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Our Horse Landing project was made possible by the dedication of many people, some of whom are not members of the FCPHS, but have supported our efforts in the past.  We approached the 3rd FL Co A Reenactment unit to gauge their support of placing a historic marker at the site that JJ Dickisonís Cavalry captured and destroyed the USS Columbine.  At the first meeting with the 3rd, they showed tremendous support and several pledged enough money to cover over half the cost of the marker.  Jim Gary was first to speak up and pledge half of the money for the project!

So this project did not take very long to get off the ground.  Normally the biggest hurdle is financial and we had very little fundraising to do on this project.  We quickly moved to name a site for the marker.  This was relatively easy to do since the site of the battle is on property now owned by the Rodeheaverís Boys Ranch, on the West shore of the St Johns River, just South of Palatka, Florida.  The 3rd Florida sponsors a hugely successful reenactment at this site every year and thousands of people would be able to see the marker.  Also, by placing it on the shore, it is within feet of the actual site where Dickison ordered his troops to set up and fire on the USS Columbine.

The marker dedication was held on Saturday June 30, 2001.  Approximately 115 people attended the dedication.  Many of those in attendance were reenactors from the 3rd FL Co A, and several other units.  Many stood up to speak about the dedication and sacrifice of the soldiers, Union and Confederate, who fought at Horse Landing and other battles.  Andy Smith, the commander of the 3rd FL drove home the point that all of these soldiers deserved honor.  This theme was on the minds of those in attendance as the reenactors fired a volley from their black powder rifles.  This was followed up by a very loud volley from an artillery piece that was placed on the shore of the St Johns River.    The dedication ceremony was a very humbling experience.  It was a great reminder of why so many people take time to remember the sacrifices of millions from over 135 years ago.

The wording for the marker is listed below.


At this site on May 23rd, 1864, Captain John Jackson Dickison, with men from the 2nd Florida Cavalry and a battery from the Milton Light Artillery, disabled and captured the Federal gunboat, Columbine.  At the time, Union forces controlled the land east of the St. Johns River.  The elusive Dickison had made several raids across the river, capturing two outposts.  Hoping to trap the Confederates on the east side, Union ground troops moved toward Welaka, and the Columbine was sent upriver.  Dickison, however, had already crossed the river and set the ambush here at Horse Landing, where the channel and current would bring the boat to within 60 yards of shore.

The Columbine, under the command of Acting Ensign Frank Sanborn, was described as 117 feet in length and "a thing of beauty".  The Columbine returned fire, but was soon disabled and surrendered.  All but three of her crew and the army troops aboard were killed or captured.  The Federal dead are reportedly buried on this rivershore.  There were no Confederate casualties.  After removing all the supplies and armament possible, the Columbine was burned and sunk, to prevent recapture.  

It is the only known incident in history where a cavalry unit sank an enemy gunboat. Dickison was known in the Southern press as the Swamp Fox (and as the Knight of the White Camellia, by the ladies).  The Federals referred to him as "Dixie", and land west of the St. Johns was "Dixie's Land".

An interesting footnote:  A lifeboat taken from the Columbine was later given by Dickison to John S. Breckenridge, Confederate Secretary of War, to aid in his escape to Cuba at the end of the war.

This marker was placed here through donations by Mr. And Mrs. Jim Gary, the 3rd FL Co. A Reenactment Unit, and the Florida Confederation For The Preservation Of Historic Sites, Inc.
Horse Landing Project