Saturday, December 20, 2008

Last Chance for Books for Christmas

This weekend is your last chance to order either of my books on the Civil War in Florida for Christmas.

Both The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida are in stock at and can be delivered in time for Christmas.

If you are interested in purchasing either or both, please visit and just search for the title of the book that is of interest to you.

You will see specific instructions for ordering and the deadline to make sure the books arrive in time for the holiday.

If you are in Northwest Florida, both books are also in stock at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna. They are located across from the Battle of Marianna monument on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant. The address is 4401 Lafayette Street.

Thank you all for your interest and friendship over this year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

San Marcos de Apalache - Part Five

This post is part of a continuing series on San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in St. Marks, Florida.

While the shallow nature of the lower St. Marks River prevented St. Marks from ever developing as a major port for Confederate blockade running efforts, small ships did make their way in and out of the community throughout the Civil War.

Confederates attempted to protect these activities and defend the water approaches to Florida's capital by emplacing heavy artillery at Fort Ward (San Marcos) and by converting a small river steamer into the gunboat C.S.S. Spray. From its base at the fort, the Spray cruised the coastal waters and was an annoyance if not a direct threat to Union blockade vessels off shore. It mounted heavy guns and was manned by a contingent of sailors and marines from the C.S. Navy.

The existence of Fort Ward and the small gunboat attracted attention from the Union navy throughout the war. A boat party was sent up the river in 1863 in an effort to overrun the batteries under cover of darkness. Confederate pickets at Port Leon, an abandoned town site just downstream from the fort, spotted the boats and opened fire, however, forcing the sailors to abandon their attack plan and withdraw back down the river.

Although the reports of Confederate engineers reveal that Fort Ward was not a particularly strong fortification, its location up a shallow river that could not be navigated by the deep draft Union blockade ships. In addition, the open marshes between the fort and the mouth of the St. Marks allowed the gunners in the fort a wide open view of any movements on the lower river.

The fort was, however, vulnerable to land attack. Engineers noted that the rear of the batteries had not been enclosed and that it would be easy for an enemy force to bypass the works and then attack them from behind. This problem was resolved during the fall and winter of 1864 when an earthen wall was constructed across the rear or land face of the fort. Entrenchments were also prepared at nearby Newport, considered a likely crossing point for Union troops trying to get across the St. Marks River to attack Fort Ward from the rear.

In our next post, we will look at the fort's role in the 1865 Battle of Natural Bridge.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

San Marcos de Apalache - Part Four

Continuing our series on San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in St. Marks, Florida, the United States maintained a garrison at the old Spanish fort in the years after the First Seminole War.

Florida was then still a Spanish colony, but Spain was powerless to expel the American force. Buried on the grounds of the old fortress are a number of U.S. soldiers, men who died while garrisoning what they called Fort St. Marks. Most were from the 4th and 7th U.S. Infantry Regiments and the 4th U.S. Artillery Battalion.

Following the cession of Florida from Spain to the United States in 1821, Fort St. Marks remained an important miltary installation, but its importance diminished over time and the garrison was withdrawn during the 1820s. Men were sent back to the fort during a brief crisis with the Seminoles and again during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), but it never again took on the significance of its early years.

By the time of the Civil War, the fort had been long abandoned and partially dismantled. Stone from the old Spanish walls was used to build a Marine Hospital on the grounds and, reportedly, the St. Marks Lighthouse as well. The ruined walls, however, still stood.

Due to the deterioration of the fort, the outbreak of the war in 1861 found the harbor of St. Marks (key port for the city of Tallahassee) completely unprotected. Confederates initially built a battery far out in the marshes at the lighthouse, but soon realized this position was too exposed and evacuated it in favor of new defenses on the old San Marcos site.

Using the ruins of the massive stone walls of the old Spanish fort for support, Confederate engineers designed an earthwork battery on top of the old defenses. The Spanish moat was filled to create the center of the fort and the stone bastions on the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers were reinforced with earth and used as artillery positions. Named Fort Ward, after Col. George Ward of Florida, the fort was crudely built but nevertheless successfully protected the port of St. Marks for the duration of the war.

In the next post, we'll look at the two main attempts to capture the fort by Union forces and explore its history as an unconquered Southern citadel. Until then, you can read more about the history of the park by visiting

San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park is one of a number of parks on a list recommended for either permanent or temporary closure by the state of Florida due to budget issues. If you agree that this site should remain open to the public, please take a few minutes to write to Governor Charlie Crist at Also please contact your local state representatives and senators.

Friday, December 5, 2008

San Marcos de Apalache - Part Three

This post is a continuation of a series on San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in St. Marks, Florida. Only about half an hour from Tallahassee, this park is on a list of facilities that might be closed due to state budget cuts.

The Spanish fort at San Marcos became a focus of the United States in 1817 when an alliance of Seminole and Creek warriors took to the warpath in retaliation for a U.S. attack on the Creek village of Fowltown near present-day Bainbridge, Georgia.

Under orders from the War Department, Gen. Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish Florida in March of 1818. Pushing down the Apalachicola River, he established a base called Fort Gadsden on the site of the abandoned British post (called "Negro Fort" by the Americans) that had been destroyed by a joint land and sea operation in 1816.

While Jackson's troops were engaged in building a new fort at the site, one of his men - a Georgia militiaman named Duncan McKrimmon - wandered beyond the picket lines to go fishing and was taken prisoner by warriors loyal to Josiah Francis, the Creek Prophet. They carried him away to Francis' town, located on the Wakulla River just above San Marcos de Apalache.

When the warriors prepared to execute McKrimmon under Creek law to avenge the death of several women during the Creek War of 1813-1814, a remarkable scene took place. Milly Francis, the young daughter of the Prophet, pleaded for his life. Moved by her pleas, the warriors relented and McKrimmon was spared and turned over to the Spanish commander at San Marcos. Milly became known as the "Creek Pocahontas" for her role in saving his life and later was one of the first women ever awarded a special medal of honor by the U.S. Congress. You can read more of her story by visiting:

No sooner had McKrimmon been turned over to the Spanish, however, than did Jackson's forces closed in on the Spanish fort. After swinging north around Tate's Hell swamp, he struck at major Seminole and Creek villages in the area of present-day Tallahassee and then turned south and marched on St. Marks.

At the same time, a flotilla of schooners led by the U.S.S. Thomas Shields arrived in the Spanish Hole at the mouth of the St. Marks River below the fort. In an attempt to decoy any chiefs in the area aboard, the commander of the warship hoisted the British flag from his mast. It was not long before a canoe came down from the fort bearing two prominent Creek leaders, the Prophet Francis and a second chief named Homathlemico. Both were decoyed aboard and taken prisoner.

One of the Prophet's daughters (Milly's older sister) approached the ships in a canoe the next day, but realized that something was wrong and made for the shore under a hail of musket and cannonfire from the Shields.

Jackson soon arrived with his main army and, after a demand for its surrender was refused, ordered his troops to storm the gates. The attack happened so fast that the Spanish defenders were unable to fire a single gun in their own defense. The U.S. flag was raised over the fort and the ensign of Spain came down for the last time.

The schooners moved upstream with supplies for the army and the two captured chiefs. Both Francis and Homathlemico were hanged without trial or ceremony on the grounds of the fort.

Leaving a garrison at San Marcos, now called Fort St. Marks, Jackson marched east to attack additional Seminole towns on the Suwannee. Upon his return he tried two British traders - Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert Ambrister - captured during his movements. Both were accused of inciting the Seminoles and Creeks to war and both were executed, sparking a dramatic international incident between the United States and Great Britain.

