Bagdad and the Civil War
POINTS OF INTEREST
The Civil War conflict and its effect on Bagdad can be traced by visiting significant points of interest within Bagdad as well as reading historic accounts.
o The first of several sites to visit are two antebellum homes that remain from the E. E. Simpson Era, 1855 - 1866. The Creary House is located on Henderson Drive and the Thompson House is located on Forsyth Street.
(Below) This Frame Vernacular style antebellum house was owned by James Edwin Creary and his wife, Ella. Creary was one of six partners in the E. E. Simpson Company. The home is adorned with ornamental porch brackets and a porte-cochere.
(Above) The Thompson House is a Florida Heritage Site and is among the oldest and best-known houses in Bagdad. It is an example of Greek Revival architecture and is believed to have been built between 1858 and 1860 by Benjamin W. Thompson.
The Thompson House is one of four Florida Heritage Sites in Bagdad. The historic marker in front of the home documents the 1864 "Skirmish on Blackwater" during the Civil War. Union Forces briefly occupied the Thompson House during this event.
(Above) This January 1890 photo shows the rebuilt Simpson & Co. Front Gang Mill after Beard's raid in 1862.
In 1862, all industry along the Blackwater River was destroyed by the Confederates during Beard's raid to prevent assets from falling into Union hands. As the mill in Bagdad was set ablaze, high winds carried sparks to the town and burned most of it down.
o The next site to visit is the Historic Bagdad Mill Site. Educational panels are found along the park's .45 mi path celebrating the history of Bagdad, its mill, and the flora and fauna common to the Blackwater Basin.
(Above) Bagdad Mill Site Park is another Florida Heritage Site in Bagdad. The historic marker documents the devastation of Beard's raid during the Civil War.
o Thompson Street is the next site to visit. Within the historic mill town of Bagdad, this street comprised the town center. During Beard's raid, the drift of sparks from the burning mill caused the town to burn. Today, the only structures that remain of the town's center are the old Post Office building and the Postmistress' home. Both of these structures were built in 1912 and 1913, well after the Civil War and the devastating March 11, 1862 fire.
(Above) Thompson Street comprised the town center. Most of the stores that lined the street were single story Shotgun style houses except for Courson's Cafe & Boarding House.
o The next site is Oakland Basin and Shipyard Point located at the end of Dorrs Fence Street. From here, Shipyard Point is visible to the east. It was here that the nearly completed Confederate gunboat, along with Ollinger and Bruce’s shipyard, was destroyed by Confederate troops to prevent it falling into Union hands. This occurred on March 11, 1862 under the command of Lt. Col. William K. Beard of the 1st Florida Regiment Volunteers during the Confederate retreat into Alabama.
(Above) This photo shows one of the floating dry-docks built by Ollinger & Bruce. The structure was made of heart pine and was submerged by the owners to save it from destruction during Beard's raid on March 11, 1862.
(Above) Formerly New Providence Missionary Baptist Church, the Bagdad Village Museum is constructed of Heart Pine lumber hauled from the old Bay Point Mill. It was built by newly freed slaves and free African-Americans in 1874, and served as a school for African-American children in the early years.
o The next to last place to visit is the Historic Bagdad Village Museum. The structure was formerly the New Providence Missionary Baptist Church. It was built by newly freed slaves and free African-Americans in 1874, and served as a school for African-American children in the early years.
The building is believed to be the oldest African-American church in existence in Santa Rosa County. It was built during an important era in the history of African-American religion in Florida when African-American communities were beginning to establish themselves and function independently.
Dr. Brian R. Rucker is one of the featured speakers during the year for the Bagdad Museum Lecture Series held each month at the Historic Bagdad Village Museum. Dr. Rucker has written numerous works including topics on the Civil War and its local impact.
(Right) Dr. Rucker's new book, Mine Eyes Have Seen, widens our vision of Civil War in the Panhandle of Florida from the Pensacola Bay area eastward to Chattahoochee. The book was inspired by Dr. Rucker's fascination with stories from Florida's newspaper clips from the late 1800s to early 1900s.
Another account of the civil conflict in Bagdad is by Capt. Dave Kummer USMC, author of The Civil War in Santa Rosa County. In this work, Capt. Kummer presents a chronological order of events beginning with Florida's secession from the Union in January of 1861. It also includes Unit histories of both Confederate and Union forces.
The Civil War in Santa Rosa County
by Capt. Dave Kummer, USMC
The lumber industry and the Forsyth and Simpson mill complex in Bagdad's contribution to the development and industrialization of northwest Florida is well known to many locals; however, Civil War events in Bagdad and the rest of Santa Rosa County are not as well known to many. Following Florida's secession from the Union in January of 1861, Confederates began to occupy...
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(Above left) Capt. Dave Kummer, USMC, gives an address at the Thompson House during a Civil War reenactment of the October 1864 "Skirmish on Blackwater" in Bagdad, FL.
o The final site to visit is the Bagdad Historic Cemetery. Each grave represents a part of the history and success of Bagdad, from a once-thriving mill town to today as a historic village listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Within the Cemetery are the known alongside the unknown men and women of Bagdad who overcame the hardships of the Civil War. Bagdad was not immune to the pains this country suffered in the struggle to unite, but without the will and manpower, the Bagdad Lumber Company and its town would not have survived this war.