Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!!


And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
      The Holy Bible (Luke, Chapter 2)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Aboard the U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson off St. Marks, Florida

St. Marks Lighthouse
In the month of January 1865, Northern newspapers reported much speculation that Confederate forces were preparing to open St. Marks in North Florida as a major port for blockade runners.

It is unclear from the available documentation how true the reports were. The U.S. Envoy in Havana, Cuba, had notified the Collector of the Port of New York that, "the secessionists in Havana are making efforts to stake out the harbor of St. Marks as a new port for blockade runners, so that they may enter with steamers in the night time." There is also evidence that some efforts to stake out the channel of the lower St. Marks River were underway in January and February of 1864.

The speculation surrounding St. Marks began after Union forces captured Fort Fisher at Wilmington, North Carolina. The capture of that massive earthwork led to the closure of the port of Wilmington, one of the last safe havens for blockade runners making their way into the Confederacy.
U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson

The entrance to the St. Marks River was blockaded in early 1865 by the U.S.S. Hendrick Hudson. Commanded by Charles H. Rockwell, the son of a Reformed Dutch Church pastor in Catskill, New York, the ship had once been the Confederate blockade runner Florida. Captured at St. Andrew Bay (today's Panama City) earlier in the war, the steamer was converted to a warship by the Union navy and assigned to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron.

I recently found a short letter written from aboard the Hudson by Rockwell to his father that I thought might be of interest. It was received in January of 1865:

  My ship, the Hendrick Hudson, is a very fine vessel of seven guns and one hundred and twenty officers and men, and, in case of emergency, can go as fast as most others. I have three vessels under my command, and shall be for some time very busy in conducting operations against the enemy in this vicinity. These consist of small expeditions, conducted with a view to surprise them, and accomplish the object desired. - C.H. Rockwell."

You can learn more about the historic fortifications of St. Marks at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/sanmarcos1 and the beautiful old St. Marks Lighthouse at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/stmarkslight.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"A Christmas in Two Egg, Florida" - Now Available

A Christmas in Two Egg, Florida, my latest book and first work of fiction, was released this week.

Set in Florida's favorite small town, Two Egg, it is the short story of a lonely man named Ben, the hard times of the Great Depression, a mysterious stranger seen lurking around Ben's farm and the lost gold from the Confederate Treasury. I started writing the story as the script for a church drama and it grew into a small book as well.

A book with a Christian theme, it is a pretty big departure from my previous efforts but was something I wanted to write to acknowledge God's role in my life. I also hoped to create a little Christmas story set in Florida that would be enjoyable for families to read.

The story is entirely from my imagination, although the locations, some of the characters and some of the elements used in the plot are real. Two Egg, of course, is a real place. Located just northeast of Marianna in the farm country of Jackson County, the community actually gained its unusual name during the Great Depression and I've included some versions of that story in the new book.

The gold from the Confederate Treasury remains missing to this day, although some bits and pieces have been found in various states, including Florida. A few coins that appear to match the missing gold were found in the 1970s near Two Egg.

The book is available in paperback for $9.95 and as a Kindle download for 99 cents through Amazon.com. Just click the link at the upper left of this posting to order or search for the title in the Kindle store. Signed copies will be available starting tomorrow afternoon at Chipola River Book & Tea on Lafayette Street in Marianna (across the street from the Battle of Marianna Monument).

You can learn more about the real history of Two Egg at www.twoeggfla.com.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dr. John Gorrie - Florida's Antebellum Ice Man

John Gorrie Museum State Park
On Gorrie Square in Apalachicola, a small state museum pays tribute to a man who may have been the most remarkable Floridian so far. His name was Dr. John Gorrie and he is remembered in the historic Florida city as "the Ice Man."

Dr. Gorrie came to Florida from South Carolina in around 1833, stopping first in Jackson County before moving on down to Apalachicola. He was a prominent figure in the city's early days, serving as mayor, director for a bank branch, postmaster and as one of the founders of Trinity Episcopal Church. His primary profession, however, was the practice of medicine and it was this work that led to his remarkable invention - a machine that made ice.

Replica of Gorrie's Machine
Gorrie battled throughout his career to save the lives of fever patients under his care. Coastal cities such as Apalachicola were ravaged by malaria and yellow fever during much of the 19th century. The doctor realized the condition of his patients improved when the weather cooled off and began to experiment with ways of duplicating this process artificially.

