Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Villages Civil War Club tours Marianna Battlefield

Civil War Club members learn about the Battle of Marianna
The Villages Civil War Club made the trip up to Marianna today to learn more about the Battle of Marianna.

In addition to learning about the tactics of the battle and visiting key spots including Ely Corner, the ambush site and historic St. Luke's Episcopal Church, the group also had a rare opportunity to see the inside of Marianna's beautiful Ely-Criglar House.

Ely-Criglar House in Marianna
Built in 1840, the private home is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey. The brick exterior walls of the house are 12-inches thick and extend from the rafters of the roof down into the ground. These extraordinary steps were taken in constructing the house so it could be used as a blockhouse in case of Indian attack during the Second Seminole War. The original shutters were made of thick cypress planks and were pierced with loopholes through which defenders could fire.

Parlor of the Ely-Criglar House
The house was never attacked during the Seminole War and by 1864 the shutters had been replaced with new ones that were more decorative than defensive in style.

Contrary to its appearance, the Ely-Criglar House was not a "plantation house." It was a town home for the prosperous Ely family of Marianna.

On September 27,1864, the Battle of Marianna erupted literally right in front of the house when Federal troops attacked Confederate cavalry positioned in the main street of Marianna.

Bullet Hole in the wall of the Ely-Criglar House
Showers of bullets hit the front wall of the house and there is some speculation that it might be the most battle-scarred house still standing in Florida.

Members of The Villages Civil War Club were able to see not just the exterior of the house, but also get a peak of its interior. They learned about its history and architecture, including the fact that each side of the square columns on the front of the house is made from a single plank of old growth cypress.

The group also learned about the tactics of the Battle of Marianna and toured both the interior of historic St. Luke's Episcopal Church and the grounds, where heavy fighting took place during the battle. They were shown battle-scarred tombstones and a Bible that survived the burning of the church during the fighting.

The tours are available for free and if you are interested in learning more or scheduling one, you can contact me at

You can read more about the Battle of Marianna at or by ordering a copy of my book:  The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition ($17.95).  It is also available as an instant download for Kindle users:  The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Kindle $9.95).


Savez said...

Do you have any idea if the log of the CSS Spray still exists? I am very interested in the naval aspect of the Civil War and I've recently became very interested in this little vessle. Also can you point me to any other sources of the ship? Anything in the Florida State Archives maybe or a diary or letters from some of her sailors? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Still enjoying the blog. I just ordered your book on Natural Bridge. Can't wait to read it. Thanks,

Dale Cox said...

Hi Clint, To the best of my knowledge the log of the Spray does not still exist. Most of the sources I have seen on it consist of receipts and a roster of the ship's company. The boat was a civilian steamer before the war but was converted into a gunboat by the Confederate Navy. I will see what I can pull together on it for you and do a blog posting about it next week.

Another vessel that really interests me is the Confederate torpedo boat Viper. It was captured at the end of the war, but swamped and was lost while being towed from Apalachicola to Key West. The wreck is somewhere off Cedar Key.