Our series on San Marcos de Apalache will continue. Until the next post you can read more by visiting If you agree that this significant site should remain open to the public, please write Gov. Charlie Crist to express your opposition to plans to close the park. His email address is

Thursday, December 4, 2008

San Marcos de Apalache - Part Two

This is the second part of a series I'll be posting over the next couple of weeks on San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in Wakulla County, Florida. This park is one of 19 that is on a list that the state may close (permanently or temporarily) to cut the state's budget. If you are interested in voicing your opposition to this move, you can write to Gov. Charlie Crist at or your local state representative or senator.

When the Spanish reoccupied San Marcos de Apalache, they knew that their ability to hold the site through future years depended on how permanent they could make the works. Previous forts at the site had been built of logs and plaster and were not capable of standing up to either the elements or pirate attack. This time, however, the Spanish came with a different plan.

Mining natural stone from nearby quarries, they began to build a massive masonry fortifications. The new fort was designed to be triangular, with bastions on each corner. The point or apex of the triangle faced the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers, while the base of the triangle stretched across the peninsula, from one river to the other.

Although the fort was never completed, the Spanish did succeed in building a massive wall stretching from one river to the other. Bastions were completed on each river and the wall included magazines, quarters and other rooms. It provided a powerful defense against a land attack. Less permanent stockades were used to complete the triangular work.

The fort was turned over to the British following the conclusion of the French and Indian or Seven Years War in 1763. They occupied it with a small garrison for a time, but in 1783 it was returned to the Spanish due to their alliance with the United States in the American Revolution.

During the later part of the 18th century, San Marcos de Apalache became the focus of considerable intrigue. The notorious pirate and self-proclaimed "Director General of the State of Muskogee," William Augustus Bowles, sacked a trading post on the Wakulla River just north of the fort and eventually led a mixed force of Seminoles, whites and African Americans in a siege against San Marcos. The fort fell to Bowles force, but he and his men were forced to flee a short time later when the Spanish returned with a powerful naval squadron.

Our series on the history of San Marcos de Apalache will continue with a look at the fort's role in the First Seminole War and then we'll move on to how the old Spanish citadel became a powerful and unconquered Confederate fort. In the meantime, you can read more by visiting

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Attack on the St. Joseph Saltworks - 1862

This is a wartime sketch of the U.S. Navy attack on a salt-making facility on St. Joseph Bay in Northwest Florida.
Built using brick from the "lost city" of St. Joseph, once the largest city in Florida, the saltworks were located out on St. Joseph Peninsula just off Highway 30-A.
Capable of producing about 150 bushels of salt each day, they were massive in scale. The presence of the facility was not long in attracting the attention of the Union navy, which was under orders to impede the production of salt along the Gulf Coast.
At issue was the outcome of the war itself. The Confederacy used Gulf Coast salt to preserve beef and pork being used to feed its soldiers in the field. Without salt for curing, the meat would spoil and the soldiers would starve.
On September 8, 1862, the U.S.S Kingfisher moved in on the works as they were in full operation. The ship bombarded the establishment from offshore, sending the workers fleeing for safety, and then boat parties moved ashore to complete the destruction with sledge hammers and explosives.
The area is now the location of Old Saltworks Cabins, a vacation resort at Cape San Blas.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Special Holiday Sale on Books by Dale Cox

If you are interested in learning more about Florida history or would like to purchase any of my books as gifts this year, you might consider a special online sale underway for the next three days only.

Due to a coming announcement about a change in publishers, this will be the only time that sales prices will be available on the books for the rest of this year.

The sale is now over, but please click here for current pricing on my various books.

Here is a list of my current books in print:
  • The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida
  • The Battle of Marianna, Florida
  • Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts
  • The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One
  • The Early History of Gadsden County
  • The Battle of Massard Prairie, Arkansas

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

San Marcos de Apalache - Part One

The point of land formed by the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers is one of the most historic sites in America.
The Narvaez expedition, the first party of Spanish explorers to penetrate the interior of Florida, gave up their march near this point in 1528. They built crude boats and sailed away into mystery. Of the 300 men that began the expedition, only 4 survived. Most disappeared without a trace.
Hernando de Soto's soldiers also visited the vicinity in 1540, coming down to the mouth of the St. Marks from their winter camp at Tallahassee to signal supply ships in the Gulf of Mexico.
When Franciscan missionaries began their work to convert the powerful Apalachee nation to Christianity in the 17th century, the port of San Marcos (St. Marks) grew in importance as place where supplies could be landed and grain and other farm products shipped out to benefit other Spanish settlements.
To defend this gateway to their Apalachee missions, Spanish troops built the first fort of San Marcos de Apalache (St. Marks of Apalachee) here in 1679. Constructed of wood and located at the very point where the rivers meet, the fort was not particularly strong and to warn away potential enemies, the Spanish builders plastered the exterior of the fort to give it a a stone-like appearance.
The disguse didn't work. Just three years later a pirate ship sailed into the mouth of the St. Marks River, attacked and destroyed the fort.
San Marcos was replaced with another wooden fort and Spanish troops occupied the site until a coordinated series of attacks by British and Creek forces led to the evacuation of the Apalachee missions in 1704.
After about a decade of inactivity, the post was reactivated in 1718 and Captain Primo de Rivera began the construction of a massive stone fort on the site.
I will have more on the history of San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in the next post. Until then, you can read more by visiting and looking for the San Marcos de Apalache heading at the top of the page.
This state park is on the list of Florida facilities that may be closed due to budget issues. Please join me in opposing this move. You can voice your support for San Marcos de Apalache and Florida's other state parks by writing to Governor Charlie Crist at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

San Marcos de Apalache - St. Marks, Florida

I mentioned in yesterday's post that San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in St. Marks is on the list of Florida State Parks facing temporary or permanent closure due to state budget issues.
I thought it might be interesting to spend more time exploring this park and detailing why it is of such significance that it should be saved. So beginning tomorrow, I will start a series on this historic site and while its significance renders it beyond question that it should be saved and kept open to the public.
In the meantime, please visit the new San Marcos de Apalache pages at Just follow the link and you will see the heading at the top of the page.
Also, please take a few minutes to urge Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to save this and other state parks. You can email him at

Monday, November 24, 2008

Significant Florida Civil War Site May Be Closed - Please Speak UP!

The historic earthworks of Fort Ward at San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park played a critical role in defending Tallahassee and St. Marks during the War Between the States.
This fort was one of the objectives of Union troops during the Natural Bridge campaign of 1865 and soldiers and sailors from here helped win the battle that preserved Tallahassee's status as the only Southern capital east of the Mississippi not captured by Federal troops.
Soon, however, this beautiful state park may lose a battle of a different kind. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has included San Marcos de Apalache on a list of state parks facing temporary or permanent closure due to budget constraints.
While I certainly agree that our government should tighten its belt and live within its mean, it seems preposterous to me to believe that closing a few small state parks could have much of an impact on the massive budget of the State of Florida. I'm sure most of us could identify enough savings in one day in Tallahassee to save our state parks for generations to come!
Please join with me and write to Gov. Crist at to urge him to save San Marcos de Apalache and Florida's other state parks and historic sites by identifying other ways to cut our state budget. Our ancestors served here to protect our state. We owe it to their memories to now preserve this and other historic sites so that one day our children and grandchildren will still be able to visit and learn about their heritage and the importance of the events that made this state the wonderful place that it is today.
Thank you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Breaking News: State Saves Natural Bridge Battlefield!!

There is breaking news today from Tallahassee. Governor Charlie Christ and the Cabinet have approved the purchase of nearly 55 acres of vital battlefield at Natural Bridge Historic State Park.

