Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Freeport to unveil Civil War marker on Sunday (9/21)

Four Mile Creek at Freeport, Florida
The Northwest Florida city of Freeport will unveil a new historical marker on Sunday to commemorate the community's role in the 1864 Raid on Marianna.

Freeport is located where Four Mile Creek connects with LaGrange Bayou, an arm of Choctawhatchee Bay, and was a small but thriving port when the War Between the States (or Civil War) erupted in 1861. The deep bayou and creek provided a natural port for the commerce of the Euchee Valley and surrounding areas of Walton County and considerable commerce took place there. Schooners and steamboats traveled back and forth between the community and Pensacola.

Historical image of Four Mile Creek
State Archives of Florida/Memory Collection
As Brigadier General Alexander Asboth (US) planned his raid against Marianna in September 1864, pilots told him that Four Mile Creek would be a good place for taking on additional supplies before setting off into the interior. Deserters and Unionists from Walton County also told him of the prosperous family farms in the Euchee Valley and the cattle herds then grazed along the Shoal River.

Although he originally planned to advance by way of Santa Rosa Island and cross to the mainland via the site of today's Destin, the general changed his plans to allow him to strike against the farms and ranches of Walton County. His troops came around the northern edge of Choctawhatchee Bay and reached Freeport on September 21, 1864. They were met there by the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis, a former Confederate blockade runner. On board were supplies, ammunition, cannon and additional troops.

Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth
Union Commander during Marianna Raid
Asboth used the port as a final base from which to launch his raid. When he turned his column inland on the 21st, he left the Lizzie Davis waiting at the port under the protection of a detachment of New York troops and two cannon. On the 23rd, after the Federals overran a Confederate camp near present-day Defuniak Springs, the prisoners of war, unserviceable horses and a number of liberated slaves were sent down to Freeport under the escort of soldiers from the 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.).

Having completed its mission at Freeport, the Lizzie Davis steamed across the bay to Point Washington on September 24th to await the return of the troops.  The long blue column turned north on the same day, heading up the west side of the Choctawhatchee River and out of Walton County.

The three day Union occupation of Freeport gave the community the distinction of being the final base from which the Federal troops departed for the Battle of Marianna. To commemorate and preserve the memory of its role in the raid, the city will unveil a new historical marker.

Four Mile Creek Landing at Freeport
The unveiling will take place at Four Mile Creek Landing in Freeport on Sunday (9/21) at 3 p.m. Sunday marks to the day the 150th anniversary of Asboth's arrival at Freeport.

The new historical marker is the result of a community-wide effort. Local resident Danny Katro first suggested the idea, which was adopted by Tim Ard and the Heritage Center of Freeport. Donations for the purchase of the marker came from the City of Freeport, Mayor Russ Barley, Tim Ard, Council President Janice & Billy McLean, Councilwoman Kasey & Ro Cuchens, Choctawhatchee Bay Piling & Dock, The Adkinson Law Firm, Danny Katro Electric and the Freeport Town Planters Society.

The public is encouraged to attend!

Please click here to learn more about Asboth's Raid and the Battle of Marianna.

Please click here to learn more about Freeport, Florida.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Asboth's Plan for the Marianna Raid (September 12, 1864)

Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth (US)
One of the most important documents of the War Between the States (or Civil War) in Northwest Florida was penned 150 years ago today on September 12, 1864.

Writing from Barrancas Post adjacent to Fort Barrancas near Pensacola, Brigadier General Alexander Asboth (US) outlined a plan for what would be the deepest penetration of Confederate Florida by Union troops during the entire War Between the States (or Civil War):

...I am to start a cavalry raid in the northwest portion of West Florida. Going up the Santa Rosa Island and swimming the horses across the East Pass to the mainland, I will proceed to Point Washington and from thence to Marianna and vicinity, returning via St. Andrews salt works. My object is to capture the isolated rebel cavalry and infantry in Washington and Jackson Counties, and to liberate the Union prisoners at Marianna, to collect white and colored recruits, and secure as many horses and mules as possible. - Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth (US), September 12, 1864

Asboth (second from left) with his dog.
The plan was based on intelligence received the previous day from either a scout or refugee that had just arrived through the lines from Confederate West Florida. That individual had given Asboth remarkably accurate information on the locations and strengths of the Confederate companies assigned to the command of Colonel A.B. Montgomery (CS) at Marianna.

