This account of the Battle of Cedar Creek (also known as Camp Mooney) was authored by Lydia Colee Filzen and used with her approval. The Battle of Cedar Creek, the engagement commemorated by the Camp Mooney reenactment occurred March 1, 1864 in the aftermath of the Battle of Olustee. According to historian Larry Skinner, it was the costliest battle in Duval County during the war, resulting in 29 casualties.
During the War Between the States, Jacksonville was occupied on and off by the Union Army. In February of 1864, Union forces commanded by General Truman Seymour headed west from their base in Jacksonville along the railroad toward Tallahassee with several objectives. They wanted to reclaim the state for the union; to revive trade along the St. Johns River; to recruit slaves for enlistment in the Union army; and to cut off the Confederate supply chain from the interior of Florida.
Confederate forces met the Yankees east of Lake City at Olustee and defeated them, sending them back to Jacksonville carrying their wounded. The Battle of Olustee was huge by Florida standards, resulting in 934 killed or wounded on the Confederate side, and 1,861 killed, wounded or captured on the Union side.
After the battle, some of the Confederate forces massed west of Jacksonville, discouraging the Federals from venturing beyond their lines.
On the morning of March 1, 1864, part of the 2nd Florida Confederate cavalry set out eastward toward Jacksonville on a reconnaissance to probe defenses there. As it happened, the same day an expedition of Federal Cavalry left Camp Mooney, near present day Ellis Road and Interstate 10, and headed west on a reconnaissance to feel out the Confederate position. Their force, under the command of Major Stevens, consisted of Companies B, C and D of 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, a squadron of Massachusetts Mounted infantry and one gun of Elders Horse Artillery. At mid-morning the 2nd Fla. Cavalry stopped the Union advance about 2 miles west of Camp Finegan, which is located southwest of the present-day intersection of Interstate Highways 10 and 295. The Confederates, now joined by infantry reinforcements, pushed the Union forces back through Camp Finegan. At Cedar Creek, about six miles west of Jacksonville, the Union troops made a stand. The Confederates were unable to advance until they started a flank movement.
Forced out, the Union forces began to retreat toward Three Mile Run. The Confederates followed and the Union rear guard ambushed them, killing Capt. Winston Stephens and a private. The Confederate infantry, 27th Georgia and 11th South Carolina, succeeded in crossing Cedar Creek and advanced toward Jacksonville. The retreating Union forces met reinforcements coming from Camp Mooney and were ordered back to Cedar Creek.
Finding that the Confederate infantry had crossed Cedar Creek in force, the Union troops again retreated toward Three Mile Run, where they had defensive breastworks. The skirmishing continued until dark, when Union forces reached their trenches at Three Mile Run. At the end of the day, the count of casualties was 7 Confederates killed and 12 wounded, 2 Union killed, 3 wounded and 5 captured. Colonel Dickison of the 2nd Florida Cavalry disputes the Union count, estimating that 40 Union soldiers were actually wounded.
After the skirmish, the Confederates stayed in the area and guarded against further Yankee advances, while the Federals held Jacksonville. According to Mr. Skinner, they had hoped to recapture Jacksonville, but the fight convinced them that it was not possible. This was the last significant engagement of the Olustee campaign. Thanks to Larry Skinner, Museum of Southern History, who has extensively researched the facts of the Camp Mooney-Cedar Creek engagement. I also located a narrative of the fight in Confederate Military History of Florida, by Confederate Colonel J. J. Dickison, who commanded Company H, 2nd Florida Confederate Cavalry.
Lydia Filzen is a Civil War novelist who writes under the name Lydia Hawke. Her first award-winning novel, Firetrail, is set during Sherman’s march through the Carolinas. Her second novel, Perfect Disguise is due out in April. For further information, log onto www.lydiahawke.us