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It was 1844 when Major Robert Gamble permanently settled in what is now Manatee County, Florida. He built one of the most successful sugar plantations in the state. His Sugar, citrus, grapes and olives were sent by boat to anxious customers in New Orleans--that is until falling sugar prices and the complexities of the large holding became too much for the major to handle. He sold the mansion to two Louisiana men for $190,000. These two must have had far worse luck than the Major, because they were forced to sell the estate for a mere $3,000. The mansion fell into disrepair and was vacant when the Sisters of the Confederacy purchased it and deeded it to the state as an historic site inn 1925. The state did an excellent job of restoring the antebellum mansion, which is the oldest building in Manatee County.

Civil war enthusiasts find the site especially interesting because in May, 1865, Confederate Secretary of State, Judah P. Benjamin took refuge in the house as Yankee soldiers searched for him--trying to collect a $40,000 bounty that was offered for his capture. After his hiding out as a "Mr. Howard", he subsequently escaped the country by sailing from Sarasota Bay, and ended up in England where he became a very successful member of the English Bar.

Now, each year, a Civil War reenactment takes place on the grounds. This years festival takes place on March 12th, and will have mock battles, period music and pioneer living and industry exhibits--such as soap and candle making.

According to state employee Laura Kitchen, "This is a really nice thing for the whole family. It's free, and its real informative and fun. We're expecting a lot of people from all over this year, and we know it's going to be a great success."

The plantation is also about a mile away from the Gulf Coast Factory Outlet Mall, which is another of the area's good places to visit (and one which we have written about), so you might want to combine your trip, so you have one full day of afternoon adventuring!

* The Gamble Plantation is located on Hwy 301 1 mile west of exit #43 off I-75, about 30 minutes southeast of Tampa. Call (813) 723-4536 for more information. Or, CLICK HERE