Monday, September 30, 2013

Photos from Marianna Day 2013

The 149th anniversary of the Battle of Marianna was commemorated with Marianna Day events on Saturday, September 28th, in Marianna, Florida.

This year's events included memorial services, guided tours and an open house at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, scene of heavy fighting during the battle. To learn more about the battle itself, please visit

Here are some photos from this year's events:

St. Luke's Episcopal Church, scene of heavy fighting.

Visitors examine the Bible of St. Luke's, which was saved during the battle.

International officers from Fort Rucker, AL, prepare for lecture on the Battle of Marianna.

Visitors from around the world tour St. Luke's Episcopal Church

Civil Air Patrol posts the flags on the Battle of Marianna Monument

Members of the William Henry Milton Chapter, UDC, prepare for the memorial service.
Memorial Service underway in Downtown Marianna, FL

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Battle of Marianna Commemoration this weekend

St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Marianna, Florida
This weekend marks the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Marianna, Florida.

Union troops attacked the Northwest Florida city on September 27, 1864. The result was one of the most intense small battles of the War Between the States, an action that some have called "Florida's Alamo."

This Saturday, September 28th, events will be held in Marianna to commemorate Marianna Day, as the anniversary of the battle has long been known in Florida. Here are the planned events for Saturday:

  • 9 a.m. - The William Henry Milton Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, will host its annual Memorial Service at Confederate Park in Downtown Marianna (intersection of Lafayette and Caledonia Streets, look for the monument!).
  • 10 a.m.-12 noon - The Blue Springs Society, Children of the American Revolution, will host an open house at St. Luke's Episcopal Church with help from the youth of the church. St. Luke's was the scene of severe fighting during the battle and tombstones on the grounds bear bullet scars. The church was burned in the battle, but was similar in appearance to today's sanctuary.
All times are Central and the public is encouraged to come and participate!

To learn more about the battle, please consider my book The Battle of Marianna, Florida. You can order it on the right side of this page or from or your favorite online bookseller. Also please visit my website on the the battle at

Friday, September 6, 2013

Marker for Gov. Milton's "Sylvania" is restored and back up!

Marker for Sylvania Plantation, home of Gov. John Milton
The state historical marker for Sylvania Plantation, home of Florida's Confederate governor, has been restored and once again marks the plantation site near Marianna.

John Milton was unique among many Southern governors of the War Between the States era because he was elected prior to Florida secession from the Union, but did not take office until the fall of 1861. Consequently, he was the legal governor of Florida from both points of view - Southern and Northern.

He lived on Sylvania Plantation, a massive farm located in the rich agricultural district just east of Marianna in Jackson County. At their height, Sylvania and the governor's second farm near Parramore on the Chattahoochee River included nearly 10,000 acres. He grew cotton for profit as well as subsistence crops to feed his family, employees and the enslaved Africans who worked on the farms.

Gov. John Milton of Florida
It was at Sylvania that Governor Milton died from a gunshot wound on April 1, 1865. Writers have long claimed that he died from suicide, but family tradition holds that the fatal incident was an accident. According to the story handed down by the governor's son, Major William H. Milton, the governor had come home from Tallahassee and was depressed over the collapsing fate of the Confederacy. Because his father enjoyed bird hunting, the major suggested that they go out in the fields and shoot. The governor agreed and went to his bedroom to retrieve his shotgun but the family suddenly heard the sound of a shattering blast.

Major Milton's story, as preserved by his descendants, was that the gun had been loaded at the time of the nearby Battle of Marianna, but that everyone had forgotten this. When the governor set the stock on the floor, the bump caused the hammer to press against the percussion cap which went off causing the shotgun to fire. The blast struck the governor and killed him.

Such accidents were not uncommon with percussion cap weapons and the family story has a ring of truth to it.

Sylvania Marker at Blue Springs park entrance
The house at Sylvania was not a classic Southern mansion, but instead was a large Creole-type cottage with wide verandas, floor to ceiling windows and a wide central hallway. It burned during the Reconstruction era, apparently due to a lightning strike, and no trace of it remains to be seen today.

The historical marker was severely damaged by an unknown person or persons on the night Barack Obama was elected President. County officials took custody of it and, with assistance from state historic preservation officials, had it restored.

Once again beautiful and new in appearance, it stands just inside the roadside fence of Blue Springs Recreation Area on Blue Springs Road near Marianna. It can be read from outside the fence, even when the park is closed.

Blue Springs was part of Sylvania Plantation and a favorite fishing spot of the governor.  Learn more at

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Confederate carvings found near Marianna

Confederate carvings near Marianna, Florida
Carvings evidently left by Confederate soldiers nearly 150 years ago have been found in a recreation area just outside of Marianna, Florida.

The area where the inscriptions were found is part of a 19th and early 20th century limestone quarry in a new addition to Blue Springs Recreation Area just outside of Marianna. The location of the carvings is not yet open to the public, but plans are underway for future public use.

Blue Springs near Marianna, Florida
Blue Springs, now officially labeled Jackson Blue Spring, is one of Jackson County's key landmarks. A beautiful first magnitude spring (the only one in the Chipola River basin), it has been noted in the accounts and journals of explorers and travelers as far back as the 1670s. Spanish missioners, soldiers and explorers once camped there and it is Stop #1 on Jackson County's new Spanish Heritage Trail, a driving tour of 11 Spanish colonial sites in the county.

By the time of the War Between the States, Blue Springs was on the Sylvania plantation of Florida's Confederate governor, John Milton. Because it offered a remarkable supply of fresh water, it was selected in 1862 to become the site of Camp Governor Milton, a Confederate military camp that was used from 1862-1865.

Carving dated July 7, 1864
Records relating to Camp Governor Milton - not to be confused with Camp Milton in the outskirts of Jacksonville - are fragmentary, but enough have been found to show that businessmen in Marianna were selling lumber, bedding, forage, corn and other supplies to the military companies posted there.

By 1864, the date of the carvings, the camp was the home post of Companies A and E, 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion, and Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts, a mounted militia unit from Alabama that later became Company I, 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion. These units came in and out of the camp on a rotation, spending two weeks there and then two weeks out watching the coastline or responding to deserter raids.

Shangri La Spring
The carving was found on a high limestone bluff that overlooks Shangri La Spring, a second spring just a few hundred yards downstream from Blue Springs. Most of the carving cannot be read, but it includes names and a date - July 7, 1864.

It was found on the wall of a small limestone quarry, where blocks of limestone were cut during the 19th and early 20th centuries for use in chimneys, piers for houses and even complete buildings. The original St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Marianna, for example, was built of limestone but it crumbled so quickly that it was never used and had to be replaced with a wooden structure that was burned during the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864.

I'll keep you up to date on any additional discoveries in the vicinity.