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."
Our series will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting

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.
Our series will continue. Until the next post you can read more by visiting

The Raid on Marianna - September 27, 1864, 7:30 a.m.

As Montgomery and his horsemen withdrew ahead of the oncoming Federal column, Asboth pushed south on the Marianna road and came straight through its intersection with the Fort Road.
There was now no doubt as to his intent. Montgomery immediately sent a courier back to Marianna to alert the town and call out the home guard there. Orders were sent for his staff to call in the outlying home guard units from east Jackson, Washington and Calhoun Counties as well. These companies included Captain George Robinson's home guard from the Blue Spring and Cowpen Pond area of Jackson County, Captain Luke Lott's unit from Calhoun County and Captain W.B. Jones' company from Vernon and Holmes Valley in Washington County.
Another rider was sent to order the Greenwood Club Cavalry to Marianna. Warning was also shouted to the various families and homes living along the Marianna road.
Asboth's first stop after passing through the vital intersection was at the plantation of John R. Waddell. The body of water pictured above is Waddell's Mill Pond, the only remaining feature of the plantation other than its fields. When they heard the news that Union troops were coming, Waddell's dozens of stunned slaves lined the fence in front of the main house.
Among these was an 8 year old named Armstrong Purdee. So amazed by the sight of the long Union column coming down the road that did not even notice the presence of African American soldiers, Purdee would become a remarkable eyewitness to the events about to unfold.
He later detailed vivid memories of the day he was liberated from slavery. As the Union column halted in the road in front of the house, he recalled, a Union white soldier said to him, "Boy, does you want to go?" He responded that he did and the soldier reached down and pulled him up onto the back of the horse. Many of the other Waddell slaves also found their freedom that way and joined the long column of overjoyed African Americans following along in the wake of the soldiers.
Our series on Asboth's raid on Marianna will continue. Until our next post, you can read more by visiting

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.

The Raid on Marianna - September 26, 1864

On September 26, 1864, Asboth's column moved east across Holmes County, striking farms and homes along the way, and crossed over into the northwestern corner of Jackson County.
Their initial target was Campbellton, an important farm center near the Alabama line north of Marianna.
The community is noteworthy as the home of Florida's oldest Baptist Church. Founded in the 1820s, the Campbellton Baptist Church has been active for more than 180 years.
As the Federals moved up the road connecting the Marianna ford over Holmes Creek with Campbellton (today's Tri-County Road), they began to encounter resistance from the members of Captain A.R. Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry. A local home guard unit, this company had formed earlier in the year and was under standing orders to resist any attack and notify headquarters in Marianna of the situation.
As soon as Captain Godwin was alerted that raiders were in the area, he mustered his men and rode out to meet them. Although they were heavily outnumbered, the Campbellton men employed standard cavalry tactics of skirmishing with the advance of the Union column and then pulling back ahead of the enemy. Skirmishing continued throughout the day, appreciably slowing the movement of Asboth's force.
There are no reports of casualties in this fighting, although two members of Godwin's company were captured when they got too close to the oncoming Federals.
By late afternoon, Asboth reached Campbellton where he halted his exhausted force to camp for the night. Godwin and his men hovered in the distance, watching and waiting. Meanwhile, the messenger sent to Marianna with news of the enemy approach reached the city and alerted Colonel Montgomery that enemy troops were in the Campbellton area.
Montgomery immediate rode out with Chisolm's company of Alabama Militia cavalry and the mounted infantrymen of Company C, 1st Florida Reserves (Poe's company). He reached the Campbellton area after dark and made contact with Godwin's men, but did not attempt to engage the Federals.
Our series on Asboth's raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post you can read more by visiting Also, please remember that the Children of the American Revolution will be hosting two special walking tours of the Marianna battlefield tomorrow (Saturday) on the anniversary of the battle. The tours begin at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and the cost to participate is $5 (12 and under are free). They start from the park area in front of the historic Russ House (Jackson County Chamber of Commerce) on West Lafayette Street (U.S. 90) in Marianna.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 25, 1864 (Part Two)

