Monday, September 26, 2011

September 25-26, 1864: The Raid in Holmes and Jackson Counties

Monument at site of Cerrogordo
The morning of September 25, 1864, found Brigadier General Alexander Asboth and his 700 Union soldiers camped in the little town of Cerrogordo on the Choctawhatchee River. Rain from a tropical system continued to fall, just as it had been doing for at least the previous ten days.
Located atop what was then called Hewett's (or Hewitt's) Bluff, Cerrogordo was a small village that consisted of a courthouse, jail, store, a few homes and around 25 inhabitants. The county seat of Holmes County, it was the location of a ferry and was surrounded by woods and occasional farms. The river was then navigable for small paddlewheel steamboats and in the years before the war, such vessels routinely stopped at the town to take on passengers or cargo. The blockade, of course, had ended this traffic for the duration of the war.

Site of Cerrogordo on the Choctawhatchee River
The ferry flat was put to use ferrying the men and horses across the rising Choctawhatchee. Fighting the rain and growing current of the river, the soldiers spent a long exhausting day just getting from one side of the river to the other. It would have been the ideal point for even a much smaller Confederate force to stop the Federals in their track, but no resistance took place. Captain Sam Grantham's Holmes County Home Guards did patrol the area, but they do not appear to have become aware of Asboth's presence until it was too late, as the unit was never called out.

Looking across the Choctawhatchee where Asboth Crossed
Having completed the crossing from Cerrogordo to the east bank by nightfall, the soldiers slept in the mud and rain before rising early on the morning of September 26th to continue their advance. The route of the raid now pushed across Holmes County along a road that then led from Cerrogordo to the Marianna ford on Holmes Creek (near today's Tri-County Airport) and into Jackson County. Homes along the way were raided as the soldiers continued to confiscate food, supplies, weapons and livestock.

As the Union column pushed through eastern Holmes County, word reached Captain A.R. Godwin of the Campbellton Cavalry, a Jackson County home guard unit, that something "was up" west of Holmes Creek. Calling his men out, he formed them at the Campbellton town square and rode southwest across the creek into Holmes County to see what was going on. According to one participant, they soon came up with the head of the Federal column and quickly realized that a major raid was underway.

Godwin skirmished with the vanguard of Asboth's oncoming column, his men approaching, shooting and then retreating on horseback in a futile effort to somehow delay the powerful raiding force. At least three men fighting with the Campbellton Cavalry were captured in these skirmishes, but there is no record of other casualties.

In my next post, later today, I will look at Asboth's arrival in Campbellton and the sounding of the alarm in Jackson County. You can read more or follow along in my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available by clicking the Books ad at the upper right of this page and can also be downloaded for both Amazon Kindle and any device using iBooks.

More information is also available at www.battleofmarianna.com.

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