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    Dec 2004
    Long Island New York
    White's XLT
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    Birney"s raid in the news

    Here's a good article.http://www.news-journalonline.com/Ne...AD04042807.htm

    NEWS: Front Page
    April 28, 2007

    History springs from war site

    By RONALD WILLIAMSON
    SENSE OF PLACE
    Broken bricks and bits of rusting metal machines rest near a swift-flowing stream among serene oaks. The objects have long been a curiosity on the edge of the fresh-water spring at DeLeon Springs State Park.

    Civil War artifacts
    "The Civil War: America Divided" at the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando features rare artifacts and archival documents. The exhibition ends May 6.

    One of five existing copies of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln, the table on which Ulysses S. Grant composed the surrender at Appomattox Court House, Robert E. Lee's General Order No. 9 to his troops regarding the surrender and Stonewall Jackson's field glasses are among the many lithographs, photographs, documents, weapons and uniforms on display.

    The History Center, 65 E. Central Blvd., Orlando, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (407) 836-8500 or visit thehistorycenter.org.



    In late April 1864, machinery here drew destruction to this peaceful setting.

    The largest hostile invasion in Volusia County history paused here, and, when it moved on, the area's most productive plantation lay in ruins. The federal invasion of Confederate territory is called Birney's Raid after Gen. William Birney and involved almost 1,000 black and white soldiers who tore a 10-day trail down one side of Volusia County and up the other.

    Fighting wasn't the goal. There were no enemy units, and sympathizers skedaddled across the St. Johns River as troops approached.

    "Birney's Raid was the last major attempt of Union forces to redeem themselves" for the February defeat at Olustee in North Florida, said Jeff GrzeLak, a Civil War scholar who has written about the raid and takes part in an annual commemoration of it at the park.

    Federals wanted to disrupt Rebel supply lines in Volusia and destroy supply sources like John Starke's Spring Garden Plantation.

    Starke produced corn meal. His cotton was smuggled to the Bahamas and traded for munitions and weapons. He had three gins and a gristmill with four grinding stones, all powered by an undershot water wheel, according to a paper by historian Patricia Griffin and archaeologist Ted Payne, both of St. Augustine.

    Riverboats were captured and destroyed, horses taken, slaves liberated and a few Rebels nabbed. Treasury agent A.G. Browne valued the herds of captured cattle and bales of cotton in Volusia at $200,000.

    Despite the destruction, Birney felt he made friends here.

    "The best disposition exists toward us among the people," he reported. "Many were hiding in the swamps to escape the conscription, but came to us and welcomed us as deliverers. Some of them accompanied us on the expedition, and to their local knowledge and zeal I am indebted for much of our success in capturing property."

    Soldiers headed south April 26 from Jacksonville. Some came through what is now Flagler County and others came through Putnam County to meet at Spring Garden.

    Details are scattered in diaries, books and war reports.

    "At Spring Garden, we admired the magnificent spring that gives its name to the place, with its water as clear as crystal, and running out with such force that it carries a gristmill and extensive cotton gins," Browne wrote after the war. "Our object here was to capture the proprietor, Starke, a notorious rebel, but he had removed with his slaves and corn only a few days before."

    Soldiers dismantled the mill and threw its stones into the spring, say Payne and Griffin. Others say soldiers destroyed or burned the gins and mill.

    Memoirs of Col. William Noble, commanding 250 men of the 17th Connecticut Infantry, make it sound as if his unit destroyed the gristmill, said Grzelak, who lives in Orlando. Other raiders hailed from New York and Ohio, and there were 450 men of the 35th U.S. Colored Troops, mostly ex-slaves from Virginia and the Carolinas.

    The force watered horses at Gemini Springs, said Grzelak. At Enterprise, Birney reported the capture of the son of Jacob Brock, hotel and steamboat man who was already a prisoner of war. His steamboats were lost to Yankees.

    In New Smyrna on May 2, invaders took two schooners Browne said were "crammed with cotton," ready to sail to Nassau. Birney returned north on the Old King's Road.

    "For families living in the area, the end of the 'late unpleasantness,' could not come fast enough," said Grzelak. "Life returned to just trying to survive . . . war or no war."

    Limited archaeological efforts near the spring have uncovered evidence of rebuilding, but nothing to document destruction by fire or other means, say Griffin and Payne. The hub of the old water wheel, however, and some brickwork dates from the 1830s beginning of the mill and were there when Yankees sought Starke.

    Seminoles burned the mill in 1835. It was rebuilt in the 1850s and again after the Civil War, but fell into disrepair as 1890s photos show visitors on a tilted, derelict water wheel. It was reconstructed in 1999 and is now part of a restaurant.

    It's likely that Birney's raiders saw some of the machinery now at the park, Payne told me this week, but reliable documentation is lacking. Grzelak believes they not only saw it, but touched it.

    "Most of the original machinery on display at DeLeon Springs is the same that was thrown into the spring 143 years ago," he said.

    Touchstones of the past add context and perspective to a place, and it would be fine to have them here. Florida has few from that war, partly because it was, as Grzelak says, "the smallest tadpole in the sea of secession."

    Maybe few is best. Those tragic years were the most divisive and deadly in our nation's history. Scars lingered long after soldiers slipped away and Volusia became, for awhile, a lawless place of renegade rule. Some say scars linger still.

    A few days ago, I reached out and touched the decaying wood and metal of the original water wheel displayed at the park. Slivers crumbled and fell to the sand to rest with other flecks and splinters of the past, both seen and unseen.

    ronald.williamson@news-jrnl.com



    kenb

 

 

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