|THE BATTLE OF BRADDOCK'S FARM|
|In the early part of 1865, Federal
forces occupied most of Florida's largest cities. Ventures into
the mostly unpopulated interior of the State were quite risky. This
is interesting, especially due to the fact that there were very
few Confederate forcess left to defend the State. Capt. J.J. Dickison
led one of those forces. He was very successful in using his small
numbers to their maximum advantage.
One such example is the Battle of Braddocks Farm. James A. Braddock owned a farm just South of modern day Crescent City. He was quite successful at farming and ranching. During the War years he, and several of his Sons, served the State of Florida by taking up arms in the Confederate Army. Most of them served in Virginia.
Florida was the Confederacy's least populated State, so it was not able to supply as many men to the War effort(FL did provide more per capita than any State and also suffered more losses per capita), but was able to supply many needed items, such as meat, food, wood, and cotton. The Union knew that if the supply to the Southern troops could be cut off, they could starve the Confederacy into surrender. In February, Col. Albert H. Wilcoxson, the Commanding Officer of the Union forces at St. Augustine took approximately 75 men on a raid of the interior of the State. He traveled to Braddock's farm, and used it as a headquarters from which he could raid area farms.
Capt. J.J. Dickison heard of these raids and set out to end them. With approximately 50 men, he caught up with Wilcoxson and the 17th CT Infantry as they were leaving Braddock's farm with ten wagons loaded with Cotton and other confiscated items. Dickison's troops caught the 17th CT off guard, and a quick, but decisive battle ensued. When Wilcoxson realized he was under attack, he drew is pistol and began firing from horseback. When his bullets were exhausted, he drew his sword and charged Capt. Dickison. Dickison drew his pistol and shot Wilcoxson from his horse. This brief, but fiery skirmish resulted in no Confederate casualties, but the Union lost four men. After the fight, Dickison approached Wilcoxson, lying on the ground, and asked why he had charged. Wilcoxson simply said, "Don't blame yourself, you are only doing your duty as a soldier. I alone am to blame". Approximately eight Federals escaped into the swamps and made it back to St. Augustine. All others were taken prisoner.
After the battle, Wilcoxson's widow wrote to Capt. Dickison. She told him that her husband's captured sword was a gift to him from his Masonic Lodge in Norwalk, CT. She asked that it be returned to her so that she could present it to the Lodge. Capt. Dickison, also a Mason, obliged her and told her that it was being returned, "on account of the feelings I entertained for your husband as a brave officer." The sword is still in the possession of Wilcoxson's Lodge.
This small engagement typified many of the skirmishes and battles that were fought in Florida. The numbers of troops involved were small, but the sacrifices of those involved were as great as those of the major Battles such as Gettysburg, Antietam, or Fredricksburg. Those involved were keenly aware of the definition of the word duty. Men fought and died over their ideals and call to duty. Robert E. Lee said that, "Duty is the sublimest word in the English language. We cannot do more, and we should never do less".
Our Braddock's Farm Project has been especially challenging. From 1995-2009 our volunteers have logged thousands of hours restoring the Mason/Denver Cemetery(where James Braddock is buried) just South of Crescent City. For approximately 30 years the cemetery was used as a dump. Our volunteers wanted to clean up this historic cemetery which is near the site of the Battle of Braddocks Farm. The list of items removed from the cemetery is huge but it includes, a school bus, three abandoned cars, a boat, hundreds of tractor size tires, dozens of orange grove smudge pots, tons of misc. metal scrap, and many trailer loads of misc. garbage. Through the dedicated efforts of our members and other volunteers, we have been able to return the cemetery to a respectable condition. We also raised money to place a historic road side marker giving details of the Battle Of Braddock's Farm.