Civil War Reenactment - Ocklawaha River Raid
Ocklawaha, Florida - Nov 5+6, 2005
139 photos, 1 panoramic, 1 mpg by Wes Mayhle of AZITWES
Ocklawaha River Raid
-by Wes Mayhle-
Florida was a major source of supplies to the Confederacy during the War Between The States. Beef, salt, fruits, vegetables, and cotton flowed north from Florida. Also, the long 1400+ miles of Florida's coastline, provided safe havens for supply ships slipping through the Union naval blockade. Later in the war Florida's importance grew and the Union took notice. The Union increased its efforts to cut off the supply lines from Florida and several small battles and skirmishes happened as a result.
In March of 1865 Sergeant Major Henry Thomas left the Union garrison at Jacksonville along with 30 men of the 8th US Colored Troops. They traveled west along the St. John's River to Fort Gates. Then they traveled to Marion County, crossed the Ocklawaha River and attacked Marshall's Plantation where they destroyed a large quantity of sugar and syrup, machinery, and the plantation buildings. The Ocala Home Guard Militia under Captain Samuel Howse were alerted and engaged the federal troops as they left the plantation with captured wagons and horses. The Federals withdrew across the Ocklawaha and burned the Marshall bridge behind them. Both sides had two dead and a handful of wounded.
The Union troops attacked another plantation but now Confederate Captain J.J. Dickison with the 2nd Florida Cavalry was in hot pursuit. Near St. Augustine the Union was almost caught and had to abandon their booty before entering the town.
This and similar actions were honored by the 21st annual Ocklawaha River Raid on November 5th and 6th, 2005. The event is held at the Marion County 4H farm near the town of Ocklawaha and also serves as their fund raiser. About 250 reenactors were present including at least 7 cannon and a handful of cavalry. Most were in authentic camps on two sides of a large field. The battlefield is mid-sized and seems to have a large tree surrounded. Even so, the tree had a small "stage prop" house nearby for company along with a couple civilian tents.
I arrived Saturday morning in time for "Colors" (page1) where both sides raise their National flag and account for all troops present. The Rebels far outnumbered the Union troops which meant some would be strongly encouraged to switch sides to even up the numbers for the battles. This process is known in reenacting circles as "galvanizing" and is rumored to be painless.
Saturdays battle (page 1 - 3) started when a few skirmishers from the Rebel side got too close to the Union camp. The angered Union boys came out in force, scared the Rebels off and captured the field, the tree, and the house. The Confederate advantage in numbers was negated by the uncoordinated attacks by the Rebel leaders. One by one Rebel units were fed into the battle only to be cut down by a viscous artillery battery and then routed by the brave outnumbered Infantry. In less time than it takes to ruin a plug of tobacco the field was littered with the dead and dying and the Confederates were almost out of eyesight!
Saturday evening a fine "Barn Dance/Ball" (page4) was held on the Union side where it was easy to notice many Confederates had invited themselves as well. I also captured a couple night photos. (page4)
Sunday morning (page4) I arrived at the camps after ladies tea and a worship service. It appeared that the Confederates had snuck back overnight and reoccupied their original campsite. It seems that the bodies littering the field the day before were only wounded for I could not see any fresh graves. Early in the afternoon some of the Union Cavalry approached the civilian camps out by the big tree and proceeded to harass the gentle ladies there. (page5) I witnessed wholesale looting and common theft by the troop commanded by a Union Colonel Niepert. They even chased out an old man hiding in the tents and shot him down without warning. This was too much for a proper southern gentleman to take and once alerted, the boys in gray set out to chase the Yankees back to their forts on the coast. (page 6 - 7)
On this day the Confederates, despite the overnight loss of 2 of their most senior leaders, had spent some energy on a proper plan of battle. What followed was a well flowing plan of Union extermination and perhaps the finest battle I have seen this year. In a common front, the effort put forth by the Rebel Infantry and the CS Marines was a sight to see. I witnessed an entire crew manning a Union Field piece go down in a single volley from a Rebel unit. As the Union faded from sight I was pleased to see their infernal band discarding instruments so as to flee faster. I heard later that the stolen items had been recovered from the fleeing Union further down the road.
See other Ocklawaha photos: 2006 Battle - 2007 Battle
The movies presented on this website are usually 5 min or less and were shot with an older digital camera for your enjoyment. They are most often clips from the battle reenactment. To see all my video's go to the Movies page. I commonly use Background music from purchased 97th Regimental String Band CD's or selections downloaded from Incompetech.
Go to our US Civil War page to learn more about the war.