On September 25, 1864, a lone rider thundered down the dirt main street of the city of Marianna. He was Arthur Lewis, a teenager that often served as a courier for the military post there.
Lewis had been sent to Walton County to call in the detachment from Captain Chisolm's company that had been in Eucheeanna. Instead, he stumbled into Asboth's column.
Hiding in the brush and losing his horse in the process, the young courier made his way back across the Choctawhatchee River, secured a horse and headed for Marianna as fast as he could. One eyewitness remembered that his clothes were in tatters from the brush and brambles he encountered during the journy.
Lewis informed Colonel A.B. Montgomery of the presence of the Union troops in Walton County. Although the young courier later criticized the colonel for not immediately reacting to the news, but Montgomery had reasons.
Raids into Walton County were fairly common and the area west of the Choctawhatchee was not part of his jurisdiction. The main road from Eucheeanna to Marianna passed through Vernon, Holmes Valley and Orange Hill. Vernon had an active home guard company under Captain W.B. Jones and one of Montgomery's few cavalry units, Company E, 5th Florida Cavalry under Captain William Jeter, was stationed at Orange Hill. Any advance via the most likely route of approach would encounter these forces and provide critical warning to the city.
When Asboth did not cross the Choctawhatchee into Washington County via the most likely approach, Montgomery likely concluded that the raid was simply another excursion into Walton County. He did take the precautionary measure of bringing the main body of Chisolm's company into Marianna from its camp at Blue Spring, but otherwise waited and watched.
Our series on Asboth's raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting

The Raid on Marianna - September 25, 1864 (Part One)

This is a rare wartime sketch of Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth on the move. Asboth is the figure in the foreground.
As the sketch illustrates, the general was a lover of animals and often took his two large dogs (one of them is seen here) into the field with him.
Prior to the war Asboth worked as an engineer and surveyor and was responsible for the surveys that established what we know today as New York's famed Central Park. A major supporter of the Central Park Zoo, the general captured wild animals throughout the war - including a Florida black bear - and had them crated up and sent to New York to expand the zoo.
As the sketch shows, he generally disdained formal uniform and usually wore a striped blanket with a hole cut for his head as a poncho instead of a uniform coat.
Such habits made the general extremely popular with his men and throughout the war ordinary soldiers that served under him wrote glowing accounts of the former Hungarian freedom fighter.
The main body of the Federal column crossed the Choctawhatchee River at Cerrogordo on Septemebr 25, 1864. The river was running high and the crossing so arduous that the entire day was spent in the effort. The night of the 25th was spent in camp on the east bank of the river opposite Cerrogordo.
Our series on Asboth's Raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting or by purchasing a copy of my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 24, 1864

This photograph shows Ponce de Leon Spring in Holmes County as it appeared before the area was developed as a state park. The spring was along the route of Asboth's march on September 24, 1864.
The Federals turned north from Eucheeanna on the morning of the 24th, heading up the west side of the Choctawhatchee River into Holmes County.
Raiding continued as the troops advanced. Among the locations hit on the 24th was a log hotel at Ponce de Leon Spring. The spring is now a state park in Holmes County and is a beautiful spot, although the view has changed considerably since the days of the raid.
The first Union casualty of the raid was suffered on this day as the troops were crossing Big Sandy Creek near Ponce de Leon. Private Joseph Williams of Company H, 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry was mortally wounded in an accidental shooting and left in the care of a local family.
Leaving the Ponce de Leon vicinity, the column pushed north into Holmes County and rode into the community of Cerrogordo late in the day.
Cerrogordo was then the county seat of Holmes County, but consisted of little more than a courthouse, jail, store and a few homes. A ferry crossed the Choctawhatchee River here and Asboth seized the flat and sent men across to secure a beachhead on the opposite bank.
The main body camped at Cerrogordo for the night while waiting to begin crossing the river the next morning.
Our series on Asboth's raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting or purchasing a copy of my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. The book is available in Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea (downtown across from the Battle of Marianna monument). You can also order a copy online. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Raid on Marianna, Florida - September 23, 1864 (Part Two)

