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

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