ECW Weekender: Camp Milton, Florida

My girlfriend is always amazed at my ability to find a battlefield when we travel, much to her dismay. Like that time I found a Mexican War site in the middle of nowhere while visiting family near El Paso, or that site I discovered on a trip to Canada. It happened again recently while visiting family in northern Florida.

Camp Milton Historic Preserve is located just west of Jacksonville, not far off I-10. The park includes walking trails, original and reconstructed earthworks, markers, a post-war house, and an educational center.

Photo of entrance sign
The entrance to Camp Milton

Florida was an important source of cattle for the Confederate war effort. In early February,1864 Union forces occupied Jacksonville and threatened the state’s supply lines. This led to the battle of Olustee, the largest in the state, fought February 20. It ended with a Union withdraw back to the safety of their fortifications at Jacksonville.

Confederate forces under Gen. Joseph Finegan then established a fortified position at Camp Milton. From here they could keep Union forces bottled up at Jacksonville, and retain control of the state’s interior.

General P.G.T. Beauregard arrived to oversee construction of a system of earthen fortifications that stretched nearly three miles along the west side of McGirts Creek. To the rear, a railroad supplied the base. Named for Governor John Milton, the earthworks about 7,500 Confederate soldiers occupied the earthworks, supported by an array of light artillery. This was the strongest field fortification built by either side in Florida during the Civil War.

The position prevented Union forces from moving again into the state’s interior, and allowed the Confederates to control the rest of Florida. In fact, Finnegan’s Florida brigade was able to reinforce the Army of Northern Virginia that summer and fight at Cold Harbor. Eventually the smaller garrison withdrew, and Union troops occupied the camp without bringing on another battle.

photo of earthworks
A panel discusses the earthworks seen in the background.

Today the historic preserve includes over 300 acres, walking trails and even notes the site of campfire pits. The education center has exhibits and hosts public programs as well as educational programs for schools. An 1880s cabin interprets life for common families in wartime Florida. A reconstructed campaign bridge shows visitors how the armies crossed swamps.

It is an interesting site and not too far off I-95 if you’re heading to Florida for beaches or Disney (I’m not really interested in either, I’d rather find things like Camp Milton). For more information visit:

Camp Milton Historic Preserve – Timucuan Parks Foundation

9 Responses to ECW Weekender: Camp Milton, Florida

  1. Lol. Reminds me of my daughters pleading, “not another battlefield (or cannon, museum, decommissioned ship–you fill in the blank).

  2. My girlfriend decided to pick a vacation destiination other than those I traditionally picked visiting battlefields in the Eastern and Western theaters. She knew about the Trans Mississippi theaters in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, but no further. She advised that she was making reservations for a week in Santa Fe far enough from the Civil War that she would not have to share me with my normal lack of attention to her while immersing myself in battles and other Civil War stuff. Feigning ignorance, I asked her to check with the host where reservations were made as to the nearest Civil War battlefield. With a smirk, she did so, but to her horror that Glorieta Pass was about a half hour outside of Santa Fe.. For once I had the last laugh but she did have a good time in spite of the Civil War interloper.

  3. I love a good line of entrenchments. Frankly, I also love Disney and our beaches. A good “unknown” place to drop into in SW Florida is the Gamble Mansion in Ellenton, just south of Tampa, allegedly linked to the postwar bug out of the portly but swift footed Judah Benjamin.

  4. I live about an hour away from Jacksonville. Have been to Olustee. I will put Camp Milton on the list for a visit. Thanks!

  5. thanks Bert … on my way to see grandkids next week in JAX … will stop by.

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