Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 20, 1864: The Federals advance into the interior

Four Mile Landing
While troop movements had been underway both across Pensacola Bay and then down Santa Rosa Sound to what is now Fort Walton Beach for five days, it was on September 20, 1864, that the Federal column under General Alexander Asboth made its initial inland push.
Have spent two days supplying, feeding and resting his force, Asboth turned inland via the Ridge Road on the early morning of the 20th. The heavy rain of the last five days continued to fall as the soldiers moved on horseback into the vast longleaf pine forests that characterized the coastal plain. One member of the 2nd Maine Cavalry wrote in his diary that there was "not a house" to break the monotony.

Leaving the Camp Walton site at Fort Walton Beach, the soldiers appear to have moved in two columns. One followed the sandy pathways around that curved around the north side of Choctawhatchee Bay, while a second smaller force appears to have pushed north for the Shoal River in what is now eastern Okaloosa and western Walton Counties (then all part of Walton). The Shoal was the center of an area of large cattle ranches operated by the Cawthon, Hart and other families and the beef herds there were the target of this secondary movement.

The main body rode for Four Mile Landing (near present-day Freeport) on the north side of the bay. The Quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis had been ordered to that point to provide the force one last opportunity to receive supplies before it disappeared fully into the interior.

No known damage was inflicted by either force on the 20th of September as both spent the day passing through the towering pines that one Federal soldier remarked would make a lumberman rich if he only had the resources to harvest them. No Confederate troops were encountered and so far as is known, the main headquarters for the region at Pollard, Alabama, and the outposts at Milton in Santa Rosa County and Eucheeanna in Walton County remained oblivious to the movement.

Col. A.B. Montgomery (at left)
The movements around Choctawhatchee Bay were well removed from the subdistrict of Colonel A.B. Montgomery at Marianna, who was depending on the Confederates to the west to alert him of any danger approaching from that direction. Their failure to do so would prove catastrophic for Confederate forces east of the Choctawhatchee over the coming days.

I will post more on the 1864 West Florida Raid over coming days. To learn more or to follow along, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida (available at the upper right of this page). The book is also available as an instant download for your Amazon Kindle reading device or software as well as for Nook, Ipad and Iphone users at iBooks.

To see an overview of the raid, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com

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