The commander of the Union District of West Florida, Alexander Asboth was one of the more intriguing individuals of the 19th century.

Asboth
Born in Hungary, he had been educated as a military engineer in Austria before joining the forces of his native country in their uprising against the Hapsburg Empire in 1848. He demonstrated his courage in battle and rose to the rank of colonel in the early fighting against the Austrians as Governor Lajos Kossuth tried to establish an American styled democracy in Hungary.

Asboth eventually became Kossuth's chief of staff and was the only one of the governor's associates to accompany him in his carriage when the revolution collapsed and Kossuth fled into Hungary. The United States sent the warship USS Mississippi to bring them to America.

Settling in New York, the colonel became a naturalized citizen and worked successfully as a surveyor and engineer during the 1850s. He is best known for his invention of a paving process and as the surveyor who determined the lines for New York's famed Central Park.

Elkhorn Tavern at Pea Ridge, Arkansas
When war erupted between North and South, Asboth offered his services to President Abraham Lincoln and was sent to Missouri where he served as adlatus (basically chief of staff) to General John Freemont. In this capacity he commanded many future generals including Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. The latter described the Hungarian officer in his memoirs as one of the most "personally brave" individuals of the war, although he noted that Asboth often doubted himself.

General Asboth went on to command the Third Division of the Union army in Missouri and was badly wounded at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. In that battle he advanced with two cannon and a small force of infantry into the face of General Earl Van Dorn's attacking Confederate army and held it back until the main Union army could reverse front and avoid destruction.


Fort Barrancas near Pensacola, Florida
He later commanded troops in Tennessee and Mississippi and was one of the generals who recommended the promotion of Phil Sheridan to brigadier general. In November 1863 he was assigned the command of the District of West Florida. The assignment was part of the planning for Sherman's Atlanta Campaign and was given as a precaution should Sherman fail and be forced to cut his way through to the Gulf Coast.  Asboth's experience as a cavalry commander would help in the extraction of Sherman's army should such become necessary.

The signing of the general's report of September 12, 1864, opened the door for the Marianna raid. The specifics of his plan would change over the next six days but it was 150 years ago today that Union forces committed to an attack on Marianna, Florida.

To learn more about the Battle of Marianna and Asboth's West Florida Raid, 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 by visiting www.battleofmarianna.com.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Battle of Marianna 150th set for Sept. 26 & 27

Scene from the new Battle of Marianna documentary
The Jackson County Tourist Development Council and Marianna Main Street will be hosting a wide range of events to commemorate this years 150th anniversary of the Battle of Marianna.

This small but bloody and significant battle took place on September 27, 1864. A Union force of 700 men from the 2nd Maine Cavalry, 1st Florida Cavalry (US), 82nd U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) and 86th USCT attacked the Northwest Florida community from two directions. Confederate defenders from the 5th Florida Cavalry, 1st Florida Reserves, Alabama State Militia, Marianna Home Guard, Greenwood Club Cavalry and Campbellton Cavalry fought a fierce action to defend the town.

By the time the battle was over Union general Alexander Asboth had been badly wounded, the 2nd Maine Cavalry had suffered its bloodiest day of the war and 20% of the male population of Marianna had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner. To learn more, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.

