Monday, September 28, 2009

In Memory of Clinton T. Cox, 1925-2009

Clinton T. Cox passed away in his sleep on September 27, 2009.

He was the best friend, the best example, the best adviser and the best father any man ever had or ever will.

He was a member of the "greatest generation" and a veteran of the United States Navy. Although he was a veteran of World War II, Korea and the Cuban Missile Crisis, his greatest battle was against cancer. In the end he was victorious, as we all know that Heaven sings tonight with the voice of a new saint.

May I someday be able to live up to the example that he set.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Battle of Marianna, Florida - Anniversary This Weekend

This Sunday, September 27th, will mark the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Marianna, Florida.

A little known Civil War encounter, the small but fierce battle culminated the deepest Union penetration of Confederate Florida during the entire war. Leading troops from Pensacola Bay on September 18, 1864, Brigadier General Alexander Asboth covered a longer distance than Sherman's March to the Sea. His movement through Walton, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties inflicted more economic damage on those counties than was sustained by any other in Florida during the four year conflict.

On September 27th, Asboth attacked a Confederate force at Marianna made up of militia, reservists, Confederate regulars, home guards and volunteers. Led by Colonel Alexander Montgomery, they waged a fierce battle in defense of the town. By the time the fight was over, 25% of Marianna's male population had been killed, wounded or captured and among the Union forces, the 2nd Maine Cavalry had suffered its bloodiest day of the war.

To commemorate the 145th Anniversary of the event, numerous organizations are joining hands this weekend for Marianna Day observances, reenactments, a parade, bluegrass festival and more. To learn more, please visit

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area - Ozark National Forest, Arkansas

Located deep in the mountain country of the Ozarks and just off famed Scenic Highway 7, some of the most beautiful and historic scenery in the South can be found at Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area.

Named for the magnificent pedestals of stone formed by natural erosion of a towering bluff, the park features hiking trails that least to the pedestals, natural arches, erosion caves and one of the tallest waterfalls in Arkansas. The bluff top provides spectacular views of the valley and mountains beyond and is stunning in October when fall colors reach south into the Ozarks.

Archaeologists have learned that Native Americans used the natural caves and rock shelters at Pedestal Rocks thousands of years ago. They used this natural shelter while hunting and gathering in the mountains. In later times, the territory surrounding the scenic area was the domain of the Civil War guerrilla bands that roamed the Ozarks.

The scenic area is now part of the Ozark National Forest and is open daily. To learn more, please visit

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Camp Milton Historic Preserve - Jacksonville, Florida

Once destined to become a sludge field for the booming city of Jacksonville, Florida's Camp Milton Historic Preserve now stands as a beautiful example of the value of local historic preservation.

Instead of being used to dispose of waste, the site now attracts visitors with interests in history, wildlife, bird watching, nature and more. It serves as a vital link on a popular local "rails to trails" project and provides paved trails and boardwalks at are popular for afternoon walks with residents from throughout the vicinity.

One of these boardwalks leads to what remains of a remarkable system of siege fortifications designed by famed Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard in March of 1864. The Confederate army of General Joseph Finegan had just handed a major defeat to a Union invasion force at the Battle of Olustee, the largest Civil War engagement in Florida. As the Federal troops fell back rapidly to Jacksonville, the Confederate army moved slowly in pursuit.

General Beauregard arrived on the scene from Charleston to find that the Federal army had Jacksonville had been given time to reorganize and take up positions in fortifications around the city. Disappointed that the opportunity for an even greater victory had slipped away, he established siege lines along McGirt's Creek west of the city to block any further attempts by the Federals to advance into the interior of Florida.

The lines he designed ran for three miles along the west side of the creek and were among the most remarkable field fortifications built during the Civil War. Some of them were so well finished that they looked almost like masonry.

Time and modern development destroyed all but a few hundred yards of this magnificent line, but what remains today can be seen along an interpretive boardwalk at Camp Milton. Other interpretive panels explain the significance of the massive Confederate camp and the fighting around Jacksonville in 1864. There is also a preserved 19th century Florida house, reconstruction of a Civil War era bridge over McGirt's Greek and much more.

To learn more, please visit

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fort Caroline National Memorial - Jacksonville, Florida

It is a little known fact that America's first settlement for those seeking refuge from religious persecution in Europe stood on the St. Johns River in today's city of Jacksonville, Florida.

Established in 1564 by French Huguenots (Protestants), Fort Caroline was a triangular earth and timber fort built more than fifty years before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. The first wave of settlers consisted of 200 soldiers, craftsmen and even a few women. They expected to build homes, clear fields and prepare for the arrival of hundreds more Huguenots the following year.

Despite a promising start, hard times quickly befell the colony. Promising relations with the local Timucua Indians soured and the colonists suffered from hunger, disease and other hardships. Some went home to France, but a core of the most devoted clung to their North American foothold.

A relief flotilla brought supplies and 600 more soldiers and settlers the following year, but also attracted the attention of King Phillip II of Spain who claimed control of all of North America. He sent Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles to dispose of the French, a duty that Menendez performed with bloody efficiency. Fort Caroline was captured and 140 of the French found there were put to the sword as heretics.

A reconstruction of the fort can be seen today at Fort Caroline National Memorial in Jacksonville, a park that commemorates the early French settlement and the dramatic events that took place on the St. Johns. To learn more, please visit

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Monument to Captain Henry Wirz

Often overlooked by visitors to Andersonville National Historic Site is the nearby monument to the prison's Confederate commandant, Henry Wirz.

Although he was only a captain, Wirz was the only man ever tried, convicted and executed for war crimes during the Civil War. The Union accused him of murdering prisoners of war, despite evidence that he pleaded with his superiors for help, and a military tribunal sentenced him to death.

A native of Switzerland, Captain Wirz was a trained doctor who came to the United States and settled in Kentucky following the great European revolutions of 1848. He had a successful medical practice in Louisville before traveling south to Louisiana to join the Confederate war effort at the beginning of the war.

Wounded at Seven Pines, he was assigned to the prison service and eventually promoted to command the new prison of Camp Sumter (Andersonville), Georgia. The stockade was designed for 10,000, but Wirz eventually found himself responsible for more than 30,000 prisoners. By the summer of 1864, more than 100 were dying each day from exposure, sickness, malnutrition and other causes. There was little that Wirz or his soldiers could do to help. Pleas for additional food went up to Richmond but the Confederate government had no assistance to send. The commandant even took thousands of prisoners by train and tried to turn them over to the Union army at Jacksonville, but the Federals themselves refused to accept them.

By the time the war ended, some 13,000 men had died at Andersonville and Captain Henry Wirz was branded a villain. Placed on trial before a military tribunal, he was convicted of war crimes and hanged.

In an effort to redeem his reputation, the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1908 erected a monument to Captain Wirz in Andersonville. To learn more about it and his tragic story, please visit