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Bagdad and the Civil War 

Picture of Capt. Dave Kummer, USMC – Pictured is Capt. Dave Kummer, USMC, giving an address at the Thompson House during a Civil War reenactment of the October 1864 "Skirmish on Blackwater" in Bagdad, FL.  Capt. Kummer is the 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.

Capt. Dave Kummer

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 the Pensacola Naval Yard and Fort Barrancas on what is today NAS Pensacola in an attempt to fortify the harbor against Union naval forces.   However, by the spring of 1862, the Confederate government decided to transfer General Braxton Bragg’s forces to Tennessee and evacuate Pensacola.

Confederates removed valuable war materials and machinery to the interior of the Confederacy and away from the reach of the Union.  Those materials that could not be removed were destroyed to prevent their falling into the hands of the Union.[1]   As a result, many of Bagdad’s homes, its shipyard, lumber mills, and naval stores industries were put to the torch by retreating Confederates of the First Regiment Florida Volunteer Infantry on 11 March of 1862.[2]  Today, only the Thompson House on Forsyth Street remains as silent witness to the antebellum prosperity and industrialization of this northwest Florida town.

Early in the war, the Confederates contracted for the building of two gunboats at the Milton and Bagdad shipyards; however, they were destroyed during the Confederate evacuation.[3]  Although Bagdad and Milton ceased to be a large manufacturing facility, both sides maintained a presence in Santa Rosa County during the remainder of the Civil War.  Union forces periodically conducted reconnaissance raids and captured building materials for use at the Pensacola Navy Yard.[4] 

General Jones selected Confederate units to remain behind during the evacuation of Pensacola. Locally recruited cavalry troops were posted to look out for any Union movement towards the junction of the Alabama & Florida of Alabama, and the Mobile & Great Northern Railroad at Pollard, Alabama, which provided an important rail link between Montgomery and the Confederate army in Mississippi.[5]  

The outbreak of the war caused many Santa Rosa County residents to choose sides.  In 1861, men of Santa Rosa County began to muster into locally raised volunteer companies, some choosing to join First Regiment of Florida Volunteer Infantry.  The First Regiment enlisted for a period of one year and the men were soon issued arms from the Chattahoochee Arsenal recently seized by the Confederates.  The First Regiment saw service fortifying Pensacola and guarding the Old Navy Cove in what is today Gulf Breeze.

In the spring of 1862, Confederate raze the mills and other war materials on the Blackwater River.[6]  However, by the time the regiment arrived in Montgomery in early April of 1862, its one year enlistment was almost complete and many men chose to go home rather than re-enlist for three years’ service.  Of the original roster only 250 chose to re-enlist.[7]  As a result, men like William D. Rodgers of Santa Rosa County soon found themselves thrown into the battle of Shiloh.[8]

For the next three years the Florida Regiment found itself in most of the major battles of the western theater of war.  Those who survived the harsh winters and disease ridden camps faced savage combat at places like Murfreesboro, Missionary Ridge, Chickamauga, and the Atlanta campaign.  By 1865 few survivors were left to surrender to victorious Union forces.[9] 

Other Santa Rosa men chose to enlist in several companies of cavalry recruited from the area.  For most of the Civil War these troops were stationed along the Florida coastline gathering intelligence on Union movements, protecting railroad bridges, and defending coastal salt works which were vital to the preservation of food for the Army. [10]   Local companies included Captain N. R. Leigh’s Simpson Mounted Rangers, named for the E.E. Simpson Company of Bagdad.  Local lore says the company paid in gold to outfit and equip the unit, with local blacksmiths making its swords.

Captain W. B. Amos’ Company of Partisan Rangers also was made up of many men hailing from Santa Rosa County.  Leigh and Amos’ independent cavalry companies were merged in the summer of 1862 with other panhandle companies to form the Third Battalion Florida Cavalry.  Leigh’s Simpson Mounted Rangers became Company C and Amos’ Partisan Rangers became Company D of the Third Battalion.  In September of 1863, Confederate authorities merged the Third Battalion Florida Cavalry with Murphy’s Battalion Alabama Cavalry and several other small units to become the 15th Confederate Cavalry Regiment.  Leigh’s and Amos’s Companies C and D of the 3rd Battalion were re-designated as Companies E and I of the new 15th CSA Cavalry.[11]   Additionally, Captain Joseph Keyser’s Company I, Sixth Alabama Cavalry Regiment recruited in 1863 was partially made up of men from Santa Rosa County.[12]  

Union Brigadier General Asboth, commanding the District of West Florida, sought to augment his limited manpower by recruiting pro-Union men and Confederate deserters who made their way down to the coastal areas along the panhandle of Florida.  Authorized in October of 1863 to organize the unit, Asboth outfitted and trained these men.  They were designated as the First Florida Cavalry; however, with horses in short supply, the majority of the time these men fought as dismounted infantry until Union forces captured horses for their use.  

