Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 22, 1864: The Advance into Walton County

Lake Defuniak in Walton County, Florida
Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's main column turned inland from Four Mile Landing (Freeport) on the morning of September 22nd, aiming for the populated areas of Walton County.

His smaller foraging column hit the cattle ranches along the Shoal River in what is now eastern Okaloosa and western Walton Counties that same morning. The area was then all part of Walton County, as Okaloosa was not created until 1915, but was sparcely populated. Its primary industry was cattle ranching and a number of large ranches then operated along the Shoal River and its tributaries, supplying beef to the Confederate armies.

Part of Asboth's plan was to raid these ranches to secure beef not only for his own movement, but to supply the forces at Pensacola. He accomplished this goal on the 22nd when part of his force moved through the ranches rounding up cattle. Several Southerh soldiers, among them William J. Cawthon and Lafayette Cawthon of the 15th Confederate Cavalry, were found at home on leave and were taken as prisoners of war. The Cawthon brothers were sons of William Cawthon (Sr.), one of the largest landowners in Northwest Florida and South Alabama.

Daniel Campbell of Walton County
There is no evidence of Confederate resistance during the day and by late afternoon Asboth's men reformed a single column and moved into the vicinity of what is now known as Lake Defuniak. A stunning natural body of water, the lake forms the heart of Defuniak Springs, a town that was not founded until after the Civil War.

Without Confederate opposition to battle, the Union soldiers helped themselves to fresh beef from the herds of the Campbell family, which grazed in the natural grasslands that then surrounded Lake Defuniak.

Asboth was now within a few miles of the county seat at Eucheeanna. The Confederates there, likely because of the heavy rain that continued to fall, had no idea that he was coming and consequently made no effort to prepare for attack. This would lead to disaster when the first gunfire of the raid was exchanged the next morning.

I will discussed the Skirmish at Eucheeanna in the next post as I continue a look at Asboth's 1864 West Florida Raid. If you would like to read more or follow along, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available by clicking the books section at the upper right of this page. The book can also be purchased as an instant download for Amazon Kindle and can also be found at iBooks.

To see an overview of the raid, please visit

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