Eventually, he built a machine that stunned the residents of Apalachicola. Not only could it cool the air, it worked so well that it also made large amounts of ice. Gorrie was granted the first U.S. patent for a mechanical refrigeration process in 1851.

To learn more about the remarkable doctor and his remarkable machine, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/gorriemuseum.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Grave of Alvin Wentworth Chapman - Apalachicola, Florida

A stroll through Apalachicola's historic Chestnut Cemetery invariably brings you to the grave of Dr. Alvin Wentworth Chapman, one of the most noteworthy Floridians of the Civil War era.

Born in the North and educated at Amherst, Dr. Chapman moved to Florida in 1834 when he was 25 years old. He lived in Marianna and then Quincy before settling for good in Apalachicola in 1847. Always interested in nature and botany, he was a good friend of Hardy Bryan Croom, the man credited with discovering the extremely rare Florida Torreya tree. Following Croom's untimely death in a shipwreck, Dr. Chapman plunged fully into botanical studies himself and was credited with discovering scores of new varieties of plants in locations throughout the South.

His primary work, Flora of the Southern States, was published in 1860 even as war clouds gathered over the nation. The book would be published twice more in Dr. Chapman's lifetime and remains a favorite of lovers of trees and plants around the world.

A Unionist, Chapman decided to remain in Apalachicola throughout the war, even though his wife relocated to live with family in Marianna. To learn more of his remarkable story, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/chapmangrave.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cape St. George Lighthouse - St. George Island, Florida

It is very rare for a lost Civil War landmark to return, but that is exactly what has happened in the case of the historic Cape St. George Lighthouse.

Built in 1852 to replace two previous lighthouses that were destroyed by storms, the Cape St. George Light guided ships into the port of Apalachicola and along Florida's Gulf Coast. It is a little known fact that for a time Apalachicola was the third busiest port on the entire Gulf Coast. The cotton crop from the vast Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint River drainage area of Florida, Alabama and Georgia came downriver to the city for transport to the textile mills of Europe and New England.

When Florida left the Union in 1861, Southern troops moved quickly to remove darken the lantern and remove the lens from the lighthouse to prevent the Union navy from using the beacon in any effort to attack Apalachicola or force entry into the mouth of the Apalachicola River. The equipment was sent upriver to Eufaula, Alabama.

When Confederate troops evacuated Apalachicola in the spring of 1862, the Federal navy moved in, using the lighthouse from time to time as a lookout post.

The story of the Cape St. George Lighthouse had many ups and downs over the years and many thought it ended in a huge loss when it collapsed in October of 2005. Local preservationists, however, would not be defeated and in just three years the lighthouse rose again.

You can visit it today and the view from the top is absolutely stunning. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/stgeorgelight.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Expanded Edition of "The Battle of Natural Bridge" is now available

The new expanded edition of The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee is now available through Amazon.com.

The book is the most in depth account available of the Battle of Natural Bridge, fought on March 6, 1865, along the St. Marks River south of Tallahassee. The engagement prevented Federal troops from capturing Florida's capital city and inflicting widespread damage on the businesses, farms and infrastructure of North Florida and South Georgia.

The expanded edition includes two chapters not available in the original version, as well as much more detailed casualty lists that greatly expand the number of previously known casualties of the fighting. The two new chapters detail 19th century accounts of the battle and explore the strange tale of the mysterious "last casualty" of the Battle of Natural Bridge.

The book also cuts through many of the legends and suppositions about the Battle of Natural Bridge to clarify the truth of the engagement and the land and sea expedition that led to it. Reversing much modern "revisionist history" about the battle, the book relies heavily on primary sources to place the engagement in true perspective.

To order the new version through Amazon, simply click the ad at the top left of this posting. You can learn more about the battle by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Grave of an Officer of the C.S.S. Tennessee - Apalachicola, Florida

While walking through Chestnut Cemetery in Apalachicola this week, I was struck by the large number of graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers there. One in particular caught my attention.

It is the resting place of Lt. David Raney, an Apalachicola native who served as an officer aboard the famed Southern ironclad, C.S.S. Tennessee.

The Tennessee, of course, is remembered today because its officers and crew waged one of the most desperate fights in naval history. On August 5, 1864, Admiral David G. Farragut storming into Mobile Bay. Under a hail of fire from Forts Morgan and Gaines, after one of his ships struck a mine or "torpedo" and went down, the admiral shouted out the immortal command, "Damn the Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead!"

