Friday, September 26, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 27, 1864, 6 a.m.

The man at the left of this photograph is Colonel Alexander B. Montgomery, the commander of Confederate forces during the Battle of Marianna. The photograph was taken later in his life when Montgomery was a community leader in Rome, Georgia.
As the sun rose on the morning of September 27, 1864, the colonel was on his horse looking across the fields south of Campbellton. Asboth's column had started to move out even before daylight and it quickly became apparent to Marianna that he was in trouble.
His total force outside Campbellton that morning numbered around 180-190 men and consisted of Chisolm's, Poe's and Godwin's companies. The oncoming Federal force was much larger, numbering around 700 men, all mounted, with two pieces of artillery. The massive line of liberated slaves, wagons loaded with confiscated supplies and herds of livestock made the enemy force look even bigger.
Montgomery had predicted in July that Campbellton might be a likely target for an enemy raid due to the large agricultural interests in the vicinity and he watched now to see what the Federals might do and where they would go.
As they turned south on the Marianna road, there were three distinct possibilities. A few miles south of Campbellton, the Marianna road intersected with the old Fort Road. If Asboth turned left on this road, he could cross the Chipola River at Bellamy Bridge and advance on Greenwood. If he turned right, he could return to the Marianna ford and withdraw from the county. But if he came straight on through the intersection, then there was little doubt that Marianna was his destination.
A courier had already been sent to alert Captain Henry J. Robinson and his company of school boy cavalry in Greenwood. Called the Greenwood Club Cavalry, this unit had been formed by Robinson from his students at the local academy. A former Confederate soldier and now their teacher, he provided them with military instructions and trained them in cavalry tactics. As the sun rose on the morning of September 27, 1864, the company was mustered and waited to see what would develop. Aware of the danger, many of the citizens of Greenwood turned out with their children. Men well into their 70s volunteered to serve with the company that morning, unwilling to watch the school boys go off to fight alone.
Arthur Lewis, the courier that had brought news of Asboth's presence in Walton County to Marianna, was sent south from the city to call in the units of Captain William H. Milton and Captain William A. Jeter. Milton was the son of Florida Governor John Milton and was the commander of Company G, 5th Florida Cavalry. Jeter, a resident of Apalachicola before the war, headed Company E, 5th Florida Cavalry.
Our series on Asboth's raid on Marianna will continue. We will have a number of posts today retracing the events leading up to, during and after the Battle of Marianna. Please remember that the Children of the American Revolution will be hosting guided tours of the Marianna battlefield today (Saturday) at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The tours begin from the historic Russ House on West Lafayette Street (U.S. 90) in Marianna. The cost to participate is $5 (12 and under free) with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the C.A.R. in its effort to stimulate an interest in history among the school students of Jackson County.
Also remember that you can read more about the battle at and in my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. The book is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (across from the Battle of Marianna monument) or for order online by clicking here.

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