Asboth also trained some of the men to use artillery and they were designated as the First Florida Battery, sometimes jokingly referred to by regular Federal troops as the ‘“Mule Battery”’ due to the shortage of horses.[13]

The First Florida Cavalry and Battery were used during several Union raids into Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.  Near present day Robinson Point, the largest skirmish in Santa Rosa County took place.  The defensive cannon fire of the First Florida Battery helped turn back a determined attack by Company I of the 15th Confederate Cavalry. [14]   

The war also forced families to choose sides, with many becoming refugees choosing to evacuate into southern Alabama and away from the reach of Union raiders.  Although Florida seceded, many families had strong Union sentiments; or became disenchanted with the Confederate destruction of their property, conscription, taxes, and the privations of war.[15]  As a result, many attempted to seek refuge inside Union lines around Pensacola and what is today Gulf Breeze.  Confederate cavalry patrolled coastal counties arresting known Unionists, destroying their property, searching for Confederate deserters, and preventing refugees from escaping.[16] Union forces in Pensacola were aware of the situation and made several waterborne expeditions up East Bay and the Blackwater River to bring Unionist refugees into Federal lines.[17] 

The terrain of Santa Rosa County flanked on both east and west by the Blackwater and Escambia rivers respectively along with the bays surrounding Garcon Point, dictated many of the actions during the war.  Few roads existed and water provided a means of both transportation for the Union and a large coastline for Confederates to defend.   

Union forces used light draft steam vessels to ferry men and equipment on raids, salvage building materials and logs to repair the Naval Yard, barracks and hospital buildings destroyed by the Confederates, and to evacuate Union refugees. [18]  

During 1864 and 1865, one Union foe, Lieutenant Colonel A. B. Spurling, commanding  the  2nd  Maine  Cavalry  Regiment,  often  got  the  better  of  local  Confederates  in  combat.  Spurling, a seasoned cavalryman, had seen much combat in Virginia and took part the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War at Brandy Station, Virginia.  In fact, he later went on to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions during the Mobile Campaign in 1865.   Confederates knew the local area and had many lookouts to avoid being surprised by Spurling’s waterborne forces. 

Once ashore in the county, Spurling usually outnumbered the Confederates though he still tried to achieve surprise and use the speed of his cavalry troopers to outwit and defeat Confederates forces.  On several occasions during numerous skirmishes in both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, Spurling captured Santa Rosa Confederates who had joined the cavalry.[19]  Ironically, a portion of the Union troops Spurling commanded were those of the Union First Florida Cavalry Regiment; some of who were even former Confederates of the old 3rd Battalion Florida Cavalry and now took part in the capture of their former comrades.[20]

In October of 1864, those same troopers of the First Florida Cavalry took part in the defeat of local militia and Company I, Eighth Mississippi Cavalry Regiment.[21]  After the skirmish, Union troops occupied Bagdad and left graffiti on the plaster walls of the Thompson House.

Another interesting fact about the Civil War in Santa Rosa County was the use of African-American soldiers, or United States Colored Troops (USCT), as they were known at the time.  During Spurling’s “Expedition up the Blackwater”, he brought some 300 USCT troops of the 25th, 82nd and 86th Regiments as part of a larger raiding force of some 700 men.  These soldiers landed on the west side of Garcon Point near Mulat Bayou and marched across the peninsula in an attempt to capture Confederates in the area.  Spurling hoped Confederates would be drawn down from Milton and Bagdad to attack his smaller force landing on the east side of Garcon Point.  Confederates did not fall into Spurling’s trap due to his orders being misunderstood and the USCT troops re-embarked for Pensacola the following day.[22]

