Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, Ellenton Florida

After the Seminole War of (1836-1842) which removed many of the Native Indians from Florida, Congress passed the “Armed Occupation Act”. The act promoted settlement of the frontier and offered settlers 160 acres if they would cultivate 5 acres of property for five years. In 1843 Major Robert Gamble Jr. of Tallahassee claimed his acreage along the Manatee River, a region then remote from civilization with the hopes of establishing a sugar plantation. The Mansion took six years to complete using slave labor and local craftsman. Gamble eventually accumulated about 3500 acres and produced large amounts of sugar, but fortune did not favor his efforts. Natural disasters and a fickle Sugar market drove him into debt by 1856 forcing him to sell the plantation in 1859.

The Gamble Mansion or Gamble Plantation also known as the “Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park”, wow that’s a lot to say……also home to the Florida Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, located in Ellenton Florida on the Manatee River. The historic antebellum Mansion is the last remaining on of its kind in the Florida Western Peninsula. A 40,000 gallon cistern fresh water holding tank supplied drinking, cooking and bathing water for those on living on the plantation. At its peak the plantation had between 160-200 slaves maintaining the property and the fields.

The columns and the two foot thick walls are constructed of Tabby an indigos material that substituted for brick. Tabby is made with a mixture of crushed sea shell, lime and sand creating a perfect material for insulating the Mansion from the hot tropical sun and the many sever storms Florida is know for.

At the outbreak of the war in 1861 the Mansion was occupied by Captain Archibald McNeill the famous Confederate blockade runner. Archibald sailed from Europe to ports in the South with great success supplying the Confederacy with supplies needed for the war effort.

Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of State and President Jefferson Davis escaped Richmond Virginia in April 1865, fleeing the Union Army that was tightening the noose around the Southern capital. Somewhere along there escape they separated and Jefferson was captured in Georgia and imprisioned. Meanwhile Judah who was arranged for the assassination of President Lincoln and feared he wouldn’t receive a fair trial headed further south making his way to the Gamble Mansion. Captian McNiell aided Benjamin in escaping to the Bahamas and then eventually sailing to England arriving with hardly any resources. He went on to establish a distinguished second legal career in London and in 1872 was selected as the Queens Counsel…..similar to America’s Federal Supreme Court Seat.

Meanwhile back in America, Union Raiders destroyed the Gamble Sugar Mill leaving only brick ruins today. However they did spare the Mansion and in 1925 the Mansion and the grounds were purchased by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and donated to the state of Florida as a memorial to Judah P. Benjamin who served three Cabinet positions under Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Today the Gamble Mansion serves as home to the Florida Division United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). In 1937 the UDC installed a memorial plague to Benjamin at the Mansion. Also on the grounds is the Confederate Veterans Memorial Monument erected October 10, 1937.

Petersburg Virginia, Civil War Battlefield

Virginia and Civil War equals Battlefields, and I love it. The Petersburg National Battlefield is a historic landmark for Civil War geeks and American history fans to explore. So many monuments, exhibits, walking paths, you can spend days there exploring.

The siege of Petersburg lasted nearly 10 long months. From June of 1864 thru April of 1865 the largely out numbered Confederate Army lead by General Beauregard protected Richmond from capture with intricate defensive lines of trenches and earthworks throughout the high ground.

With nearly 70,000 casualties during the siege ( 42,000 Union and 28,000 Confederate) on June 18th 1864 the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery sustained the largest loses of any regiment as 850 men advanced across a cornfield to capture a Confederate line. With no Union troops to protect there flanks the Confederates opened fire mowing down 632 Union troops in a mere 10 minutes, unfortunately for the Maine regiment not one man reached the Confederate line.

But the Battle of the Crater is what Petersburg is mostly known for. The 48th Pennsylvania Infantry tunneled a mine shaft 500 feet long, under the area where the Confederate line was. On July 30, 1864 they packed cavities under the Confederate line with 8000 pounds of explosives and ignited the fuse. The blast killed more then 300 South Carolinians and created a large gap measuring 170” long, 110” wide, 30” deep in the Confederate line.

Brigadier General William Mahone is largely credited with rallying the Confederate troops, counter attacking the Union troops as they rushed into the crater, he would later say it was like a “turkey shoot”. The Union attack failed due to poor planning and leadership. Union Casualties were staggering, with 504 killed, 1881 wounded 1413 missing or captured for a total of 3,798 versus Confederate casualties of 1491 with 361 killed, 727 wounded and 403 missing or captured. Many of the Union losses were from Ferrero’s United States Colored Troops. Major General Ambrose Burnside was relieved of his command shortly after his role in the debacle.

Cold Harbor Battlefield

Coming up from Florida in May of this year my wife and I stopped at a bunch of Civil War Battlefields in the Richmond Virginia area. Petersburg, The Seven Days Battle at Gaines Mill, Totopotomoy Creek, Cold Harbor and the Chandler house at Fairfield, Guinea Station the place where Stonewall Jackson Died are just a few of the American landmarks we visited.

