Touring Florida - The Civil War in the Sunshine State

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luinrina

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Confederate monument at Ocala

I'm back on the road, this time in the Sunshine State. And sunshine I have had so far aplenty! ☀

My tour started from Orlando. Coming with warm recommendations, I first hit the Dade Battlefield. I visited the museum, got to see the movie, than walked the original road where the ambush took place. If you stand at certain points where you don't see any of the modern building or signage, you can actually imagine being in 1835.

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A miniature in the visitor center, the Seminoles awaiting the opportunity to attack.

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A reconstruction of the breastworks the US soldiers having survived the first attack built in order to protect themselves when the Seminoles attacked again. It was of no real use; everyone but two men were killed or mortally wounded. And of the two survivors, only one made it back to Fort Brooke.

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These three monuments depict where officers fell. Closest is Major Dade at the head of the US column who was shot in the first attack wave. The second monument is the spot Captain Fraser fell. And the third farthest in the background is for Lt. Mudge.

From the Dade Battlefield I continued on north to Ocala to see its Confederate monument (see picture at the top of this post). It was originally erected next to the County Courthouse but was moved to its current spot on the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park in 2010.

From Ocala I drove to Oak Ridge Cemetery in Micanopy. There, Madison Starke Perry, Florida's 4th governor from 1857 to 1861, is buried. Perry was for secession. After leaving the office, he helped organize the 7th Florida Infantry and was made it's colonel. The regiment served in East Tennessee while Perry was in command. Perry resigned in June 1863 and returned to his plantation. He died less than two years later.
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In the cemetery is also the Confederate monument that once stood at the Alachua Country Administration Building in Gainesville, but it's hard to photograph because, oddly, the monument's back is to the cemetery, the front toward the woods and the fence in front of it almost overgrown. :frown:
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Next stop was Gainesville. I began with the Haile Homestead. In 1854, Thomas Evans Haile and his family moved here from South Carolina. Some of his siblings and brothers-in-law with their families followed. Thomas's wife Ester "Serena" Chesnut Haile was the niece of General James Chesnut and diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut. The Hailes and Chesnuts owned several cotton plantations in the area of Gainesville.

Thomas served in the 5th Florida Cavalry from August 1863 to May 1865 when he was mustered out. For a time, his oldest son John served in the same unit. John was 17 when he was mustered out; he died two years later after a short illness.

A month after the fall of Richmond Jefferson Davis's baggage train had made it to Alachua county. The content was hidden at Daniel Levy Yulee's plantation, but two of the men took shelter at the Haile Homestead before heading to Jacksonville to surrender.
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The guide told us about the Haile family plot in the nearby cemetery. Special about that plot is the grave of Bennett Kelley. He was an enslaved that came to Florida with his parents as a boy and worked in the house. After the war, he came back and took care of Thomas and Serena. He was considered a very good family friend, so much so that Thomas and Serena wanted him to be buried in the family plot. When Kelley died in the 1930s, burying a black with whites just wasn't done, but the wish was honored and in the corner of the Haile family plot can be found Bennett Kelley's grave.
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Next I headed to the Gainesville Depot. Several Haile sons worked with the railroad after the war. The depot is the only Civil War building on the Florida Railroad still standing. On August 17, 1864 during the Battle of Gainesville the depot was occupied by Union soldiers but the Confederates eventually drove them out. Today the depot serves as cafes and ice cream parlors for a city park with playgrounds and such.
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Final stop of the day was Gainesville's historic Evergreen Cemetery where General Jesse J. Finley is buried. Finley was Colonel of the 6th Florida Infantry and fought at Chickamauga before being promoted to Brigadier-General in November 1863. After the war, he served in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
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Tomorrow's program: Cedar Key.

EDIT: Sorry, I had trouble with uploading pics. It seemed there was a double and a pic I did not want to share.
 
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bdtex

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Final stop of the day was Gainesville's historic Evergreen Cemetery where General Jesse J. Finley is buried. Finley was Colonel of the 6th Florida Infantry and fought at Chickamauga before being promoted to Brigadier-General in November 1863. After the war, he served in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Outstanding! My maternal ggg grandfather on my mother's side served in the 6th Florida Infantry. I have walked some of the ground where Finley's Brigade fought at Chickamauga and found their brigade marker at Missionary Ridge. I am embarrassed to say that I did not know where Gen. Finley was buried. Thanks for posting that. Looking forward to more reports from your tour.
 