During the last months of the war, Spurling continued periodic raids and attempted to negotiate the surrender of Captain Joseph Keyser’s Company I, Sixth Alabama Cavalry, many of whom hailed from Santa Rosa County.  Upon learning the majority of Keyser’s command had left the area, Spurling launched a raid to capture the remainder of Keyser’s men in February of 1865.[23]

               railroad service between Montgomery and Mobile.  During this expedition, Spurling sent troops into Milton to act as decoy while the main body of his expedition landed on the east side of the Blackwater River.  Spurling’s advance into southern Alabama helped prevent Confederate reinforcements and supplies from reaching the defenders of Mobile as the Civil War came to a close.[24]

The wartime role of Bagdad and Milton came to a close in March of 1865 as Spurling commanded a special cavalry expedition to disrupt  

Timeline of Important Civil War Events in Santa Rosa County History



-   January:  General Jackson Morton of Milton, Florida, a former Senator, attends the Florida Secession Convention; and later appointed to the Confederate States of America Congress by the Governor of Florida.[25] 


-   Florida secedes from the Union.


-  Confederates contracted for the manufacture of two gunboats at the shipyards in Bagdad and Milton.


-  March 11-12th:  Confederates evacuating Pensacola send the First Regiment Florida Volunteer Infantry to burn lumber mills and boatyards of Bagdad and Milton.  Both gunboats are scuttled.


-    August 7-12th: Reconnaissance of Bagdad and Milton by elements of the Sixth New York Volunteers.


-   August 13th:  Union raid of Bagdad and Milton by the 91st New York Volunteers.  They recover the Pensacola Lighthouse clock and naval stores for use in rebuilding the Pensacola Naval Yard.


-    October 15-16th:  Union Raid into Bagdad and Milton.  


-  August 30th:  2nd Maine Cavalry, 19th Iowa, raid Milton and attempt to capture CSA cavalry companies camped at or near Arcadia.

-   October 17th:  Largest skirmish in Santa Rosa County near Robinson Point.  Spurling’s force of some 200 men of the 19th Iowa Infantry Regiment and a section of the First Florida Battery go ashore to salvage logs along the shore.  Confederates consisting of Company I, 15th CSA Cavalry Regiment, local militia forces numbering some 300, according to Spurling, engage in a two hour skirmish.

-   October 25-28th:  Expedition up Blackwater River involving some 700 men of the 2nd Maine Cavalry, 19th Iowa Infantry, 1st Florida Cavalry, and 25th, 82nd, and 86th USCT Regiments raid Bagdad and Milton, and skirmish through both towns, routing Company I, 8th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment and local militia.  The 8th Mississippi’s, Capt. Robinson and others are captured.  Following the skirmish, troops occupy the Thompson house in Bagdad and burned salt works in the vicinity.


- February 25th:  2nd Maine Cavalry raid Bagdad and Milton to capture part of Captain Keyser’s Company I, 6th Alabama Cavalry.  The raid captures nineteen and all camp equipment and arms are destroyed.


-  March 19th:  Special Cavalry Expedition under Lieutenant Colonel Spurling:  two companies of the 1st Florida Cavalry occupy Milton to deceive actual Union advance on east side of Blackwater towards Andalusia, Evergreen and Brewton, Alabama.  The raid interrupts railroad service from Montgomery to Mobile as the main Union column some 12,000 strong marches from Pensacola towards Pollard, Alabama, then towards Mobile.

Unit Histories



First Regiment Florida Volunteer Infantry:


-  1st Infantry Regiment, formerly the 1st Florida Infantry Battalion, was assembled in March, 1861, at Chattahoochee Arsenal. Its members were from the counties of Leon, Alachua, Madison, Jefferson, Jackson, Franklin, Gadsden, and Escambia. The unit was involved in the conflict on Santa Rosa Island, and then fought at Shiloh, Farmington, and Perryville. Later it was placed in General Preston's, Stovall's, Finley's, and J.A. Smith's Brigade, and in December, 1862, it was united with the 3rd Florida Infantry Regiment.

This command fought at Murfreesboro and Jackson, participated in the campaigns of the Army of Tennessee from Chickamauga to Nashville, and was active in North Carolina. The 1st/3rd lost twenty-six percent of the 531 engaged at Murfreesboro, had thirty-four percent disabled out of the 273 at Chickamauga, and totaled 240 men and 119 arms in December, 1863.

Few surrendered on April 26, 1865.  The field officers were Colonels J. Patton Anderson and William Miller, Lieutenant Colonels William K. Beard and Thaddeus A. McDonell, and Major Clover A. Ball.

