For those who subscribe to Civil War Times (and if you don’t, you should!), check out page 54! I was granted a great opportunity to write for the magazine and chose a topic that hits close to home and close to my heart.
The company named The Walton Guards formed in the more central part of Northwest Florida (mostly Walton county) and was first assigned the task of guarding the East Pass. This narrow waterway runs between the mainland and Santa Rosa Island from the mouth of Choctawhatchee Bay to Pensacola Bay. In essence, it’s a back door to Fort Pickens. Confederate General Braxton Bragg understood that Union supply boats could easily slip through the East Pass to give necessary supplies, ammunition, and extra troops to occupied Fort Pickens. So, the 60-some-odd company armed only with muskets they brought form home were the only line of defense in this sector of the Panhandle.
The full story of how they guarded the East Pass is explained in the article, but the reason I found this subject so interesting is because of what took place after the Civil War. A member of the Walton Guards returned to the area he and his fellow Confederates had camped to make a home for himself and his new wife. John Brookes named the area “Camp Walton,” which was the name of the Walton Guards’ encampment in 1861 and 1862. Camp Walton gained popularity as a respite for travelers and tourists along the white-sand beaches. Fishing and recreation drew them in, but a sense of community kept them at Camp Walton. As the town grew, it was renamed Fort Walton to give it more prominence, then Fort Walton Beach to highlight their tourism industry. Eglin Air Force Base came to the area and the city’s population boomed. Today, Fort Walton Beach is home to many, and it was my childhood home for several years. Growing up, I had no idea about the hidden history along Highway 98. As an adult, I have a greater appreciation for the city as something more than a tourist hub or a pitstop on the way to Destin (which really replaced Fort Walton Beach as far as tourism goes).
This article in Civil War Times is my first full-length published article and I hope there will be many more to come. If you don’t subscribe but want to check out the magazine, I’ve seen them available at bookstores.