com.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Surrender Anniversary in the Carolinas

Bennett Place State Historic Site
Durham, North Carolina
149 years ago today (April 26, 1865), Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. The surrender was carried out at what is now Benton Place State Historic Site in Durham, North Carolina.

Johnston's surrender was the largest of the War Between the States (or Civil War) and came after his army waged one last brutal fight at the Battle of Bentonville. The Confederate attacks came close to wiping out one wing of Sherman's larger army. The tide of the battle turned when Sherman rushed reinforcements to the field and Johnston called off the attacks and withdrew.

Road by which Johnston approached Bennett Place
By early April 1865, he had moved his army into positions at Hillsborough about 35 miles northwest of the state capital of Raleigh. The Union army took Raleigh and moved into positions there. Johnston and Sherman faced each other from the two cities when news arrived of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of North Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Johnston now found himself in a critical position. With Sherman's much larger army just 35 miles away in Raleigh, he knew that if he continued to fight he could expect Union General Ulysses S. Grant to push down from the north. His small army would be swallowed up.

Restored farm and monument at Bennett Place.
His situation became even more stressful when President Jefferson Davis, fleeing south after the fall of Richmond, ordered the veteran general to continue the fight. Davis, in fact, told Johnston that if he could not defeat the armies arrayed against him, he should break up his own force and turn his men into guerrillas who would continue the war for years if need be.

Rather than launch a guerrilla war that would flood the South with blood, Johnston decided to meet with General Sherman. He sent a letter through the lines, Sherman responded, and the two generals met near Durham, about half-way between their armies. They decided to find a house where they could sit down and talk, but the first home-owner they approached refused to let Sherman set foot in his house. They moved on to the Bennett Place, home of James and Nancy Bennett, who consented to allow the generals to meet in their home.

Table at which the surrender document was prepared
On the next day, April 18, 1864, Johnston agreed to surrender the Army of Tennessee. Sherman offered him extremely liberal terms. When the proposed surrender terms reached Washington, D.C., however, Union officials said no. The North was then outraged over the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and Sherman's humane terms were refused by his superiors. He accordingly notified Johnston that he would have no choice but to continue the fight in 48 hours.

Johnston knew that he had no hope of defeating Sherman, so on April 26, 1865, he surrendered the Confederate Army of Tennessee and all Confederate forces east of Alabama on the harsh terms demanded by the politicians in Washington.

To learn more about the surrender at Bennett Place, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/bennettplace.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Azaleas near PEAK at Callaway Gardens in Georgia

Callaway Gardens
If you have been wondering when will be the best time to see the azaleas at Callaway Gardens, now is the time!

Located at Pine Mountain, Georgia, the gardens feature some of the most spectacular azalea gardens in the world. This year's blooms may be the most spectacular ever.

Conceived in 1930 by Cason J. Callaway after he and his wife found a rare wild azalea growing on overworked farm land, Callaway Gardens have emerged to become one of the most beautiful gardens anywhere. They cover more than 16,000 acres of rolling mountain terrain at Pine Mountain between Atlanta and Columbus.

A highlight each spring is the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, a massive azalea garden that explodes with color. The cold wet winter was very good for the azaleas and officials at the gardens say that this may be the best year for azaleas in their more than 80 year history.

To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/callawaygardens1 or www.callawaygardens.com.  Here is a special video invite from Edward Callaway:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Muskogee Azalea Festival begins but blooms running slow

Muskogee Azalea Festival
Muskogee, Oklahoma
The 2014 Muskogee Azalea Festival is underway in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The annual festival begins on April 1 of each year.

The severe winter, however, is likely to have an impact on the blooms this year. Record-breaking cold and ice in Oklahoma over the winter has stunted the azaleas and slowed the blooming season. Officials with the Muskogee Parks Department report that the buds are just beginning to show and the blooms are running well behind this year.

There are still plenty of reasons to go!  Honor Heights Park is beautiful every spring, even more so with the recent addition of its new Butterfly Papilion & Gardens. Parks officials indicate that the tulips will be especially beautiful this year. Other plants and trees will be in bloom as well and the azaleas will be later this month.

