Friday, May 22, 2009

57th Annual Florida Folk Festival is this Weekend

This weekend offers a great opportunity to learn more about pioneer life in Florida as it was lived at the time of Civil War.

The 57th Annual Florida Folk Festival takes place this weekend at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs. Located just off I-75, just north of the I-10 interchange, the park hosts the outstanding event each year.

Considered one of the finest festivals of its kind in the country, this year's version of the Florida Folk Festival features more than 200 Florida folk artists, classic Florida cooking (yes, including cornbread and collard greens and shrimp gumbo), pine needle basket making and a variety of other demonstrations as well as venders of traditional crafts. Many of the traditional activities on display this weekend date back to before the Civil War and give visitors a great chance to learn more about life in early Florida. Plus the music and food are just outstanding!

Admission is $25 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6 to 16. Children under 6 are admitted free.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Union Soldiers of Florida, Part Six

This is part of a continuing series on the part played by Union soldiers from Florida during the Civil War. To read the previous posts, please scroll down the page or check the archives section.

As the Union troops under Brigadier General Alexander Asboth approached Marianna on the morning of September 27, 1864, the 2nd Maine Cavalry was in the lead but the men of the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry were close enough to the action to see and know what was happening.

The 2nd Maine broke through a Confederate line of battle about three miles northwest of Marianna at around midmorning and from there the Union troops engaged the retreating cavalry in a running skirmish back to the edge of Marianna. In a brief pause at the edge of town, the Union forces divided. Some of the troops, apparently almost all from the 1st Florida U.S., undertook a flanking move along a logging road that passed around the northern edge of town. The others, also including at least a company of men from the 1st Florida U.S. headed straight up the main road.

The initial attack on the town by Cutler's Battalion of the 2nd Maine Cavalry was driven back in confusion after running into stiff resistance by Colonel Alexander Montgomery and a couple of companies of Confederate cavalry. General Asboth spurred to the front and led a second charge of the main road, this one by Hutchinson's Battalion of the Second Maine, a company of the 1st Florida U.S. right behind.

The charging Federals ran into a line of wagons and other debris placed across the main road to slow a cavalry charge and as they were making their way around, through and over it, several companies of local home guards suddenly opened on them with a fierce volley of fire from shotguns, old muskets and any other weapon they could get their hands on. More than 30 men at the head of the column, including General Asboth, fell dead or wounded.

According to Wade Richardson of the 1st Florida U.S., the home guards made an attempt to capture the wounded general, but were driven back by some of his comrades with their sabers.

The flanking party, meanwhile, entered town from the north and took up positions at the Courthouse Square, blocking the main road as Montgomery and his retreating Confederate cavalry came thundering up the street in an effort to reach the Chipola River and make a second stand at the bridge there.

The two mounted forces engaged in hand to hand fighting around the courthouse. Montgomery was unhorsed and other men wounded or captured. At least one of the Federals was unhorsed and his saber taken away from him by a couple of men from Captain Alexander Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry, a local militia unit.

After the battle, local residents noted that Union soldiers from the community, obviously members of the 1st Florida U.S., intervened on their behalf several times and helped to protect buildings and property from looting. They also summoned doctors to assist some of the fallen Confederates. The regiment sustained only 1 man wounded at the Battle of Marianna.

To learn more about the battle, please visit

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Union Soldiers of Florida, Part Five

The 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry continued to train at Barrancas near Pensacola through the summer of 1864.

According to the account later written by Private Wade Richardson, the unit did not yet have horses, so the men drilled as infantry using borrowed weapons. The summer was extremely hot and both men and horses experienced high levels of sickness.

During late summer the men received sabers, but no carbines or other firearms. They speculated this was because the Union officers were wary of them because of their Southern backgrounds. Many felt they were distrusted by the officers of both sides.

The 1st Florida was reinforced in August by the arrival of the 2nd Maine Cavalry from Louisiana. General Alexander Asboth, commanding at Pensacola Bay, immediately began to move his men into action. Several small raids took place in the Pensacola vicinity during late summer. One, against a company of Confederate cavalry camped at Milton, Florida, resulted in the capture of 3 black Confederate soldiers.

The first real action for the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry, however, was the raid against Marianna in September of 1864. Since the men were familiar with the backroads and trails of Northwest Florida and South Alabama, Asboth included a full battalion of the regiment in his column. Surprisingly, the men were not provided firearms but rode out armed with sabers only.

Asboth left Pensacola Bay on September 18, 1864, and advanced through Northwest Florida. There was a skirmish at Eucheeanna Courthouse in Walton County on September 23rd and another near Campbellton in Jackson County on September 26th. Although men from the 1st Florida served as guides throughout the raid, none were injured in these skirmishes.

When Asboth struck Marianna on September 27, 1864, the 1st Florida played a critical role in the battle there. I'll take a closer look at the role of these "disaffected Southerners" at the Battle of Marianna in the next post. You can also learn more about the battle by visiting