Ruth in Florida Breezes

(From: Florida Breezes: Or Florida, New and Old)

The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Ruth, an acquaintance of Ellen Call Long.  Several letters from Ruth appeared in Long’s popular book about her experiences in Florida during the Civil War era, entitled Florida Breezes: Or Florida, New and Old. The book was written over a period of years leading up to its publication in 1883. In this letter, Ruth describes the Battle of Natural Bridge from the perspective of a civilian living in Tallahassee during the fighting.

Ruth

Our evergreen hills have resounded again to the roar of cannon, which came suddenly in the night; its brazen throat sending echo after echo over the country, signalizing the planters, militia, or "home-guards," to defend the land. A courier from St. Marks brought news that the enemy were landing in great numbers at the Light-house on the Bay. The cavalry were there, and kept them back until artillery and infantry could support them. Every old man and young boy that could handle a gun went forth, and companies from adjoining counties were soon in the field. The cadets of the college (boys of twelve), shouldered their muskets like veterans, and followed with the confidence of inexperience, which is usually more zealous than wise; but sometimes the one is needed more than the other.

The enemy, two thousand five hundred strong, (white men and negro deserters, with a few United States soldiers) under Gen. Newton, arrived at the bridge of Newport, on the St. Marks River. Not being able to cross under the fire of our men, they moved up to the "Natural Bridge," where the actual fight took place. Gen. Sam Jones, the commander of our force of six hundred, is said to have conducted the engagement with great coolness and tact, often turning the fire of the artillery himself where he saw it would be most effective.

After five hours of close conflict the news of "victory" came to our little city, which was most cheering, as the suspense had been intense; the more so, that we could hear the report of the guns throughout the battle, and the hurrying to and fro of couriers had excited an anxiety not to be described, knowing, as we did, that a failure to repulse the invaders below would bring them to our doors. The firing continued from treetops, and from behind houses, until Gen. Newton could get into his boats, and under their guns. Numbers of the killed were thrown by themselves into the St. Marks River, which, with those left on the field, their loss is estimated to be three or four hundred, and we have forty prisoners. The loss on our side is only three killed, and some slightly wounded.

It was a gallant defense on the part of our people, and if it accounted for any

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result in the main, it would be great, for it prevented the Federals from securing Middle Florida and lower Georgia, which are the granaries of the South; but it is only now a matter of time when they will come unmolested, for which utterance I am pronounced a croaker.