Thursday, September 11, 2014

#62 Camp Governor Milton, Civil War camp at Blue Springs (100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida)

Blue Springs from site of Camp Governor Milton
The important Confederate camp established at Blue Springs during the War Between the States (or Civil War) is #62 on our list of 100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida.

Please click here to see the entire list as it is unveiled.

Blue Springs (or Jackson Blue Springs as the state has renamed it) has been a landmark for thousands of years. Early American Indians frequented the spring and surrounding caves to hunt and fish. The actual Old Spanish Trail passed by the spring, which was a frequent stopping point for Spanish missionaries, soldiers and explorers. The U.S.Army of Major General Andrew Jackson visited Blue Springs during the First Seminole War of 1817-1818. During the 1820s it became the centerpiece of Major William Robinson's cotton plantation.

Sylvania Plantation Marker at Blue Springs
By the time Florida seceded from the Union in January 1861, the beautiful spring was known by its present name and was owned by Governor-elect John Milton as part of his Sylvania Plantation. He enjoyed fishing in Blue Springs and sitting by the water to reflect during the trying times of the War Between the States.

The availability of a large quantity of fresh water, access to good roads leading in all directions, proximity to Marianna and the good condition of the buildings of the former Robinson Plantation led the Confederate Army to establish Camp Governor Milton at Blue Springs in 1862.

Historic photo of Blue Springs with plantation house visible.
State Archives of Florida/Memory Collection
The camp stood on the hill overlooking the head spring where the parking area is located today. The surrounding farms and plantations provided a steady supply of provisions plus corn could be ground downstream at Coker's Mill.

While the term "camp" implies a temporary establishment and evokes mental images of soldiers sleeping in tents, Camp Governor Milton was a more permanent facility. Surviving documents include receipts for lumber and nails used to build a hospital. Soldiers were quartered in the original Robinson plantation house and outbuildings instead of in tents.

Underwater view of Blue Springs
Photo by Alan Cox
In fact, the camp was occupied from 1862 until the end of the war in 1865. Among the units known to have been stationed there at various times were Captain Walter Robinson's Independent Company (later Company A, 11th Florida Infantry); the Marianna Dragoons (later Company B, 15th Confederate Cavalry); Company C, 1st Florida Reserves; Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts of the Alabama State Militia (later Company I, 5th Florida Cavalry); Companies A and E, 5th Florida Cavalry, and detachments from other companies.

View from Blue Springs at Sunset
Photo by Camille Lakey
Troops from Camp Governor Milton played a critical role in several Florida actions of the War Between the States. Robinson's company marched from Blue Springs to attack Union sailors trying to get the captured blockade runner Florida out of St. Andrew Bay in 1862. The next year the same company attacked another Federal detachment at St. Andrews (present-day Panama City). In September 1864, a detachment of Chisolm's company fought at the Eucheeanna Skirmish in Walton County and then the entire company took part in the Battle of Marianna. Finally, in March 1865, companies of the 5th Florida Cavalry rode from Blue Spring to Tallahassee to fight at the Battle of Natural Bridge.

The camp was abandoned at the end of the war and not used by Union occupation troops during the Reconstruction era. The buildings are gone now, but traces of the Confederate soldiers that once served there can still be seen in the form of carvings left in the rocks and caves around Blue Springs.

To learn more about the history of Blue Springs Recreational Area, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/jacksonbluespring.

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