Public Trust Law

 

Camp Milton Historic Preserve
1175 Halsema Rd
Jacksonville, Florida 32221

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In 1864, Camp Milton was considered the largest encampment of Confederate forces in Florida with over 8,000 troops. The site of several encounters between Confederate and Union armies, the camp finally fell to occupation by the Union army in the summer of 1864. It is named after Florida's Governor during the Civil War, John Milton.

Today, Camp Milton has been developed as a midpoint trailhead for the Jacksonville Baldwin Rail Trail. It is also part of the Timucuan Trail Partnership, and Preservation Project Jacksonville.

The park has a state-of-the art functional interpretive/educational center, an authentic farmhouse in the process of being restored, a large historical reenactment field, and access to an existing historic railroad line. Trails and boardwalks guide visitors throughout the interior of Camp Milton, which are lined with historical trees and signage explaining their significance. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of natural flora and fauna. It is comprised of uplands and wetlands, which consist of hydric pine flatwoods, and wetland mixed forest.

Park Features

Nature Trails/Boardwalk

Camp Milton's natural landscape is a rich mix of various dome swamps, basin swamps and lakes. The nature trails and boardwalk that meander through its landscape provide visitors the opportunities to see little blue heron, snowy egrets, tricolored heron, white ibis, and wood storks. All these species are listed on the state's register as “species of special concern” with the exception of the wood stork, which is on both the State and Federal registers as “endangered.” The upland mixed forest provides habitat for the threatened flatwoods salamander and endangered eastern indigo snake.

Historic Cracker Farm

In 1884, John Harvey built a home on the Camp Milton site. When the State purchased the property for the establishment of Whitehouse Field, Mr. Harvey moved his home to the town of Whitehouse. Under plans for the Camp Milton Historic Preserve, the original “Cracker” cabin from the Harvey homestead has been moved back to Camp Milton within a half mile of the home's original location and is currently undergoing renovations.

McGirts Creek

Along McGirts Creek at Camp Milton, the main Confederate line once numbered up to 8,000 soldiers and stretched for more than two miles south to the railroad, which connected Jacksonville to Baldwin. This camp, named after Florida's wartime governor John Milton, was strategically located by the creek to allow the Confederate army the best opportunity to defend their position against the advancing Federal Troops. Although partially eroded and filled in with silt over time, these headwaters of McGirts Creek once ran deeper and wider, providing a critical link to transport supplies in for the Confederate soldiers stationed there.

McGirts Creek Bridge

Bridges were not always glamorous in the Civil War. Troops on the move used logs and fill dirt to span the gaps over streams, rivers, bogs and swamps. In wider channels, workers would spend entire days hauling logs into place in waist deep mud and water. Crude trestles were built where more stability was needed. Sometime these supports were fastened into adjacent trees for even greater strength. Today, a small footbridge has been constructed over McGirts Creek. This footbridge replicates the crude fashion in which bridges were commonly built during the Civil War. These bridges were necessary, as the terrain was very difficult to move troops over. It is said that soldiers, many of whom did not even have shoes to protect their feet, would often sink up to their knees in mud when attempting to pass through these creeks.

Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail Connection

Camp Milton serves as the midway point to the 15 mile Jacksonville-Baldwin trail, which is already a popular local and tourist destination. Entrance and exit features welcome visitors to and from the site. Together, Camp Milton and the Jacksonville-Baldwin trail creates a linear park system that provides varied recreational opportunities, including biking, rollerblading, and horseback riding.

The Works

These mounds of earth are still visible today and are accessible from the boardwalk. They are a reminder of a turbulent past this site played in our city's history. Sometimes referred to as “earth-works,” “field-works,” “breast-works,” or just simply “works,” this fortification built by the Confederate Army in early March of 1864 helped protect their position against advancing union soldiers. On the earthworks, vertical logs were fastened upright with loopholes for riflemen to stand every two feet apart and platforms were built to place their heavy artillery, such as cannons. After Federal forces overwhelmed the Confederate army and took over Camp Milton, Union General George H. Gordon inspected the “breast-works” and described them as “most solidly constructed and beautifully finished.”

Learning Center and Historic Museum

Educational programs are conducted on site in the beautifully constructed 4,000 square foot Learning Center, located near the cracker cabin. It is also serves as a Civil War Center which displays artifacts found on and around the Camp Milton site. The educational programs provide cultural and environmental learning opportunities for its tourists, local community and school groups.

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