The main day of this year's Azalea Festival will be April 12. The annual parade will step off at 11 a.m. in downtown Muskogee, followed by a day of events at Honor Heights Park.

For more information on the 2014 Muskogee Azalea Festival, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/okmuskogeeazalea.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Noah": A Southern Christian's Review

I saw the new Russell Crowe movie "Noah" last night and thought you might find some thoughts about it to be of interest.

First, I am a Christian and I grew up attending a small Baptist church in the Florida Panhandle. If you aren't familiar with the culture of the Panhandle, it is as Southern as you can get. Most of us came of age doing farm work, attending public school, going to church when the doors were open and saying "please" and "thank you" to all. We were taught the great stories of the Bible as part of our culture, just as we were taught to open doors for others and to show respect to our elders.

The story of Noah and the Ark was always one of my favorites. Like thousands of children before and after, I marveled at the thought of a giant flood that brought so much water onto the face of the earth that even the tops of the highest mountains were covered. I pondered how Noah managed to get all of the animals into the ark and what it must have been like for him to build a gigantic boat in a dry place while his friends and neighbors ridiculed his efforts.

Because I have always loved this wonderful story, I was among the first in line to see the new film from director Darren Aronofsky. I had seen Mr. Aronofsky mention on television that he was an Atheist and that "artistic liberties" had been taken with the story, so I approached it with an open mind. Unlike many who showed up for the screening that I attended, I did not expect the movie to be overly true to the Biblical account of the Great Flood. It was good that I went with such low expectations.

Perhaps the best way to explain Aronofsky's strange vision of Noah is to compare his film with the story of the real Noah as told in Genesis. Let's start with the account of what led to the Great Flood and building of the ark as told in Genesis Chapter 6 of the King James Bible:

(5) And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(6) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

The movie portrays this "wickedness of man" from an environmentalist standpoint. Basically, as Aronofsky portrays it, Noah as a child witnesses men hunting down one of the last scaly dog-looking creatures to eat and is appalled to see humans eating animals instead of only plants. An industrial culture has spread across the face of the earth, destroying all of the forests and ruthlessly mining the ground for minerals and glowing rocks.

Back to Genesis:

(7) And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
(8) But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

God never speaks in the movie and is referred to only as "the Creator." The movie's theory is that "the Creator" determines upon a flood to sweep man from the face of the earth so it will be a paradise for the animals and only the animals.

Moving ahead in Genesis:

(12) And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
(13) And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

In the movie, as noted above, God decides not to destroy the earth, but to wash it clean with water so that it will become a paradise for the animals. "The Creator" of the movie never speaks to Noah, but instead Noah has a dream of a coming flood. Finally, the corruption of man in the movie is the destruction of the environment; in the Bible it was man's obsession with violence.

(14) Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch in within and without with pitch.
(15) And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
(16) A window shalt though make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt though finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt though set in the side thereof; with lower, second and third stories shalt thou make it.

Simple enough. In the movie, though, God (or "the Creator") never speaks to Noah. Noah obtains the plans for the ark after crossing a region inhabited by fallen angels who have been turned into rock monsters. He then visits his grandfather (Methuselah) on what appears to be the last green mountain on earth. Methuselah gives Noah drugged tea, which causes Noah to hallucinate and see the plans for the ark. Methuselah also provides the last seed from the Garden of Eden, which when planted causes a great forest to grow overnight. The giant fallen angel rock monsters then help build the ark.

(17) And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
(18) But with thee I will establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.
(19) And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.

The movie's version is that all mankind - including Noah and his family - will be destroyed. Noah builds the ark strictly for the animals. Only one of this sons has a wife and the other two spend great time worrying about where they will find wives. Meanwhile. Tubal Cain (the Biblical discoverer of the process for forging metal) arrives with his vast army and threatens Noah. The birds, snakes and animals arrive to fill the ark.

Moving on to Genesis  Chapter 7:

(13) In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark;
(14) They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort.
(15) And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.
(16) And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.