The Battle of Natural Bridge was one of the last significant Southern victories of the Civil War. Fought on March 6, 1865, the engagement resulted in the defeat of a Union effort to cross the St. Marks River and preserved Tallahassee's status as the only Southern capital east of the Mississippi not captured during the war.

A small portion of the battlefield has long been preserved as a state park, but today's announcement means that key areas of the field long in private hands will now belong to the people of Florida. At a time of tightening budgets, this is a major victory for preservationists in Florida and means that the second largest surviving battlefield in Florida will now be preserved for future generations.

If you are interested in learning more about the Battle of Natural Bridge, please consider my book on the subject. It is available by clicking here.

Below is the official announcement from the Florida Forever program:

~Florida Forever acquisition preserves 54.74 acres adjacent to Natural Bridge
Historic State Park~

TALLAHASSEE— Governor Crist and Cabinet today approved the purchase of 54.74 acres of land adjacent to the Natural Bridge Historic State Park in Leon County. The acquired parcel is significant to the protection of a first magnitude spring and features a Civil War battlefield.

“This important purchase is a part of the Florida First Magnitude Springs project and one of the top projects on the Florida Forever priority list,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Deputy Secretary Bob Ballard. “This acquisition ensures that the geological, historical and cultural integrity of this property and the surrounding water resources are preserved for Floridians and visitors from all over the world to enjoy for years to come.”

This Florida Forever project focuses on land that provides increased protection for Florida’s First Magnitude Springs that discharge more than 100 cubic feet of water per second. Florida’s springs, scattered through northern and central Florida, draw from the Floridan aquifer system, which is the state’s primary source of drinking water. Springs, with clear, continuously flowing waters, are among the state’s most important natural resources and are famous attractions. This acquisition brings the Florida First Magnitude Springs project closer to completion, with 7,844 acres of the 14,081 acre project remaining.

The property contains many karst features such as sink holes, natural bridges, swallets, karst windows and submerged cave systems. By preserving the surrounding land, this project will preserve the area’s geological significance and protect Florida’s water resources from the effects of commercial, residential and agricultural runoff and other potential impacts.

The property is also the site of Florida’s second largest Civil War battle. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and cited as one of the top ten endangered Civil War sites in the United States by the Civil War Preservation Trust. In 1865, during the final week of the Civil War, the battle at natural bridge preserved Tallahassee as the only Confederate Capitol east of the Mississippi that did not surrender to Union forces. Today, important historical and cultural, resources can be found on the property dating from the Paleo-Indian period (10,000 B.C.) to the Civil War. The property will eventually be managed by DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks as part of the Natural Bridge Historic State Park.

Originally established in 1999, the 10-year, $3 billion Florida Forever program is the largest land-buying initiative in the nation, conserving environmentally sensitive land, restoring water resources and preserving important cultural and historical sites. More than two million acres throughout the state have been placed in public ownership under Florida Forever and its predecessor program, Preservation 2000 (P2000). For more information on the Florida Forever program, visit

To view maps that outline the subject parcel in this purchase, visit the following links:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Confederate Cannon in place after 143 years

This site is not in Florida, but is closely associated with the state.
On the bluff at Fort Gaines, Georgia, a well-preserved Confederate artillery emplacement overlooks the Chattahoochee River. The site is unique because of the original cannon is still in place there more than 143 years after the end fo the War Between the States. It is the only such piece still on its original site along the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers.
The Confederate defenses at Fort Gaines were part of a series of such installations built between 1862 and 1865 to protect the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers from Union attack. Fortified points included the "Narrows" on the lower river, Ricco's Bluff, Alum Bluff and Rock Bluff (all in Florida), as well as Fort Gaines and Columbus (in Georgia).
The third of three forts built in the city, the Fort Gaines batteries consisted of two artillery emplacements high on the bluff and a third on the riverbank below. One of the upper emplacements is very well preserved and a second can still be seen as a dip in the surface of the ground.
None of the batteries were ever attacked by Federal forces. Ricco's Bluff was raided by the Union Navy in 1865, but the artillery had already been removed by that point and only a detachment of Confederate cavalry was stationed at the site.
To learn more about Fort Gaines, a fascinating and historic town on the Chattahoochee River with strong ties to the history of North Florida, please visit

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Civil War Riverboat Pilot

This is an old image of Captain John Jenkins of Apalachicola, Florida.
Jenkins was a prominent riverboat captain on the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers at the beginning of the War Between the States. He had only recently acquired a new shallow draft boat, the Jackson for use in navigating the Chipola River during high water and the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee during times of low water.
Jenkins became a valuable asset to Confederate war efforts in the region. He commanded civilian steamboats that had been converted for use as supply vessels and transports on the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers throughout the war. He was involved in ferrying troops and supplies up and down the rivers and his knowledge of the river and expertise with steamboats proved quite beneficial to Confederate army and navy officers assigned to defend the river.
After the war, he returned to civilian life as a riverboat captain.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Forgotten Dead of the Battle of Olustee?

This burial trench at New Park Cemetery in Fort Gaines, Georgia, contains the graves of 9 unknown Confederate soldiers.
The soldiers were most likely wounded men from the Battle of Olustee that died from their injuries while being treated at hospitals in Fort Gaines.
The magnitude of the battle overwhelmed hospital facilities in Florida, so wounded men were carried west to Tallahassee and Quincy by rail and then placed on steamboats at Chattahoochee for transportation upstream to towns in Alabama and Georgia.
Fort Gaines, once called the "Queen City of the Chattahoochee," was one such community. Public buildings there were converted to use as hospitals and the people of the town did their best to care for the wounded soldiers. Most, in fact, did recover at least well enough to eventually go home, but nine did not and were buried in a trench at New Park Cemetery in Fort Gaines.
Their names are lost to history.
If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Olustee, please visit our Olustee pages at

Blue Spring - Jackson County, Florida

This is a rare photograph of Blue Spring near Marianna as it appeared during the late 1800s.
Some sections of the photograph have been painted over (the people at the bottom in particular), but other parts such as the tree and spring itself still appear as they did when the image was taken.
The spring was located on the Sylvania plantation of Florida Governor John Milton during the Civil War. Milton's home stood a little over one mile east of the spring, but he often visited the beautiful natural feature and one diarist of the time mentioned that he enjoyed fishing here.
A camp was established here for Confederate troops assigned to the defense of Jackson County. The spring provided an abundant supply of fresh water for the soldiers and the old Robinson home and other structures on the adjacent hill provided shelter and storage facilities for the units stationed here.
The camp was occupied by Captain Robert Chisolm's Cavalry Company from the Alabama Militia on September 27, 1864, when Marianna was attacked by Union troops. The soldiers fought in the Battle of Marianna and were praised by Governor Milton for their heroic role in defending the Chipola River bridge there. At his request, they were added to the 5th Florida Cavalry as Company I.
In later years, the spring became a popular swimming hole and today is a recreation area maintained by Jackson County.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Blog: History of Gadsden County, Florida

In association with the release of my new book, The Early History of Gadsden County, I've started a new blog (web log) on the history of Gadsden County, Florida.
This page will focus on the history, historic sites, folklore, culture and people of Gadsen County.
I've started it by excerpting a chapter from the new book on the McLane Massacre, a Second Seminole War attack that took place in Gadsden County in 1840.
Over coming weeks, I'll post articles on a variety of topics related to Gadsden County and Florida history.
Feel free to visit and, as always, feel free to post your comments, thoughts and questions.

Fort Matanzas - St. Augustine, Florida

This is a photograph of Fort Matanzas, St. Augustine's "other fort."

