Located just six miles east of Woodville, Florida, the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park is one of just two Florida state parks that identify a Civil War battle. The battlefield was named after the predominant natural feature in the area, the natural bridge. This unique limestone bridge was a natural crossing for animals and Native Americans. The settlers who followed used the path frequently as it was the only place to cross the St. Marks River without a boat.
This break in the river was used to successfully defend the states capital, Tallahassee from Union forces. Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi River to not be captured by the Union.
Thanks in part to a rag tag band of mostly old men and young boy’s volunteers, this Tallahassee group was warned of the oncoming advance from a Union flotilla which landed in nearby Apalachee Bay. The Union troops expected little resistance along their march to capture Fort Ward (San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park).
When Union troops arrived, embattlements were already in place. Confederate soldiers repelled the attack and held their ground. Two more times, Union troops rallied and were again beaten back. Major General John Newton and his remaining troops retreated back to the protection of the fleet. Close to 150 Union troops died here while Confederate casualties were estimated to be just 28.
Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park is considered one of the top ten most endangered Civil War battlefields in the US. Close to 55 acres were purchased by the state to protect the nearby springs that flow into the St. Marks River. The battlefield just happened to be on the land.
Today a large marble obelisk stands sentry and marks the lives lost at this historic site. Reenactments are held here annually since 1976 that draw in hundreds of people from around the country. Each year the size and scope of the reenactment expands and many different people flow into the camps and surrounding fields to watch this exciting display of our bloody past.
For more information on reenactments, fees and hours of operation, visit the website here.