October 12, 1864: Albert Chalker to his Sweetheart Martha

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

So far, most of our Civil War Voices posts have come from Floridian soldiers fighting or living as prisoners of war far outside the state. Today’s post brings us back to Florida itself to hear from a young private writing to his sweetheart back home.

Albert Chalker was born in South Carolina in 1843, and moved with his family to Clay County, Florida around 1852. In 1863, at the age of 19, Chalker enlisted in Company K of the Second Florida Cavalry. He spent much of his time stationed at Baldwin, Florida serving as a courier for General Joseph Finegan. The State Archives holds a collection (Collection M72-11) of twelve letters written between Chalker and Martha Ann Bardin during the Civil War, including this one:

 

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Transcript:

Baldwin Florida
Oct 12th 1864
Miss Bardin

My Dear Mattie, Your most affectionate letter of the 6th inst. has been received and perused with the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. I was very sorry to hear of your sad misfortune, but I hope by the time get this that you will be over that, and enjoying good health. My health is not good, but do not let that trouble you. I hope soon to recover, as I have very good attention.I have no news of interest to write you at the present time. Our duty is very heavy as there is but four Co’s of Cavalry here. We have been looking for the remainder of our Regiment some time. If it was all here our duty would be very light. We are getting plenty of corn and long forrige for our horses at the present time. As to ourselves we are faring rather bad. We get no meat except fresh beef and that in very small quantities. Corn meal we get a plenty of that. Syrup one pint to the week, etc. & so on.

I am very tired of fighting this way. I very often say hard things about our Confederacy and officers. I think if about half of the officers now in the army and in ware houses & ordinance stores was reduced to the rank that we would get along much better. It would be great incouragement to the soldiers. Without some great chang we will lose two thirds of our [page 2] Regiment before Christmas. There is great dissatisfaction among the men. If McClellan is elected it will not probably proove so disastrous. I long to see the dawning of peace. I hope that ere next April we will have what is wished a thousand times every moment. That is peace, when we can all return to our home and once more live in peace and contentment, where we can be with our friends and relatives. Oh Mattie, wer I with you I would be hapy. Please excuse a short letter. I will close with the hope of hearing from you soon. I Ever Remain

Your affectionate &
Devoted Lover,

Albert S. Chalker

When on my lonely watch at night
And naught to comfort me but the stars of light,
And weariness has lulled to rest
All other thoughts within my breast
Then I’ll think of thee.

A.S.C.

Chalker’s frustration with the war is palpable here. Although he admits nurturing a few hard feelings about the Confederacy, his tone aims more towards weariness with war in general. Apparently this sentiment was sufficient to induce some soldiers to leave their posts, as Chalker fears might happen to his own regiment. In other letters he shares more on the subject of desertion, which was an ongoing problem for the Confederates stationed in this area.

We also get a sense in this letter that Chalker is particularly eager to get back home so he can be with “Mattie.” The young soldier would soon get his wish. Albert Chalker and Martha Ann Bardin married in Middleburg in 1865 and had several children.

Check out the related resources below to learn more about Florida in the Civil War, and join us tomorrow for our next edition of Civil War Voices!

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October 11, 1864: William McLeod Diary Entry

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

Today’s Civil War Voices entry takes us back to northwestern Georgia to check up on William McLeod of Manatee County. On October 8th, we learned that McLeod had been camping with his regiment near Cedar Town, GA en route to join Confederate General John Bell Hood’s army. Today he reports a little resistance from Union opponents in the area.

Note: McLeod often wrote in run-on sentences, combining several days of activity into each expression. As a result, today’s entry covers multiple days’ worth of material from the diary.

Pages 50-51 from the diary of William McLeod (Collection M97-20, State Archives of Florida).

Pages 50-51 from the diary of William McLeod (Collection M97-20, State Archives of Florida).