Built by the Spanish to guard against an enemy attack by way of the St. Augustine's southern approaches, the old fort fired its guns in anger only once. Artillery here opened fire on forces commanded by British General James Oglethorpe when he tried to explore the mouth of the Matanzas River.

The fort actually takes its name from a violence episode that took place near here in 1565, long before the outpost was built. Determined to root out French intruders from the Spanish colony, the Spanish cornered a force of shipwrecked French near Matanzas Inlet and put them to the sword after accepting their surrender. The word "matanzas" literally means "murders" or "slaughters."

Improperly engineered and quickly constructed, Fort Matanzas began to "pull apart at the seams" even before the end of the 18th century. The tower part of the structure weighed too much for its supports and massive cracks developoed in the walls of the fort. By the time Florida was transfered from Spain to the U.S. in 1821, the fort was considered worthless and was never occupied by the United States Army.

Pickets were occasionally stationed here during the Civil War, but the fort was never officially occupied by either side and was in a ruined state by that time.

The unique stone structure has been restored by the National Park Service and is now preserved as the centerpiece of Fort Matanzas National Monument. The park is located on Highway A1A south of St. Augustine. For more information on Fort Matanzas, please visit and look for the "Fort Matanzas" link.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fort Marion - St. Augustine, Florida (Part Five)

This is the last of a series of historic photographs of the Castillo de San Marcos (once called Fort Marion) in St. Augustine, Florida.
Taken during the final years of the Civil War when Union troops occupied the fort, it shows the stairs leading up to the gun deck. Originally a ramp used to pull artillery up to the top of the fort, it had been converted into a staircase years before.
A couple of things about this picture are of special interest. Notice the soldiers standing at the top of the stairs and the tents behind them. Also, if you look under the arch of the stairs you can see a stack of cannon. These were some of the original Spanish guns of the fort. Obsolete by the time of the Civil War, they were still part of the inventory of the post.
Fort Marion remained a U.S. Army post for most of the 19th century, but is now preserved by the National Park Service and is open to the public daily as the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. If you are interested in learning more about the Castillo and other historic sites in St. Augustine, please visit

Fort Marion - St. Augustine, Florida (Part Four)

This is another Civil War era photograph of the Castillo de San Marcos (then called Fort Marion) in St. Augustine. It is taken from the collections of the Library of Congress.
This photograph shows the interior of the fort and was taken looking south across the courtyard or parade ground to the interior of the sally port or gate.
Visible are piles of cannonballs and a battery of field artillery housed in the old fort by Union forces. Notice also the tents on top of the walls. Soldiers camped there to catch fresh air and stay out of the damp interior rooms of the old stone fort.
The old castillo was an active military post for more than 200 years. The U.S. Army continued to occupy it after the Civil War and it was not until around the turn of the century that it was finally considered surplus and abandoned.
The oldest masonry fortification in the continental United States, the fort became a national monument during the early 20th century and its original Spanish name - Castillo de San Marcos - was resorted.
To learn more about the old fort, please visit

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fort Marion - St. Augustine, Florida (Part Three)

Continuing our look at some historic photos of Fort Marion, now Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, in St. Augustine, this is a Civil War era photograph of the fort.
When this picture was taken, the old Spanish fort was in the hands of the Union army. Confederates had held the stone fort from early 1861 until the spring of 1862, when they evacuated it. Union troops then reoccupied the fort and held it for the rest of the war.
As you can see, Union soiders are visible here on the top of the walls. In the distance, through the sally port (gate) of the fort, stacks of cannonballs and additional soldiers can be seen.
Originally built during the late 1600s by the Spanish and named the Castillo de San Marcos, the stone fort was attacked numerous times over the centuries but never fell. The U.S. government renamed it Fort Marion following the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States in 1821. By the time of the Civil War, it was nearly 200 years old but was still described by Union naval officers as one of the strongest forts on the Southern coastline.
I'll post additional historic photos of the old fort over coming days. If you would like to read more about the history of the fort and see modern pictures, please visit

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Post Civil War Ghost Story in Florida

Since it is Halloween, I thought you might enjoy a unique ghost story from the years after the Civil War.

This incident took place near Fernandina and was covered by newspapers across the country in 1892.

The story is that of a mysterious spectre that appeared in the night to plow the fields of a farmer. The ghost could be seen from the windows of the man's home, but when family members went out to investigate, the spirit could not be found.

To read an 1892 account of the "Plowing Ghost" of Fernandina, Florida, please visit:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fort Marion - St. Augustine, Florida (Part Two)

This is another historic 19th century image of Fort Marion or the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine from the collections of the Library of Congress.
This appears to be the west face of the fort and it looks very similar to its appearance today.
As the photograph shows, the moat surrounding the fort was kept dry and could also be used as a covered way during a siege of the old fort. When the Spanish designed the castillo, the envisioned being able to keep cattle and other livestock in the moat area to feed the garrison and city residents during a city. On the outside of the moat, the infantry positon designed by the Spanish is clearly visible here.
The Castillo de San Marcos, called Fort Marion by U.S. forces, was nearly two hundred years old at the time of the Civil War and was antiquated in comparison to more modern works such as Forts Sumter, Pickens or Pulaski. Even so, a Union navy officer described it as one of the strongest forts on the Southern coast.
I'll post some additional 19th century photographs of the fort over the coming days. You can read more and see modern pictures by visiting and clicking the link for "Castillo de San Marcos."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fort Marion - St. Augustine, Florida

This is one of a series of interesting photographs in the collection of the Library of Congress of what was then known as Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida.
The fascinating old fortress is now known as the Castillo de San Marcos and is maintained by the National Park Service.
At this time this photograph was taken, however, the fort was still an active military installation.
The picture shows the water face of the old Spanish fort and was taken from the northeast bastion, looking south along the east wall of the fort. The large stone structure to the right is the Spanish castillo, which dates from the 1600s, while the more modern looking fortification to the left running along the waterfront is the water battery built by U.S. troops and used up to and during the Civil War.
The Castillo, or Fort Marion, was seized by state troops in January of 1861 and held by the Confederacy until the following spring, when it was peacefully reoccupied by Union forces.
You can read more about the Castillo de San Marcos and other sites of interest in St. Augustine at

Friday, October 17, 2008

Interesting News on the Confederate Sub "H.L. Hunley"

If you haven't seen it yet, an interesting report came out today on the sinking of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley following her successful attack on a Union warship off Charleston Harbor.

The finding, in basic, is that the crew of the Hunley might have suffocated from lack of oxygen due to "human error" as opposed to the traditional theory that the sub was someone damaged in the attack and sank, drowning the men.