Waiting for him inside Mobile Bay was an admiral every bit as daring and courageous. Knowing that he was severely outnumbered and that it was a battle he likely could not win, Admiral Franklin Buchanan steamed the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee at the Union fleet. The battle that followed was fierce and bloody. At one point, the Tennessee could be seen surrounded by seven Union warships, fighting to the finish.

The Union navy won the Battle of Mobile Bay, but the courage of the Confederate officers and sailors aboard the Tennessee has echoed through the ages. Lt. David Raney was one of those men.

You can read more about the battle at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/mobilebay.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

J.J. Dickison's Cannon on display at Silver River Museum

One of the most unique artifacts of the War Between the States in Florida can be found on display at the outstanding Silver River Museum at Silver River State Park in Ocala.

A small howitzer said to have been used by Captain J.J. Dickison and his men is part of a display of Confederate and Union artifacts at the museum, which is a joint venture of the Marion County School District and the Florida Park Service. Dickison, of course, was known as the "Swamp Fox" of the Confederacy because of the highly successful raids he engineered using tactics much like those employed by General Francis Marion, the original "Swamp Fox" of the American Revolution.

A Florida cavalry officer, Dickison was a courageous defender of the home front who bedeviled Union troops in Florida with bold tactics and sudden surprises. His tactical ability was well-demonstrated at engagements such as the Battle of Number Four near Cedar key and actions at Gainesville and along the St. Johns River. He often spoke of his "small cannon" or howitzer and the efficiency with which it was served.

The well-preserved howitzer is just one of the myriad of artifacts on display at the Silver River Museum, which is one of the finest public museums in the state. Other exhibits include a gigantic mammoth skeleton, artifacts from Florida's colonial times, relics of the Second Seminole War and even Spanish cannon and pieces of silver. You can learn more about the museum at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/silverrivermuseum.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Public Input invited on livestock management at Paynes Prairie

I received the following from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and thought it might be of interest to those of you either living in the Gainesville area or with an interest in Paynes Prairie. If you aren't familiar with this really fascinating state park, you can learn more at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/paynesprairie.
 
 ALACHUA - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service will host a public meeting to address livestock management at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park on Tuesday, November 30. The meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. at the Doyle Connor Building in Gainesville.  Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the livestock at the park, including American bison, cracker horses and cracker cattle and provide feedback on a draft livestock management plan proposed for Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
 
A copy of the draft livestock management plan can be viewed at www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/events/ppp_livestock_plan.pdf
 
The public meeting will take place:
 
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
7:00 p.m.
Doyle Conner Building
1911 SW 34 Street
Gainesville, FL 32608
(352) 372-3505

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Florida Ghost Stories (and a monster tale) that you might enjoy

Since it is Halloween weekend, I thought you might enjoy reading a few Florida ghost stories and learning more about this unique part of the culture of the Sunshine State.

Florida, as you know, was permanently settled more than 445 years ago by the Spanish. People were living well here and even enjoying America's first public park decades before the first English settlers waded ashore at Jamestown, Virginia, and Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.

With nearly five centuries of recorded history, it is not surprising that Florida may well boast as many or more ghost stories and legends than any other state. Here are some of my favorites, along with the unique story of Two-Toed Tom, the demon-possessed alligator monster of Northwest Florida and Southwest Alabama.
You can read many other Southern ghost stories and legends at: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ghosts.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ghost Talk scheduled for Marianna on October 23rd


Ghost of Bellamy Bridge
If you are interested in combining some real history with a bit of a folklore chill, while helping disabled veterans in the process, I will be the guest speaker for an interactive telling of ghost stories in Marianna on Saturday evening, October 23rd.

The stories will include the true story of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge, a famed Jackson County ghost story; the tale of the lost soldier from the Battle of Marianna who is said to still haunt the scene of his death; the story of the ghost of Byrd Cemetery; the legend of the headless Creek chief who haunts the upper Apalachicola River; stories of ghosts and a strange bigfoot like creature from the Two Egg area and the fascinating legend of Two-Toed Tom, the notorious red-eyed, demon-possessed, 24-foot long alligator monster of Northwest Florida and South Alabama.

The evening will feature a storytelling, a short walk or two and the chance to see a supposedly haunted place up close and personal.

