Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Beating the Drums of War - Jackson County's First Confederate Unit

1861 Sketch of Confederate Camps at Pensacola
by Dale Cox

The first Confederate company to form in Jackson County after the Secession of Florida was a unit known originally as the “Marianna Volunteers,” but later as the “Chipola Rifles.” Organized in March of 1861 with Henry H. Baker as captain and Thomas E. Clarke, Wesley H. DuBose and Francis M. Farley as lieutenants, the company was made up largely of men who had previously served in the county’s state militia regiment.
Sent to the former U.S. Arsenal at Chattahoochee at the end of March, the company was joined with other companies to form the 1st Florida Infantry Regiment. In addition to the Marianna Volunteers, the regiment included the Jefferson Volunteers, Leon Rifles, Leon Artillery, Prairie Guards, Gainesville Minute Men, Quincy Young Guards, Franklin Riflemen and Madison Volunteers. James Patton Anderson was elected colonel and the men were soon loaded aboard steamboats at Chattahoochee Landing and sent upriver to Columbus, Georgia.
Their arrival there during the first week of April was described by that city’s newspaper:

Our wharf presented a very lively scene on Sunday, occasioned by the arrival of the Florida troops and by the concourse of citizens who continually repaired to the river bank to see them. The steamers Time and Wm. H. Young arrived early in the morning with nine companies…They remained on the boats until 8 of 4 o’clock p.m., when they marched through the city to the Railroad Depot, where they are now comfortably encamped, being aided by our city volunteer companies in the furnishing of tents, etc. Most of these companies are uniformed and armed and have beautiful banners; and they are generally hardy and fine-looking men, on whom their country can securely rely.

Moved by rail from Columbus to Montgomery, the men of the 1st Florida boarded another train for the trip south to Pensacola (the railroad across West Florida was not completed until after the war).
They arrived on the coast to find the Pensacola electrified by the news of the Southern attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Although many expected an immediate movement to reduce Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, they instead joined the other soldiers of General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Pensacola for a long summer of drills in the hot Florida sun.
The men were stationed first at Camp Magnolia on today’s Pensacola Naval Air Station and later moved to Camp Bradford at Gulf Breeze. The Marianna Volunteers, by now called the Chipola Rifles, contributed to the force under General Richard H. Anderson that attacked the outer camps of Fort Pickens on the night of October 9, 1861.
Lieutenant Francis Farley of Jackson County was captured at the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, as the action was known, and sent north to a Union prisoner of war camp at Boston, Massachusetts. He was held there until exchanged the following year.
A 12-months regiment, Company E (The Chipola Rifles) remained in the Pensacola area until the end of December when it was sent to Montgomery to serve out the last three months of its term. Three men died of disease, but the rest eventually went home where most signed up for service in other regiments.
The first company to serve in the Confederate Army from Jackson County lost no men killed in action.
Note: To learn more about Jackson County’s role in the Civil War, please read my book, The History of Jackson County, Florida (Volume Two). It is the second in a set of books on local history and is available locally at Chipola River Book & Tea in Downtown Marianna or online here.

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