Here's a link to the article. I think you might find it interesting:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The White House - Quincy, Florida

Continuing our look this week at some of the unique Civil War era structures in Gadsden County, this is "The White House" in Quincy.
Built during the 1840s for Joseph Smallwood, it became the home of P.W. White in 1849 when he married Smallwood's niece. He had the house enlarged and remodeled to its present appearance during the 1850s.
White played a critical role in sustaining the Confederate war effort. As Florida's chief commissary officer, he supervised the movement of beef, pork and other vital necessities north to support the Confederate armies in the field. A letter he wrote outlining the situation in Florida fell into Union hands and served as one of the motivating factors for the Olustee campaign in 1864. Federal military commanders hoped to occupy Florida as far west as the Suwannee River to cut-off Florida's northbound beef shipments. The result was the massive Confederate victory at the Battle of Olustee.
The White family lived in the home until the 1921, when it became the parsonage for Centenary Methodist Church. It is not open to the public, but can be viewed from the adjacent sidewalk.
If you are interested in learning more about Gadsden County's early days, please consider my new book, The Early History of Gadsden County. Proceeds from the book benefit the West Gadsden Historical Society. You can obtain more information by visiting:

Quincy Academy Building

This beautiful old antebellum structure in Gadsden County, Florida, was once the home of the Quincy Academy.
One of the oldest schools in Florida, the Quincy Academy was officially incorporated in 1832 but likely was in operation for at least a couple of years prior to that. Closely associated with the local Masonic Lodge, it offered education for both boys and girls and was a vital part of life for the antebellum people of Gadsden County.
A prior building burned in 1849 and plans for the current structure were drawn in 1850. It was completed in 1851 and was operating at the time of the War Between the States.
After an interruption of classes during the war, the facility continued to be used for educational purposes until the early 20th century. Now beautifully restored, it used by several groups including a literacy program and the Girl Scouts.
If you would like to learn more about Gadsden County during the Civil War, please consider my new book, The Early History of Gadsden County. Proceeds from the book benefit the West Gadsden Historical Society. You can learn more about the book by clicking here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Series of Interest at Civil War Arkansas

I started a new series today on sister blog Civil War Arkansas that Florida readers might find of interest.
It covers the Battle of Honey Springs, Oklahoma, considered by some to have been the "Gettysburg of the West."
The battle is of unique interest to Floridians because the forces that battled there included Native American warriors that had fought either against or with U.S. and Florida militia forces during Florida's Second Seminole War.
These soldiers had relocated west to what is now Oklahoma either voluntarily or at bayonet point on the Trail of Tears. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, many Creeks and Seminoles volunteered to fight, some for the North and some for the South. The took part in a number of fights, including the Battle of Honey Springs.
You can follow the series over the next couple of weeks by visiting

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Book: - "The Early History of Gadsden County"

I'm pleased to announce the release of my latest book, The Early History of Gadsden County.

The book is now available for online ordering and delivery directly from the printer in both paperback and hardcover. Just click here for more information.

The book will be officially released to the public on Sunday, October 19th, at a special event hosted by the West Gadsden Historical Society, Inc., at the Gadsden Art Center across from the courthouse in Quincy. The event will begin at 3 p.m. (Eastern). Until then, it will be available only by online order.

Proceeds from sales of the book will assist the West Gadsden Historical Society in its effort to preserve and interpret the rich history of Gadsden County.

This book explores a number of episodes from the county's early history, including a number related to the War Between the States in Florida. Of particular interest to Civil War readers are the chapters on the U.S. Arsenal at Chattahoochee, the first Federal facility in Florida taken by state troops at the beginning of the war, and the warship C.S.S. Chattahoochee.

Chapters include:
  • Hernando de Soto
  • Santa Cruz de Sabacola
  • Chislacasliche and the Apalachicola Fort
  • Ellicott's Observatory
  • Nicolls' Outpost and the War of 1812
  • Scott's Massacre
  • Andrew Jackson in Gadsden County
  • Early Settlers and Neamathla's Reserve
  • King Cotton and Prince Tobacco
  • Early Scientists of Gadsden County
  • The Comte de Castelnau
  • The U.S. Arsenal at Chattahoochee
  • The Second Seminole War
  • The McLane Massacre
  • Seizure of the U.S. Arsenal
  • The C.S.S. Chattahoochee
  • Gadsden County and the Battle of Natural Bridge

Nice Information on a Union soldier

Thanks to a reader for passing along a link to an absolutely fascinating blog that covers Unionist Southern soldiers.

I found it to be very well done and one recent post included a great deal of information on a soldier that served in the 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry, one of the regiments represented at the Battle of Marianna.

Here's the link:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - Conclusion

This post will conclude our series on Asboth's raid on Marianna, a key event in the history of the Civil War in Florida.
Although it has often been called a "victory in defeat," the 1864 raid was actually a dramatic success for the Union troops. Other than liberating Union prisoners at Marianna - because there were none - Asboth achieved almost all of his other stated objectives.
The economic damage inflicted was astounding and, based on census data, Jackson, Washington, Holmes and Walton Counties suffered greater economic losses during the war than any other counties in Florida.
More than 600 people were liberated from slavery by the Union troops as they advanced, most of them from farms and plantations in Jackson County. Forty-three African American men from Jackson County volunteered for service in the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Infantries as a result of the raid. The total number enlisted in the four counties was the equivalent of a full company of men. A number of Confederate deserters and Southern Unionists also joined the Federals, signing up for service in the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry.
Total Union losses for the raid were 9 killed (one in an accidental shooting), 19 wounded and 8 captured. The total Federal loss about 4%. By comparison, the Union army at Olustee sustained losses approaching 26.5%.
Total Confederate losses for the raid were 11 killed, 17 wounded and 96 captured. The Confederates sustained a total loss of roughly 38%. The Marianna Home Guard, commanded by Captain Jesse Norwood, sustained a loss of 7 killed, 8 wounded and 24 captured, or more than 50% of the company's total strength.
Of the prisoners taken during the raid, 24 of the 96 Confederates would die in Union prison camps before the end of the war. One of the Union soldiers captured at Marianna died at Andersonville.
The raid is memorialized today only at Marianna. Markers on the grounds of St. Luke's Episcopal Church as well as at the courthouse tell the story of the battle, as do monuments in downtown Marianna and Riverside Cemetery.
If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Marianna and Asboth's raid, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. Click here for ordering information. You can also learn more about the battle by visiting

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 29, 1864

It was not until the evening of the 28th that the Confederates attempted any attempt to pursue the Federals as they made their way back to Choctawhatchee Bay.
Major George W. Scott of the 5th Florida Cavalry took command of the excursion and left Marianna that night with at least two companies from his battalion, along with Chisolm's company, the Greenwood Club Cavalry, the Campbellton Cavalry, Luke Lott's Home Guard Company from Calhoun County, Poe's Company from the 1st Florida Reserves and a company of Georgia Militia cavalry that came down from Decatur County to help in the emergency.
Scott pursued the Federals through the morning of September 29, 1864, but when he reached Vernon it became obvious that there was no way he could catch up with them.
For all practical purposes, the Raid on Marianna was over. Asboth reached Choctawhatchee Bay without further opposition. There he went aboard the Lizzie Davis with the other wounded. The troops continued on to Fort Pickens and eventually back to their camps at Barrancas.
In our final post in this series, tomorrow, we will look closely at the results of the raid, both human and economic.
Until then, you can always read more about the Battle of Marianna and Asboth's raid by visiting

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 28, 1864 (Part Two)

The Union column moved southwest from Marianna on the old St. Andrew Bay road.
Modern communities along their line of march on September 28, 1864, included Kynesville, Steele City, Orange Hill and Vernon.

As the troops approached Hard Labor Creek near today's Washington Church in Washington County, they unexpectedly and suddenly ran into a group of Confederate reinforcements on its way to Marianna.

The Southerners were the men of the Vernon Home Guard, commanded by Captain W.B. Jones. A noted community leader and one-time state senator, Jones had served as an officer in the 4th Florida Infantry earlier in the war but was severely wounded in battle and discharged for medical reasons. After recovering somewhat, he organized a "company of scouts" to defend the Vernon area from raids. This unit was rolled into the 1st Florida Militia when Governor John Milton issued his "Home Guard" order during the summer of 1864.

A courier from Marianna had reached Vernon (then the county seat of Washington County) on the evening of September 27th and Captain Jones had immediately called out his men. Several regular soldiers home on leave joined with them and a number of other men from the area were "conscripted" or ordered on the spot to grab a weapon and come along.

The company set out on horseback for Marianna on the morning of the 28th and took the same road via which Asboth was returning from the battle. The two forces came down the slopes on each side of Hard Labor Creek at the same time and unexpectedly came up with each other.

