Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cedar Key's Little Known Civil War Battlefield

S.R. 24 Bridge at Number Four
Tens of thousands of visitors make their way to the charming island community of Cedar Key on Florida's Gulf Coast each year, but few realize they are passing over a noteworthy Civil War battlefield as the bridge comes into view.

An important port community and the Gulf terminal of Florida's only Atlantic to Gulf railroad, the Cedar Keys were first held by the Confederates when the Civil War erupted in 1861. By 1862, however, they had withdrawn from the cluster of islands and before long Union forces occupied Seahorse and Depot Keys. The latter is now the site of the main town of Cedar Key.

View of Battlefield from Fishing Pier
One of the few significant Civil War battles along this stretch of the Florida Gulf Coast took place where Florida Highway 24 approaches the bridge over Number Four Channel as it nears Cedar Key. This is the first long bridge you come to as you reach the coast and is just a short distance from historic downtown Cedar Key.

In 1864, this was the site of Station Four on the railroad. In February of that year, a large Union raiding force led by Major Edmund Weeks of the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry and made up of 386 soldiers from his own regiment as well as the 2nd U.S. Colored Troops. The Federals marched inland as far as Levyville between today's towns of Bronson and Chiefland, while a second column marched on Clay's Landing on the Suwannee River.

Capt. J.J. Dickson, C.S.A.
 Weeks and his men gathered supplies, cattle and liberated around 50 slaves before turning back for the coast. In the process, however, the aroused a hornet's nest in the form of the cavalry of Captain J.J. Dickson, the famed "Swamp Fox of Florida."  Dickison began to pursue the Union troops as they withdrew back up the railroad, skirmishing with the rear of their column.

At 7 a.m. on February 13, 1864, the "Swamp Fox" caught up with the main body of the Union raiding force at Station Four overlooking Number Four Channel. A fierce battle developed and the two sides surged back and forth. Both commanders ultimately declared victory, with Dickison falling back a short distance from the battlefield and holding a position there, while Weeks and his men withdrew across the railroad trestle to Cedar Key.

To learn more about the Battle of Station Four (also called the Battle of Number Four), please visit

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