Continuing our look at the events of September 23, 1864, this is a rare and outstanding view of Four Mile Landing near Choctawhatchee Bay (Courtesy: Florida State Archives).
Asboth sent two companies from the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry here on the afternoon of the 23rd to make contact with the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis. The vessel had been waiting offshore in Choctawhatchee Bay for the reappearance of the troops.
The Lizzie Davis steamed up to Four Mile Landing after being contacted by the soldiers and here took on board the unserviceable horses, prisoners of war, captured supplies and 16 African American recruits for the Federal armies (possibly accompanied by their families).
Another detachment destroyed the flat at Douglas' Ferry on the Choctawhatchee River, along with all of the other small boats in the vicinity. This move represented something of a surprise since Douglas' Ferry was the point at which the main road to Marianna crossed the river. It would have been the place for the Federals to cross if they planned to take the quickest route to the city, but Asboth clearly had something else in mind (as would become apparent over coming days).
In a possible move to improve his operational security, the general had most of the men and boys of Eucheeanna confined for the afternoon and night of the 23rd in the community's log jail. Among these were members of the Bowers, Walker, Neil, McClendon and McKinnon families. Although these men certainly must have feared about their fates that night, Asboth probably had no intention of confining them more than temporarily because he had already sent his prisoners down to Four Mile under escort of the 1st Florida U.S.
Our series on Asboth's Raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting

The Raid on Marianna - September 23, 1864

This is Colonel John L. McKinnon, a prominent individual in Florida history and resident of Walton County at the time of Asboth's raid.

McKinnon was at his "Old Home" plantation when the Union raiders struck Eucheeanna on the morning of September 23, 1864.

At some point during their advance into Walton County, the Federals had learned of the presence of two small detachments of Confederate cavalry at Eucheeanna. Probably not numbering more than 25-30 men in all, the detachments were from Amos' Company, 15th Confederate Cavalry and Captain Robert Chisolm's company of Alabama Militia Cavalry. They were there enforcing the conscription or military draft.

The Southern troops were clearly not expecting an attack and may have been laying low due to the heavy rains that had been falling across the area for days. Whatever the reason, they had no idea that Asboth had camped just three miles away at Lake Defuniak on the night of the 22nd. Moving out before daybreak, the Federals arrived outside of Eucheeanna on the morning of the 23rd and at sunrise Asboth send the 2nd Maine Cavalry storming into the village.

The charge was led by Lieutenant Colonel Andrew B. Spurling of the 2nd Maine and took the Confederates by complete surprise. There was a brief exchange of fire, but no casualties were reported. The Federals did succeed in capturing nine prisoners of war along with William Cawthon (Sr.), Allen Hart and Col. W.H. Terrence of Alabama. The former two individuals were contracting for the delivery of beef to the Confederate armies. Terrence had served in the Alabama militia during the Creek War of 1836 and was now a civilian. His purpose for being in Eucheeanna at the time is not known.

The prisoners of war taken included Lt. F.M. Gordon and three other men from Company I, 15th Confederate Cavalry, three men from Chisolm's company, one man from Company C, 1st Florida Reserves (possibly home on leave), and two local home guards.

The rest of the Confederates managed to escape and fled north on the Geneva (Alabama) road. Asboth sent a detachment under Col. Spurling to try to recapture them and then dispersed foraging parties throughout the neighborhood.

Heavy damage was inflicted on the homes and farms in the Euchee Valley throughout the day of the 23rd. Provisions and fodder were either confiscated or destroyed, livestock rounded up, wagons taken, slaves liberated and - in some cases - forcefully removed from local plantations and weapons and other items of military value seized. Among the homes hit by the raiders was that of Col. John L. McKinnon (seen above).