Third Battalion Florida Cavalry/ 15th Confederate Cavalry Regiment:


-  The 15th Cavalry Regiment was organized at Mobile, Alabama, early in 1864 by consolidating the five-company 3rd Florida Cavalry Battalion and five Alabama independent cavalry companies. It served in Quarles', Reynold’s, Page's, I. W. Patton's, Liddell's, R. McCulloch's, and H. Maury's command. The regiment remained in the Mobile and Pensacola area, and then moved to Louisiana where it fought at Tunica. Returning to Mobile, it guarded the approaches to the city. A detachment was captured in the fight at Claiborne on April 17, 1865; and the remaining force at Demopolis on April 30.

Sixth Alabama Cavalry:


-  This regiment was organized near Pine Level, early in 1863, as part of Gen. Clanton's brigade. It was first engaged near Pollard, with a column of the enemy that moved out from Pensacola.  Ordered then to north Alabama, the Sixth was concerned in several skirmishes near Decatur, with small loss.  During the Atlanta-Dalton campaign the regiment served for several weeks as part of Ferguson's and Armstrong's brigades, and lost quite a number.

A portion of the regiment resisted Rousseau at Ten Islands, losing a number killed and captured. Transferred to west Florida, the Sixth fought Steele's column at Bluff Spring, under orders from Col. Armstead, and its loss was severe, especially in prisoners. The remnant fought Gen. Wilson's column and laid down their arms at Gainesville.



First Florida Cavalry:


-   Authorized by Gen. Banks on October 29, 1863, and organized at Barrancas, FL. December 1863 to August 1864

-   Attached to Pensacola, FL, District West Florida Dept. Gulf, to October 1864

-   2nd Brigade, District West Florida, to January 1865

-   3rd Brigade, District West Florida, to March 1865

-   2nd Brigade, Lucas' Cavalry Division, Steele's Command, to May 1865

-   District of West Florida to November 1865     



-   Duty at Barrancas, Fla., till March 1865

-   Expedition from Barrancas toward Pollard, AL, Jul 21-25 1864

-   Actions at Camp Gonzales July 22 and near Pollard July 23

-   Expedition from Barrancas August 13-14

-   Expedition from Barrancas to Mariana September 18 - October 4; Euche Anna C. H. September 23;      Mariana September 27; Vernon - September 28

-   Expedition up Blackwater Bay October 25-28; Milton October 26    

- Expedition from Barrancas to Pine Barren Creek November 16-17; Pine Barren Creek and Bridge November 17

- Expedition to Pollard, AL, December 13-19; Bluff Springs and Pollard December 15; Escambia Bridge December 15-16; Pine Barren Ford December 17-18

- Expedition  from  Barrancas  to  Milton    February 22-25 1865; Milton February 23

- Campaign against Mobile and its defenses  March 18-April 9

-   March to Blakely, AL, March 18-31 (Dismounted men remain at Barrancas)

-   Expedition to Alabama & Florida R. R. March 18-25; near Evergreen March 24; Muddy Creek, AL March 26; Siege of Fort Blakely March 31-April 9; near Blakely April 1

-   Occupation of Mobile April 12

-   March to Montgomery April 13-25; duty there and in Alabama till May

-   Ordered to Barrancas, FL; and duty in Western and Middle Florida till November

-   Mustered out November 17, 1865   

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Bagdad and the Civil War


[1]  United States War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. (Washington:  GPO, 1880-1901), Series I, Vol. 6, pg. 843-844, 848-850. 

[2] “E. E. Simpson & Co., Ollinger & Bruce ”, Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865, (National Archives Microfilm Publication, M346) General Records of the Department of State , Records Group 109; National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. 

[3] Ibid.

[4] Official Records of Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1 - Volume 35 (Part I) pg. 445-446. 

[5]  Official Records of Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1 - Volume 52 (Part II) pg. 379-381.

[6] “1st Regiment, Florida Infantry”; and  Official Records of Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 6, pg. 843-844, 848-850.

[7] Jonathan C. Sheppard “Everyday Soldiers: the Florida Brigade of the West, 1861-1862.” MA Thesis: Florida State University, 2004; pg. 8, 21, & 38.

[8] Ibid; and   “William D. Rodgers”, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Florida, (National Archives Microfilm Publication, M251) Record Group 109, War Department Collection of Confederate Records in the National Archives. National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.; and “William D. Rodgers Letters 1862-1865”, Manuscripts, M89-22,  Records Group 900000, Florida State Archives, Tallahassee.