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luinrina

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Good morning!
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I'm staying at the historic Island Hotel. It was built as a general store and post office in 1859/1860 by Major John Parsons who during the Civil War commanded a detachment of Confederate volunteers defending the coast. Cedar Key was an important harbor at that time and occupied by Union troops. Almost every building that wasn't needed by the Union soldiers as warehouse or barracks was burned down. That this building withstood the burning suggests it was used by Union troops as office quarters and/or storage. Shortly before the end of the war, the Confederates led by Parsons retook Cedar Key.
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The hotel is said to be haunted. One of the spirits is a southern soldier. Some say he has been seen on the stairway, others say he's standing guard at the door to the balcony every morning before sunrise. Since I was out today to see the sunrise, I could not try to see the soldier's ghost but I was awoken sometimes at night (around 4 a.m.; I eventually checked my cell for the time) by a couple of footsteps on the hallway. They were gone as quickly as they appeared. There was no door going or any other sound suggesting someone was coming in late or leaving very very early... Did I hear a ghost? 👻
 
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bdtex

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That she is and pleasure in person. Got to meet her at the Gettysburg reenactment last summer and will have the pleasure again this weekend at the Olustee reenactment.
I got to hang with her at Vicksburg and Raymond last year. Good times.
 

James N.

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dade-battle.jpg

...I'm back on the road, this time in the Sunshine State. And sunshine I have had so far aplenty! ☀

My tour started from Orlando. Coming with warm recommendations, I first hit the Dade Battlefield. I visited the museum, got to see the movie, than walked the original road where the ambush took place. If you stand at certain points where you don't see any of the modern building or signage, you can actually imagine being in 1835.

View attachment 345801
A miniature in the visitor center, the Seminoles awaiting the opportunity to attack.

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A reconstruction of the breastworks the US soldiers having survived the first attack built in order to protect themselves when the Seminoles attacked again. It was of no real use; everyone but two men were killed or mortally wounded. And of the two survivors, only one made it back to Fort Brooke.

View attachment 345810
These three monuments depict where officers fell. Closest is Major Dade at the head of the US column who was shot in the first attack wave. The second monument is the spot Captain Fraser fell. And the third farthest in the background is for Lt. Mudge…
Not Olustee by any means, but a plug for the event held at the site of Dade's Massacre of the Seminole Wars. Above my friend from movies Alamo - the Price of Freedom, Legacy, and Last of the Mohicans Steve Abolt is the officer leading his men in a charge on the enemy.
 
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luinrina

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About a month before the Civil War broke out, the Florida Railroad connecting Fernandina Beach with Cedar Key was finished. It brought prosperity to the community because it connected the Atlantic ship routes with the Gulf ship routes without needing to go around south Florida. The railroad company's founder and first president was David Levy Yulee, who served as a Senator and at whose plantation Jefferson Davis's baggage train was hidden. The railroad operated until the 1930s when it was abandoned after years of decline.

Cedar Key fell into Union hands in January 1862, just a few days after the Confederate forces stationed there were sent east to Fernandina Beach because everyone believed a Union attack would come on the Atlantic Coast. The 23 men of the 4th Florida Infantry that were still there stood no chance against the USS Hatteras. 15 were taken prisoners, the others escaped.

This morning I walked the short Railroad Trestle Nature Trail. There are no more train tracks leading from the mainland to Cedar Key, but the trail is today where the tracks used to be. And at the end you can see the remains of the trestle leading over the canal.
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No one is really certain how exactly the train tracks came into the docks. A drawing from the 1880s I've seen in the museums suggests one route, but it doesn't completely fit with where the above trestle remains are located. This map from the Historical Society Museum (sort of) suggests a route equal to today's State Road 24.
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The railroad probably followed State Road 24 onto the islands for a good part and then at No. 2 Bridge swung around over the little island next to the No. 2 Bridge and came in to the Big Dock via the little bump sticking out. For one, yesterday at the Haile Homestead the guide said the railroad used to run where Archer Road (= State Road 24) is - and it leads straight toward Cedar Key.