To reserve space in advance, please email by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ContactUs.  The event will begin at 5 p.m. on October 23rd at the Marianna High School Parking Lot on Caverns Road in Marianna. The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for teens and $1 for children.  100% of the money will go to the Blue Springs Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution, which will use the funds to support Paws for Patriots, a program that provides guide dogs for blind veterans.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grave of James D. W. Baxter - A Florida Hero at rest in Georgia

Walking through the Confederate Section of Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia, not long ago, I was surprised to come across the grave of James D. W. Baxter (misspelled "Boxter" on his headstone).

A private from Company I, Fourth Florida Infantry, Baxter had been captured in one of the most heroic actions of Florida troops in the entire War Between the States. The Fourth Florida was among the regiments that crossed Stones River under Breckenridge on January 2, 1862, to attack the massed Union artillery on the hills west of the river in a desperate attempt to end the brutal stalemate of the Battle of Stones River or Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The unit had already taken a key grove of cedars in heavy fighting on the battle's opening day.

The effort failed, but the Fourth Florida was the last Confederate regiment to leave the field, fighting heroically to save a battery of Southern guns. By the time the smoke cleared, the regiment had lost 194 of its 458 members, a loss of nearly 40%.

Of this number, at least 49 soldiers - many of them wounded - were taken as prisoners of war. Among these was Private James D.W. Baxter of Company I. A resident of Jackson County before the war, Baxter had enlisted at Greenwood, Florida, on July 3, 1861. Captured in the fighting on January 2, 1863, he was to the brutal prisoner of war camp of Camp Douglas in Chicago, where he spent the rest of the bitterly cold winter.

Paroled later in 1863, Baxter returned to service but by the summer of 1864 had fallen severely ill. He died in a Confederate hospital at Macon, Georgia, on September 3, 1864, and was buried in Grave #3, Row #2 of the Confederate Section at Rose Hill Cemetery in downtown Macon, a long way from his Jackson County home. James D.W. Baxter, a hero of Florida, was 32 years old.

You can learn more about his beautiful hometown, the antebellum community of Greenwood by clicking here: www.exploresouthernhistory.com/greenwood.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"We Yield but in Death" - The Grave of Col. W.S. Dilworth, 3rd Florida Infantry

While walking through the Old City Cemetery in Monticello, Florida, yesterday I happened across the grave of Colonel W.S. Dilworth, the commander of the Third Florida Infantry.

The Third Florida has always fascinated me, as has Col. Dilworth. Elected to command the officer in 1861, he served in that role throughout the entire War Between the States, a remarkable accomplishment when it is remembered that so many regimental commanders were shot down in fierce fighting.

The regiment was formed of companies from across North Florida in 1861 and served in the state at Fernandina, Cedar Key and elsewhere before assembling in full in Gadsden County in 1862 for redeployment to the Army of Tennessee. While waiting to head north, the regiment was presented a battle flag emblazoned with the motto "We Yield but in Death" by the ladies of Jefferson County.

The Third Florida became part of Brown's Brigade of Patton Anderson's Divison in the Army of Tennessee and fought at Perryville, Stones River (Murfreesborough), Jackson, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge (Chattanooga), the Atlanta Campaign, Franklin, Nashville and the Carolina Campaign before being surrendered at Durham Station, North Carolina, on April 26, 1865. By that time the Third had lost so many men that it had been consolidated with the First Florida Infantry, both serving together under Dilworth's command.

The survivors came home after the war, Dilworth among them, and tried to rebuild their lives. But on every battlefield that it fought, the Third Florida Infantry left heroes behind.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Treating the Wounded after Olustee (Ocean Pond)

I know this is a bit of a long shot, but if anyone can help I would greatly appreciate it. I'm looking for eyewitness accounts (letters, diaries or memories written down later) that describe efforts to treat the wounded in the days and weeks after the Battle of Olustee or Ocean Pond in 1864.

There were so many soldiers, both Confederate and Union, wounded in the battle that the Southern medical services on the battlefield and in Lake City were quickly overwhelmed. Many of the wounded were quickly carried on by train to Tallahassee, while others were treated at homes and in communities across North Florida and South Georgia.

I would like, if possible, to find any accounts or descriptions written either by soldiers or by citizens who helped provide care for the wounded in the month or two after the battle. If you are aware of anything along this lines, please drop me a note by emailing me at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ContactUs.

If you are interested in learning more about the Battle of Olustee, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Old Parramore" - New Book from Dale Cox

I'm pleased to announce that my latest book, Old Parramore: The History of a Florida Ghost Town, is now available.

Parramore was a riverboat port that thrived along the little known Florida section of the Chattahoochee River from around 1885 to 1927. It owed its existence to the beautiful paddlewheel steamboats that once plied the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers and was a major port for cotton, naval stores, catfish and even gopher tortoises.

