Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know

Jacksonville boasts a long and varied military history. Here are some of the most interesting highlights:

 

  1. The Southernmost Battle of the Revolutionary War Was Fought in NE Florida.

Battle of Thomas Creek, Northeast Florida, Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know
This illustration shows British rangers and Banditti harassing an American homestead. During the Revolution, these two groups raided farms and fortifications in Georgia and North Florida. The most common plunder was cattle and other livestock.

The Battle of Thomas Creek occurred near Yulee on May 17, 1777, when the Patriots faced off against the Loyalists, Brits, and Creek Indians. The Patriots lost.  

  1. Camp Milton Was an Important Confederate Military Base.

Camp Milton_Jacksonville-Florida

Built to block Union forces from getting to the supply and railway center in Baldwin, Camp Milton on Jacksonville’s Westside was built in 1864 and served as Florida’s strongest Confederate field fortification.

  1. There’s a Civil War Shipwreck off the Coast of Mandarin.

The Maple Leaf Ship just before it hit the mine off the coast of Mandarin in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know
The Maple Leaf Ship just before it hit the mine off the coast of Mandarin in Jacksonville, Florida

Maple Leaf Location of the Shipwreck, off the coast of Mandarin Point, Jacksonville, Florida, Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know

The 173-foot Union Steamship Maple Leaf hit a Confederate mine and sunk off Mandarin Point on April 1, 1864. Thousands of Civil War artifacts have been recovered since the ship was located in 1984. The Maple Leaf remains buried deep in the mud beneath the St. Johns River.

  1. Jacksonville’s Springfield Neighborhood Once Hosted an Army Camp During the Spanish-American War.

Camp Cuba Libre, located in the Springfield in Jacksonville, Florida during the Spanish American War, Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know
Camp Cuba Libre, located in the Springfield in Jacksonville, Florida during the Spanish American War

Established May 31, 1898, for the deployment of troops to Cuba, Camp Cuba Libre boasted 30,000 soldiers under the command of Major General Fitzhugh Lee. While they trained hard to capture Havana, most of the men never saw battle. The Spanish-American War ended in 1899.

  1. NAS Jacksonville Used to Be a National Guard Outpost and an Army Camp.

Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know
Airing out the bunks at Camp Joseph E. Johnston

NAS Jacksonville was originally a National Guard base established in 1909. Later, it became known as Camp Joseph E. Johnston, the Army’s largest Quartermaster mobilization and training camp. After WWI, the base was rebranded as the National Guard’s Camp Foster.

  1. A German U-Boat Shot and Sunk an Oil Tanker off Jacksonville Beach.

The tanker Gulfland is seen burning in the water off the coast of Florida in World War II, the victim of a submarine attack. German U-Boats sank dozens of ships off Florida's coast. (Florida Memory, State Archives of Florida), Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know
The tanker Gulfland is seen burning in the water off the coast of Florida in World War II, the victim of a submarine attack. German U-Boats sank dozens of ships off Florida’s coast. (Florida Memory, State Archives of Florida)

German submarines were a frequent sighting off the Florida coast during WWII, and on April 10, 1942, U-123 opened fire on the GulfAmerica off the shore of Jacksonville Beach. The tanker was soon engulfed in flames and went down. Twenty-nine men survived.

  1. Nazi Spies Came Ashore Near Ponte Vedra Beach, Buried Explosives and Money in the Sand, and Intended to Terrorize America.

FBI Agents Digging Up the Explosives and Equipment That 4 Nazi Agents Buried in Ponte Vedra Beach, Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know
FBI Agents Digging Up the Explosives and Equipment That 4 Nazi Agents Buried in Ponte Vedra Beach

A German U-584 submarine surfaced off the coast of Ponte Vedra Beach on June 16, 1942. Four trained Nazi operatives came ashore, buried money and explosives, and caught a bus into town. They were part of a large-scale German infiltration attempt to cause destruction and mayhem. They were caught and prosecuted. FBI agents recovered the buried beach booty.

  1. Naval Air Station Green Cove Springs Was a Major Player in WWII.

Squadron VN-12 on flight line at NAAS Lee Field in Green Cove Springs, FL. SNC-1’s in the background & SNJ-3’s in the foreground. (Military Museum of North Florida), Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know
Squadron VN-12 on flight line at NAAS Lee Field in Green Cove Springs, FL. SNC-1’s in the background & SNJ-3’s in the foreground. (Military Museum of North Florida)

Benjamin Lee Field—later NAAS Green Cove Springs—was a training base for F6F Hellcat fighters, which were responsible for more than 5,000 shoot-downs in the war. The base was decommissioned in 1960.

  1. NAS Jacksonville Was One of the World’s Largest Naval Air Stations in WWII.

German WWII Prisoners of War arriving at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, on 9 June 1945. Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know
German WWII Prisoners of War arriving at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, on 9 June 1945

In 1939, Jacksonville was chosen as the site of a major Naval Air Station, and pilot training began in 1941. At its peak in 1944, NAS Jacksonville boasted 1,000 aircraft and two takeoffs and landings every minute. By 1945, over 30,000 military and civilian personnel worked on base.

  1. The Blue Angels Were Originally From Jacksonville.

Jacksonville’s Military Heritage: 10 Fascinating Things You Should Know
Blue Angels

Founded after WWII to boost morale and increase interest in Naval Aviation, the Blue Angels performed their first aerial dance in 1946 at Jacksonville’s Craig Field. NAS Jacksonville served as their home base until the early 1950s.

About Jennifer Melville

Jennifer Melville is a contributing writer for EU Jacksonville, South Magazine, Folio Magazine, Green Prints, Focus on the Family, and various other print and online publications. She’s a military wife, mother of four, and a leader in the NE Florida homeschooling community. You can check out more of her work on her website, Azalea Publications or follow her on Twitter.

october, 2021

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