Exactly what happened is somewhat difficult to unravel. John J. Wright, a Southern participant, later wrote, "We suddenly met the Northern soldiers and they demanded that we surrender, fighting opened and a large man by the name of Pierce was killed near me. I was wounded, and was taken home. Captain Jones was captured, and was taken away."

Wright reported that he was hit twice by Union bullets, once in the shoulder and once in the right leg.

Stephen Pierce was a former member of Company H, 4th Florida Infantry (the "Washington County Invincibles"). He had fought in the Battles of Shiloh and Stones River, but fell ill and was given a medical discharge in 1863. According to local legend, he was shot after "loudly voicing his opinion" of the Union soldiers.

The sudden burst of gunfire from the Federals shattered Jones' company. Another participant, M.L. Lassiter, described what happened next. "I made my escape on horseback and outran them," he wrote. "I was pursued all the way back to Vernon and shot at many times but escaped without injury."

In addition to killing Pierce and wounding Wright, the Federals also captured Captain Jones and 10 of his men in the "Battle of Vernon." Half of the prisoners would die in Northern prison camps by the end of the war.

The Union column moved on into Vernon where they paused for the night. The next morning it continued to move southwest and on to Choctawhatchee Bay.

You can read more about the Battle of Vernon on the internet by visiting: and as always you can learn more about the raid on Marianna at

The Raid on Marianna - September 28, 1864

The Union troops left Marianna before sunrise on the morning of September 28, 1864.

Many local residents saw this as a sign that they were "sneaking away in the dark" before Confederate reinforcements could attack. In truth, rising early and moving out before sunrise was a standard cavalry practice of the day.

General Asboth, severely wounded, was carried away on a bed placed in the back of a wagon.

With them, the Federals took away 47 men and boys as prisoners of war. The number included 26 from the Marianna Home Guard, 8 from Company C, 1st Florida Reserve's (Poe's), 5 from the Campbellton Cavalry, 4 from the Greenwood Club Cavalry, 3 from Chisolm's company (Alabama Militia), 2 men from Company B, 15th Confederate Cavalry (on detached duty at Marianna), and Colonel Montgomery himself. Of this number, 14 would die in Union prison camps over the next six months.

Several of the Union wounded were in critical condition and unable to be moved when the troops left. As a consequence they were left behind in the care of local residents and became prisoners of war. Sixteen Federals fell into Confederate hands as a result of the battle. All were members of the 2nd Maine Cavalry. Of this number, 3 had been mortally wounded and soon died from their injuries. The rest survived and most were eventually sent to Camp Sumter (Andersonville), where all but one survived.

Early on the morning of the 28th, a Confederate soldier that had remained hidden in town swam the Chipola River to let the growing Southern force on the east bank know that the Federals were gone. Captain William A. Jeter (Company E, 5th Florida Cavalry) volunteered to confirm the report and climbed across the stringers of the bridge with several of his men and went into town to look around.

He soon came back to report that the Union troops had departed during the night. The bridge was repaired and the Confederate survivors and reinforcements rode up the hill into Marianna. They found the Union dead buried in a shallow grave on courthouse square, so shallow in fact that their hands and feet were protruding from the early. The women and remaining doctors of the town were busy tending to the wounded and people were picking through the rubble of St. Luke's Episcopal Church and the two nearby homes. Four charred bodies were found in the ashes of the church.

The local people soon took up the bodies of the dead Federals from the square and moved them out to Riverside Cemetery where they were reburied in an area apart from local citizens and distinct as well from the "slave" area of the cemetery.

Our series will continue with a look at the "Battle of Vernon," an incident that took place as the Union column was returning to Choctawhatchee Bay on the afternoon of the 28th.

You can always learn more about the Battle of Marianna and Asboth's Raid by visiting

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Battle of Marianna, Florida - September 27, 1864, 12:45 p.m.

By 12:45 p.m. on September 27, 1864, the Battle of Marianna was over.
The entire engagement lasted only around 45 minutes. Small in comparison to some of the larger battles of the war, it was extremely fierce. One of the Union eyewitnesses, an officer that had served at Gettysburg, said that for the number of men engaged, the Battle of Marianna was the most severe fight he encountered during the war.
Littering the streets from Ely Corner to the Chipola River bridge were the bodies of the dead, dying and wounded.
Confederate losses in the battle were 10 killed or mortally wounded, 16 wounded and 54 captured.
Union losses were 8 killed or mortally wounded, 19 wounded and 8 captured.
The Confederate prisoners were herded down the street and confined in the second floor courtroom of the courthouse. Asboth and the other wounded Union officers were taken to the home of Mayor Thomas White on Jackson Street. The wounded Union enlisted men were treated at the Confederate hospital on North Jefferson. Most of the Confederate wounded were carried to private homes for treatment, although some of the men with minor wounds were confined with the other prisoners.
Our series on the raid on Marianna will continue tomorrow. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting and by considering my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. Copies can be purchased locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (across from the Battle of Marianna monument). For information about ordering online, just click here.

The Battle of Marianna, Florida - September 27, 1864, 12:30 p.m.

These two photographs relate to one of the most intriguing stories to arise from the events of September 27, 1864.
The book shown here is the historic Bible of St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The soldier shown at right was Major Nathan Cutler of the 2nd Maine Cavalry.
After finally forcing the surrender of most of the Marianna Home Guards in the cemetery at St. Luke's, Colonel Zulavsky and his men found themselves still being fired upon by Confederate soldiers barricaded inside the church and two nearby structures. Unable to convince them to surrender, Zulavsky ordered them burned out.
Union soldiers approached the west end of the church with artillery swabs, coated the timber of the structure with a flammable liquid and then set it on fire.
According to legend, Major Cutler objected to the burning of the church. When Zulavsky repeated the order, the young officer supposedly dashed into the building to save the Bible. As he was emerging from the burning structure, however, he was confronted by two teenagers from the Marianna Home Guard. He turned on them with his sword, but when he saw their ages (under 14), he hesitated. The two youths shot him with loads of buckshot from their shotguns.
It is difficult to say whether the story is true. One Union eyewitness said that Cutler was wounded while leading the charge down the street. Confederate eyewitnesses said that he saved the Bible. Interviewed later in life, he did not admit to his role in the incident, but said that "someone" in the Union forces objected to the burning and expressed his own opinion that it was not a military necessity but had been an act of vandalism.
Whatever the truth of the story, the Bible remains a cherished artifact of the Battle of Marianna and is now on display inside the church. Other than the Bible, on the bell of St. Luke's survived the fire.
Our series will continue, but until the next post you can read more by visiting

The Battle of Marianna, Florida - September 27, 1864, 12:20 p.m.

The bayonet charge by the men from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Infantries forced Norwood and the main body of the Marianna Home Guard into the burial ground behind St. Luke's Church.
There they continued to fight, shooting from behind tombstones and trees, as the Union troops returned fire.
The intent of the Confederates seems to have been to continue withdrawing deeper into town, forcing the Federals to engage in "urban warfare" of sorts. This plan came to an end when the Union troops of the flanking party gave up their attempts to take the bridge and closed in on the home guards from behind.
Norwood and his men were ultimately surrounded here in the cemetery, but continued to fight. A Union officer convinced some of them to surrender, but as this group was laying down its weapons, another group of Southerners continued to fire and wounded the officer. His outraged troops resumed firing on all of the Confederates and the battle continued at short range.
Finally, another Union officer convinced the Confederates of the futility of continuing the battle and again managed to convince them to surrender. As they were laying down their weapons, however, the still outraged men from the U.S.C.I. regiments fired a volley into them, wounding several.
At this stage of the battle, Captain George H. Maynard of the 82nd U.S.C.I. stepped forward and placed his pistol to the head of one of his own men, threatening to shoot the first man that dared shoot a prisoner. The action brought the main fighting to an end and the men of Norwood's command gave up their arms to overwhelming numbers.
Maynard later received the Congressional Medal of Honor in part for his actions at St. Luke's Church in Marianna.
Our series will continue, but you can always read more by visiting

The Battle of Marianna, Florida - September 27, 1864, 12:15 p.m.