Back to the movie: The animals go into the ark pretty much as described in the Bible, but two of Noah's sons go in without wives contrary to the account given in Genesis. Meanwhile, Tubal Cain and his army launch an attack on the ark but the giant fallen angel rock monsters join Noah in battling to save the boat. As the fallen angel rock monsters are destroyed by Tubal Cain's army, they burst forth into the light. The door to the ark is never closed by God, but by Noah who comes in and out multiple times as the battle for the ark takes place.

(17) And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.
(18) And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters.

The flood is accurately portrayed in the movie, although Tubal Cain manages to chop a hole in the side of the ark as the water is rising. He slips in and hides among the animals where one of Noah's sons finds him and feeds him.

The movie then moves on to a fight to the death between Tubal Cain and Noah for control of the ark and the women aboard it. One of Noah's sons steps in and kills Tubal Cain.

Noah, meanwhile, because more and more crazed and more and more convinced that "the Creator" plans to wipe all mankind from the earth. He tells his family that they will die without replenishing mankind on the earth. When he learns that his daughter is pregnant, he plans to kill her child if it is a girl so that "the Creator's" plan of turning the earth into a paradise for the animals will be carried out.

The daughter-in-law gives birth to twin girls and Noah prepares to stab them to death, but finds himself unable to do so and the babies are spared.

The ark grounds pretty much as described in the Bible and the waters slowly dry from the earth. The animals go out and Noah and his family set foot on the earth. There is discussion about saving the earth from future environmental destruction at the hand of man and one son leaves in resentment because he has no wife.

That's pretty much it. For those hoping for a big screen treatment of the dramatic story of Noah and the Ark as told in the Bible, this isn't it. It is a more than two-hour long environmental and pro-vegetarian lecture.

I wasn't as offended by all of that as much as I was by the fact that the movie simply is not good. The story doesn't make sense and the fallen angel rock monsters make even less sense. If you like being preached at for two hours on environmental issues, then you will enjoy "Noah." If you are hoping for an inspiring and dramatic account of Noah and the Ark, you probably will not be happy with it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bicentennial of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend was fought 200 years ago today in the Creek Nation of Alabama. The outcome forever changed the history of the United States.

The Creek War of 1813-1814 had been underway for more than nine months when Major General Andrew Jackson left Fort Williams near present-day Sylacauga with an army of 3,300 men. The general and his men arrived within six miles of the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River on the evening of March 26, 1814.

Tallapoosa River at Horseshoe Bend
The next morning Jackson sent Brigadier General John Coffee with a force of 1,300 men to cross the Tallapoosa and surround the bend from its opposite shore. He then moved forward with the rest of his army and sealed off the neck of the peninsula. Receiving word that Coffee was in place to cut off any attempt at retreat by the Red Stick Creek army, Jackson began his attack at 10:30 in the morning, 200 years ago today.

U.S. artillerymen manhandled two cannon - a 3-pounder and a 6-pounder - to the top of a hill overlooking the massive fortification that the Creeks had built to defend their town of Tohopeka ("Horse's Flat Foot"), a village that took its name from the unusual shape of the Horseshoe Bend. As Jackson's troops formed into lines of battle facing the barricades, the gun crews opened fire.

Site of the Creek fortification
For two hours the guns blasted away at the Red Stick defenses, but the solid iron cannonballs either ricocheted off the solid wall or flew over it. At noon, however, General Coffee's blocking force changed the course of the battle.

Among the 1,300 men assigned to Coffee were 600 Cherokee and Creek warriors who had allied themselves with the United States. With the battle in doubt, the Cherokee soldiers swam the river and launched an attack on the rear of the Red Stick line. The famed scholar Sequoyah was part of this attacking force.

Grave of Major Lemuel Montgomery
Facing attack from both directions, the Red Sticks had no choice but to divide their army. The main body of their warriors remained behind the wall to oppose Jackson while a smaller force rushed to the rear to battle Coffee's oncoming warriors. Seizing the moment, General Jackson ordered his infantry to attack.

Surging forward, the 39th U.S. Infantry struck the Creek fortifications. Major Lemuel Montgomery was killed and Ensign Sam Houston (later President of Texas) was severely wounded, but the 39th went up and over the wall. Jackson's Tennessee militia troops followed.