With so much to explore I was in Civil War exploration overload. I mean there was just so much to see and do I was just in my glory. I would say I was a bit taken by the lack of resources that have been used to maintain these historic landmarks but I guess it’s typical of American Politicians (with the allocation of money)not to care about our history especially in the South, it’s just not politically correct these days. Bummer.

So anyway I’m sure you have better things to do then listen to me drone on about my opinions when it comes to politics, so let’s move on.

If you haven’t been to the Cold Harbor Battlefield you have to drop what your doing and go NOW, I mean it. It has some of the best preserved entrenchments any where. The Confederate trenches are soooooo cool. There are paths that follow the trenches that allow you to understand the topography of the land. Understanding this allows you to see just what a dominate defensive position the Confederate Army had and why it was such an overwhelming victory for the South.

I must warn you to NOT WALK THROUGH THE TRENCHES, they are American historic jewels and the more there disturbed the more they erode. Plus the park rangers will give you a hard time.

My Gr.Gr. grandfather Richard Jones and his brother Thomas Jones served in Co. C, 38th Battalion Virginias Light Artillery part of Read Battalion. On June 2nd and 3 rd 1864, both brothers were positioned with there battery at the spearhead of the Northern assault. Fortunately Richard survived the campaign without incident, Thomas on the other hand wasn’t so fortunate. He was WIA, June, 3rd 1864 with a flesh wound to the right leg and spent the rest of the war in and out of Chimborazo and Stuart Hospitals in Richmond Virginia.

For anyone wanting to read more about this Robert H. Moore is the author of “The Richmond Fayette, Hampden, Thomas, and Blounts Lynchburg Artillery” this is a limited edition book out of print these days but still available through specialty book stores online.

Devils Den, Gettysburg Pennsylvania

This massive formation of rocks at the base of Little and Big Round Top were caused by glacial frost wedging of the igneous landform formed 200 million years ago when the “outcrop of the Gettysburg sill” intruded through the Triassic “Gettysburg plain”.

Fast forward 200 million years, the date is July 2nd 1863 around 4:30 Gen. John B. Hood’s Confederate division launched its much-anticipated assault. Spearheaded by Texans, Arkansans, and Alabamians, Hood’s men swept over Sickles’ men occupying the boulder-strewn Devil’s Den and made their way toward a rocky hill known as Little Round Top.

From there position (Devils Den) the 4th and 5th Texans and the 4th Alabamians attack the 16th Michigan, 44th New York and the 83rd Pennsylvania on Little Round Top 2 times but are repulsed. The 15th Alabama attacks the 20th Maine a number of times with little or no success, they attempt to flank the 20th Maine in hopes of turning them. But every time they charge up the hill the Union troops hold their ground and repulse the Southern attackers. The courage of Joshua Chamberlain and men of the 20th Maine may have been the difference.

Who knows what the outcome of Gettysburg would have been if the Southern troops could have secured Little Round Top. It may have been enough to turn the left flank of the Union Army so when Picket, Trimble and Pettigrew spear headed there famed Pickets Charge attack they may have broken thru the Union Lines. But I guess we’ll never know for sure, but it’s fun to speculate.

If you’ve never been to Gettysburg you MUST put it on your to do list. Whether you’re a Civil War Geek like me or just a history buff it’s a great weekend excursion for all. When you get to Gettysburg you must go to Devils Den and climb the rock formations (the kids will love it). Try to visualize how Union and Confederate Troops would have used the rocks to hold their positions, the Confederates used snipers to shoot at Union Soldiers on the hill. It’s hard to believe, (because of the distance) they would have been effective, it has to be 200 yards between Devils Den and Little Round Top.

Little Round Top, Gettysburg Pennsylvania

These pictures were taken from Devils Den looking up at Little Round Top. It’s hard to believe that Texas and Alabama Troops attempted to flank the Union Left by storming Little Round Top. I’ve walked this many times and it’s hard to do with no one shooting at you, can’t imagine being shot at and keeping my nerve. But a handful of Union troops were in position (about 358, I think) the 20th Maine lead by Joshua Chamberlain and the 83rd Pennsylvania Regiments get most of the credit in preventing the collapse of the Union Left. General Warren (who was an engineer) is credited with understanding the venerability of the position and requesting more troops to hold the Hill.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was awarded the Medal of Honor for his famous Bayonet Charge and General Warren has a life like Monument at the top of the Hill.

Catharine’s Furnace

Catharine Furnance, Chancellorsville, VA

Catharine Furnance, Chancellorsville, VA

Catharine’s Furnace off the Jackson Flank March Trail in Chancellorsville, also known as Wellford’s Furnace. 10 miles past this historical landmark Stonewall Jackson and his 30,000 troops turn right onto the Turnpike and start there famed flank attack against the Northern invaders. Considered Lee’s greatest victory Chancellorsville is dear to my heart. My father’s family has lived there for many generations, dating back to 1630. The Jones were from Locust Grove and Eley’s Ford I will be Uploading Confederate Military Records soon.