[9] “1st Regiment Florida Infantry” 

[10] “Another Florida Town Burnt” Richmond Daily Dispatch, 5 November 1864, online at:

[11] Arthur E. Green, Southern boots and saddles: the Fifteenth Confederate Cavalry C.S.A.: First Regiment Alabama and Florida Cavalry, 1863-1865. (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2008) 5-12.

[12] “Joseph C. Keyser” Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Alabama, (National Archives Microfilm Publication, M311) Record Group 109, War Department Collection of Confederate Records in the National Archives. National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.; and “Company I, Sixth Alabama Cavalry Roster” available at:

[13] David J. Coles, “Far from Fields of Glory: Military Operations in Florida during the Civil War, 1864-1865”.  PhD dissertation: Florida State University, 1996. Pg. 280-285.

[14] TWP 1N-28W, FL, Tallahassee (North, east boundaries)   1853 Plat Map; Bureau of Land Management, < ; and TWP 1S-28W, FL, Tallahassee (North, South, West boundaries and Subdivision Lines) 1853 Plat Map.  Bureau of Land Management, <; and Spanish Land Grant: Batelongue, Vincente.  1831 Land Grant Map: State Archives of Florida;; and Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies., Series 1 - Volume 35 (Part I) 445-446, and Series 1 - Volume 52 (Part I) pg. 648; and Southern Boots and Saddles,

pg. 5-12,214. Although Spurling’s “Expedition up the Blackwater” one week after the skirmish at Batelongue involved more Union troops some 700 in number few were actually engaged in combat with Confederate forces.  As such Batelongue stands as the largest engagement of forces based off of Lt Col Spurling’s after- action report and Confederate reports and muster rolls placing Co I, 15th CSA Cavalry along with possibly one other CSA cavalry company and local militia versus Lt Col Spurling’s 200 man contingent.

[15] John E Reiger “Deprivation, Disaffection, and Desertion in Confederate Florida”, Florida Historical Quarterly, volume 48 issue 3, Jan 1970. pg. 280-285,295.

[16] Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1 - Volume 26 (Part I) 818; and “Deprivation, Disaffection, and Desertion in Confederate Florida” 295.

[17] Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1 - Volume 15, 126-127.

[18] United States Naval War Records Office and United States Office of Naval Records and Library: Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Series I - Volume 21: West Gulf Blockading Squadron (January 1, 1864 - December 31, 1864) (Washington: GPO, 1906) pg. 157-158.

[19] Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1 - Volume 35 (Part I) pg. 447-450; Series 1 - Volume 44 pg. 418-419.

[20]   David W. Hartman, David Coles, Biographical Rosters of Florida's Confederate and Union Soldiers, 1861-1865, (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing, 1995.); and “Deprivation, Disaffection, and Desertion in Confederate Florida” 294-295.

[21] Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1 - Volume 35 (Part I) pg. 447-450; and Richmond Daily Dispatch, 5 Nov 1864; and “W. W. Robinson”   Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Mississippi, (National Archives Microfilm Publication, M269) Record Group 109, War Department Collection of Confederate Records in the National Archives; National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.    Confederate Muster rolls show Capt. W. W. Robinson being the Commander of Company I, 8th Mississippi Cavalry.

[22] Ibid, pg. 447-450.

[23] Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1 Volume 49 (Part I) pg. 49-50, 71-72.

[24] Ibid, pg. 309.

[25] “Appointments of Delegates to the Southern Congress” Richmond Daily Dispatch, January 19, 1861; and “Names of Members of Congress” Richmond Daily Dispatch June 4, 1861; Brian R. Rucker Jackson Morton: West Florida's Soldier, Senator, and Secessionist. Milton, FL: Patagonia Press, 1990.

Photograph of Capt. Cave Kummer, USMC wearing reenactment uniform; provided by BVPA; Thompson House photograph provided by BVPA; artwork acquired freely from internet with no copyright infringements.  Photographs and art inserted to body copy of “The Civil War in Santa Rosa County”, authored by Capt. Dave Kummer, USMC, are not original to document.  Photography and artwork inserted to give illustrative imagination to the body copy and its implied concepts; and may or may not accurately depict the body copy in reference to.  Please excuse any inaccuracy or misuse of the artwork and inability to give credit to the artist or source.   Any verifiable reference to artwork and credit to the artist is welcomed by contacting LA Winchester at BVPA, PO Box 565, Bagdad, FL, 32530.

Welcome to the Village of Bagdad, Santa Rosa County, Florida; established in 1840


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