An elder statesmen, McKinnon had served as a delegate to Florida's Constitutional Convention in 1838 and had long been a fixture in Walton County. A number of his sons were serving in the Confederate army, but because of his age he was at home when the raiders arrived. According to family legend, a Union soldier tried to take a sword from the home that the colonel had carried years before. He forcefully confronted the unlucky Federal and, by pure strength of character and force of speech, sent him away without the sword.

Our series on Asboth's Raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting Also please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. Click here for ordering information. Also remember that the Children of the American Revolution will be hosting two guided tours of the Marianna Battlefield this Saturday, September 27th, at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The tours begin at the historic Russ House (Jackson County Chamber of Commerce) on West Lafayette Street and the cost to participate is only $5 (12 and under free). 100% of the proceeds benefit the C.A.R. in their effort to stimulate interest in history among Jackson County's school students.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 22, 1864

This rare photograph from the Florida State Archives shows Lake Defuniak in Walton County as it appeared before the modern city of Defuniak Springs was built around it. The lake is visible in the background through the trees and beyond the tents.
On September 22, 1864, the Union force turned east and pushed into the heart of Walton County. Homes and farms along the route of the advance were raided of livestock, provisions, fodder, wagons and anything else of value. No skirmishing, however, was reported.
As he advanced, Asboth practiced the concept of "total war" espoused by General Sherman and others. To defeat the Confederacy, many Union officers came to believe that it would be necessary to destroy the South's will to fight. To do this, they inflicted heavy damage on civilian homes and farms. The goals of this were twofold: 1) to prevent them from supplying the Confederate armies with anything of value, and 2) to destroy the morale of the Southern population.
By the evening of the 22nd, the soldiers had reached Lake Defuniak. The modern city of Defuniak Springs did not then exist and the area appeared much as it does in this late 19th century photograph. The rolling hills surrounding the lake were covered with thin timber and were used a cattle ranges by several area families.
The nearest Confederate troops were only three miles to the southeast at Eucheeanna, but they had no news of the approach of Asboth's force. The first fighting of the raid would take place the next morning at daybreak.
Our series on Asboth's 1864 raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting or by picking up a copy of my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. Please click here for ordering information. As a reminder, next Saturday (Sept. 27th) is the 144th anniversary of the Battle of Marianna. The Blue Springs Society of the Children of the American Revolution will be hosting two guided tours of the Marianna battlefield on Saturday. The tours begin at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the historic Russ House (Jackson County Chamber of Commerce) on West Lafayette Street in Marianna. The cost to participate is $5 (children under 12 for free). 100% of the proceeds benefit the Children of the American Revolution. If you need more information, feel free to email me.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 21, 1864

On September 21, 1864, the Federal raiders pushed north into the Shoal River area of eastern Okaloosa and western Walton Counties (then all part of Walton).
This photograph of the Shoal River is from the photographic collection at the Florida State Archives.
In 1864, the beautiful river was the location of several large cattle ranges. The most significant of these were owned by the extensive Cawthon family. Headed by William Cawthon, this family owned vast real estate holdings stretching from near Dothan, Alabama, all the way down into Northwest Florida.
The raiders pushed into the Shoal River area during the evening of September 21st. In addition to securing beef cattle and rounding up any horses they could find, they also took several men prisoner. Among these were William and Lafayette Cawthon, sons of the prominent rancher and members of the 15th Confederate Cavalry. They were at Lafayette's home on leave at the time and were taken prisoner without a fight.
Either Asboth already knew of the presence of a camp of Confederate cavalry at nearby Eucheeanna, then the county seat of Walton County, or he learned it from a Union sympathizer in the Shoal River area. The next morning he turned east in a move that brought him within range of Eucheeanna for a strike at daybreak on the 23rd.
Our series on Asboth's 1864 raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can learn more by visiting Also please consider my book on the subject, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. You can obtain ordering information by clicking here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 20, 1864

