Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Anniversary of the Skirmish at Eucheeanna


Today marks the 145th anniversary of the skirmish at Eucheeanna, Florida.
An important preliminary to the Battle of Marianna, which would take place four days later, the encounter developed on the morning of September 23, 1864, when Union forces led by Brigader General Alexander Asboth turned south from the site of today's Defuniak Springs and struck a Confederate camp at Eucheeanna.

The community was then the county seat of Walton County and, despite its small size, was one of the most important communities in the interior of the Florida panhandle that was still under Southern control. An important road junction, Eucheeanna was the site of the county's courthouse and jail, a few businesses and a scattering of homes.

The community took its name from the Yuchi or Euchee Indians who were found living in Walton County when the first settlers arrived there. Many of the local residents were of proud Scott heritage and they were among the first Floridians to turn out in large numbers as volunteers for the Confederate forces. In later times, Walton County became the first county in Florida to erect a monument in honor of its Southern heroes.

On the morning of September 23, 1864, the community was the site of a small Confederate camp. Detachments from Company I, 15th Confederate Cavalry, and Captain Robert Chisolm's mounted company from the Alabama State Militia (the "Woodville Scouts") were camped at Eucheeanna to enforce the conscription or military draft. Several Northwest Florida ranchers, including William Cawthon and Allen Hart, had come in to negotiate the sale of beef with Confederate commissary agents.

Because heavy rain from a tropical system had been falling across the area, the Confederates at Eucheeanna and elsewhere in the region were in their camps trying to stay dry instead of watching for any movement by Federal forces. As a result, General Asboth was able to leave Pensacola Bay on September 18th and lead a mounted force of 700 men into the interior without detection.

At sunrise on the morning of the 23rd, he ordered Lieutenant Colonel Andrew B. Spurling (shown above) to lead the 2nd Maine Cavalry forward against the small Southern force at Eucheeanna. Spurling took the Confederate camps with a sudden mounted charge. The attack, in fact, came so quickly that the Confederates were able to do little to resist it. A few shots were fired in the skirmish, but so far as is known there were no injuries on either side.

Spurling did succeed in taking a handful of prisoners of war, including Lieutenant Francis Gordon of the 15th Confederate Cavalry. At least 11 others, however, escaped by fleeing north on the road to Geneva, Alabama.

Establishing his field headquarters at the home of a local merchant and sent foraging squads out into the surrounding area to confiscate livestock and supplies and to destroy what could not be carried away. Most of the local men, regardless of age or Unionist sympathies, were brought into the village and temporarily confined in its little log jail. At least sixteen African American men freed from slavery on local farms volunteered to join the Union army and were sent down, along with the Confederate prisoners, to the Quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis which was then at Four Mile Landing on Choctawhatchee Bay supporting the raid.

The Federal force remained in Eucheeanna for the entire day of the 23rd and camped there that night. The devestation they caused resulted in Walton County experiencing one of the greatest economic losses between 1860 and 1870 of any county in Florida. This despite the fact that the county's delegates had opposed secession and many of its residents were well-known Unionists when the war erupted. September 23rd changed many attitudes in Eucheeanna and the surrounding area.

To learn more about the skirmish at Eucheeanna and the Battle of Marianna, please consider my book: The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is now available at http://www.amazon.com/. You can also read more online at http://www.battleofmarianna.com/

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