|Brig. Gen. Asboth (second from left)|
on horseback with his dog York.
The Federals left Camp Walton (today's Fort Walton Beach) on the morning of September 20, 1864, following the historic "Ridge" or Old Federal Road. Their immediate objective was Four Mile Creek Landing at Freeport in Walton County. The landing was a small but important port facility and Asboth planned to take on additional supplies there from the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis before turning inland to begin his march on Marianna.
|Rocky Bayou at Valparaiso, Florida|
Known in different areas as the Jackson, Ridge or Bellamy Road, the Old Federal Road was the first U.S.-built pathway to connect Pensacola in West Florida with St. Augustine in East Florida. It was not an easy road to follow. Early accounts note that stumps were not pulled from the pathway, but were simply sawed off close enough to the ground to allow wagons and oxcarts to pass over. In places where the road was blocked by trees too large to cut, the soldiers that built it through West Florida simply went around them.
|Historical photo of longleaf pines and wiregrass|
Library of Congress
It is difficult today to conceive the appearance of these Northwest Florida woods before they were leveled during the sawmill boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The trees had been growing for hundreds of years when explorers and settlers first arrived from overseas in the 1500s. It is believed by forestry experts that the virgin longleaf pine forests once covered 70-80 million acres in the United States. The trees can live 300-400 years and reach towering heights.
|Rare stand of wild longleaf today|
The soldiers were dumb-struck by the size and height of the trees. Individual soldiers from the 2nd Maine Cavalry wrote in letters and their diaries about the pines, describing the haunting yet beautiful moan of the wind as it blew through the treetops. They accurately predicted that the trees would generate unbelievable wealth in future years and many of them returned to exploit the opportunity after the war.
|Site of port at Four Mile Creek Landing in Freeport, Florida|
|Choctawhatchee Bay with the towers of the|
Beaches of South Walton visible in the distance.
The desolate dunes and uninhabited beaches she passed on her way from Camp Walton to Freeport are recognized today as Destin and the fabulous Beaches of South Walton, a vacation paradise.
To learn more about the Raid on Marianna and events for this year's 150th anniversary commemoration, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.
Also please consider my book, which includes a detailed accounting of each day and activity of the raid as well as a thorough account of the fight for Marianna:
(Book) The Battle of Marianna, Florida
(Kindle E-book) The Battle of Marianna, Florida (Just $4.95!)