Tuesday, September 23, 2014

150th Anniversary of the Skirmish at Eucheeanna, Florida (9/23)

Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church
Walton County, Florida
Federal troops had been on the move for five days when they arrived outside Eucheeanna, Florida, during the darkness just before dawn on the morning of September 23, 1864.

The community was then the county seat of Walton County. Located three miles southeast of the modern county seat of Defuniak Springs, it was a small village located in the rich lands of the Euchee Valley. Most of Walton County's population was centered there, as were its best farms and few plantations.

The Union raid had been underway since the 18th when Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth led 700 mounted troops east from Pensacola Bay on the old Federal Road. Torrential rains from a stalled tropical system had drenched the soldiers for five days and continued to fall on the morning of the 23rd as they arrived outside Eucheeanna.

Lake Defuniak
Probably from a few prisoners - Confederate soldiers on leave - captured the previous day without the firing of a shot, Asboth had learned that two small detachments of Confederate cavalry were at Eucheeanna, "enforcing the conscription" (i.e. enforcing the draft). The general decided to strike before these troopers learned of his presence and moved his men through the night from near Lake Defuniak to the environs of Eucheeanna.

The 2nd Maine Cavalry was moved into position under Lt. Col. Andrew Spurling and as the first signs of daylight tried to show through the rain and clouds General Asboth gave the order to strike.

Lt. Col. Andrew Spurling
2nd Maine Cavalry
The troopers in blue surged forward in a line of battle, sweeping through Eucheeanna and catching the Confederates by surprise. The two detachments of Southern horsemen numbered around 15 soldiers each and were from Captain W.B. Amos' Company I, 15th Confederate Cavalry, and Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts of the Alabama State Militia. Neither captain was present and each of the small detachments was lead by a lieutenant.

The Confederates were hunkered down trying to stay dry when Spurling stormed the community. They got off only a scattering of shots to which the Maine Cavalry responded ineffectively. No one was was killed or wounded on either side although 9 of the Confederates were taken as prisoners of war. The rest managed to get to their horses and get away in the chaos.

The highest ranking Confederate taken prisoner at Eucheeanna was 2nd Lt. Francis M. Gordon of the 15th Confederate Cavalry. The other prisoners of war included 5 soldiers from Gordon's detachment and 3 from Chisolm's company.

Florida's oldest Confederate monument once stood on
the grounds of the Eucheeanna Courthouse. It can be seen
today in Defuniak Springs.
Also taken in the camp were 6 political prisoners including William Cawthon, Sr., Allen Hart and W.H. Terrence. Cawthon was the scion of a large family and one of Florida's leading cattle ranchers. Hart was a beef contractor. Terrence had served in the Alabama militia back during the Creek War of 1836 and was buying provisions for his state.

The political prisoners were released before Asboth left Eucheeanna, but the military captives were sent down to Four Mile Landing at Freeport to be placed aboard the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis. With them went 16 African American recruits liberated from slavery.

Brig. Gen. Asboth
Horses and cattle were driven from local farms, corn was loaded into wagons and carried away, fodder was taken or destroyed and as much damage as possible was done. Typical was the experience of Mrs. Abigail McDonald, who could do nothing but watch as the Federal troops made off with her horse, mule, steer, 3 sheep, 20 hogs, 20 turkeys, 24 chickens, 75 bushels of potatoes, 100 bushels of corn and 500 pounds of fodder. It was all that she owned.

The 150th anniversary commemoration of the 1864 raid is now underway. The next event will be a debate between the two commanders - Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth (US) and Col. A.B. Montgomery (CS) - at the Jackson County Public Library in Marianna tonight (9/23) at 6:30 p.m. Central.

To learn more about Asboth's raid and the Battle of Marianna, please consider my book:

(Book) The Battle of Marianna, Florida 

(Kindle E-book) The Battle of Marianna, Florida
 (Just $4.95!)

You can also learn more online and see the schedule of events for this week's commemoration at www.battleofmarianna.com.

To learn more about accommodations and restaurants in Marianna, please visit www.visitjacksoncountyfla.com.

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