Yankees are coming|Forgotten Trails
Published 8:07 pm Wednesday, July 15, 2009
By By Lydia Grimes
There were few cases of any Yankees in this area before this time during the Civil War. Andrew J. McCreary, a descendant of the McGowins in Escambia County, wrote this many years ago, came from the files of the Escambia County Historical Society.
Major General Frederick Steel, U.S. Army, Commanding U.S. Forces operating from Pensacola Bay, Fla., started making plans early in 1865, to invade west Florida and south Alabama as early as possible. The Confederate Army had a small force at Milton along with the home guard. There was a sizable force at Camp Pollard, Ala. and cavalry units of considerable size in the area of Gonzales, seven to eight miles north of Pensacola at this time.
The Confederate Army had firm control of the west side of the Escambia River from the Alabama state line to Camp Gonzales. The Yankees had control of Fort Barrancas, Santa Rose Island, Pensacola, Pensacola Bay and Escambia Bay. There were no Yankee troops in Santa Rosa County until Lt. Col. Andrew B. Spurling and his cavalry units from the steamer Matamoras on Feb. 22. He embarked 50 mounted and 250 unmounted cavalrymen on Blackwater Bay.
This action was taken to see what forces and how many Confederate soldiers were stationed in the Milton area and to pick a landing place to be used later on for the raid into south Alabama. The raid was made by the Second Marine Cavalry and they landed six miles below Milton at Pierce’s Mill as 10 p.m. and moved north at once to surprise the Confederate camp, just north of Milton. The attack was made at daylight the next morning without even alerting the guard that was on duty. One Rebel was killed and 20 captured along with 20 horses and five mules, 50 stands of arms with full accouterment along with all their camp equipment and food stuff being destroyed. It was not known how many Confederate soldiers escaped into the swamp but it must have been at least 20 according to the number of rifles that were in the camp.
Lt. Col. Andrew B. Spurling, Second Marine Cavalry, U.S. Army, acting on orders issued by Gen. Steele moved his cavalry units from Fort Barrancas, Fla., to Creigler’s Mill on the east side of Blackwater Bay, just north of the mouth of the Yellow River on March 19, 20 and 21 on the steamer Matamoras. At 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 21, the last of Col. Spurling’s troops and horses were unloaded.
This raid was to be known as “The Special Cavalry Expedition” and was composed of the Second Illinois Cavalry, 420 enlisted men and 14 officers; the Second Maine Cavalry, 212 enlisted men and 10 officers; the first Florida Cavalry, 177 enlisted me and five officers, a total of 847 cavalrymen all on good horses and all well trained soldiers.
I will continue with this story next week.