Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Raid on Marianna began 148 years ago today

Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth
 On September 18, 1864, 148 years ago today, Brigadier General Alexander Asboth crossed Pensacola Bay on the Quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis to begin what would become the deepest penetration of Confederate Florida by Federal troops during the entire War Between the States.

Most of the general's troops had already crossed the bay from Fort Barrancas to Navy Cove at what is now Gulf Breeze. Other companies would continue to cross throughout the day. The 700 man force was made up of three battalions from the Second Maine Cavalry, one battalion from the First Florida Cavalry (U.S.) and two companies of picked men from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT). One officer, Captain Mahlon M. Young, from the Seventh Vermont Veteran Volunteers also took part as a member of Asboth's staff. All were mounted.

In addition to the soldiers making up the Union strike force, a company of New York troops manned field artillery that had been placed aboard the Lizzie Davis for the protection of that vessel. These men would not take part in the inland movement.

Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound
On the same day of his crossing, General Asboth moved east up the old Federal road to the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound, a point known today as Fort Walton Beach. He indicated that his men were exposed to constant rain and individual soldiers noted in letters and their diaries that they advanced through heavy rainfall and mud that sometimes came up to the skirts of their saddles. Portions of the old road they followed can still be seen today in the Naval Live Oaks Reserve area of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Fort Walton Temple Mound

The Federal encampment at the Narrows was where downtown Fort Walton Beach stands today. This was the site where the Confederates built Camp Walton in 1862. They had evacuated the position in 1862, but it stood around the well-known Fort Walton Temple Mound which can still be seen today. Centuries old, the platform mound was built during the Mississippian era (A.D. 900 - 1500) and was the center of a large chiefdom from which the Fort Walton culture of North Florida, South Alabama and Southwest Georgia derives its name.

War-time Sketch of Asboth & His Dog
Asboth remained at Camp Walton until the morning of September 20th before turning inland around the north side of Choctawhatchee Bay. While his primary objectives were to take Marianna, capture the Confederate cavalry and mounted infantry headquartered there and enlist recruits for the Union army, his route would give him the opportunity to inflict shocking damage on civilian targets in Walton, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties.

I'll post more about the raid in coming days, focusing on some original accounts and details that you might not have read before.  Here are some links that provide information on some of the sites involved in the first day's movement.
If you are interested in reading about the raid in detail, please consider my book:  The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition (also available for Amazon Kindle and on iBooks).

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