Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fort Gadsden in the Civil War

I've mentioned Fort Gadsden Historic Site in the Apalachicola National Forest on these pages from time to time, usually in relation to the destruction of the "Negro Fort" on the Apalachicola there in 1816 or the First Seminole War. The site also has a little known Civil War history.

In 1862-1863, following the evacuation of Apalachicola by Confederate forces, troops and a battery of field artillery were based in the old earthworks at the site and a guardhouse and possibly other structures were constructed there. Confederate engineers considered the old fort as a possible location for a battery of heavy artillery. While one engineer favored the location, others quickly recognized that the adjacent swamps made the site too high of a risk for sickness. The battery was never constructed and, likely, the earthworks of the original fort were preserved as a result.

In 1863, a Union boat expedition came up the river past the fort and captured the schooner Fashion which was being loaded with cotton for a blockade-running attempt in Owl Creek above the fort. The Confederate sentries at Fort Gadsden did not detect the passage of the Union sailors. The fort remained quiet as the boat party made its way back downstream with the captured blockade runner. The Union force lobbed a shell into the fort, but received no response.

Most of the troops were withdrawn from the fort in 1863 after a severe fever outbreak sickened a number of the men posted there. A small detachment of men from the 5th Florida Cavalry remained at the fort until the end of the war, however, assigned picket duty there to watch for any movement up the Apalachicola River by Union gunboats.

In January of 1865, a Union boat party that had come up Bear Creek into the Chipola River from St. Andrew Bay moved down into the Apalachicola and made a successful raid on the Confederate outpost upstream at Ricco's Bluff. Some of these men then made their way down the Apalachicola, capturing a few of the pickets at Fort Gadsden as well, but evidently without firing a shot. The incident was the last mention of Fort Gadsden in the military records of the Civil War.

To learn more about Fort Gadsden Historic Site, please visit

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