Menawa
Led by the war chief Menawa, the Red Sticks continued to fight. For hours the sounds of gunfire, screams and war cries echoed through the smoke that covered the Horseshoe Bend. A couple of hundred Red Sticks tried to escape by swimming the Tallapoosa, but Coffee and his riflemen shot them in the water. So many were slain that the river ran red with blood. Almost all of Menawa's other warriors fought to the death.

When night fell, the severely wounded war chief crawled out from under a pile of bodies and slipped away. He was disfigured for life. A few of his warriors also managed to swim away, but the Creek Nation would never recover from the devastating defeat.

Andrew Jackson
Jackson and his men counted the dead the following day by cutting off the noses of Menawa's slain warriors and then doing a "nose count." The bodies of 557 Red Stick warriors were found on the battlefield and Coffee estimated that another 200-300 were slain in the river. The bones of the dead littered the scene for years to come.

U.S. losses in the battle were 49 killed and 157 wounded. Many of the latter died in the days, weeks and months that followed.

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend did not end the Creek War of 1813-1814, but its outcome was never in doubt after March 27, 1814. The engagement started Andrew Jackson on his road to the White House and the Creek Nation on its journey to the Trail of Tears.

Five months later, the United States forced the Creeks to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The document exacted severe terms on Red Stick and U.S. allied chiefs alike, forcing the cession of 23 million acres of Creek land to the United States.

To learn more about the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/AlabamaHSB.

To learn more about the Creek War of 1813-1814, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/creekwar.

To learn more about the Creek Trail of Tears, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/creektrail.






Tuesday, March 25, 2014

200th anniversary of Battle Horseshoe Bend is tomorrow

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
Tomorrow (March 27, 2014) will mark the 200th anniversary of the cataclysmic Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama.

Fought on March 27, 1814, between the U.S. Army of Major General Andrew Jackson and the Red Stick Creek army of Menawa, the battle broke the power of the Creek Nation and started the Creeks on their journey to the Trail of Tears.

The Red Sticks were followers of a religious movement started in the Creek nation by the Prophet Josiah Francis. They believed in a return to traditional ways and a disassociation with the so-called "Plan of Civilization" introduced into the nation by United States through its agent for Indian affairs, Benjamin Hawkins.

Fort Mims State Historic Site
The Red Sticks had gone to war against the traditional leaders of the nation in 1813 after several of their party had been assassinated for involvement in an attack against white settlers on the Duck River in Tennessee. The Creek War of 1813-1814 began as a civil war among the Creeks themselves, but spilled over after Mississippi Territorial Militia attacked a Red Stick supply party at Burnt Corn Creek in Escambia County, Alabama.

The Red Sticks won the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek then retaliated against the United States by attacking Fort Mims and killing more than 250 men, women and children. The destruction of Fort Mims stunned the American frontier and led to the invasion of the Creek nation by three U.S. armies.

Holy Ground Battlefield Park
An army under Gen. F.L. Claiborne pushed up the Alabama River and destroyed the primary town of the Prophet Francis at the Battle of Holy Ground. A second army under Gen. John Floyd built Fort Mitchell on the Chattahoochee River and then fought the Creeks at Autossee (Atosi) and Calabee Creek in eastern Alabama. The third army, under Andrew Jackson, pushed south from Tennessee and fought the Red Sticks at Tallushatchee, Talladega, Emuckfau and Enitichopco before closing in on the Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River 200 years ago today.

Site of Tohopeka at Horseshoe Bend
One of the two main forces of Red Stick warriors had fortified themselves at Horseshoe Bend, building a village there they called Tohopeka ("Horse's Flat Foot") after a unique looping bend of the Tallapoosa River that looks like a  horse's hoof from the air. Led by the war chief Menawa and the prophet Monahoe, the Creek army numbered perhaps 1,000 men.

Jackson's army, which included both Cherokee and U.S. allied Creeks, outnumbered the Red Sticks by more than 3 to 1 but the fortifications erected by the defenders were extremely well constructed. The outcome of the fight was in no way clear on the evening before the battle as the U.S. troops approached Tohopeka.

I will post more on the Battle of Horseshoe Bend tomorrow. If you would like to read more now, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/AlabamaHSB.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mississippi's Singing River - The Mysterious Song of the Pascagoula

The Pascagoula - Mississippi's "Singing River"
Roughly 80 miles long and draining an area of 8,800 square miles along the border of Mississippi and Alabama, the Pascagoula River is a major source of clean, fresh water for the Gulf of Mexico. It holds a unique place in Southern culture as the "Singing River" of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

When French settlers arrived in the region in 1699, they heard a remarkable sound rising from the waters of the Pascagoula. The river takes its name from the Pascagoula Indians, a tribe with with a name that translates literally to "bread eaters."

The people of this tribe told the French that an earlier people had lived on the modern site of Pascagoula. These Native Americans, they said, had worshiped a mermaid who lived in the river. In their temple was a beautifully carved idol of the mermaid, around which the villagers gathered each night to sing and chant.

A strange, repetitive humming sound rises from the river.
At around the time of the Hernando de Soto expedition (1539-1540), however, the Pascagoula said that a strange white man had appeared in the town of the mermaid worshipers. He brought a book and a cross and sought to convert them to Christianity. This angered the mermaid herself, prompting her to rise from the bottom of the river with dramatic fury:

...One night, when the moon at her zenith poured on heaven and earth, with more profusion than usual, a flood of light angelic, at the solemn hour of twelve, when all in nature was in repose and silence, there came, on a sudden, a rushing on the surface of the river, as if the still air had been flapped into a whirlwind by myriads of invisible wings sweeping onward. - Charles Gayerre, History of Louisiana, 1867.

The Pascagoula River.
The water rose up into a "towering column" and at the top stood the mermaid herself. She began to sing a haunting song, calling out to her followers. One after another every man, woman and child in the village walked into the river and were never seen again. According to a 19th century historian, the Pascagoula and other tribes that lived in the area "have always thought it was their musical brethren" who made the sounds of the singing river. Their ghosts, they said, lived on in the palace of the mermaid far beneath the waves.

It is a tragic and unusual story but appears to be the oldest version of a legend still repeated in Mississippi about the American Indians who once lived along the banks of the Pascagoula. Other versions hold that the villagers walked into the river to avoid losing their freedom at the hands of a neighboring tribe or the Spanish conquistadors.

The story was the Pascagoula's way of explaining the strange music that came from the river that bore their name.

Does the river really sing?  Find out by visiting our new page: The Pascagoula - Mississippi's Singing River.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

New mini-documentary on Battle of Natural Bridge, FL

Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park
My new mini-documentary on the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, is now online. You can view it for free by visiting the main Battle of Natural Bridge page.

Fought on March 6, 1865, just south of Tallahassee, the engagement was the last significant Confederate victory of the War Between the States (or Civil War). Its significance comes from the fact that it prevented the Union capture of Florida's capital city, leaving Tallahassee as the only unconquered Southern capital east of the Mississippi.

The new mini-documentary follows the story of the Natural Bridge Expedition from its beginning moments in Fort Myers and Key West to its end with the bloody defeat of Federal forces along the banks of the St. Marks River. During the main engagement the 2nd and 99th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) made 8 separate charges, but were driven back each time by the massed fire of a Confederate force that included the Cadets from what is now Florida State University.

Be sure to take the time to watch it and learn more about the battle by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.



Thursday, February 6, 2014

Battle of Olustee mini-documentary online for 150th anniversary




My new mini-documentary on the Battle of Olustee is now online as Florida commemorates the 150th anniversary of its largest Civil War battle.

Fought on February 20, 1864, the battle took place in the open pine woods between Lake City and Jacksonville and was a stunning defeat for the Union army of Brigadier General Truman Seymour. He had advanced west despite orders to the contrary from his superiors.

Expecting to meet only light resistance, Seymour instead ran into the 5,000 man army of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan. A fiery Irishman, Finegan and his second in command - Brig. Gen. Alfred Colquitt - demolished Seymour's force in a stand up fight.

To learn more, watch the video above and be sure to visit our main Battle of Olustee page at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chick-fil-A comes to the rescue of stranded drivers in Birmingham

This is one of the nicest stories I've seen on the national news in a long time.

A Chick-fil-A owner and his employees came to the rescue for hundreds of motorists stranded with no food in the ice and snow that hit Birmingham, Alabama. It was a remarkable act of kindness.

They deserve all the blessings I'm sure they will receive.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/01/29/chick-fil-gives-free-food-to-motorists-stranded-in-southern-snowstorm/


Monday, January 6, 2014

The Atamaha-ha - Sea Monster of the Georgia Coast!

Home of the Altamaha-ha?

One of my favorite Southern monsters is the Altamaha-ha.

A massive sea monster or river monster that is said to inhabit the waters around the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia, the Altamaha-ha has been seen for hundreds of years.

The oldest documented account I could find, in fact, dates back to 1826. A sea captain named named Delano was sailing his schooner, the Eagle, through Doboy Sound on the Georgia Coast that year when he saw a creature that must have been the Altamaha-ha.  He didn't tell anyone about it at the time, but then he saw it again four years later off St. Simons Island, Georgia:

...He repeated the...particulars precisely, describing the animal he saw as being about 70 feet long, and its circumference about that of a sugar hogshead, moving with its head (shaped like an Alligator's) about 8 feet out of the water. - Savannah Georgian, April 22, 1830.

Altamaha River in Georgia, home of a Monster?
This time Captain Delano reported his sighting and his account was backed up by five other eyewitnesses on his ship, all of whom were willing to sign legal affidavits as to what they had seen.

Doboy Sound, where the first sighting took place, separates Sapelo Island from the Georgia mainland and connects to the Altamaha River. St. Simons Island borders the Altamaha to the south.

From the time of Captain Delano's first sighting in 1826 until today, people have claimed to see a monster in the waters around the mouth of the Altahama or up the river in the various channels and abandoned rice fields and canals of its delta. They describe the Altahama-ha as being around 30 feet long, with flippers like a seal and a head like a snake or alligator.

Read the full story of the Altamaha-ha and seem some video taken by an amateur photographer at: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/altamahaha.

And be sure to check on a host of other Southern monster and ghost stories at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ghosts.



Friday, January 3, 2014

The Battle of the St. Mary's (Last Battle of the War of 1812) - Georgia & Florida

Sailing Vessel on the St. Mary's River
Although numerous engagements have claimed the distinction, current research indicates that the Battle of the St. Mary's on the border of Florida and Georgia was the last land battle of the War of 1812.

Fought on February 24, 1815, the battle involved British Royal Marines and sailors, riflemen from the U.S. Army and revolutionaries from Spanish Florida.  The encounter took place when, even though he already knew of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent that ended the war, Rear Admiral George Cockburn sent a party of barges and boats up the St. Mary's River on one final raid.

Carrying 52 Royal Marines and commanded by Commander Charles George Rodney Phillot of HMS Primrose and Commander David Ewen Bartholomew of HMS Erebus, the seven barges and one gig were ordered to break up the American outpost of Camp Pinckney near present-day Folkston, Georgia.  They almost made it.

St. Mary's River
When the little flotilla was with 3/4 mile of its objective, a force of "Patriot" revolutionaries opened fire from the Florida shore.  Florida was then a colony of Spain and the Patriots were trying to seize control of the future U.S. state from its Spanish leaders.

Captain William Mickler soon joined in the fight with 20 U.S. soldiers from the Georgia shore and both American soldiers and Patriot riflemen poured tremendous volleys of fire on the British vessels, which were caught in the middle of the St. Mary's River. By the time the British made it back to their ships off Cumberland Island, they had been badly bloodied.

The Battle of the St. Mary's took place after the Battle of New Orleans, Second Battle of Fort Bowyer and the Battle of Point Petre (Point Peter), all of which have been recognized as the final battle of the War of 1812 by various historians.  So far as is known, it was the last exchange of fire between American and British forces.

To read about this fascinating engagement, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/stmarysbattle.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Battle of Prairie Grove 151st Anniversary

Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park
December 7th marked the 151st anniversary of the bloody Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

The massive battle erupted when Major General Thomas Hindman emerged from the Boston Mountains with his Confederate army in an attempt to flank the Union army of Brigadier General James G. Blunt before it could be reinforced by the division of Brigadier General Francis J. Herron.

When Hindman came out of the mountains at the site of the modern town of Prairie Grove, Herron's column was at nearby Fayetteville having completed a forced march south from Missouri into Northwest Arkansas. The main Union force, under Blunt, was to the west at Cane Hill (now spelled Canehill).

Hindman succeeded in placing his force directly between the two Union columns and his plan was to overwhelm Herron's Division before it could unite with the main body under Blunt. After initial fighting on the Fayetteville road, the Confederate army took up a defensive position along the Prairie Grove ridge and welcomed the Union attack.

Over the hours that followed, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War in the West took place on the ridges and open ground of Washington County, Arkansas.

To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ArkansasPG1.



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Best Christmas Lights of 2013 now online!

Courtesy of Callaway Gardens
ExploreSouthernHistory.com's annual list of the South's Best Christmas Lights is now online and updated for 2013!

Most of the lighting displays are up and going and the rest pretty much kick off tomorrow (December 1st) or during the coming week.  Here are some notes about this year's highlights

  • It will be the final year for Christmas in Alabama, the Bradley family's gigantic display in Grand Bay, Alabama (near Mobile).
  • Holiday Spectacular in Wicksburg, Alabama (near Dothan) is continuing after the sad passing of one of its founders and will be even bigger this year!
  • The Arkansas Trail of Lights website is online for 2013!  I have the link on the list page.
  • Three Rivers State Park in Sneads, Florida is expanding the nights its lights will be open this year.
  • Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens in Georgia is up and running for 2013!
  • Lights under Louisville is open for the season.  This is an awesome underground drive-through display!
  • Check out info for these and all of the others for 2013 at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/christmas.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Stafford Civil War Park in Virginia preserves memory of Union Army's "Valley Forge"

Stafford Civil War Park
The remarkable new Stafford Civil War Park is a fascinating heritage preserve in Stafford County, Virginia. It preserves part of the scene of the Army of the Potomac's "Valley Forge" during the winter of 1862-1863.

Opened to the public in April of this year, the park encompasses 41 acres of pristine historic landscape where the 1st and 3rd Divisions of the XI Corps camped following the Battle of Fredericksburg. It was here and in surrounding Stafford County that the Army of the Potomac weathered what some have called its "Valley Forge" in January through April 1863.

Ruins of fire pit or chimney from Union hut
The park features a driving tour, walking trails, interpretive signs, cannon, stone bridge ruins and the well-preserved earthworks of three artillery batteries.  It is one of the best places in the nation to explore visible remains of a major Civil War camp. The stone fire pits and chimneys of the huts built by Union soldiers can still be seen, along with the foundations of blockhouses and holes left by soldiers who dug holes into which they built their huts, using the earth as additional insulation.

To learn more about this fascination heritage destination, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/staffordwar.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Night at the Museum coming to Andersonville NHS in Georgia

Andersonville National Historic Site
Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia is preserves the site of the massive Camp Sumter Civil War prison and is home to the National Prisoner of War Museum.

The park is normally open during daylight hours, but on November 16th visitors will have a rare opportunity to explore the national park area after dark.

The national historic site and museum will open its doors to the public beginning at 6 p.m. on November 16th to allow visitors to explore the museum and its exhibits, attend special films and hear a presentation on the 15 American Indian men from the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters who were held prisoner at Camp Sumter.

In addition, lanterns will light the way from the museum to the restored northeast corner of the prison stockade. Living history presenters will be there to interact with visitors and portray life at Andersonville during the winter of 1864-1865.

It should be a fascinating event and will be the last chance to see the prison after dark until 2014.

Please click here to learn more about "Night at the Museum.

Please click here to learn more about Andersonville National Historic Site.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Some new Ghost Stories for Halloween 2013!

The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge
Marianna, Florida
One of the most popular pages at ExploreSouthernHistory.com is our collection of stories about the Ghosts & Monsters of the South.

For Halloween 2013, we have added some new stories that you might enjoy.  From a headless horse in Southwest Georgia to a ghost ship crewed by pirates in the Everglades, I think you will enjoy these journeys into the folklore of the South!

New stories for 2013:


Other favorites:
Don't forget you can access all of these stories and many others anytime at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ghosts.