Battle of Natural Bridge

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Map of Natural Bridge Battlefield core and study areas by the American Battlefield Protection Program.

The Battle of Natural Bridge was a battle during the American Civil War, fought in what is now Woodville, Florida, near Tallahassee, on March 6, 1865. A small band of Confederate troops and volunteers, mostly composed of teenagers from the nearby Florida Military and Collegiate Institute that would later become Florida State University, and the elderly, protected by breastworks, prevented a detachment of United States Colored Troops from crossing the Natural Bridge on the St. Marks River. The Natural Bridge is a one-quarter mile long stretch along which the St. Marks River runs underground, after dropping into a sinkhole. [1] This action prevented the Union Army from capturing the Florida capital and made Tallahassee the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi River not to be captured by Union forces during the war. The battle has been described as the last Confederate victory in the American Civil War, and it was the second largest American Civil War battle in Florida.

Battle

The Union's Brig. Gen. John Newton had undertaken a joint force expedition to engage and destroy Confederate troops that had attacked at Cedar Keys, Florida and Fort Myers and were allegedly encamped somewhere around St. Marks. The Union Navy had trouble getting its ships up the St. Marks River. The Union Army force, however, had advanced and, after finding one bridge destroyed, started before dawn on March 6 to attempt to cross the river at Natural Bridge. The Union troops initially pushed Rebel forces back, but not away from the bridge.

Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. William Miller, protected by breastworks, guarded all of the approaches and the bridge itself. The action at Natural Bridge lasted most of the day, but, unable to take the bridge in three separate charges, the Union troops retreated to the protection of the fleet.

Based on the involvement of the students from the Florida Military and Collegiate Institute, the Florida State University Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program is one of only four Army ROTC programs to have a battle streamer for their actions in the Civil War. [2] Since it was originally part of the Army, FSU's Air Force ROTC unit also displays the same battle streamer.

Monument

Secretary of State Tom Adams showing battle flag of Natural Bridge (1961)

The site of the battle is now Natural Bridge Battlefield State Historic Site, a Florida State Park, and contains a monument with the inscription:

Annual Memorial Service and Battle Reenactment

First reenactment of the battle in 1974

A ceremony honoring the combatants on both sides of the Battle of Natural Bridge, followed by a reenactment of the battle featuring Union, Confederate, and civilian reenactors, is held at the park the first weekend of March every year. The event is free and open to the public. [3]

The site is now called Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. [3]


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