Sunday, March 8, 2009

Battle of Natural Bridge Commemoration - Florida

The 144th anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge was observed this weekend at Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park near Tallahassee, Florida.

Beautiful spring weather with blue skies and temperatures in the 80s brought out a huge crowd that numbered into the thousands. Events included a memorial service at 1 p.m. followed by the annual reenactment of the battle that preserved Tallahassee's status as the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi not taken by Union troops during the Civil War.

The event was made even more special this year by the recent announcement that the State of Florida had completed the acquisition of 55 more acres of key battlefield land at the site. The Natural Bridge battlefield was ranked as one of the ten most endangered Civil War battlefields in the country by the Civil War Preservation Trust, but the new land purchase means that the critical core of the scene of the fighting will now be preserved.

The announcement of the new land purchase during today's Memorial Ceremony and Annual Pilgrimage by Barry Burch, Park Manager, brought wild cheering and applause from the crowd.

The ceremonies, which were sponsored by the Anna Jackson Chapter 224 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, were followed by a presentation by a reenactor portraying the Abolition leader and statesman Frederick Douglass.

The Douglass presentation was followed by the main battle reenactment itself. This year's event featured barrages of cannon fire from both sides of the river along with pyrotechics that simulated the explosions of shells, infantry attacks and volleys of musket fire.

The actual Battle of Natural Bridge was fought on March 6, 1865, when a Union force landed at the St. Marks Lighthouse south of Tallahassee and began a march on both Florida's capital city and the nearby city of Thomasville, Georgia. Commanded by General John Newton, who had fought at Gettysburg and during the Atlanta Campaign, the Federal troops were turned back in an attempt to get across the St. Marks River at nearby Newport, so they turned north along the east bank of the river hoping to force a crossing at the Natural Bridge.

Major General Samuel Jones rushed Confederate troops to the threatened point and the key battle of the campaign took place along the banks of the river as Union forces launched 8 distinct assaults on the Southern lines, each one ending in failure.

The battle ended in a bloody debacle for Newton's command. He lost 150 men in the fighting along the St. Marks River, compared to only 50 Confederate losses. To learn more about this fascinating battle, please visit

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