Battle of Natural Bridge
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 Union forces (consisting of African-American soldiers of the 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. This action prevented the Union 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.
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 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 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. Since it was originally part of the Army, FSU's Air Force ROTC unit also displays the same battle streamer.
|“||This monument erected under authority of an act of the legislature of Florida of 1921 as a just tribute of the people of Florida to commemorate the victory of the battle of Natural Bridge. March 6, 1865. And to keep in cherished memory those brave men and boys who, in the hour of sudden danger, rushed from home desk and field and from the West Florida Seminary and joining a few disciplined troops by their united valor and patriotism saved their capital from the invaders. Tallahassee being the only capital of the South not captured by the enemy during the War between the States.||”|
Annual Memorial Service and Battle Reenactment
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.
The site is now called Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park.
- Military history of African Americans in the U.S. Civil War
- United States Colored Troops
- Historical reenactment
- List of Florida state parks
- List of Registered Historic Places in Leon County, Florida
- "Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park". StateParks.Com. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
- The other three programs are: the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) for the Battle of New Market, The Citadel, for the defense of Charleston and other engagements, and The University of Mississippi for the defense of Vicksburg.
- State of Florida official website for Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park http://www.floridastateparks.org/naturalbridge/default.cfm
- Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park - Florida State Parks
- Photos of the annual Battle of Natural Bridge reenactment
- Natural Bridge Historical Society
- Union Account by Captain Thos. Chatfield
- Map of the Battle - Civil War Trust