Saturday, September 27, 2008
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 www.battleofmarianna.net.