Saturday, July 30, 2016

New Battle of Marianna marker placed at Chipola River bridge

New "Fight at the Chipola River Bridge" marker details part
of the Battle of Marianna that took place at the Chipola River.
A new interpretive marker for the "Fight at the Chipola River Bridge" during the Battle of Marianna is now in place! It is the third new marker placed on the battlefield in the last 18-months and was sponsored by Main Street Marianna and the City of Marianna.

The Fight for the Chipola River Bridge was a critical phase of the battle. As surviving Confederate forces waged a fighting retreat for the Chipola River, they were pursued by Union cavalry.

The main road to the bridge then passed from the southeast corner of Courthouse Square down Jackson Street. The modern Lafayette Street (U.S. 90) extension was not opened until the early 20th century.

After breaking through in hand-to-hand fighting around the square, the remnants of Col. Alexander B. Montgomery's mounted forces headed for the bridge. Included in the polyglot of horsemen were soldiers from Capt. Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts (Alabama State Militia), Capt. A.R. Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry, Capt. Henry Robinson's Greenwood Club Cavalry and Capt. W.W. Poe's Battalion from the 1st Florida Reserves (Mounted Infantry). A few staff members from Company A, 5th Florida Cavalry were also present, as were some random volunteers.

A closer view of the new historical marker. Historic Highway
90 is in the background and the west end of the modern
bridge can be seen a right.
Pursuing them was Hutchinson's Battalion from the 2nd Maine Cavalry and part of the 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.). The latter unit was composed of "disaffected Southerners" who were either Unionists or Confederate deserters (or both).

Mrs. Daniel Love MacKinnon later recalled how as a young girl she had watched the soldiers fighting and going down the "red clay hill" to the river. The hill she described is still visible on Jackson Street in the area of today's historic St. Luke Baptist Church.

As the retreating defenders reached the river they began a desperate effort to pry up the planking of the wooden bridge to prevent Union soldiers from following them across. Capt. Robert Chisolm assumed command in the confusion and ordered his men to charge the approaching Union cavalry in order to save the other defenders.

Chisolm's counterattack at the bridge was the last offensive action of the battle for Southern forces and succeeded in driving back the Federals long enough for the remaining Confederates to get across. The Alabama cavalrymen then withdrew across the bridge. The now loosened floor planks were removed.

The last shots of the Battle of Marianna were fired at the
Chipola River. The modern U.S. 90 bridge is in the background.
The Union cavalrymen regrouped and once again approached the bridge but the Southern forces had succeeded in ripping up enough of the flooring to keep them from crossing. The Federals dismounted and spread out along west bank of the river while the Confederates did the same on the opposite side.

Sharp skirmishing continued between the two forces for the rest of the afternoon and into the night, but neither side attempted a crossing. The last shots of the Battle of Marianna were fired that night by the forces at the Chipola River Bridge.

The site of the bridge was at the foot of Jackson Street and can be viewed from the new Chipola River Overlook park. The marker stands just off the parking area, which can be accessed from Jackson Street.

The park also features paved parking, benches, a canoe/kayak launch and beautiful views of the pristine Chipola River, one of Florida's most precious natural resources. The piers of a late 19th century bridge can be seen from the launch. Although they were not part of the wooden bridge that stood at the time of the battle, the piers do mark the sight of that structure.

Please click here to learn more about the Battle of Marianna or enjoy this video produced by Two Egg TV:

Brochures for self-guided walks of the Marianna battlefield are available at the historic Russ House & Visitor Center in Marianna. Markers and monuments dot the battlefield from the Russ House east along Lafayette Street (Historic Highway 90) to the new Chipola River Overlook.

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