Lost Church, Lost Battlefield, Lost Cemetery, Lost War

March 1, 2010 86 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The story of the loss and rediscovery by the Metro Jacksonville team, of Brick Church, and its Battlefield, and Cemetery from the long ago Civil War. Discovered not 500 feet from I-95, in Downtown Jacksonville.

When the ships reached Jacksonville, a very strong force was loosed on the city. Florida's Colonel Davis was ordered to send a detachment of cavalry to Camp Langford, off the Lake City Road, near Jacksonville, to meet this emergency. He sent Lieut. Col. George Troupe Maxell, with a greater part of the regiment to take part in this anticipated battle. They were soon enough on the road and fast approaching the occupied city from the west. On the hill west of town, a group of scouts were sent forward to reconnoiter, reporting back that the Federals had established a strong picket outpost at "The Brick Church."

In those days before aviation, as today, an army or naval encampment would be surrounded by guarding and information gathering outposts known as picket stations. These posts generally radiated out in concentric circles from the main body of troops. In 1862, the military on the ground depended 100% on these pickets to be the eyes, ears and feelers of the army and navy.

A small command under Lieutenant Strange of the Third Florida, was ordered to capture the federal guards, if possible without bloodshed. In the tension, there was almost instant confusion over the demands being shouted back and forth and when the Federals fired into the Confederate ranks, the little incident turned into a small but raging general battle. Several Southrons were injured in that first volley, and though they only had half the numbers of the Confederates, the federals were behind walls and trees, and tombstones, in the church yard, well positioned to repel attacks. In the ensuing general engagement, Lieutenant Strange was mortally wounded somewhere close to the church.

While no numbers exist to indicate the size of the battle, a Confederate or Federal Regiment this early in the war was made up of 10 Companies, of 100 men each. So it is safe to assume that there were somewhere close to 2,000 men engaged.

When the heat was turned up, the Federal ranks broke and it is said they skedaddled away towards the ships anchored downtown. The first Confederate victory in Florida ended in a complete rout of the enemy. There were no accurate counts of the dead or wounded, and if other battlefields are any indicator, many of those bodies lay alongside the abandoned roads of a war torn city, until animals and time had removed the last traces.

The Confederate command decided that to pursue these "bandits" into town would serve no purpose. The naval ships could easily outgun any cavalry or infantry force, and to cause them to open up  on the city, would bring senseless destruction to the homes and churches, and injurious suffering to the good citizens of Jacksonville. The regiment was soon ordered back to Camp Davis near Tallahassee, and hence spirited away to The Army of Tennessee under the over cautious molasses like command of fellow Floridian, General Braxton Bragg.

Thus ended the Battle of Brick Church, the first stand up land engagement of any scale in Northeast Florida.  The first use of the new Florida Regiments in battle. The first Confederate officer (Lieutenant Strange) to be killed in action in Florida. The first time the citizens of Jacksonville would taste the fateful lightening of Lincoln's terrible swift sword.

Uncertain of what they faced in the pine woods, hearing reports of thousands of massed Confederates screaming past Brick Church, the Federals thought withdrawal the better part of valor. True to their infamous ugly pattern, they torched the city, starting with the churches and perhaps in retribution for the little brick church that had cost them the city. It would be a long bloody road to an ending that is still fuzzy at best.

Today, the buses and cars of a huge metropolis surround the blood soaked earth of Brick Church.

Story by Robert Mann

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