The Underground Railroad
Documents confirm that the
caves were used as hiding
places by escaped slaves.
The Battle of Marianna
Legend holds that civilians
hid in the caves when Union
troops attacked Marianna on
September 27, 1864. - Civil War at Florida Caverns State Park - Civil War at Florida Caverns State Park
Civil War at Florida Caverns State Park - Marianna, Florida
Florida Caverns State Park
The caves of the park were explored for materials
needed to make gunpowder during the Civil War.
Powder Mines and Hiding Places
No battles or known skirmishes were fought
on the grounds of Florida Caverns State
Park, but the property did play a minor role in
the Civil War.

Newspaper accounts from the early 19th
century indicate that the caves in and around
today's state park were used as hiding
places by runaway slaves and this practice
probably continued until the end of the war.

The Confederate military took notice of the
caves after the Union blockade grew effective
and limited imports of gunpowder and other
materials necessary for the Southern war

Saltpeter (potassium nitrate) is a vital
component of gunpowder and can be found
in many caves. Hoping to exploit the caves of
Florida and develop them as mines, the
Confederacy sent experts to study their

Nathaniel A. Pratt, a chemist and
mineralogist from Oglethorpe University in
Macon, Georgia, was commissioned by the
Southern government to go to Florida in May
of 1862. He explored caves across the state
and Confederate records indicate he spent a
day exploring a cave at today's Florida
Caverns State Park in June of 1862.

Although the caves around Marianna proved
too wet for use as saltpeter mines, the
explorations by Dr. Pratt probably gave rise to
the local legend that Southern troops mined
gunpowder from the caves during the Civil

Legend also holds that the caves in the park
were used as hiding places by civilian
noncombatants and slaves during the Battle
of Marianna.
The battle was fought on September 27,
1864, near the end of the Civil War and
several surviving accounts mention that
family members were sent into the country
side to hide themselves, along with their
slaves and valuables. While the available
accounts do not mention actual use of the
caves as hiding places, it is certainly

You can learn more about the Battle of
Marianna by clicking here.
Searching for Saltpeter
Experts determined that the
caves were too wet for use in
extracting saltpeter, a vital
component of gunpowder.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.