Friday, August 14, 2009

Col.Spurling's Bizarre North Florida Raid - Part Two

Spurling and his little detachment of "undercover Yankees" arrived in Geneva on September 24, 1864.

The people of the South Alabama city had heard of the Union presence down the Choctawhatchee River in Walton County and were alarmed. The colonel used this natural fear to improve the effectiveness of his disguise by telling the people of the town that he had been sent to scout and observe the movements of Asboth's column. He stationed his men in ambush on the southern outskirts of town to keep up the ruse. It worked like a charm:

The ladies of Geneva were much pleased with Lieut. Clark (i.e. Spurling); his welfare and success were prime objects of solicitude with them, they evidently took kindly to him, and he was solicited by one of these fair beings to bring her some trophy off a dead yank, which he promised to do on his return. He made engagements for hunting with male friends, when he should be at liberty from the more congenial pleasure of hunting the Yankees.

Spurling and his men remained in Geneva until the morning of September 26th, apparently expecting Asboth to come that far north. When the main column failed to appear, they turned back south across the state line in an effort to catch up with their comrades.

Retracing their route to Cerrogordo in Holmes County, they learned that the Union troops had crossed the river there the previous day. Still in disguise, Spurling's men were warned of the size of Asboth's column. Local citizens told them that 1,000 Federal soldiers were just ahead of them.

Expressing their "fearlessness" of "any number of Yankees," the undercover Federals crossed the Choctawhatchee and continued in the path of the main body. At nightfall on the 26th, they reached the home of Bethel Mattox, a farmer who lived in eastern Holmes County. He told Spurling that the Union troops had taken all of his horses and weapons except for one favorite rifle that he had managed to hide. Sergeant Butler of Company D, 2nd Maine, suggested that the weapon had better be produced as it would be needed if the enemy reappeared during the night.

Believing his guests were Confederate soldiers, Mattox did so, swearing that it would "fetch a Yank at a hundred yards at every pop." Spurling and his men took the rifle with them when they left the next morning, but left Mattox unharmed and with his family.

This series of posts will continue. If you would like to read more about the main Marianna raid, be sure to visit

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