Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21, 1864 - The Hungarian Connection

Colonel L.L. Zulavsky, 82nd U.S.C.T.
At 6 a.m. on the morning of September 21, 1864, General Alexander Asboth and his force of 700 men turned inland along the Ridge Road to begin the main phase of their raid on Marianna.

Over the next week they would inflict severe damage across a large area of Walton, Homes, Jackson and Washington Counties. On this day, however, they just road for mile after mile through giant old growth pines. Rain continued to fall.

The raid's connection to a war fought more than fifteen years earlier is quite remarkable. The commanding officer, Brigadier General Asboth, for example, had served as a colonel in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. A close confidante of the famed Hungarian governor Kossuth, Asboth was a trained engineer who left the Austrian army and took up arms with his fellow Hungarians as Kossuth led an effort to establish an American-styled democratic republic in Hungary.

For a time it seemed that they might succeed, but the Tsar of Russia intervened on the side of the Austrians and the revolution was crushed. Kossuth fled the country, with Asboth as the only other occupant of his carriage. Other leaders, however, were captured and executed. Still others, including the Zulavsky brothers, managed to escape.

Although it is virtually forgotten in the United States today, American citizens of that era followed the Hungarian war with great interest. They were anxious to see if the seeds of American freedom could take root and grow in Hungary. When the revolution failed, the President (with the approval of Congress) sent the warship U.S.S. Mississippi to Turkey to rescue Kossuth and other Hungarian leaders, Asboth among them.

They were brought to New York and Kossuth's subsequent tour of the country drew massive crowds in both South and North. Although the governor himself returned to Europe, many others stayed behind. And many of these ultimately took up arms in the cause of the Union. Although they are often described as "mercenaries," they were not. Asboth, for example, was a naturalized citizen by the time of the War Between the States.

As the long column of mounted men wound its way along the Ridge Road through the Florida pines on September 21, 1864, many of the officers undoubtedly thought back to similar rides during the Hungarian Revolution. In addition to the general himself, there was Colonel L.L. Zulavsky of the 82nd U.S. Colored Troops (a nephew of Kossuth and Asboth's second-in-command), and Major Albert Ruttkay and numerous other officers scattered through the ranks of the First Florida U.S. Cavalry. The number who had assembled under Asboth's command at Pensacola is remarkable, but by and large they seem to have been dedicated soldiers who fought diligently for the Union cause.

To learn more about the Marianna raid, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.

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