Transcript: [...] went to Cove Springs & camped their was a nice little town & we staid all night & on the 10 we left that camp & their was a rite smart frost & on the 9 was a cold frosty morning & we got to Tallapoosee river by 12 or 1 oclock but crossed Cellur creek in the morning & when we got to Tallapoosee river we rested a little while & then crossed over the river.

[right]

Oct

it was the Coosy river & went 3 or 4 miles & camped & staid all night & on the 11 we made a long march & camped after we crossed the armuchie river & the Yankees fired at us but done no damage & on the 12 we made a long march & got in 15 miles of dalton & camped & on the 13 we left our camps by daylight now to take dalton & we marched around in the rear of dalton [...]

 

McLeod’s unit was involved in the effort to impede Union General William T. Sherman’s progress through Georgia. Sherman would ultimately decide to leave a single corps of troops in Atlanta to maintain Union control while he swept across the state toward Savannah.

For more information about Florida and Floridians during the Civil War, check out the related resources below. Also, join us tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices. We’ll be posting a letter from private Albert Symington Chalker of Clay County, Florida to his sweetheart Martha Bardin. Chalker shares his feelings about the war and his hopes for the future.

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October 10, 1864: Robert Watson Diary Entry

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

It’s back to Savannah Harbor for today’s edition of Civil War Voices. Confederate sailor Robert Watson of Key West had a busy day aboard the C.S.S. Savannah:

Excerpt of Robert Watson's Diary (M76-139, State Archives of Florida).

Excerpt of Robert Watson’s Diary (M76-139, State Archives of Florida).

Two interesting aspects of this diary entry stand out. First, Watson’s description of “scraping” and “caulking” allude to a critical part of maintaining wooden ships in this era. Ships with wooden plank decks used pine pitch and either cotton or hemp to caulk the spaces between planks and create a watertight seal. One coat of pitch was never enough, however. As the pitch became brittle and cracked over time as a result of the ship’s movements, it had to be replaced. As a consequence, one of the ongoing maintenance projects for a ship such as the Savannah was removing the old caulking with scrapers and putting down the new caulk.

Watson also alludes to the position of General William Tecumseh Sherman, who at this time had left a single corps of his army in Atlanta while he chased the forces of Confederate General John Bell Hood around northwestern Georgia. Watson’s assessment of Sherman’s predicament was a bit sanguine. In less than a month, Washington would consent to Sherman’s plan to leave Hood alone and begin marching to the Atlantic to take Savannah.

For more information about Florida and Floridians in the Civil War, check out the related resources below. Also, come back tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices. We’ll return to northwest Georgia to hear again from the diary of William McLeod.

 

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October 9, 1864: Wilbur Wightman Gramling Diary

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

Today we return to the Union prisoner of war camp at Elmira, New York to check in on Wilbur Wightman Gramling. As the weather turns colder, his concerns about surviving the winter resurface:

Excerpt from Wilbur Wightman Gramling Diary (M88-70, State Archives of Florida).

Excerpt from Wilbur Wightman Gramling Diary (M88-70, State Archives of Florida).

Transcript: Sunday, Oct. 9, 1864. Had a light snow last night. Is cloudy and very cold today. I am quite unwell today. Have had a little fever all day. Wrote to Irvin today.

 

The “Irvin” Gramling refers to was his older brother Irvin Watson Gramling, who had enlisted along with Wilbur in Company K of the 5th Florida Infantry. Irvin had been captured in July 1863 while fighting at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was detained briefly at Fort McHenry in Maryland before being sent to Fort Delaware, where he remained until the end of the war.

Battle flag of the 5th Florida Infantry, in which both Gramling brothers were members of Company K. The flag is now in the possession of the Museum of Florida History (photo date unknown).

Battle flag of the 5th Florida Infantry, in which both Gramling brothers were members of Company K. The flag is now in the possession of the Museum of Florida History (photo date unknown).

