Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21, 1864: Asboth continues moving inland

Longleaf Pines like those seen by Asboth's Troops
Rain continued to fall on September 21, 1864, as Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's columns continued their move into the interior of the Florida Panhandle.

They were now three days out from Pensacola Bay, but the Confederate forces assigned to Walton and Santa Rosa Counties (Okaloosa did not then exist) still had not detected their presence. Part of the reason for this was that the Federals were moving along a route they had not previously used. The other reason was the rain. The tropical system that had come up the Gulf days earlier still hovered over the Panhandle, drenching men and horses alike. The Confederates, it seems, were simply staying in their camps.

Moving through what one of his soldiers called "some of the darndest mud holes you ever saw," Asboth reached Four Mile Landing on the afternoon of September 21, 1864. The Lizzie Davis had made her way across the bay and was waiting there for him.

Four Mile Landing in around 1900
This landing was an important port for the farmers of Walton County, particularly those of the Euchee Valley area. Their crops and timber could be brought down by wagon and ox cart to what is now the town of Freeport at the confluence of Fourmile and Lafayette Creeks. Fourmile Creek (then usually spelled "Four Mile") was navigable from that point the short distance down into LaGrange Bayou and Choctawhatchee Bay. Steamboats and schooners made their way up to the docks at Four Mile Landing and from there carrying the commerce of much of Walton County to Pensacola and beyond.

Its use as a resupply point shows that Asboth was extremely well-informed on the topography of Northwest Florida and that his guides knew the region extremely well. Using Four Mile Landing allowed him to move his force without having to make use of a long train of supply wagons.

Additional provisions and other supplies were brought ashore from the Lizzie Davis and the men were also ordered to slaughter fresh beef and prepare two days worth of rations. The general clearly expected to reach an area where his men could live off the land in that time and the obvious target was the Euchee Valley.

Euchee Valley seen from Knox Hill
An area of rich farmland in eastern Walton County, it was then one of the county's most populated area. The county seat - Eucheeanna - was there, as were a handful of commercial establishments, churches, farms and homes. The famed Knox Hill Academy, a place of higher learning, overlooked the valley. The farms here were among the finest in the western Panhandle and with the harvest season in full force, Asboth knew that a wealth of foodstuffs and other supplies waited there for him.

I will continue to post on the 1864 West Florida Road throughout this month. You can read more and follow along in my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, which is available in both print and as a Kindle instant download at the upper right of this page. It is also available for users of Nook, Ipad and other devices at iBooks.

You can also access an overview of the raid by visiting www.battleofmarianna.com.

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