Friday, June 5, 2009

Union Soldiers of Florida, Part Seven

Note: This posting is part of a series on Union soldiers from Florida. To read previous posts, please scroll down the page or check the Archives section.

In the wake of the fighting at Marianna, the men of the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry played an unusual role in helping to protect the citizens of the community and care for the wounded.

An account that appeared in the West Florida News, a local newspaper, shortly after the Battle of Marianna, for example, credited "deserters" who knew the people of the town with protecting many of the Confederate fallen from further injury. The paper also reported that orders were given to burn the town, but the command was withdrawn due to "intercession" by deserters from the community, clearly members of the 1st Florida U.S.

In addition, it appears that the men of the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry were instrumental in summoning additional medical help to the scene to assist in caring for the wounded men of the local home guard. Dr. Ethelred Philips, a local physician, wrote to a cousin in North Carolina about one week after the battle and described how he had been summoned by a man from the community but then with the Union forces. The surgeons of the 2nd Maine Cavalry were overwhelmed with their own wounded and many of the doctors of the town had fought in the battle and been either wounded or taken prisoner. Individual soldiers from the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry were familiar with the town, however, and knew where to find additional doctors.

There also must have undoubtedly been some involvement on the part of the Union soldiers from Florida in General Alexander Asboth's decision to parole a number of men and boys captured during the battle. While he initially took a large number of prisoners, more than one dozen were released on parole before the Federals left town. All of these were either known Unionists or men and boys associated with Union families. Clearly someone familiar with their views intervened in their favor and secured their releases, despite the fact that they had taken up arms with their pro-Confederate neighbors to defend their homes, community and families.

The Union column left Marianna at around 3 a.m. on the morning of September 28, 1864. Subsequent events indicate that it was led by a vanguard of men from the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry as it moved southwest away from town in the direction of the Washington County seat of Vernon. More on the "Battle" of Vernon in the next post.

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