Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 23-24, 1864: The Raid in Walton and Holmes Counties

Road through Euchee Valley
The brief fight on September 23rd (see The Skirmish at Eucheeanna) was just the beginning of the misery for the people of Walton and Holmes Counties.
No sooner had the smoke cleared that did the Union soldiers begin rounding up the men and boys of the Euchee Valley area. Most were too young or too old for regular military service and were in their homes when the Federals arrived in Eucheeanna. Not taking any chances that they might resist his command's foraging efforts, General Asboth had them placed in confinement at the community's jail. They were held there until he left Eucheeanna on the morning of the 24th.

Grave of Giles Bowers. Asboth commandeered his Home.
The general himself then set up his field headquarters at the home of Giles Bowers. Troops from the 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.) were sent to escort the prisoners, 16 liberate slaves and unserviceable horses down to Four Mile Landing and the Lizzie Davis. Another detachment was sent to destroy the boat at Douglas's Ferry, along with all of the other small craft in the vicinity.

Destroying Douglas's Ferry might seem like a strange decision, as it was the primary means of crossing the Choctawhatchee River on the main road from Eucheeanna to Marianna. Asboth, however, planned to approach the latter place from an unexpected direction and destroying the ferry not only concealed his intent, but also prevented its use by any Confederate force that might try to come in behind him.

A small detachment was sent out in Confederate uniforms under Lt. Col. Andrew Spurling of the 2nd Maine Cavalry in an attempt to capture the Southern cavalrymen that had escaped from Eucheeanna during the skirmish. Their tracks were found leading up the road to Geneva, Alabama, so Spurling and his men set off in that direction. Please click here to learn more about their activities.

The rest of the men set up camp in Eucheeanna and immediately began to move out in small squads to forage for food, seize wagons and livestock and liberate slaves. They undertook these activities with enthusiasm and the misery inflicted on the families - white and black - of Walton County was severe. Corncribs and smokehouses were cleaned out. Slaves were forced to hook up wagons and carriages and go along, although in many cases they did not wish to leave (a number escaped by hiding in the woods until the soldiers left). Homes were ransacked and at least two women were sexually assaulted.

Ponce de Leon Springs in Holmes County
The foraging and looting continued into the night of the 23rd and the soldiers camped in and around Eucheeanna until the morning of the 24th. Asboth then ordered the local civilians released from the jail and moved his column north up the road to Holmes County. The soldiers broke up the log inn at Ponce de Leon Spring and in that vicinity a soldier from the U.S. Colored Troops detachment was mortally wounded in an accidental shooting.

From Ponce de Leon the column continued north to Cerrogordo, then the county seat of Holmes County, which was reached on the afternoon of the 24th. I'll have more on events there in the next post.

To learn more about the West Florida Raid, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It can be purchased by clicking the Books section on the upper right of this page and is also available for Amazon Kindle and at iBooks.  To read an overview of the raid, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.

No comments: