Friday, February 27, 2009

Canyon Rim Drive at Little River Canyon, Alabama

One of my favorite scenic drives in the South is Alabama Highway 176. Also known as Canyon Rim Drive, Highway 176 winds its way along the eastern rim of Little River Canyon.

Connecting eight overlooks and a series of trailheads, the drive is one of the features of the Little River Canyon National Preserve, a national park area located just outside Fort Payne, Alabama.

The drive begins at Alabama 35 opposite the bridge from the Little River Falls parking lot. Eleven miles long, the drive passes some of the most spectacular scenery in the South. Overlooks include a platform from which a distant view of Little River Falls can be seen, the Lynn Overlook, which provides a sweeping vista of the upper canyon area, Hawks Glide, an area popular for watching hawks and other birds as they soar over the canyon, Canyon View, which offers one of the finest views available of the canyon, Wolf Creek and Crow Point, both of which offer outstanding vistas of the canyon, Graces High Falls, which provides a view of one of the tallest waterfalls in Alabama, and Eberhart Point, near the southern end of the drive.

You can learn more about Canyon Rim Drive, Little River Falls and other points of interest in the Little River Canyon area by visiting

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maclay Gardens State Park - Tallahassee, Florida

It will only be a few weeks now before the spectacular flowering plants at Tallahassee's Maclay Gardens State Park begin to bloom.

The photographs in this post were taken on March 24th last year and provide a good idea of how the gardens will appear in about three weeks. Maclay is always quite stunning during the last week of March and first week of April.

The gardens were conceived and planted by Alfred B. and Louise Maclay, who purchased the property on the north side of Tallahassee to serve as a winter home. They began working on the gardens in 1923, naming them "Killearn" after a village in Scotland. For the next two decades, the planting and cultivation of the gardens was a labor of love for Mr. and Mrs. Maclay. Over that time they planted a stunning variety of flowering plants and trees.

Mr. Maclay passed away in 1944, but by then the gardens had achieved worldwide recognition as one of the most beautiful places in the United States. They now are the focal point of Maclay Gardens State Park, located just off Thomasville Road (U.S. 319) in Tallahassee.

Maclay Gardens are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. To learn more, please visit

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge - St. Marks, Florida

One of the most beautiful sections of Florida's coastline is far removed from the white sand beaches and towering condominiums of the popular resorts of the state. The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, near St. Marks south of Tallahassee, is a place of vast marshes, wildlife, birds and butterflies.

Open daily, the National Refuge preserves thousands of acres of coastal land that is rich in both cultural and natural history. The St. Marks Lighthouse, located in the heart of the Refuge, dates back to 1832 and a long walking trail leads to the site of the now vanished town of Port Leon, destroyed by hurricane in the 1840s. Union and Confederate troops battle in what is now the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge during the Natural Bridge expedition in 1865, while Spanish explorers led by Panfilo de Narvaez and Hernando de Soto explored the marshes during the 1500s.

The refuge today is a popular place for exploring the outdoors. There are walking trails, picnic areas, boat landings, observation decks, a visitor center, the lighthouse and more. To learn more, please visit

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Linwood Cemetery - Columbus, Georgia

One of the most significant burial grounds in the South can be found in the downtown area of the historic city of Columbus, Georgia.

Established in 1828, Linwood Cemetery is the burial place of a number of individuals who contributed significantly to Southern history. Among them are General Henry "the Rock" Benning, the Confederate general for whom Fort Benning is named; Lizzie Rutherford Ellis, the leader of the group of Columbus ladies who started the tradition we recognize today as Memorial Day; Dr. Francis Oray Ticknor, author of the famed Civil War poem "Little Giffen," and Dr. John S. Pemberton, the Georgia druggist who invented Coca-Cola.

In addition, more than 200 Confederate soldiers are buried at Linwood, including men who died in the Battle of Columbus (Girard), considered by most authorities to have been the last major land battle of the Civil War.

To learn more about this fascinating place where history is written in stone, please visit

Monday, February 23, 2009

Eufaula, Alabama

Overlooking Lake Eufaula from the bluffs on the Alabama shore, the beautiful city of Eufaula is one of the most picturesque and historic in the South.

Named for one of the principal towns of the Lower Creek Indians, Eufaula was settled on the site of Creek villages at a time when the land was still claimed by the Creek Nation. Called Irwinton until 1843, the town was the source of much controversy with the Creeks during its early days and served as one of several bases for attacks by federal and state troops during the Creek War of 1836.

By the time of the Civil War, Eufaula was a prosperous river port on the Chattahoochee River and a commerical center for much of the surrounding area. Many of its elegant antebellum homes still stand today, saved from destruction when Union troops halted just west of town after receiving a truce request from Major General Samuel Jones who had just learned that the war was ending.

Today the city and surrounding area are home to more than 20 structures and districts that are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Some of the old homes in Eufaula are considered the finest examples of their architectural styles in the United States. Two now function as museums and a number of others are open to the public during the annual Spring Pilgrimage held in early April.

To learn more about Eufaula, please visit

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fort Gibson Historic Site - Fort Gibson, Oklahoma

Established in 1824 on what was then the far western frontier, Fort Gibson was one of the most important military posts in American history.

Originally established to maintain peace between newly arrived Cherokees and the Osage who already lived in the region, the original Fort Gibson was a log stockade built by Lt. Col. Matthew Arbuckle and the 7th Infantry Regiment. Beginning in 1836, the fort took on a new and sad role as the final stop on the Trail of Tears.

Over the next few years, thousands of Cherokee, Creek and Seminole ended their long and miserable forced migration to the west at Fort Gibson.

Fort Gibson served as a base for troops marching south during the Mexican-American War of the 1840s and then was occupied by Confederate forces early during the Civil War. Seized by Union troops who briefly renamed it Fort Blunt, the fort served as a base for Federal operations in the Indian Territory, including the Battle of Honey Springs and the Fort Smith Campaign.

It remained an active military post until 1890 and is now a historic site maintained by the Oklahoma Historical Society. Visitors can explore the reconstructed stockade of the original fort and view original structures, ruins and earthworks from the later post. To learn more, please visit

Naval Live Oaks Reserve - Gulf Breeze, Florida

Located just east of Gulf Breeze, Florida, on U.S. Highway 98, this beautiful national park area preserves the site of America's first federal tree farm.

Established by order of President John Quincy Adams, the Naval Live Oaks Reserve began operation in 1829. Its purpose was to serve as a renewable source of live oak timber for use by the U.S. Navy in building warships. Nearby Pensacola was the site of an important Navy Yard and wood from the reserve was used there to build and repair ships during the days of the sail navy.

The days of wooden ships are long since over, but the Naval Live Oaks Reserve remains a beautiful nature preserve. Now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, it features a visitor center, picnic area and beautiful walking trails leading through the oaks and along the shores of Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Bay.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Alligators - Amazing Reptiles of the Deep South!

They have been a part of the South for as long as there has been a South and they remain one of its most amazing sights.

Alligators have played an amazing role in the history of our region. Over the years they have served as enemies, friends, food and more. Almost driven to extinction, they have bounced back remarkably well and once again thrive from North Carolina south to Florida and from the Atlantic west to Texas.

The alligators in Southern history is quite impressive. One of the first pieces of Southern art was a 1564 image by the French artist Jacques LeMoyne of Native Americans in Florida battling and killing massive alligators. The 18th century naturalist William Bartram described seeing alligators that measured 24 feet long and one of the South's favorite "monster" stories involves Two-Toed Tom, a gigantic demon-possessed alligator said to inhabit the swamps along the Florida-Alabama line.

To learn more about alligators, their role in Southern history and even Two-Toed Tom, please visit

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2009 Muskogee Azalea Festival Info now online...

The annual Muskogee Azalea Festival in Muskogee, Oklahoma, is one of the premier spring events in the South.

Held each year at Honor Heights Park, a beautiful setting high on a hill overlook the historic city of Muskogee, the festival draws thousands of visitors from around the world and features a stunning array of blooming trees, shrubs and plants. More than varieties of azaleas are planted across 40 acres of the park and by mid-April they are usually quite spectacular.

I have updated the Azalea Festival pages information on this year's festival, including planned dates, etc. I will continue to add more information as it becomes available. To check out the latest, please visit The pages also include current weather information for Muskogee and an easy way to get directions to the festival from your location.
A heading for the festival will also remain up through April on the home page at

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mount Magazine State Park - Paris, Arkansas

Sometimes described as an "island in the sky," Mount Magazine is the highest point between the Appalachians and the Rockies.

Located on Scenic Highway 309 south of Paris, Arkansas, the mountain features magnificent views from towering bluffs, a lodge, restaurant, cabins, hiking trails, seasonal waterfalls and more.

The mountain was given its name, "Magazine," by early French hunters and fur trappers who explored the Arkansas River Valley during the late 1600s and 1700s. The massive outline of the mountain became a natural landmark. The name is the French word for "barn." From a distance, the mountain does bear something of a barn-like appearance.

During the Civil War the mountain served as a refuge from those fleeing the armies of both sides. Its high bluffs provided outstanding lookout points from which military movements could be watched.

After the war, Mount Magazine became popular as a resort area, a reputation that it still enjoys today. To learn more, please visit

National Civil War Naval Museum - Columbus, Georgia

One of the most fascinating historical exhibits in the nation stands by the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia.

Originally established to preserve the wrecks of the Confederate warships C.S.S. Jackson and C.S.S. Chattahoochee, the National Civil War Naval Museum has grown into a magnificent facility that interprets the history of both the Confederate and Union navies with artifacts, displays and full-size reproductions of Civil War ships.
The most stunning artifact in the museum is the wreck of the C.S.S. Jackson, a massive ironclade built at Columbus for a planned effort to break the blockade at Apalachicola Bay, Florida. The huge ship was 225 feet long, 54 feet wide and weighed an estimated 2000 tons. Captured by the Union army as it was nearing completion, the ship was set afire and burned to the waterline before sinking into the soft mud on the bottom of the Chattahoochee River. Raised in 1961, it is now part of a remarkable exhibit.

In addition, the museum offers visitors a chance to explore a partial reconstruction of Admiral David Farragut's famed flagship, the U.S.S. Hartford, and to experience a Civil War battle aboard the noted Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Albemarle. A full-size reproduction of the U.S.S. Water Witch, captured near Savannah by Confederate forces in 1864, will open to visitors in April.

Other artifacts on display include the original flag from the C.S.S. Arkansas, uniforms, weapons and even a massive cannon from the Jackson that is fired on special occasions.

If you would like to learn more about the National Civil War Naval Museum, please visit our new page at

Friday, February 13, 2009

White Rock Mountain - Arkansas

Located deep in the Ozark National Forest in western Arkansas, White Rock Mountain provides some of the most spectacular views to be found in the South.

A part of the Ozarks region that covers large areas of Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas, the mountain takes its name from the sheer rock cliffs that surround its crest. An unusual lichen that grows on the rocks give the cliffs a striking white appearance when viewed from a distance.

The drive to the mountain is a bit of an adventure. It requires navigating several miles of bumpy and often steep gravel roads, but the view at the top is well worth the journey. A recreation area that is now itself a historic site was built atop the mountain as a public works project during the Great Depression. Three original stone cabins and a beautiful old lodge are now available there for overnight guests. In addition, hiking trails lead past a series of overlooks built by Depression era workers to help visitors experience the spectacular mountain views.

To learn more, please visit One note, this area of the Ozarks experienced heavy damage in this year's ice storm. The cabins, etc., on the mountain are open, but cleanup work is continuing on roads, hiking trails and at other recreation spots in the area.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Annual Battle of Olustee Reenactment is this weekend

If you are looking for something of historical interest to do this Valentine's weekend, the annual festival and reenactment commemorating Florida's largest Civil War battle will take place in Lake City and at the nearby Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park.

The Battle of Olustee was fought on February 20, 1864, and was the worst Union defeat in a major battle of the war (in terms of percentage of force lost). Two armies of almost equal size battled without benefit of fortifications or other defenses until the Federal troops finally were forced to withdraw. It was a remarkable event, more than 10,000 men blazing away at each other in the open pine woods of North Florida.

Activities begin tomorrow in Lake City with the annual festival and craft show. There will be a parade at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. The main battle reenactment will take place on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the battlefield, which is located 13 miles east of Lake City on U.S. 90. You can park and ride from either the Lake City Airport or the Lake County Prison Center (on U.S. 90 just east of the battlefield). For more information on events, please click here.

To learn more about the Battle of Olustee, visit

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pig Trail Scenic Byway - Arkansas

This charming little waterfall is Pig Trail Falls, located along the Pig Trail Scenic Byway in the Arkansas Ozarks.

The Pig Trail takes its name from its popularity as a short cut across the mountains for Arkansas Razorbacks fans on their way to and from games at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Stretching for 19 miles through the Ozark National Forest, the Pig Trail follows an old road that was in use in the earliest days of Arkansas. Well developed by the time of the Civil War, the road was used by both Union and Confederate forces. General W.L. Cabell led 900 men north along the road in the spring of 1863 on an expedition that ended at the Battle of Fayetteville.

Then as now, the road that became the Pig Trail led past beautiful waterfalls, Ozark mountain country and over the scenic Mulberry River (popular for canoing and kayaking).

To learn more, please visit

Fort George - The American Revolution in Pensacola, Florida

In my last post I discussed the little known Battle of Fort Charlotte, fought in Mobile, Alabama, during the American Revolution. This battle was followed one year later by one of the most significant yet least known battles of the Revolution.

During the spring of 1781, General Bernardo de Galvez led an army of Spanish, French, Irish and American troops against the British stronghold of Pensacola, Florida. It would take two months for the city to fall, but when it did, the course of U.S. history was forever changed.

The capture of Pensacola, for example, returned control of West Florida and the lower Mississippi River to Spain and France. This eventually allowed the Louisiana Purchase to take place, but perhaps even more importantly it removed Great Britain from the borders of the southern states. Had England still possessed Florida during the War of 1812, it is doubtful that the United States could have survived. It would have provided a natural base for invading the South and, coupled with the disastrous campaigns in the North, likely would have ended the war in favor of the British.

It is also safe to assume that the British would never have turned Florida over to the United States in 1821, as the Spanish eventually did.

A small portion of the Pensacola battlefield is preserved at Fort George Park at the intersection of Palafox and La Rua Streets near downtown Pensacola. The park features a reconstructed section of Fort George, the primary British defense of the city, and also offers interpretive panels explaining the battle.

To learn more, please visit

Friday, February 6, 2009

Battle of Fort Charlotte - American Revolution in Alabama

When the American Revolution comes to mind, most people think of the Eastern seaboard. The war raged from Georgia north to Maine.

It may be surprising, then, to learn that a Revolutionary War battle took place in the heart of what is now downtown Mobile, Alabama. Remembered today as the Battle of Fort Charlotte, the engagement was an important part of General Bernardo de Galvez' Gulf Coast campaign.

When Spain established a formal alliance with the Continental Congress, General Galvez was sent to drive British forces from the lower Mississippi River, Gulf Coast and West Florida. By 1780 he had successfully cleared the lower Mississippi of British troops and now turned his attention to Mobile Bay.

Fort Charlotte at Mobile (formerly called Fort Conde by the French) had been in British hands since the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. Located on the waterfront of the old French city, the fort was forty years old at the time British troops moved in and another 17 years had passed since then.

General Galvez targeted Fort Charlotte as a preliminary move prior to a planned attack on the British West Florida capital in Pensacola. He arrived off Mobile Bay with a fleet and hundreds of soldiers in February of 1780. The weather was bad and the general's ships had been damaged and supplies lost and he was on the verge of calling off the attack when reinforcements and additional ships arrived.

Galvez now moved up the bay and laid siege to Fort Charlotte, digging entrenchments and planting batteries of artillery. British Captain Elias Durnford turned down a request to surrender and the Spanish forces opened fire on March 10, 1780.

In anticipation of the battle, Durnford torched the city of Mobile to prevent its houses and shops from being used as cover by the attacking army. It was a wasted gesture that caused enormous suffering for the inhabitants of the city. British reinforcements did not reach Fort Charlotte time and the outnumbered captain was forced to surrender. The white flag was raised on March 12, 1780 and the surrender completed the next day.

The site of the Battle of Fort Charlotte is now partially preserved on South Royal Street in Mobile where about one third of Fort Conde (later Fort Charlotte) has been reconstructed. A British cannon can be seen adjacent to the fort in the front yard of the Conde-Charlotte House.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fort Pickens - Pensacola, Florida

Construction is now underway on the road repairs that will soon reopen the Fort Pickens area of Gulf Islands National Seashore to cars once again. The road was heavily damaged during Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis in 2004-2005 and has been closed ever since.

As the road reopens later this spring, it will once again allow visitors easy access to one of the most historic sites on the Gulf Coast. Built between 1829 and 1834, Fort Pickens was the largest of four major U.S. forts built to protect Pensacola Bay from foreign attack.

The fort played a major role in the Civil War. A standoff over possession of the fort was temporarily resolved in 1861 by the Fort Pickens Truce, an agreement that prevented the first battle of the war from being fought at Pensacola. Union forces violated the truce after Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, however, and by the end of 1861 fighting had broken out at Pensacola Bay.

A major attack was launched against the outer camps and batteries of Fort Pickens in October of 1861 and heavy bombardments followed in November and again in January of 1862.

Fort Pickens remained an important U.S. Army post in the years after the Civil War. The famed Apache leader Geronimo was imprisoned there during the late 1800s along with other members of his tribe.

To learn more about Fort Pickens, please visit our new Fort Pickens page at

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fort Walton Temple Mound - Fort Walton Beach, Florida

One of the South's most impressive archaeological sites is located in the heart of downtown Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Best known today as a gateway to the finest white sand beaches in the world, Fort Walton Beach was once the center of a large Native American civilization. A major mound group was located here during the Mississippian era (A.D. 900-1500). Archaeologists found the site to be so impressive that they applied the label "Fort Walton" to Mississippian sites across a vast area of Northwest Florida.

The primary or temple mound of the complex is now preserved by the city of Fort Walton Beach. Standing 17 feet high and measuring more than 220 feet across the base, the Fort Walton Temple Mound is one of the largest Native American earthworks on the Gulf Coast.

Located adjacent to the mound is the Indian Temple Mound Museum. Established in 1962, it was the first municipally owned and operated museum in Florida.

To learn more about this fascinating archaeological site, please visit our new Fort Walton Temple Mound page at

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Ghost of Sketoe's Hole - Newton, Alabama

One of the South's more fascinating ghost stories centers around a spot on the banks of the Choctawhatchee River in Newton, Alabama.

Like many such stories, the legend preserves the memory of a real event. On December 3, 1864, a local man named William "Bill" Sketoe was hanged at Newton by men from Captain Joseph Breare's company of Alabama militia cavalry. The Civil War was then raging and the men accused Sketoe of deserting from the Confederate army. The story preserved by his family is that Sketoe had hired a substitute to fight in his place and was at home caring for a sick wife.

According to the legend, Sketoe proclaimed his innocence to no avail and as he was strung up, prayed that God would forgive the men involved in his hanging.

Things did not go quickly for the man. As he dangled from the limb of a water oak, his feet touched the ground and saved him from instant death. One of Breare's men, however, supposedly used a crutch to dig out a hole under Sketoe's feet so that he could no longer touch ground. He died and was buried at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in nearby Echo, Alabama.

Sketoe's Hole, as the spot became known, was a landmark for residents of the Newton area for more than 125 years. It could be filled up with trash or other debris, but the hole would strangely be cleaned out each night. The unusual activities led to the rise of a ghost story in the vicinity and many became firmly convinced that the ghost of Bill Sketoe still swung at night from the long vanished oak limb at the site. It was said that his swinging feet brushed the hole clean.

The story achieved a measure of fame when it was told as "The Hole that will not Stay Filled" in Kathryn Tucker Windham's popular book, Thirteen Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.

To learn something of the true history of the story and to find out what eventually happened to Sketoe's Hole, please visit

Lake Jackson Mounds - Tallahassee, Florida

The site of modern Tallahassee has been the location of capital cities for thousands of years.

Long before this site was selected to become the capital of Florida, the Tallahassee area was the center of the Apalachee Indians. This Native American tribe battled early Spanish explorers such as Panfilo de Narvaez and Hernando de Soto. Their ancestors, it is believed, were responsible for the development of the major civilization that had its center at the Lake Jackson Mounds in the northern edge of Tallahassee.

Now preserved as a state park, the Lake Jackson site features two large platform mounds, what remains of a massive ceremonial complex. Archaeologists believe this site was occupied during the Mississippian period (A.D. 900-1500), but was abandoned for unknown reasons in around 1500, just a few decades before Spanish explorers penetrated the region.

Excavations here revealed the burials of high status individuals believed to have been chiefs and priests. Some of the individuals were buried with elaborate copper breastplates, made from metal brought down from the mountains of North Georgia and Tennessee. These presence of such items at the site indicates that its occupants had vast trade networks.

The site now features interpretive displays, a nature trail, wooden stairs leading to the tops of the two mounds and a beautiful open area on the plaza of the ancient city. For more information, please visit

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mentone, Alabama - The Town on Lookout Mountain

One of the most picturesque communities in the South can be found just off Interstate 85 near Fort Payne, Alabama.

Named for a French community famed for its musical spring, Mentone is located on the Lookout Mountain Parkway. The beautiful scenic drive winds its way along the top of the mountain through some of the most spectacular country in the South.

The area is rich in folklore and history. Some believe that the Welsh explorer Prince Madoc came as far inland as Mentone in 1170 A.D. and built a fort at nearby DeSoto Falls. While the legend is questioned by most historians and archaeologists, it has persisted in this area of Alabama for many years.

In later years the Mentone site overlooked the Cherokee village of Wills Town, home of the famed Native American linguist Sequoyah. It was here that he invented the Cherokee Alphabet.

In 1863, the Union XX Corps crossed Lookout Mountain here during the Chickamauga Campaign. Cavalry forces also camped in the edge of town near DeSoto Falls.

The modern community came into existence during the 1880s. Noted in those days for its clear mineral springs, the site was selected as the location of a health resort. The beautiful old Mentone Springs Hotel began its existence as a health spa high on the mountain.

The town today is a quaint and colorful community, extremely popular with tourists during the spring, summer and fall and generally quiet during the winter. It offers dining, inns, unique shops and access to some of the most intriguing natural and historic sites in the region.

To learn more, please visit

Southern Groundhog Proves Disagreeable!

Well, its Groundhog Day! Once again the Northern groundhog, Puxatawney Phil, saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter, which is probably what will happen in Pennsylvania.

The Southern groundhog, Gen. Beau Lee, has always proved a bit more reliable for our region of the country and he emerged this morning and predicted an early spring!