While the main fighting of the Battle of Marianna was taking place in the yard at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, a second phase of the engagement opened here at Courthouse Square.
Montgomery's retreating Confederate cavalry reached the courthouse to find the surrounding streets and grounds already occupied by the flanking party of Federals that had come around the north side of town.
Surgeon Henry Robinson of the 5th Florida Cavalry was engaged in this part of the battle and reported that hand to hand combat, on horseback, broke out in the area surrounding the courthouse.
Colonel Montgomery was unhorsed on the southeast corner of the square and captured. Confederate troops, however, also took several Union prisoners in the fighting here.
Two members of the Campbellton Cavalry knocked a Union soldier from his horse here and made off with his saber. It remained a cherished artifact for the descendents of George Ball for many years, but is believed to have been lost in an unfortunate house fire.
The man body of the Southern cavalry finally forced its way through the Federals here and moved around the square to Jackson Street and continued down the red clay hill to the Chipola River (Lafayette Street then ended at the Courthouse). Eyewitnesses reported seeing fighting as the troops went down the river.
When they reached the river, the men of Chisolm's Alabama Militia company made a bold stand and held back Union attacks while the other men tore up the planking from the open wood bridge. The Confederates then crossed over and took up defensive positions on the east bank, successfully driving back several Union attempts to take possession of the bridge.
Our series will continue and you can always read more by visiting

The Battle of Marianna, Florida - September 27, 1864, 12:10 p.m.

The Union troops drove the main force of the Marianna Home Guard back from the north side of the street and into the yard surrounding St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
The church, which looked much like the present structure although it was built of wood instead of brick, was surrounded by a stout board fence that the Confederates used as a makeshift fortification.
Heavy fighting took place here as the home guards and volunteers took up positions behind the fence and continued to exchange fire with the Union troops in the street.
General Asboth has been seriously wounded at the barricade and command of the Federal troops fell to his second in command, Colonel L.L. Zulavsky. Unable to dislodge the Southerners from the churchyard fence with gunfire alone, the colonel ordered his two companies of mounted infantrymen to dismount and prepare for a bayonet charge.
Forming the middle of Lafayette Street, the two units of picked men from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiments fixed bayonets and charged the fence. Eyewitnesses described them going "up and over" it, driving back the fiercely resisting Confederates.
Norwood pulled his men to the rear of the church as the battle entered a new and even more deadly phase.
Our series will continue. You can always read more about the Battle of Marianna at

The Battle of Marianna, Florida - September 27, 1864, 12:05 p.m.

Things now happened very fast. Alarmed by the sight of his men retreating, General Asboth put spurs to his horse and rode to the front. One of the officers remembered hearing him shouting "For Shame! For Shame!" at the retreating troops.
Asboth then ordered Major Eben Hutchinson's battalion from the 2nd Maine Cavalry to charge. The general himself led them forward, accompanied by Majors Hutchinson and Cutler.
The second attack came so fast that Montgomery's cavalrymen did not have time to reload their muzzle loading weapons. Unable to fight back, they began to fall back up Lafayette Street into town. Eyewitnesses from both sides described the movement as reminding them of a "flock of sheep" running.
The Confederate horsemen retreated past the Ely-Criglar House, seen here, and quickly passed through and around the barricade via gaps left for that purpose.
The charging Union cavalry were, according to eyewitnesses, "hard upon them." No sooner had Montgomery's men cleared the barricade than did Asboth and his soldiers reach it. The charge ground to a halt as the Federal soldiers began to make their way over, through and around it. It was the moment the Marianna Home Guard had anxiously awaited.
The minute the Federals were almost completely stopped, Norwood and the other officers gave the order to fire. Flame erupted from the fences and shrubs along both sides of the street and the Union troops found themselves caught in a brutal crossfire. In the words of one Northern eyewitness, literally every man at the head of the column was "mowed down."
General Asboth had just cleared the barricade with the ambush opened. Shot from his horse with grievous wounds to his arm and cheek, he was almost captured but the anxious Confederates were driven back by the men of his body guard. Majors Hutchinson and Cutler were also both wounded, as was Lieutenant Isaac Adams of the 2nd Maine. Some of the men killed and wounded were literally riddled with shot as dozens of weapons had been aimed at them when the volley was fired.
Despite its ferocity and the casualties it inflicted, the Confederate ambush was not enough. Much of the fire had been concentrated on the head of the Union column and the rest of the column now pushed forward as the Southern home guards and volunteers struggled to reload their weapons. A portion of the Union cavalry continued to pursue Montgomery and his men up the street, while the others cleared the barricade and turned on the local citizens that had ambushed them.
Our series on the Battle of Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting Also please consider purchasing a copy of my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (across from the Battle of Marianna monument) and can also be ordered online at

The Battle of Marianna, Florida - September 27, 1864, 12 noon

This is a view of Ely Corner (the intersection of Lafayette, Russ and St. Andrews Streets) in Marianna as it appears today.
Now a modern four-lane highway, the site in 1864 was an open area on the edge of town where the Campbellton road entered Marianna.
The Confederate cavalry formed into a line of battle at this point, facing west (the direction of the camera). In the far distance behind them was the location of the unmanned barricade, where the local home guard and volunteers had formed an ambush on each side of the street.
A few minutes before 12 noon, Colonel Montgomery rode up to his men. He had remained west of town observing the Federal approach. The colonel saw Asboth dispatch some of his men to follow the bypass or logging road around the north side of town while the main body continued straight up the road for Ely Corner.
Aware that he was about to be flanked, the colonel ordered his men to withdraw. There was, in the words of one eyewitness, "some demurring." Many of the soldiers were from the area and did not like the idea of leaving Marianna undefended. Montgomery, on the other hand, was more concerned about keeping his forces intact until reinforcements could arrive and did not look at Marianna in the same light as the local citizens. From a military perspective, he was right. It was just a small town of fewer than 500 people and he could better hold back the oncoming Federals by taking a position on the east bank of the Chipola River.
To the locals, though, Marianna was home. Their families and possessions were there. And they were unwilling to go without a fight.
Whatever might have been the plan, things quickly began to fall apart. If the colonel intended to evacuate the local home guard and volunteers under the protection of a shield of cavalry, he never got the chance. While he was trying to explain to his men that they were being flanked, the head of the Union column came around the curve at Ely Corner.
Out of time, Montgomery turned and fought. The Confederate cavalry unleashed a volley at short range on the stunned Union soldiers. Northern eyewitnesses indicated that they thought the Confederates were in full retreat for the river and were stunned to come around the curve in the road and find themselves faced with the Southern cavalry in line of battle.
The Union column was led at this point by Cutler's battalion of the 2nd Maine Cavalry. The Federals made a half hearted attempt to charge, but were caught in column formation (four men on horseback, side by side, in a long column), while the Confederates were spread out in a line of battle with hundreds of shotguns and muskets aimed at the head of their formation.
The volley of fire plunged the corner with smoke and sent Union soldiers toppling from their horses. At least one Union soldier was killed in the blast of gunfire and another was wounded. Horses were also wounded and a number of men fell from their saddles as their horses panicked.
Despite the efforts of Major Nathan Cutler to rally his men, the fell back in a headlong retreat around the curve.
Armstrong Purdee saw all of this and remembered how the wounded were brought back to a little stream that flowed behind today's Joseph Russ house. One of the men was shot in the chest and Purdee saw surgeons pouring water on him and trying to cleanse the wound.
Our series will continue. You can always read more about the Battle of Marianna at

The Raid on Marianna - September 27, 1864, 11 a.m.

