Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Raid at Ponce de Leon Springs - Sept. 24, 1864
On September 24, 1864 (145 years ago today), Union troops led by Brigadier General Alexander Asboth pushed north from the community of Eucheeanna in Walton County and passed Ponce de Leon Springs. The troops were three days away from their confrontation with Southern forces at the Battle of Marianna, Florida.
A Northwest Florida landmark in the southwest corner of Holmes County, the springs were already popular with visitors by the time of the War Between the States. The Brownell family operated a small log hotel there. Said to have been built in the "dogtrot" style then popular with an open central hallway that divided two rooms, the hotel was popular with travelers and those who came to "take the waters" of the springs in hopes that they might hold curative powers to fight various illnesses.
To the Federals heading north up the Geneva Road, however, the hotel was a military target. It was destroyed by the raiders, who also confiscated any livestock and food they could find in the area and destroyed what they could not carry away. The did not tarry long at Ponce de Leon Springs, but continued their movement up the west side of the Choctawhatchee River to Cerrogordo, then the county seat of Holmes County, where they would begin crossing the river on the morning of the 25th.
As they passed through, however, the Union troops experienced the first casualty of the raid. Private Joseph Williams, one of the 79 soldiers from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops participating in the expedition, was mortally wounded in an accidental shooting. This was what today would be called a "friendly fire" incident. According to the muster rolls of his regiment, he was left behind in the hands of a local family at Big Sandy Creek, which flows near Ponce de Leon Springs.
The springs today are the focal point of a beautiful Florida State Park located in the town of Ponce de Leon. They are easily accessible from both Interstate 10 and U.S. 90. Especially popular for swimming during the hot summer months, they are quite beautiful year round. Please click here to learn more about the springs and to learn more about the Marianna raid, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.