Newport Bridge
A modern bridge spans the
St. Marks River at Newport,
where two Union soldiers
were captured and executed
in 1865. - The Executions of Pelt and Fowler, Florida - The Executions of Pelt and Fowler, Florida
St. Marks River at Newport, Florida
The historic St. Marks flows peacefully past the site
of Newport, where Peter Pelt and Asa Fowler of the
2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry were executed after the
Battle of Natural Bridge.
Battle of Natural Bridge
The Newport executions
placed a bloody exclamation
point on the Confederate
victory at Natural Bridge.
Brig. Gen. William Miller
A native of New York, the
Confederate general ordered
the executions of Fowler and
The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida - Executions at Newport
"Bodies...buried like two dogs."
On the morning of March 7, 1865, as the
main Federal column retreated to the Gulf
from the
Battle of Natural Bridge, Southern
troops captured four Union soldiers at
Newport, Florida. For two of them, it would be
their last day on earth.

All four of the captured men were members
of Company 2, 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry, and
were among the troops from that regiment
who had been left to prevent Confederate
soldiers from repairing the Newport bridge
and crossing in the rear of the main Union
column as it marched to Natural Bridge. The
bridge had been partially demolished by
Southern troops on March 5, 1865, to prevent
its use by the Federal column.

The men of the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry,
fighting dismounted, dug shallow rifle pits on
the east bank of the St. Marks River and kept
up skirmishing fire with Confederate soldiers
and civilians on the opposite shore through-
out the day of March 6, 1865, while the main
bodies of both forces battled upriver at the
Natural Bridge. When darkness fell, the men
of both sides were exhausted.

In the confusion of the night and in their utter
exhaustion, some of the Union soldiers
entered a darkened structure to sleep. Other
men joined them there, but it was so pitch
black that they could not see each other so
they all stretched out on the floor and went to

When dawn broke, however, the Federals
realized they had been sleeping side by side
with exhausted Confederate soldiers who
had pursued the main Union column down
from Natural Bridge. They bolted for the door,
but were fired upon and captured by alert
Southern sentries who were guarding the

For two of the captured Federals - Corporal
Asa Fowler and Private Peter Pelt - they had
the misfortune of being captured by soldiers
from the 2nd Florida Cavalry (C.S.). Both men
had earlier deserted from this regiment and
were quickly recognized by their former

Desertion was a capital offense and both of
the unfortunate men were dragged before a
drumhead court martial convened at the
order of Brigadier General William Miller, the
second in command of Confederate forces at
the Battle of Natural Bridge. Convicted of
desertion, they were ordered to be shot. The
firing squad assembled on the same day as
their capture.
Two rails were retrieved from a nearby fence
and placed upright in the ground. As Dr.
Charles Hentz, a Confederate surgeon,
arrived on the scene, the condemned men
were being prepared for their executions:

...They were halted close to me, as a hollow
square for the execution was formed; some
bandages, pinned around their eyes, were
taken from my haversack; how dreadfully did
I commiserate their awful condition. Pelt,
whom I had known as a little boy...,was
trembling in every fiber; his face was the hue
of ashes - his lips quivering compulsively in
prayer, his eyes closed and bandages.

The Confederate soldiers on the scene were
order to form around three sides of a square,
with the condemned men being placed on
the fourth. A firing squad marched in front of
them and, on the orders of an officer, shot
both of the prisoners dead.

Fowler fell instantly dead, pierced by 13
bullets. Pelt fell with a cry, pulling down the
rail to which he was tied, and struggled for
several minutes before dying. Both men were
then stripped naked and dumped into a hole.

The grave site has been lost to time and
remains unmarked to this day.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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