Gen. Lee is the official prognostigator at Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn, Georgia. He's also the "official" groundhog of since he understands the South a little better than his Northern cousin.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Battle of Olustee, Florida

February marks the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee. The largest Civil War battle in Florida, this engagement was a dramatic Confederate victory that ended Union hopes splitting the state in two.

The battle took place when Union General Truman Seymour, contrary to his orders, advanced west from the line of the St. Mary's River hoping to capture and destroy a vital railroad bridge over the Suwannee River. The bridge was the only rail link connecting East and West Florida and its capture would allow Seymour to divide the state in two.

The Confederates, however, had flooded reinforcements to the Lake City area after Union forces first came ashore at Jacksonville. Seymour did not know it, but he was marching directly into the teeth of a Southern army commanded by General Joseph Finegan. The two forces collided just east of Olustee, a small railroad siding near a large body of water called Ocean Pond, on February 20, 1864.

General Finegan had prepared a line of entrenchments at Olustee. Hoping to draw the Federals into attacking him there, he sent forward troops under General Alfred H. Colquitt to skirmish with the oncoming Union army and draw it into the trap. Colquitt, however, quickly realized that the Federals were advancing in column formation and clearly were not anticipating a major action. He and Finegan began to rush troops forward so fast that the Confederate line of battle successfully overlapped both flanks of Seymour's army.

Despite hard fighting by such units as the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, a famed African American regiment, the battle was a disaster for the Union forces. By the time the smoke cleared, Gilmour had sustained losses of 200 killed, 1,152 wounded and 506 missing. The Confederates, by comparison, reported losses of 93 killed, 847 wounded and 6 missing.

The 40% casualties sustained by the Federal forces at the Battle of Olustee marked the single greatest loss (by percentage of force) for a Union army during the entire Civil War.

The site of the battle is now preserved at the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park in Olustee, Florida. To learn more, please visit

The Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama

One of the most dramatic battles of the Civil War took place on Alabama's Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864. The Union fleet of Admiral David Farragut steamed into the mouth of the bay, ending Mobile's three year status as one of the most successful ports for blockade runners in the Confederacy.

The Battle of Mobile Bay is remembered today at Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan at the entrance to the bay and on an extended driving tour of Civil War sites in the bay area.

The battle began at 6:30 a.m. when the ships of Farragut's fleet, lashed together in pairs and guided by four ironclad monitors, steamed within range of the Confederate guns at Fort Morgan. The Southern artillery opened fire, the Federal ships responded and the battle was under way.

The Confederates had planted mines or "torpedoes" (as they were known in those days) in the main channel leading from the Gulf of Mexico into Mobile Bay. As the ironclad monitor U.S.S. Tecumseh steamed into the bay, Southern troops on shore set off one of their torpedoes. It exploded directly under the Tecumseh, which then capsized and sank to the bottom of the bay with dozens of sailors still on board.

The shocking sight caused the fleet to stall while still in point blank range of the cannon in Fort Morgan. Seeing what had happened, Admiral Farragut gave his famed orders to "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" The ships began to move faster and soon passed out of the range of the dangerous Confederate guns. Had they not done so, the Battle of Mobile Bay might have ended in disaster for the U.S. Navy.

Once in the bay, however, the ships were challenged by the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee and a few small wooden gunboats. Although the Federals easily drove away the wooden boats, the Tennessee was a different matter. Admiral Franklin Buchanan steamed the ship directly into the midst of the Union fleet in a courageous but hopeless fight against overwhelming odds.

At one point, the Tennessee fought seven Union warships at once. In the end, however, the vessel was battered into submission. Immobile and barely able to return fire, she surrendered about one mile north of Fort Gaines.

The battle effectively ended the use of Mobile Bay by blockade runners. It would take months of fighting and a major campaign before the city itself fell, but the Battle of Mobile Bay was one of the most dramatic naval battles of the Civil War.

To learn more, please visit