Wilbur mentions writing to Irvin or receiving letters from him frequently in his diary. Since both Gramling brothers were detained in camps far from home and apart from each other, this correspondence must have been heartening to receive. The original Wilbur Wightman Gramling diary later came under the ownership of Irvin’s family. Irvin’s grandson, Owen Irving Gramling, Jr., donated the original Gramling diary to Florida State University in 1971.

Check out the related resources below for more information about the Civil War in Florida, and come back tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices from Florida, when we’ll return to the Georgia coast to hear from Confederate sailor Robert Watson.

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Florida’s Own Stonehenge

If you travel south from Ocala toward Belleview on U.S. Highway 27/301/441, there’s a place where the northbound and southbound lanes split to go around a tiny patch of thick forest.  There doesn’t appear to be much of a reason for this at first, aside from the small satellite sheriff’s office Marion County has in the median.  There’s more to this than meets the eye, however.

Excerpt of a Florida Department of Transportation map showing U.S. 27/301/441 between Ocala and Belleview. The "Stonehenge" structures are located in the median of this highway where the northbound and southbound lanes bend outward (1977).

Excerpt of a Florida Department of Transportation map showing U.S. 27/301/441 between Ocala and Belleview. The “Stonehenge” structures are located in the median of this highway where the northbound and southbound lanes bend outward (1977).

Hidden among the vines and oak trees in the middle of this busy highway is Florida’s own Stonehenge. Granted, it’s not nearly as old, and its uses aren’t nearly as shrouded in mystery. That being said, it’s still quite a sight to see in person. Four enormous concrete structures rise nearly as high as the trees, covered in vines, moss, and graffiti. They date back to 1936 when construction began on a bridge to cross a section of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.

One of the towering structures located in the median of U.S. 27/301/441 at Santos (2014).

One of the towering structures located in the median of U.S. 27/301/441 at Santos. Photo by the author (2014).

 

Another concrete megalith peeks out from a tangle of vines and overgrowth at Santos (2014).

Another concrete megalith peeks out from a tangle of vines and overgrowth at Santos Photo by the author (2014).

The Franklin D. Roosevelt administration had authorized the canal project as a federal relief program. Camp Roosevelt, located a few miles away, served as housing for the workers. The canal had yet to be built at this point, although government authorities had already condemned a strip of land for it, right through the middle of the community of Santos.

The project was short-lived. In June 1936, after barely six months of work, the federal government halted work on the bridge at Santos. Concerns about the canal project’s impact on tourism and the water supply had aroused concern among the public and Congress, and no additional funding was made available for the span.

Buildings at Camp Roosevelt, originally established in 1935-36 to house laborers working on the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The camp was later used as a vocational education center. The camp no longer exists, but some of the houses still remain, and the neighborhood is still called

Buildings at Camp Roosevelt, originally established in 1935-36 to house laborers working on the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The camp was later used as a vocational education center (1936).

The bridge piers were, however, already built. What could be done with them? They were too heavy to move, and too expensive to simply destroy. Project managers decided to leave them where they stood. Maybe they thought the canal project would resume sometime in the future and the piers could still be used.

The Cross Florida Barge Canal did resurface in later decades, but the Santos Bridge remained untouched. When U.S. 27/301/441 was widened, the road planners simply bypassed the enormous bridge piers and allowed the space they occupied to grow up naturally. The Cross Florida Greenway now passes through the area, and the old bridge piers are a side attraction for visiting hikers and mountain bikers. The nearby trailhead is called Santos in honor of the community that once prospered there.

Graffiti from a number of fraternities marks the remnants of the Santos Bridge project (2014).

Graffiti from a number of fraternities marks the remnants of the Santos Bridge project. Photo by the author (2014).

The Stonehenge-esque structures at Santos are merely one of many mysterious monuments to the past hiding in plain sight in Florida. What mysterious historical structures are located in your community? Search the Florida Photographic Collection to see if we have photos of them, or consider donating a photo by contacting us.