Sunday, October 21, 2012

Battle of St. Johns Bluff Living History Weekend Recap

Since 2007, the Ft. Caroline National Monument in Jacksonville has hosted a Civil War Living History event to commemorate the actions of Union and Confederate military forces in the area during the war and the conditions endured by the citizens of Jacksonville. In particular, the event recalls the actions between Union Navy and Army forces and a Confederate Battery constructed on St. Johns Bluff (adjacent to the National Monument) in the late summer of 1862. This year we celebrated the fifth anniversary of this Living History event and the 150th Anniversary of the St. Johns Bluff engagement. I have profiled the Naval portions of this engagement in posts on Sept. 9, Sept. 16, and Sept. 29.

October 20; Day 1. The day dawned cool, with the first real touch of fall in northeast Florida. Present were Army units representing those which occupied Jacksonville during the war, and which participated in the final assault on the St. Johns Bluff battery, folks with the Port Columbus Museum of Civil War Naval History, representing the USS Water Witch, which was a participating gunboat in some of the St. Johns Bluff actions, Army medical and engineer units, and folks representing the civilian population in Jacksonville during the war. We had a pretty good public turn-out (the National Monument folks recorded 1,000 visitors that day), which I thought was a decent turnout, since we had some competition from another Navy group; the Blue Angels were doing an airshow at the "beaches" area right next to us along the coast. I talked to a bunch of folks about the U.S. Navy's involvement on the St. Johns River during the CW.

The USS Water Witch/Port Columbus Camp:

Dahlgren boat howitzer at dawn; ready to do its deadly work:

October 21, Day 2. Things dawned even a bit chillier this morning. Yesterday I wore my summer white frock over blue trousers, but today donned wool winter blue frock with by blue trousers. Spectator turn-out was a bit lighter, especially in the morning, which I have learned is typical for Sunday mornings at many events. Things picked up a bit in the afternoon, but turn-out was lighter today than yesterday. Still had some good interaction. One thing I have added to my display is a rack with a couple of "single sticks" used for cutlass drill. I typically engage young men (but sometimes also young ladies) in the drill when they stop to ask questions. This is a huge hit, not only with the kids but also with their parents who get tons of "Kodak moment" photos.

An old tar in his camp:

Civilians representing the Jacksonville population during the CW:

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