Although the town did not grow until after the War Between the States, its history hundreds of years earlier with major Native American settlements of the Kolimoki chiefdom. By the time of the American Revolution, it was the home of William Perryman, a Creek chief who led his warriors into battle in Florida and Georgia on the side of the British. The area played a role in the Florida intrigues of the infamous pirate and adventurer William Augustus Bowles and by 1861 was the scene of riverboat landings and large cotton farms, including one owned by Florida Governor John Milton. A battle was fought near the community between Confederate troops and an organized force of pro-Union "raiders."

During the turbulent Reconstruction era, the Parramore area played a role in the assassination of raider leader Joseph B. Sanders, a former Union officer who terrorized area citizens in the years after the collapse of the Confederacy. It was in this era that the town itself began to grow. Parramore thrived until railroads and modern highways brought about the end of riverboat travel in 1927. Since then it has faded away to become one of Florida's least known but most intriguing ghost towns.

The book explores the history of Old Parramore from its earliest days to the modern area and also features some insights to local culture, a ghost story or two and even details on a legendary monster that some say stalked the woods of the old community.

The book is available from Amazon.com by following the link at the top left of this article.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Origins of Marianna Day

For many years, Marianna Day was observed in cities across Florida to remember the brave defense waged by the outnumbered men and boys at the Battle of Marianna and the lives lost in that engagement.

A total of eighteen men and boys, ten Confederate and eight Union, died in the fighting, most of them on the grounds around St. Luke's Episcopal Church. Four were reported to have been badly burned when the church was set afire by Union troops to drive out Confederates who were firing on them from the steeple. 

The Battle of Marianna had a dramatic effect on the people of Jackson County. In addition to the men killed and the more than 30 others wounded, another 44 local men and boys were carried away to Northern prisoner of war camps, brutal places from which many would not return. The city itself was severely looted and its civilian inhabitants terrorized. Not only were horses, mules, wagons and foodstuffs taken, but residents also saw Federal troops taking valuables, clothes, furniture, books and more. The raid inflicted lasting trauma on the entire community.

Over time, a movement began to remember the fate that had befallen Marianna and its people on September 27, 1864. Originally headed by local women, some of whom had helped care for the wounded or lost husbands and fathers in the battle, the commemoration began to spread across Florida. By the early 20th century, Marianna Day was somberly observed with special ceremonies and events across the state.

Dan Weinfeld, who is doing outstanding work in researching the violent Reconstruction era in Jackson County, has assembled a nice collection of historical accounts of Marianna Day from across Florida. You can read them at http://www.thejacksoncountywar.com/2010/09/celebration-of-marianna-day-in-20th.html

The practice has faded across the state now, but continues and is expanding in Marianna. This year's event, held this past weekend, featured battle reenactments and other events.

You can read more about the Battle of Marianna at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27, 1864 - The Battle of Marianna, Florida

The Northwest Florida raid reached its climactic moment at high noon on September 27, 1864.

The Battle of Marianna developed when the Federals launched a two-pronged attack on the Jackson County city, striking the Confederate defenders there from both the front and flank in a standard tactic of the time. The Southern cavalry tried to fight mounted, but were driven through the streets of Marianna to the Chipola River where they made a stand long enough to allow for the removal of the planks from the wooden bridge. At the same time, the Marianna Home Guard and a number of other local volunteers were cornered on the grounds of St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

The fight there was extremely fierce, with hundreds of men battling in an enclosed yard that encompassed little more than an acre. By the time the smoke cleared, 10 of the Confederates were dead or dying, as were 8 of the Federals. More than 30 other men had been wounded.

The town was thoroughly ransacked that night. Union soldiers took away or destroyed food, clothing, fodder, livestock and valuables. Two homes, St. Luke's church and the town blacksmith shop were burned to the ground in the closing moments of the battle and some of the Union accounts seem to indicate that other structures, possibly barns, were fired as well.

The devastation inflicted on the town and the fierce resistance of the outnumbered Confederate soldiers there were memorialized in Florida for many years at annual "Marianna Day" observances. These took place in cities from Pensacola to Miami and Key West. I'll look closer at that in the next post. You can learn more about the battle at www.battleofmarianna.com.

