Apalachicola Arsenal - Chattahoochee, Florida
Apalachicola Arsenal - Chattahoochee, Florida
The historic U.S. Arsenal in Chattahoochee was
built in 1834-1839 as a key military facility and
U.S. Army depot for the new Territory of Florida.
The arsenal was named for the
Apalachicola River and served as
an important supply depot during
Florida's Second Seminole War.
Section of Arsenal Wall
The arsenal was surrounded by a
9-foot high and 30-inch thick brick
wall. This small section still stands.
One of the Apalachicola Arsensal's
two gunpowder magazines still
stands. It has been restored for
use as a conference center.
U.S. Arsenal at Chattahoochee
The original Officer's Quarters of
the Apalachicola Arsenal are listed
on the National Register of Historic
|Copyright 2010, 2013 & 2015 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: January 4, 2015
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,
its defense emerged as a key consideration
for the federal government. Forts were built
along the coastline and a site on the high
hills overlooking the confluence of the Flint
and Chattahoochee Rivers was selected for
the building of a permanent arsenal. The two
river's unite to form Florida's Apalachicola.
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. 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). Its workshops made cartridges,
gun carriages and repaired weapons during
that conflict. Local residents used its 9-foot
high, 30-inch thick walls for protection on
several occasions when bands of resisting
Creek warriors carried out attacks in the
area. Important gunpowder experiments
were carried out at the facility during the
1850s by the U.S. Army.
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
...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
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
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
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
The surviving buildings of the Apalachicola
Arsenal are now on the grounds of the
Florida State Hospital which are open to the
public. The outside of the buildings can be
viewed from the streets and sidewalks on the
hospital grounds. Several historical markers
interpret the complex, including one nearby
on U.S. 90.
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.
Note: Photography is not permitted on the
grounds of FSH.
To learn more about the history of the
Apalachicola Arsenal, please consider:
Tower and Armory
The armory and tower no longer
stand but were shown in this
antebellum sketch. The building at
left is the surviving officer's quarters.
Historic Forts of Florida
Restored Powder Magazine
Now a conference center, the
powder magazine contained 5,122
pounds of gunpowder and 173,476
cartridges for small arms when it
was captured by the state in 1861.