Scenic USA - Florida

Natural Bridge Battlefield

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Natural Bridge Battlefield - Woodville, Florida

Photos by Betsy Kellenberger
Betsy Kellenberger Photography

     Florida wetlands and black-water swamps mark the vague headwaters of the St. Marks River Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park reenactment in east Leon County. One of four primary rivers of the Big Bend area, the St. Marks gains strength with several tributaries and becomes a navigable river as it meanders through an upland pine forest. Its destination is southward to the Gulf of Mexico. Interestingly, the St. Marks River disappears from the surface near the Natural Bridge, falling into a sinkhole and entering an underground limestone labyrinth through a swallet. Not to worry, it quickly reemerges about a quarter mile away.
     During the final year of the Civil War, Union troops arrived on the Apalachee Bay with their sights Natural Bridge Battlefield Reenactment set on Fort Ward (San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park), and Floridaís capital city, Tallahassee. Volunteer Confederate soldiers, both very young and very old, met the Union advance at Natural Bridge where the second largest Civil War battle in Florida occurred. Initial shots of the battle rang out on the morning of March 6, 1865, and the Battle of Natural Bridge ensued. Heavy artillery and small arms fire halted an early charge by Union forces, Natural Bridge Battlefield Reenactment and Confederate troops hung tough all day long, forcing the invaders back to their ships on Apalachee Bay.
     Each year, during the first weekend in March, a battlefield reenactment takes place at the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park. Commemorating this Civil War battle, Union and Confederate soldiers set up camp for the weekend, putting on a full scale reenactment of the battle. March 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the battle that took place just 12 miles south of Florida capital. The Citizen Support Organization (CSO) works hand-in-hand with Florida Park Service, focusing on efforts to raise money for park improvements. Itís also the CSO's hope to add segments of the original battlefield before development swallows up this important part of Florida's heritage.

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