The Suwannee River Bridge
The Civil War era bridge
stood between the bridge
seen here and the position of
the camera.
Interior of the Fort
The large fort was one of two
constructed to protect the
bridge from Union attack.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Fort at the Suwannee River Bridge, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Fort at the Suwannee River Bridge, Florida
Fort at the Suwannee River Bridge - Live Oak, Florida
Fort at the Suwannee River Bridge
Built by the Confederates to protect the vital railroad
bridge across the Suwanneee River, the earthwork
fort is now preserved at Suwannee River State Park.
Olustee Campaign Objective
When 5,500 Union troops pushed inland
from Jacksonville in February of 1864, their
primary objective was a vital railroad bridge
over the
Suwannee River near present-day
Live Oak, Florida.

If they could capture and destroy the bridge,
the Federals knew that they would succeed
in cutting the state of Florida in two. The
bridge was the only major link connecting
East Florida with Tallahassee and the
western end of the state. Without it, the
Southern government would be at a great
disadvantage in its efforts to move men,
cannon and supplies to battle the Union
invasion.

The Confederate military had anticipated that
Union forces might move against the bridge,
but they had long expected that such an
expedition would probably come up the
Suwannee River from the Gulf.

To defend the vital span, they constructed two
large earthwork forts on the eastern bank of
the Suwannee. The railroad ran directly
between the two solidly built forts.

One of the earthworks is now preserved at
Suwannee River State Park and can be
visited by a short walk down a trail from the
park's main parking lot.

The fort is impressive in both size and
strength. The river face of the fortification, as
might be expected, is thick and still bears
testimony to the one-time power of the fort.

Dips and rises in the interior of the fort can
still be identified as the locations of
structures and artillery platforms. Although no
heavy artillery was based here, the fort was
garrisoned at times by sections from the
Kilcrease Light Artillery and other units.

A boardwalk now leads over the river face of
the fort and provides an outstanding view of
the entire earthwork. Visitors can also walk
around the fort and explore its walls, ditch or
moat and other features.

Just beyond the fort, an observation platform
allows visitors to view the beautiful and
historic Suwannee River at the point where it
is joined by the Withlacoochee.
At the time of the Civil War, paddlewheel
steamboats came up the river to this point.
The availability of river transportation spurred
the development of the town of Columbus
here. At its height the community was home
to over 500 people.

General Truman A. Seymour specifically
identified the bridge over the Suwannee River
as the objective of his movement west from
Jacksonville. Unfortunately for his army,
however, Seymour misjudged the speed with
which Confederate forces were responding
to the Union invasion.

The Southern victory at the
Battle of Olustee
on February 20, 1864, sent the Federals
retreating back to Jacksonville and ended
their ambitions of capturing the bridge over
the Suwannee and splitting the state in two.

Suwannee River State Park is located off U.S.
90. The park is thirteen miles northwest of
Live Oak.
Boardwalk over the Fort Wall
A modern boardwalk now
takes visitors over the moat
and along the river face of the
fort.
A Vital Confluence
The earthworks of the fort
overlook the confluence of the
Withlacoochee (left) and
Suwannee (right) rivers.
Steamboats ascended to this
point during the 19th century.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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