This Civil War era map from the National Park Service Collection provides a good view of the area targeted by Asboth's raid.
Marianna is shown in its correct position on the west bank of the Chipola River, connected by a direct road to Roche's Bluff (Vernon) and Euchee Anna.
On this date in 1864 (September 20th), the Federal troops turned inland on the Ridge Road. This path is not shown on the math, but led from the western end of Choctawhatchee Bay to the high sand ridges of today's Eglin Air Force Base. The area is now encompassed by eastern Okaloosa and western Walton Counties, but then was all a part of Walton.
Rain continued to fall on the soldiers as they moved and they passed the day moving through a largely unpopulated area.
After the troops moved inland, the steamer Lizzie Davis headed east through Choctawhatchee Bay and anchored off LaGrange Landing (due south of Euchee Anna on the northern shore of the bay) to await contact from the soldiers or to provide supplies or relief as needed.
Our series on Asboth's 1864 raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting or by checking out my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. Just click here for ordering information.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 19, 1864

On September 19, 1864, the rest of Asboth's command advanced east along the old Federal or Military Road to the base camp at the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound.
The Lizzie Davis paralleled the troops as they moved along the north shore of Santa Rosa Sound, steaming up to the base camp where additional supplies were sent ashore.
Conditions remained rainy for the troops, but despite the downpours Asboth reported that his men were in "good spirits."
The Confederates thus far had no knowledge that the Union troops were on the move. The area along the shore of Santa Rosa Sound was beyond their normal scouting area and the nearest Southern soldiers were at Eucheeanna Courthouse, a small village about three miles southeast of present-day Defuniak Springs and then the county seat of Walton County.
Our series on Asboth's 1864 raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 18, 1864

This is a view of Pensacola Bay from the heights at Fort Barrancas. The dark form in the distance on Santa Rosa Island is Fort Pickens.

On this date, September 18th, in 1864, the main body of Asboth's force completed its crossing of the bay to Navy Cove at present-day Gulf Breeze.

The quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis made repeated trips back and forth across the bay to move men, horses, artillery and supplies from Barrancas Post to the landing point.

Asboth himself left Barrancas on the 18th and crossed over with his staff. Later on the same afternoon, with an advance force, he headed east along the old Military or "Jackson" Road. Although tradition at the time held that the road had been constructed by Andrew Jackson, it actually post-dated his march through Northwest Florida by about 6 years. A part of the old Federal Road, the route followed by Asboth and his men had been widened from a Native American trail by Captain Daniel Burch in 1824.

The section of road followed by the Union troops ran along the north shore of Santa Rosa Sound, parallel to the beach from Pensacola Bay east to Choctawhatchee Bay. The troops advanced to the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound, near present-day Fort Walton Beach, where a base camp was established on the night of the 18th.

Our series on Asboth's 1864 raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting Also please consider my 2007 book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, available for order online by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 17, 1864

This is a view of historic Fort Barrancas near Pensacola. The brick structure at right is the U.S. built fortification while the white structure at left is of Spanish origin. The blue water beyond is Pensacola Bay.
The process of ferrying troops from Barrancas across the bay to Navy Cove began in earnest on this date, September 18th, 144 years ago.
To carry out his planned raid on Marianna, Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth assembled a mounted force consisting of three battalions from the 2nd Maine Cavalry, 1 battalion from the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry and 2 companies of picked men (73 in total) from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Infantry Regiments. Horses for the entire command were provided by the 2nd Maine Cavalry and the force also carried two 12-pounder howitzers, manned by the men of Company M, 2nd Maine.
The force was transported across Pensacola Bay using the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis. A former Confederate blockade runner, the Lizzie Davis was a fast steamer captured by the U.S. Navy as she tried to make a run out from Mobile, Alabama, earlier in the war.
The task of moving so many men and horses across Pensacola Bay was slow and involved repeated journeys back and forth across the choppy water. Conditions were difficult because of a steady tropical rain that fell throughout the day (and would continue for the next several days). U.S. Navy vessels had encountered a tropical storm in the lower Gulf of Mexico during the previous week and this system had moved up the Gulf and was now soaking the Northwest Florida coastline with heavy rains.
Our series on the 1864 Raid on Marianna will continue tomorrow. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting If you would like to read about the raid in depth, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. You can obtain ordering information by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 16, 1864

