Battle of St. Johns Bluff
Union warships fired on the
Confederate defenses from
the St. Johns River.
View from St. Johns Bluff
The bluff offers one of the
most spectacular views in the
Jacksonville area. Cannon
here commanded the river.
The Battle of St. Johns Bluff - Jacksonville, Florida - Battle of St. Johns Bluff, Florida - Battle of St. Johns Bluff, Florida
View of St. Johns Bluff
The Confederates erected powerful earthwork
fortifications atop St. Johns Bluff, seen here from
Fort Caroline National Memorial.
"...A Gross Military Blunder"
Now largely covered by a residential area, St.
Johns Bluff in Jacksonville, Florida, was once
a military position of vital importance.

One of the highest points in the
area, the bluff was quickly identified by
Confederate engineers as the key to the
defense of the St. Johns River. Making use of
the natural advantages of the position, the
Southern army erected powerful fortifications

...I found the late position of the enemy on St.
John's Bluff to be one of great strength, and
possessing a heavy and effective armament,
with a good supply of ammunition...the works
being most skillfully and carefully construc-
ted and the position greatly enhanced by the
natural advantages of the ground....

With its batteries of heavy artillery, strong
earthworks and commanding position, St.
Johns Bluff was expected by both armies to
prove a formidable obstacle to any Union
attack on Jacksonville. Unfortunately for the
Confederates, things did not turn out that way.

Commanded by Brigadier General J.M.
Brannon, a Union force of 1,573 men left
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on
September 30, 1862, to begin the attack on
Jacksonville. The army command was joined
by an impressive flotilla of Union gunboats
and other vessels.

The expedition crossed the bar off the mouth
of the St. Johns River on October 1st and
three gunboats immediately moved up to test
the defenses at St. Johns Bluff. A fierce
cannonade took place, with neither side
gaining a clear advantage. At the same time,
however, Brannon began landing his ground
forces. Despite encountering difficulties due
to the terrain, he quickly moved up on the
outposts of the fort.

By the afternoon of October 3rd, the Federal
forces were in position at the head of Mount
Pleasant Creek about two miles from the
Confederate defenses. While the land forces
waited for additional reinforcements, the navy
again moved forward to engage the cannon
on St. Johns Bluff.  This time, however, there
was no return fire.

Sending a boat party ashore, the navy found
that the Confederates had inexplicably
evacuated the bluff. The nearby works at
Yellow Bluff Fort were found to be evacuated
as well and the U.S. flag was raised over
Jacksonville on October 5, 1862.

The failure of Lt. Col. Charles Hopkins to fight
for control of St. Johns Bluff stunned both
Union and Confederate commanders.
Gen. Brannon wrote, after inspecting the
works, that "a small party of determined men
could have maintained this position for a
consider-able time against even a larger
force than was at my disposal."

Confederate General Joseph Finegan called
the evacuation of St. Johns Bluff a "gross
military blunder."

In his subsequent defense of his decision to
abandon the battery, Col. Hopkins stated that
he was severely outnumbered, but from his
statements it is clear that he greatly
over-estimated the strength of the Union land
forces. He demanded and was cleared by a
Confederate board of inquiry.

Most of St. Johns Bluff is now a residential
area but the scene of the Union approach
and position of the Federal gunboats during
the artillery exchange can be viewed from the
Ribault Monument and
Fort Caroline National
Memorial. Both are located on Fort Caroline
Road in Jacksonville.
St. Johns Bluff
Most of the bluff is now a
residential area, but some
small parts are preserved.
Yellow Bluff Fort
One of Jacksonville's few
surviving Civil War sites is
preserved at nearby Yellow
Bluff Fort Historic State Park.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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