Battle of Natural Bridge
This is a view of the Natural
Bridge as it appears today.
Union troops attacked up this
road during the battle.
Understanding the Battle
Interpretive panels help
visitors understand the Battle
of Natural Bridge with details
on both forces.
The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida
The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida
The Battle of Natural Bridge - Woodville, Florida
|Natural Bridge Battlefield
The Battle of Natural Bridge was fought near
Tallahassee, Florida on March 6, 1865.
The Defense of Tallahassee
On March 6, 1865, a significant battle took
place on the banks of the St. Marks River
south of Tallahassee, Florida.
Remembered today as the Battle of Natural
Bridge, the fight preserved Tallahassee's
status as the only Southern capital east of
the Mississippi not conquered by Union
forces during the Civil War. One of the last
significant Confederate victories of the war, it
also protected a significant area of North
Florida and South Georgia from the severe
economic losses suffered by many other
regions of the South.
The battle is memorialized today at Natural
Bridge Historic State Park, a small but
beautiful facility overlooking the St. Marks
River. The state recently authorized a 55 acre
expansion of the park, one of the first major
Civil War site preservation efforts in Florida in
The events leading to the Battle of Natural
Bridge began in February of 1865 when
Southern troops carried out a raid against
Fort Myers in South Florida. Union General
John Newton, a veteran of the Gettysburg and
Atlanta campaigns, believed that the
presence of Confederate soldiers so far
south might open a window of an opportunity
for action on the northern Gulf Coast.
Although he later denied that his plan was to
capture Tallahassee, reports from Key West
indicated that he intended to march on both
Tallahassee and neighboring Thomasville,
Georgia. Newton had learned of the
presence of prisoners of war in Thomasville,
but was not aware that they had been
removed even before he launched his
Admiral C.K. Stribling of the U.S. Navy
ordered his blockade forces to assist with
the expedition and by early March a massive
flotilla of Union warships and transports
assembled off the entrance to the St. Marks
River under the cover of thick banks of fog.
Newton's troops came ashore on the night of
March 4, 1865, and were battled near the St.
Marks Lighthouse by a small but bold
detachment of Confederate cavalry under
Major William H. Milton, son of Florida
Governor John Milton.
News that Federal troops were coming
ashore at the St. Marks Lighthouse electrified
the capital city and telegrams went out calling
in troops from across North Florida. Taking
advantage of interior lines and a superior rail
network, Confederate Generals Samuel
Jones and William Miller assembled a
strong force of defenders and prepared to
resist the invasion.
General Newton began his advance on the
morning of March 5, 1865. Marching inland
with men from the 2nd and 99th U.S. Colored
Troops, 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry and a
battery of two howitzers manned by U.S.
sailors, the general drove back Confederate
defenders at East River Bridge but failed to
dislodge an entrenched force guarding the
Newport Bridge over the St. Marks River.
Informed by his scouts that a second
crossing point was available upstream at
Natural Bridge, he turned his command up
the east bank of the St. Marks intending to
force the crossing before the Confederates
Jones and Miller deduced his plans and both
forces began a critical race to seize the
bridge before their enemy could do so. The
Confederates won. By the time Newton
reached Natural Bridge on the morning of
March 6, 1865, Southern troops were in
position on the west bank and waiting.
As the morning progressed, the Union forces
launched attack after attack while the
Confederate soldiers dug in and received
wave after wave of reinforcements.
The fighting of the Battle of Natural Bridge
took place at close range and involved heavy
fire from both small arms and artillery. The
Union force was badly beaten and by the end
of the day was in full retreat back to the St.
The Confederates had won one of their last
significant victories of the Civil War.
Please click here to learn more about the
Natural Bridge Battlefield
Memorials to the men of both
sides can be found at the
battlefield park on the St.
Marks River near Woodville.
The breastworks thrown up by
Southern troops can still be
seen on the battlefield at
San Marcos de Apalache
This state park facility in St.
Marks, Florida, preserves the
remains of Fort Ward, a
Southern fort associated with
the Battle of Natural Bridge.
|Copyright 2012 & 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Update: February 23, 2013
Civil War Sites in Florida