Today we begin a new series on Asboth's 1864 raid on Marianna.
This photograph shows the National Park Service Visitor Center at Fort Barrancas near Pensacola. The historic fort is part of Gulf Islands National Seashore and is located on board the Pensacola Naval Air Station. It is open to the public daily.
The post - a serious of barracks, structures and camps - adjacent to Fort Barrancas was the primary Union base for troops in the Pensacola Bay area during the Civil War.
It was here that Union Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth established his headquarters after being assigned to the command of the District of West Florida in 1863. By the fall of 1864, he had assembled a force here that included the 2nd Maine Cavalry, 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry, 7th Vermont Veteran Volunteers, 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry and 86th U.S. Colored Infantry. Horses were in short supply, a fact that diminished his offensive capability.
In early September Asboth received intelligence that Confederate troops were engaged in an effort to fortify the city of Marianna, then the largest community in the interior of Northwest Florida. His informants also told him that 300 Union prisoners were being held in the city provided good intelligence on the status and positions of Confederate forces in the region.
Believing that the conditions were right for a strike, on September 16, 1864, the general began to organize his forces for a raid on Marianna. Advance parties were sent across Pensacola Bay to Navy Cove (Gulf Breeze) to secure a landing point for the main force and staff meetings were held to assemble a command for the planned expedition.
Our series on the 1864 Raid on Marianna will continue. Until the next post you can read more by visiting Also please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, now available at

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Coming this Week: The Battle of Marianna, Florida

This week we will begin a series retracing the events of the 1864 Union raid on Marianna, Florida.
This significant episode took place in September of 1864 and was the deepest Union penetration of Florida during the Civil War.
Tuesday will mark the 144th anniversary of the first troop movements associated with the raid. Events associated with the expedition included skirmishes at Eucheeanna, Campbellton and near Vernon and the Battle of Marianna.
The fight at Marianna on September 27, 1864, was the bloodiest affair of the war in the interior counties of Northwest Florida. The deadliest day of the war for both the 2nd Maine Cavalry and Jackson and Washington County's "Home Guard" units, September 27th was for many years observed as "Marianna Day" in Florida.
Check back with us this week for the first parts in this series. Until then, you can learn more about the raid by visiting

Civil War in Panama City - Conclusion

Concluding our series on the Civil War in and around Panama City, Florida, the war quietly came to an end there in the spring of 1865.
Although there was some Union consideration of launching a major raid into the interior from St. Andrew Bay, the attack never took place.
The only significant incursion from the bay was a small naval raid launched up Bear Creek in January of 1865. A party of sailors crossed over the portage from the head of the creek into the Chipola River and eventually captured small detachments of Confederate soldiers at Ricco's Bluff and Fort Gadsden on the Apalachicola River. The expedition resulted in no casualties from either side.
Despite the massive growth and development that have taken place in the Panama City area, especially during the 20th and 21st centuries, traces of the area's Civil War past can still be found. The bayfront at old St. Andrew is still open to the public and a marker on Beach Drive there tells the story of the St. Andrew skirmish. Also along Beach Drive, not far from the downtown area, visitors can see a preserved salt kettle in a small but beautiful park area.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Book is now Available in Hardcover and Paperback

I am pleased to let you know that my latest book - The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One - has officially been released.

If you pre-ordered a copy, your book should arrive no later than the end of next week. If you are expecting a copy and it hasn't arrived by then, please let me know so I can check on it for you.
If you are interested in ordering a copy, I recommend you order directly from the printer for fastest service. I'll include details at the bottom of this post.

This book is the first in a three volume series on the history of Jackson County, Florida. Although the book is technically a county history, Jackson County was so closely tied to major events in the early history of Florida and the Deep South that I think you will find it of interest far beyond the borders of the county.