September 24-26, 1864 - The Prospect of a Winter of Hunger

As the Union troops continued their way through Northwest Florida on September 24-26, 1864, they inflicted severe damage on the communities, farms and homes they encountered. Doing such damage had become a key objective of all Federal raids by this point in the war and Asboth's expedition to Marianna was no exception.

The total extent of damage done is not known. Eyewitness accounts reported that livestock was confiscated, forage taken or destroyed and barns burned. Two women were sexually assaulted in Walton County before the troops left there on the 24th, turning north along the Geneva Road into Holmes County. Passing Ponce de Leon Springs, now a beautiful state park, they "broke up" the inn that operated by the spring and moved on up to the community of Cerrogordo, then the county seat of Holmes County.

The Federals crossed the Choctawhatchee with no resistance, successfully clearing the only major natural barrier that barred them from their ultimate destination of Marianna. With the river running high and only a single ferry flat to use in crossing, Confederate troops probably could have ended the raid then and there had they been aware that the crossing effort was underway. They did not know, however, and by the evening of September 26, 1864, Asboth was at Campbellton in Jackson County, ready to move on Marianna the next morning.

A comparison of data from the 1860 and 1870 census reports indicates that the people of Walton, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties suffered the greatest economic losses in Florida during the decade of the War Between the States. A good idea of what happened has been handed down in the tradition of the Watford family.

Nelson Watford was a farmer who lived in the Galilee Community, just south of the modern Jackson County city of Graceville. Mr. Watford was away in the war, but his wife and their numerous children were home. Union troops arrived at the farm and quickly cleaned it out. Except for some livestock that the slaves had hidden in a nearby swamp, the Federals took all of the horses, mules and cattle on the place. The chickens were shot. The forage was taken. Even the molasses barrel was dug from the ground and poured out. By the time the soldiers left, the farm had been devastated.

As the raid was made in late September with the growing season over and the first frost approaching, the families along its route faced the prospect of starvation during the coming winter. While the accounts of the Union soldiers indicate they viewed this part of the raid as something of a picnic or lark, the families they looted - both white and black, slave and free - faced a winter of hunger and sickness.

I'll discuss the Battle of Marianna itself in the next couple of posts. You can always learn more about the Marianna raid at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23, 1864 - New Account of the Skirmish at Eucheeanna

Northwest Florida in 1864
As General Alexander Asboth and his command of 700 Federal troops pushed deeper into Northwest Florida on their way to Marianna, they reached the town of Eucheeanna in Walton County at dawn on September 23, 1864.

Then the county seat of Walton County (Defuniak Springs had not yet been established), Eucheeanna was a small community made up of a courthouse, jail, several stores and a scattering of houses and plantations. It was also the setting for a conscription (draft) camp then occupied by detachments from Company I, 15th Confederate Cavalry, and Captain Robert Chisolm's Cavalry Company of the Alabama State Militia (then based at Marianna).

Few details have survived of the skirmish that took place at Eucheeanna on the morning of the 23rd when Asboth's troops attacked the village. A new eyewitness account, recently discovered in the November 1864 edition of The Northern Journal and Maine Military Record, adds much to what is known of the encounter:

After marching 100 miles through a barren region, they came to the town of Euchelia, county-seat of Holmes county. At this place there was stationed a detachment of Chisam’s famous rebel cavalry. A charge was ordered. Lieut-Col. Spurling led the charge with the 2d Maine cavalry yelling like demons, frightening the inhabitants and taking the camp by surprise on the morning of the 23d. A lieutenant and some 25 men were taken prisoners, with arms and equipments, camp equipage, horses, mules, and stores.

The rest of the Confederates at Eucheeanna were able to mount their horses and get away, fleeing north on the road to Geneva, Alabama. One member of the Second Maine Cavalry wrote that the Southern troopers were able to escape because their horses were fresh, while those of the Northern unit were jaded from having been ridden all night without grain or forage.

The fighting over, the Union troops spread out through the community, taking what they wanted and doing as much damage as possible to the local farms and plantations. One member of the Second Maine described it as something of a picnic:

...we got our horses some corn and dug some sweet potatoes and shot some pigs, cows, ducks, geese, hens and anything that we wanted and as many sweet potatoes as we wanted and that was some considerable many. I tell you we got all we wanted to eat while we stayed there and when we went away we took all we wanted with us and had a good time. Stayed their 2 days. 

For the local citizens, however, it was no picnic. Many families were left without a piece of bacon or kernel of corn to feed themselves through the coming winter. More on that in the next post.

You can learn more about the Marianna raid at www.battleofmarianna.com.