Sunday, April 3, 2011

An Officer from the 7th Vermont meets his fate after the war in Jackson County

John Q. Dickinson
Today marks the 140th anniversary of the assassination of John Q. Dickinson on the streets of Marianna.

The appointed Clerk of Courts for Jackson County, he had been an officer in the Seventh Vermont Veteran Volunteers, the longest serving Civil War regiment from Vermont. Organized at Rutland in 1862, the Seventh had served in Louisiana and Florida for most of the war, taking part in the Battles of Baton Rouge and Fort Blakeley, as well as numerous other raids and encounters. In and around Pensacola, it engaged in numerous skirmishes and raids during the last two years of the war and one other officer, Captain Mahlon M. Young, was killed at the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864.

Many of the men and officers of the regiment served to support their philosophical and political beliefs, among them John Quincy Dickinson. After the war ended, he remained in the South as part of the military then political Reconstruction era implemented by the Republican leadership in Washington.

Dickinson was eventually appointed Clerk of Courts for Jackson County, a position that made him a blood enemy of many of the landowners and former Confederates in the county. The clerk was involved in the tax sales of lands seized from local residents who lost their fortunes in the war. This and Dickinson's efforts in favor of freed slaves led to numerous threats against his life.

Davis-West House in Marianna
Finally, at around 9 o'clock on the night of April 3, 1871, as he walked home after working late at the courthouse, he was shot down in the street by unknown assassins secreted behind a fence at the home of Dr. Theophilus West, a former surgeon in the Army of Northern Virginia. The home, now known as the Davis-West House, still stands at the intersection of Madison and Putnam Streets in Marianna. Dickinson's body was found in the street near the intersection, his hands crossed on his breast.

The following account of the assassination appeared in the April 13, 1871, issue of the St. Albans, Vermont, Daily Messenger:

The Ku-Klux Assassins.

A Vermonter murdered in Florida.

John Q. Dickinson, Esq., Clerk of Jackson county, Florida, was found dead in the street in Marianna, April 3d. An examination showed that he had been waylayed and shot in the evening, thirteen buckshot having entered his breast and a pistol ball passed through the heart. His pockets had been rifled and his body laid out in the street with his hands crossed upon his breast. Mr. D. was a native of Benson, Vermont, was educated at the Troy Conference Academy, at Poultney, and in 1861 was the Montpelier correspondent of the Rutland Herald. He served as Lieutenant and Quartermaster in the 7th Vermont, during the war, his regiment being stationed for some time at Barrancas. At the close of the war, he settled near Pensacola and entered into the lumber business with the firm of Thompson, Peck, & Dickinson. In 1868 he was appointed Assistant Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and sent to Marianna, and after the discontinuance of the Bureau, he was appointed County Clerk for Jackson county.

Site of the Assassination
We are indebted to our friend G.W. Bogue, Esq., of Madison, Florida, for a copy of the Florida Union from which we also extract the following:

“Captain Dickinson was about thirty-five years of age and unmarried. He was an earnest an active republican and a leader of the party in Jackson county; a man of strict integrity and pleasant address, and one who enjoyed the confidence and respect of his friends, and yet, owing to his political principals and his connection with the republican party, he was bitterly hated by the Ku-Klux democracy of Jackson county, and his life was one of constant care and anxiety. He has received, from time to time, many anonymous threats and warnings, and though he still stuck to his post, he felt that his life was in constant peril. But a short time ago, in speaking of his position, he made the request that, in case he was assassinated, his body should be sent North.

It seems now that the threats of his enemies have been fulfilled, and one more victim to democratic hatred has gone to his final account.”

You can read more about the Dickinson murder on our sister site, www.jacksontimesonline.com/history.

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