Volume One covers the years from 1674-1860 and covers the Spanish mission era, American Revolution, War of 1812, First Seminole War, early settlements, Second Seminole War, Trail of Tears and even includes an in-depth study of Jackson County's favorite ghost story as well as the truth behind the legend of the county's lost pirate treasure.

The book is large (well over 300 pages) and features maps, photographs and a detailed appendices that includes the county's 19th century Native American census. Paperback copies are $24.95 and hardcover copies are $29.95. Profits from the book are being donated to the Daughters of the American Revolution to assist in developing a new historic marker program for Jackson County.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Civil War in Panama City - Part Seven

This is part seven of a series on the Civil War in and around Panama City, Florida. If you missed the earlier posts, just check the archives section.

As I've mentioned previously, Panama City did not exist at the time of the war, but St. Andrew Bay and the surrounding area was of some importance to both sides. The largest incident to take place in the vicinity was a raid launched by Union troops from Cedar Key in July of 1864.

The target of the expedition was the farming district along Econfina Creek north of the bay. This district, known as the Econfina Settlements, extended from modern Bay County up into the eastern edge of Washington County. The entire area was then part of Washington County.

Commanded by Major Edmund Weeks of the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry, the 400 troops from the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry (dismounted) and 2nd U.S. Colored Infantry reached St. Andrew Bay on board the steamer Ella Norris on July 20, 1864. Steaming into the bay under cover of darkness, the transport bypassed a Confederate picket post at St. Andrew (near what is now downtown Panama City) without being detected.

Sunrise the next morning found the vessel at anchor off the mouth of Bear Creek. The men came ashore at dawn and by 8 a.m. were on the move. Turning inland on the Econfina Road, they crossed the bridge over Bear Creek and left behind a detachment of guards to protect the span until they returned. From there the troops pushed north into the interior, ransacking farms and homes along their route. Local legend holds that the troops penetrated to near Orange Hill in Washington County and the results of their raid indicates this is probably true. One officer from the 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry later reported that the troops marched to within 30 miles of Marianna, another confirmation of the distance covered by their raid.

Official reports of the expedition indicate that 2 bridges, a mill and an abandoned Confederate camp were destroyed, 80 bales of cotton were taken and destroyed and 115 slaves were liberated from local plantations and carried away with the Union troops.

The troops encountered no opposition on their raid and returned to Bear Creek at 6 a.m. on July 22, 1864. They were taken back aboard the Ella Norris the same day and steamed away, never having seen a Confederate soldier.

The primary reason they encountered no opposition was that the Ella Norris had steamed around the Confederate pickets at St. Andrew when she arrived on the night of the 20th. By the time these soldiers knew a raid was afoot, they had been cut off from using the main road into the interior by the Federal troops at Bear Creek. They were forced to take a long detour around the head of Bear Creek into what is now Gulf County before they could turn north to alert headquarters at Marianna of the attack.

When he learned that the raid was afoot, Colonel Alexander Montgomery in Montgomery sent Company E, 5th Florida Cavalry, to intercept the raiders, but they had already returned to the Ella Norris by the time these troops could arrive on the bay.

Our look at the Civil War in and around Panama City, Florida, will continue.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Marianna Battlefield Tours set for September 27th

The Blue Springs Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution is offering a unique opportunity to experience a guided tour of the site of the Battle of Marianna on Saturday, September 27th.
The tours begin at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and the price for participating is $5.
100% of the money raised goes to the treasure of the organization, which works to help encourage interest in history by school students in Jackson County.
The tours will begin at the historic Russ house (the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce) on West Lafayette Street in Marianna and will last about 90 minutes each with less than one mile of walking. Participants will hear details about the battle that I learned while researching my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida.
If you would like to reserve a spot on either the 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. tour, please feel free to email me by going to and clicking the "Contact Us" button at the top of the page.
I hope to see many of you there!