Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 13, 1864 - Organizing a Force for the West Florida Raid

View of Santa Rosa Sound
Having notified the headquarters of the Department of the Gulf on the previous day of his plans to strike Marianna (see Asboth's West Florida Raid takes shape), Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth spent the 13th of September (1864) organizing a force to carry out his planned raid.
He ultimately decided on a mixed force of cavalry and mounted infantry. It would include three battalions from the 2nd Maine Cavalry, one battalion from the 1st Florida Cavalry U.S. and two detachments of picked men from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops. The total strength of the command would be 700 men and all would be mounted. Heavy firepower would be provided if necessary by the two 12-pounder howitzers manned by men from Company M, 2nd Maine Cavalry.

Four Mile Landing
To provide support, a floating hospital and a mobile supply depot, the general also arranged for the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis to accompany the raid. A former Confederate blockade runner from New Orleans, the Lizzie Davis had been captured in the Gulf of Mexico by the Union navy, which had in turned loaded it to the army for use at Pensacola. The vessel would follow the mounted troops up Santa Rosa Sound to Choctawhatchee Bay. From there it would move first to Four Mile Landing at Freeport and then eventually over to Point Washington on the east side of the bay, both points from which it could effectively support the land movement. The ship would be protected by field guns and additonal troops.

Discussing his planned movement with men from the 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.), Asboth decided to expand the scope of his operations. Scouting parties had just come in from Walton County and from them he learned that two small detachments of Confederate cavalry were camped at Eucheeanna enforcing the conscription (i.e. the draft). They also told him that the fall harvest was underway and that it was the ideal time to strike farms in that area.

Old Jackson or Federal Road
As a result, the general altered his original plan and decided to advance to Choctawhatchee Bay via the old Jackson or Federal road along the inland shore of Santa Rosa Sound instead of down the length of Santa Rosa Island. Then, instead of swimming his horses across East Pass near present-day Destin and Fort Walton Beach, he would turn inland and strike at the farms and cattle ranches around Eucheeanna and along the Shoal River in what are now Walton and eastern Okaloosa Counties.

In the process, Asboth hoped to capture the Confederate cavalry camped at Eucheeanna to prevent Southern scouts from carrying word to Marianna of his advance.

Meanwhile, as the general continued his planning and organizational work, U.S. Navy ships in the lower Gulf of Mexico encountered a strong tropical system. It does not seem to have been a hurricane, but was a wide tropical storm. Over the coming days, it would play a major role in how the raid turned out.

I will continue to post on the West Florida Raid throughout this month. If you would like to learn more or follow along, I encourage you to consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. You can order it by clicking the ad at left. It is also available as an instant download for Amazon Kindle users by clicking here: The Battle of Marianna, Florida. The book is also available for instant download at iBooks.

You can always read more about the raid by visiting www.battleofmarianna.com.

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