Furthermore, on February 13, 1865 Confederate Captain John Jackson Dickison and his men surprised a Union raiding party at Bridge No. 4 (see map above). The engagement lasted some three and a half hours. Despite the Union having more men, it was a southern victory. The Confederates drove the Union from the field back towards Cedar Key and recaptured the raided cattle and other plunder. Dickison reported only some wounded, none mortally, whereas the Union Major Weeks reported six killed, seventeen wounded and two missing.
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The Union soldiers regularly went on raids. Their goal was to destroy the salt works as well as capture the cattle that roamed freely through the Floridian wilderness or hinder the Confederates of driving the cattle north. Florida was an important supplier for cattle and salt to feed the armies. In fact, the Battle of Olustee came about because of the Union trying to cut the supply route.

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Salt kettle destroyed by a Union raid in 1862.

On another note, I took a cruise around the islands. We heard lots of history and saw many birds and even dolphins! 🐬 But my main interest on that tour was Seahorse Key and its lighthouse. Or rather, light station. The difference: A lighthouse is the tower with a house either attached or separated. A light station is the house with the tower right on top of it. I found this model in the Historical Society Museum:
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So why is that light station so interesting? Guess who built it in the early 1850s - none other than George Gordon Meade. (I told that our cruise captain for he had no idea.) The museum even has a copy of the plan Meade drew right next to that model.

I had a chat with a couple at the museum about Meade. He was wondering if the Lieutenant Meade building the light station was the same General Meade that led the Union army at Gettysburg. I told him it's the same man and explained to him the difference between rank in the regular army vs. rank in the volunteer army. They asked where I came from and she was impressed that a German knows more about American history than they did! :D

Unfortunately, the light station is only accessible to the public four times a year as Seahorse Key is federally owned. Our cruise captain told us there's also a cemetery near the light station that has (apart from the light station operators) four soldiers' graves - two died in battle, one from illness and the fourth in an accident. He took us as close as possible to get a glimpse of the light station though:
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Did you notice the elevation the light station sits on? According to our cruise captain, that's the highest point of the US Gulf Coast, between Key West and Texas. That's why the spot was chosen for a light station.

Depending on who had control of Seahorse Key, the light station was used as hospital or prison or refuge for Unionists. Today it is part of a maritime research center. The University of Florida leases it and uses the light station as bunks for the students who spend two weeks on Seahorse Key doing research during summer.

The staff at the hotel also told me about a cemetery with old graves. I strolled through it this afternoon and found one Confederate veteran:
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My day ended with a beautiful sunset over the key islands. The island on the left is Seahorse Key with Meade's light station.
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On tomorrow's program: St. Marks Lighthouse, Fort Ward and Natural Bridge Battlefield.
 

bdtex

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So why is that light station so interesting? Guess who built it in the early 1850s - none other than George Gordon Meade. (I told that our cruise captain for he had no idea.) The museum even has a copy of the plan Meade drew right next to that model.

I had a chat with a couple at the museum about Meade. He was wondering if the Lieutenant Meade building the light station was the same General Meade that led the Union army at Gettysburg. I told him it's the same man and explained to him the difference between rank in the regular army vs. rank in the volunteer army. They asked where I came from and she was impressed that a German knows more about American history than they did! :D

Unfortunately, the light station is only accessible to the public four times a year as Seahorse Key is federally owned. Our cruise captain told us there's also a cemetery near the light station that has (apart from the light station operators) four soldiers' graves - two died in battle, one from illness and the fourth in an accident. He took us as close as possible to get a glimpse of the light station though:
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Did you notice the elevation the light station sits on? According to our cruise captain, that's the highest point of the US Gulf Coast, between Key West and Texas. That's why the spot was chosen for a light station.
Good stuff. Too bad it was closed huh? Hate it when that happens. Great pictures and commentary nonetheless. Betcha the information you provided gets incorporated into the tour. Good job.
 

bdtex

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On tomorrow's program: St. Marks Lighthouse, Fort Ward and Natural Bridge Battlefield.
Can't wait. Especially Fort Ward. It was almost closing time when I got there and only had time for a quick walk-through at the site. Didn't get to go in the museum/visitor center. They were closing up. Hit the Visitor Center at the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. That's where the lens from the lighthouse is. The $4 guided tour at the Lighthouse is worth it too.
 
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