Apalachicola Arsenal - Chattahoochee, Florida
Apalachicola Arsenal - Chattahoochee, Florida
Apalachicola Arsenal
The historic U.S. Arsenal in Chattahoochee was
built in 1834-1839 as a key military facility a
nd
U.S. Army
depot for the new Territory of Florida.
Apalachicola Arsenal
Located in Chattahoochee,
the arsenal took its name
from the Apalachicola River,
not the city of the same name.
Section of Arsenal Wall
The arsenal was originally
surrounded by a 9 foot high
and 30 inch thick brick wall.
Gunpowder Magazine
The arsenal included two
external magazines, one of
which still survives today.
Historic Apalachicola Arsenal - Chattahoochee, Florida
U.S. Arsenal at Chattahoochee
Officer's Quarters
The original Officer's Quarters
of the Apalachicola Arsenal
are listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
Copyright 2010 & 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: June
14, 2013
Built in 1834-1839, the historic Apalachicola
Arsenal stood on the grounds of what is now
the Florida State Hospital in
Chattahoochee.
It was the scene of the first military encounter
of the Civil War in Florida.

When Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821,
the defense of the territory became a key
consideration for the federal government. A
series of forts were built along the coastline
of the peninsula and a site on the high hills
near the confluence of the Chattahoochee
and Flint Rivers was selected for the building
of a permanent arsenal.

Construction of the arsenal began in the
spring of 1834 and continued until the
impressive walled complex was completed
in 1839. The adjacent community was
originally called Mt. Vernon, but this lead to
postal confusion with the federal arsenal at
Mount Vernon, Alabama, so the name of the
village was changed to Chattahoochee.

The complex itself was officially named the
Apalachicola Arsenal, after the Apalachicola
River which is formed by the confluence of
the Chattahoochee and Flint. This has led
some historians to incorrectly state that it
was located in the city of Apalachicola, but it
actually stood near the Georgia border in
Gadsden County.

Built of locally-produced brick, the post
consisted of officer's quarters, barracks,
workshops, storage facilities and other
buildings built around a 4-acre square.
These were connected and enclosed by a
strong brick wall. The arsenal also included
two external magazines where thousands of
pounds of gunpowder could be stored.

The Apalachicola Arsenal served as a supply
depot during the Second Seminole War
(1835-1842) and local residents used its
9-foot high, 30-inch thick walls for protection
when refugee Creek Indians carried out
several attacks in the area. The arsenal was
also the scene of important gunpowder tests
during the 1850s.

As Florida joined other Southern states in
considering seceding from the Union in early
1861, the Apalachicola Arsenal became a
point of key importance for state officials in
Tallahassee. On January 2, 1861, Florida's
U.S. Senators, David Levy Yulee and Stephen
Mallory, wrote to the Secretary of War and
requested information on the active military
posts in the state. The information was
prepared, but was not given to the Senators
due to the tense situation then gripping the
nation:

...There is only one arsenal in the State of
Florida, and that is one of deposit only. It is
called Apalachicola Arsenal, and is situated
near the town of Chattahoochee, at the
junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee
Rivers. The arms, ammunition, &c., now at
that post, are one 6-pounder iron gun and
carriage, with 326 shot and canisters for the
same, 57 flintlock muskets, 5,122 pounds of
powder, 173,476 cartridges for small arms,
and a small quantity of different kinds of
accouterments.
                            Captain William Maynadier
                             January 3, 1861

While the muskets were outdated, the 5,000
pounds of gunpowder and the prepared
cartridges represented a significant military
stockpile.

On January 4, 1861, concern of state leaders
over the Apalachicola Arsenal intensified
when a telegram from the War Department
was intercepted in Atlanta and relayed to
Tallahassee. It instructed Sergeant Edwin
Powell and his three man garrison to destroy
the gunpowder at the arsenal before it could
be captured by state forces.

Although Florida had not yet left the Union,
Governor Madison S. Perry ordered an
immediate move on the arsenal. Colonel
W.J. Gunn of the 7th Regiment, Florida Militia,
to seize the facility. Gunn returned to Quincy
on the night of January 5, 1861, and had
drums sounded to call out the Quincy Young
Guards, a local militia company. Organized
and armed, the men set off in "hacks,
carriages, &c." for Chattahoochee and the
U.S. Arsenal.
The men approached the gates at 7 a.m. on
January 6, 1861, and demanded possession
of the facility. Sergeant Powell refused but
was unable to prevent Gunn's militia from
marching into the compound. He refused to
give up the keys to the magazines and
armory and asked that he be allowed to
telegraph his superiors in Washington for
instructions. Gunn agreed, but Powell
received no response to his telegrams.

Left with no alternative, he surrendered, but
not without making a passionate speech:

Officers and soldiers: Five minutes ago I was
the commander of this arsenal, but in
consequence of the weakness of my
command, I am obliged to surrender - an act
which I have hitherto never had to do in my
whole military career. If I had a force equal to
or even half the strength of your own, you
would never have entered that gate until you
walked over my dead body. You see that I
have but three men. These are laborers, and
cannot content against you. I now consider
myself a prisoner of war. Take my sword.

The Quincy Young Guards took possession
of the facility and held it until reinforced by
other troops over the coming days. The
cannon in the arsenal was fired several
times to celebrate the bloodless victory.

The arsenal was used as a training facility
and encampment until the end of the Civil
War. The SIxth (6th) Florida Infantry was
organized there in 1862.

After the war the arsenal complex was turned
over to the state by the Federal government
and served first as a prison before being
converted for use as a mental health facility.
Many of the buildings were demolished over
the years, but the Officer's Quarters, guard
house and one of the external magazines
still survive, along with parts of several other
structures.

The surviving buildings of the Apalachicola
Arsenal are now on the grounds of the
Florida State Hospital which
are open to the
public (no photography allowed). The outside
of the buildings can be viewed from the
streets and sidewalks on the hospital
grounds and a historical marker stands at
the intersection of U.S. 90 and Holly Drive.

To see the outside of the Officer's Quarters
and guard room, enter through the main
entrance of Florida State Hospital on U.S. 90
and turn right on North Main Street. The
structures face Dogwood Drive at its
intersection with Main and are now part of the
administrative complex of the hospital.

To learn more about the history of the
Apalachicola Arsenal, please consider:
Apalachicola Arsenal
This sketch was drawn
before the Civil War. The
surviving Officer's Quarters
can be seen at left.
The Armory Building
Seen here in an early 20th
century photo, the Armory and
Tower no longer stand.
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