News quickly reached Marianna that Montgomery and his men had been unable to hold back the approaching enemy.
Dr. Thaddeus Hentz, the town's dentist, told his wife that he couldn't believe the Federals were coming until he heard they were at the steam mill northwest of town.
At 11 a.m., Norwood and the other officers in charge ordered their men to advance to the west side of town. Here, in a residential area that extended from Caledonia Street west to today's Russ Street, they began to take up positions.
The plan developed for the defense of Marianna was actually quite ingenious. After pushing wagons and piling debris to create a barricade across what is now West Lafayette Street, the home guards and volunteers took up positions behind the fences, trees and shrubs lining the road.
Although it has sometimes been said that the men, who followed the time-honored Southern tradition of calling themselves the "Cradle to Grave," used the barricade as a breastwork, this is incorrect. It was actually not manned and was intended for use in delaying or stalling a Union cavalry charge down the street.
The plan was to lay low and stay hidden until the Union troops charged up to the barricade and then, while their enemy was stalled and figuring a way around the wall, the men of the "Cradle to Grave" would suddenly open fire from protected positions on both sides of the street. It was hoped that the ambush would so bloody the Federals that they could be driven back.
West of town, meanwhile, Montgomery finally disengaged his cavalry from the skirmish with the oncoming Federals and withdrew into Marianna. The cavalry reentered town via a little known northern bypass or logging road that followed the route of today's Kelson Avenue. This trail intersected with the northern end of Caledonia Street and Dr. Ethelred Philips saw the cavalry ride by his home on Caledonia "before I heard the first shot." He had been unable to hear the fighting at Hopkins' Branch to the northwest.
Montgomery himself remained just west of town to observe the enemy approach and see what Asboth would do. His cavalry, meanwhile, turned west on Lafayette Street and rode out to the barricade where they were joined by the mounted boys of the Greenwood Club Cavalry.
After assessing the situation, the cavalry officers (Chisolm, Poe, Godwin and Robinson) took their men on past the barricade and took up a position at what was then called Ely Corner (the intersection of Lafayette and Russ Street. The barricade was to their rear, about half way between the corner and St. Luke's Episcopal Church (in the area of today's Pizza Hut restaurant).
Our series on the Raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting

The Raid on Marianna - September 27, 1864, 10 a.m.

As it became apparent that Asboth's destination was Marianna, Colonel Montgomery began looking for a position to make a stand outside of town.
The country between Marianna and Campbellton is not particularly condusive to defensive operations. It was then largely rolling farm country with no hills or major streams.
Montgomery finally selected a swampy stream known locally as Hopkins' Branch. The branch held water after heavy rains, but often was barely a trickle or even dry. It had been raining a lot over the previous days, though, so it probably was running with water on the morning of the September 27, 1864.
The thick tree cover growing along the swamp also would serve to hamper Union cavalry operations and, while the location was far from perfect from a military perspective, it was about the best site for a stand that Montgomery could find. He spread his men into a line of battle and waited for the Union vanguard to approach.
As both continued to advance on the Campbellton to Marianna road and was only three miles from the edge of town when he reached Hopkins' Branch. Resistance had been scarce so far that morning, but the Union soldiers were alert. As they approached the point where the road crossed the swamp, firing erupted.
Armstrong Purdee later recalled that the Union soldier that had carried him away from the Waddell Plantation warned him to "hold fast! Do not fall!" The soldiers, he said, spread out and began to fire their "little short guns."
Purdee's account, written from the memories of a child, provides an excellent description of the 2nd Maine Cavalry forming into a line of battle to engage Montgomery's Confederates. His observation that "little short guns" were being fired confirms that the 2nd Maine led the advance at Hopkins' Branch, as only this regiment carried Burnside carbines during the fight at Marianna.
Purdee's account goes on to describe how the Union troops charged the swamp, jumping their horses over logs and fallen trees. "They did not go around anything," he said.
The action at Hopkins' Branch was the opening affair of the Battle of Marianna. Montgomery and his outnumbered men, an assembly of militia, reserves and home guards, were frightfully outgunned in the fight. As opposed to the modern Burnsides of the 2nd Maine, his men were armed with everything from shotguns and hunting rifles to Enfield muskets. The Federal weapons were breech loading, which meant they could fire at a much faster rate than could the Confederates with their muzzle loading weapons.
The charge was effective and the Confederates were pushed back from their position on the opposite side of the swamp. They did not go quietly. Private Wade Richardson, a soldier in the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry, later recalled how the Federals approached Marianna keeping up a "brisk skirmish with contesting rebels."
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Friday, September 26, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 27, 1864, 8:30 a.m.

The long column of Federal soldiers continued south down the Campbellton Marianna road on the morning of September 27, 1864.
They continued to raid homes, farms and plantations along their route. Eight year old Armstrong Purdee remembered that the column stopped at the Russ plantation before crossing Russ Mill Creek and climbing the hill seen here to Webbville.
Once a town that had rivaled Marianna for the title of County Seat of Jackson County, Webbville had vanished as a community by 1864. The name was preserved, however, in the plantation of Lt. Col. W.D. Barnes.
The second in command of the 1st Florida Reserves, Barnes was not in Jackson County on the day of the raid, but his home and farm sustained heavy damage at the hands of the raiders. The slaves at Webbville were liberated and soldiers rounded up wagons, horses, mules, cows and carted off all the supplies they could.
From here the column passed straight down this hill and continued on to the Whitesville plantation of Marianna Mayor Thomas M. White. Their route followed the old road, which wound its way through rich farmland before finally turning east and leading on to Marianna.
In town, bells suddenly sounded. It was the previously agreed signal to alert the men of Captain Jesse Norwood's Marianna Home Guard that they should grab their weapons and assemble at the courthouse.
Several eyewitnesses recalled that it was a clear blue morning and that days of rain had finally ended. The day dawned cool and beautiful and people were just beginning to go about their activities when the bells began to sound. Word quickly spread that Union troops were approaching Marianna on the Campbellton road and bedlam erupted.
Eyewitness Fanny Champan remembered it as a "frightful time" and Dr. Ethelred Philips, a prominent Unionist, wrote of sending his wife and youngest son out of town for their safety.
Although the Florida Home Guard technically included only men and teenagers over the age of 15, boys as young as 12 and 13 turned out with weapons that morning to assist in the defense of their city. Citizens from the area that happened to be in town also took up arms and joined Norwood's men, as did a key group of Confederate soldiers and officers that happened to be home on medical leave due to wounds or illness. Among these were Captains Henry O. Bassett and Walter Robinson. The recuperating Confederate regulars gave Norwood's unit a level of experience and leadership rare among such citizen organizations. Although Norwood functioned as captain of his unit, he was well aware of the value of such men and placed the regular officers in charge of various sections of his command.
In the next hour or so the Marianna Home Guard was joined by Captain Henry Robinson with the school boys and volunteers from Greenwood.
It is an interesting footnote of the Battle of Marianna that three captains named Robinson were associated with the engagement. Captain Henry Robinson commanded the Greenwood unit. Captain Walter J. Robinson volunteered for service with Norwood's men. And Captain George Robinson was captain of the home guard unit from the Blue Spring/Cowpen Pond area, but did not reach town in time for the coming fight.
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