Though Florida had been important throughout the Confederate war effort due to, among other things, it's ample coastline which allowed countless ports of safe harbor for Confederate blockade runners, by 1863 Florida's importance to the Confederate commissary department had become unquestionable. This was due in large part to the fall of Vicksburg, MS on July 4, 1863. With the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson now under Union control, the Confederacy lost all control of the Mississippi River which was a vital supply route for the southern army. With the Confederacy now essentially cut in two, Florida became the breadbasket of the south. The Confederate commissary department now relied almost exclusively on Florida to provide such vital supplies as salt, sugar, fruits and vegetables, and most importantly beef cattle to support the war effort. The Union Army soon took notice of this and began to step up raids into the Florida interior in an effort to disrupt these supply lines.
That my friends, is essentially what the "Battle of Brooksville" amounted to; a Union raiding and harassment foray.
On July 1,1864, a detachment of troops consisting primarily of the Second Florida Cavalry (Union) and the Second U.S. Colored Troops under the command of Capt. J.W. Childs and consisting of around 240 men, boarded transport ships in Ft. Myers and set out for Bayport due west of the town of Brooksville. Upon landing in Bayport the men began to march inland raiding and burning any homes and plantations they happened to come across. Almost as soon as the men disembarked, they began to be fired on by a small handful of Confederate pickets. Being significantly outnumbered however, these few men could do little more than harass and attempt to slow the oncoming Union force. Word was sent back to Brooksville of the invasion and the few soldiers available to defend the town began to gather (most likely near the current location of the Hernando County Courthouse). Among these were members of Charles J. Munerlyns 1st Battalion of Special Cavalry, known more commonly as the "cow cavalry". These men, whose primary responsibility was to gather, drive, and protect Florida's cattle herds, along with a handful of volunteers readied themselves to engage the Union forces. Their numbers totaled not more than a few dozen in all. Fortunately for them, an all out battle never came. The extent of the fighting was reduced to not much more than a small skirmish with both groups mainly firing at each other at long range.
After ransacking and firing much of the Ellis plantation, Union forces were content to make their way back to Bayport and after doing what damage they could to the small port town, re-boarded their ships for the return trip to Ft. Myers. The rag-tag group of Confederates followed, skirmishing with the rear of the Union column, but inflicted little, if any damage. Total losses amounted to one wounded Federal soldier while the Confederates suffered seven men and fifteen horses captured.
Disappointed? Well, don't be. Even though the "battle" it's self didn't amount to much, the story of a vastly outnumbered group of men willing to give their all to defend their homes is one that is well worth remembering. And even though the Brooksville Raid Reenactment isn't so much a reenactment of the actual Brooksville raid, the event is still well worth the effort to attend. It is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of the day and learn what life in general was like during this tragic time.
So if you are looking for something to do this weekend, I strongly encourage you to get out and attend. Even if it really wasn't much of a battle.
For more information on the 37th annual Brooksville Raid Reenactment, please visit