The 150th anniversary commemoration will feature a reenactment and a wide range of other events and activities. Here are some of the highlights by date:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
  • Debate of the Commanders (a spirited discussion between Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth, USA, and Col. A.B. Montgomery, CSA) -  6:30 p.m. at the Jackson County Public Library (Free).
Friday, September 26, 2014
  • Guided Battlefield Tour - 2:30 p.m., departs from the historic Russ House & Visitor Center on West Lafayette Street (Free).
  • Historical Conference featuring authors and historians - 4 p.m. at St. Luke's Episcopal Church Parish Hall on West Lafayette Street (Free).
  • SCV Memorial Service - 6 p.m. at Riverside Cemetery (Free).
  • "Spirits of St. Luke's" ("Spirits" of those buried in the church cemetery will meet visitors!) - 7 p.m. at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on West Lafayette Street (Free).
Saturday, September 27, 2014
  • Memorial Service for Union Dead - 9 a.m. at Riverside Cemetery (Free).
  • UDC Memorial Service - 10 a.m. at Confederate Park (Free).
  • Tolling of the Bells for the dead of both sides - 11 a.m. throughout town (Free).
  • Reenactment of the Battle of Marianna - 11:05 a.m. at Courthouse Square in Downtown Marianna (Free).
  • Venders, Sutlers & Living History Demonstrations - 11:30 am. at Madison Street Park.
  • Open House at the historic Davis West House - 11:30 am. at intersection of Madison & Putnam Streets (Free).
  • Open House at the historic Russ House & Visitor Center - 11:30 a.m. at 4318 W. Lafayette Street (Free).
  • Battlefield Tours (Every 30 Minutes) - 12:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. beginning at historic Russ House & Visitor Center (Free).
  • Tour of Homes - 12:30 p.m. at locations throughout the city (More information available at historic Russ House & Visitor Center).
  • Civil War Surgery Demonstration - 2 p.m. at the Davis-West House, corner of Madison & Putnam Streets.
  • Premier of the Battle of Marianna Documentary - 3:30 p.m. at MacKinnon Hall, St. Luke's Episcopal Church on West Lafayette Street.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
  • Public Lands Day at Florida Caverns State Park with numerous activities and events.
If you need information on restaurants, accommodations or other things to do in Marianna and Jackson County during your visit for this year's 150th commemoration, please visit www.visitjacksoncountyfla.com.

If you would like to read more about the Battle of Marianna, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.

Monday, September 8, 2014

First steamboat over Look and Tremble Falls (1861)

Look and Tremble Falls
Calhoun County, Florida
The long forgotten steamboat Jackson was the first paddlewheel vessel ever to cross the treacherous waters of Look and Tremble Falls in Calhoun County, Florida. It did so even as the clouds of war were gathering over the South.

The boat churned its way up the Chipola River shortly after Florida seceded from the Union in 1861. Described by newspapers of the time as being 100-feet long but with a draft of only one-foot, the Jackson made it all the way up to Marianna in January 1861.

The vessel was specially designed to navigate the Chipola River during winter and the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers during summer on specs provided by her captain and owner, Daniel Fry. When she steamed up the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers to Columbus, Georgia, in August 1860, a newspaper described the Jackson as a "mode of symmetry and beautiful proportion."

Marianna before its streets were paved.
State Archives of Florida/Memory Collection
Captain Fry proposed doing something with the Jackson that had never been done before: steaming a large vessel all the way up the Chipola to Marianna. Prior to the completion of his vessel, all commerce on the middle and upper river had been carried out by pole boat and barge. One of the big reasons for this was a rapids or "falls" in the river called "Look and Tremble."

Located near the modern community of Altha in Calhoun County, Look and Tremble is a Class I rapids that all but disappears when the river is high. It can reach Class II status when the water is just right, but lost some of its original fierce appearance during the late 1800s when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted a channel through the rocks.

Boat docks at Apalachicola, Florida
When Captain Fry planned his first trip up the Chipola, however, Look and Tremble still roared. In hopes of steaming directly over the rapids, he took the Jackson down to Apalachicola and waited for the annual winter rise of the river. It was an exciting venture and the entire South followed his journey in the newspapers of the day and waited with excited anticipation to see if his adventure would succeed.

The trip began even as delegates met in Tallahassee to consider the secession of Florida. They voted to declare independence and state troops seized the Apalachicola Arsenal at Chattahoochee, Fort Barrancas in Pensacola and the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine as the boat and its crew started on their journey.

Look and Tremble Falls
In Marianna, anticipation grew as the Jackson slowly made its way up the Chipola. Its crew cleared snags and obstructions as they advanced and then, with the engines at full power, drove the boat up and over the rapids at Look and Tremble. The news was greeted with celebration in Jackson County, a political entity roughly divided by the Chipola River and then one of the three most populated counties in Florida.

On January 27, 1861, as the men of Florida were flooding into military units for the defense of their state, the Jackson reached Marianna. Huge crowds lined the banks of the river to see the beautiful little steamboat arrive:

Marianna today
...There was great rejoicing among the people, and on the Tuesday following, a ball was given in honor of the steamer and her officers...It was a great day for Marianna, and "inaugurated a new era in her commerce; substituting steam for the slow pole-boat or barge," with which, it seems, the Chipola river, as far up as that place, has been navigated heretofore. (Augusta Chronicle, February 8, 1861).

The steamboat remained at Marianna for three days taking on a cargo of 274 bales of cotton. It was the largest single shipment of cotton ever made from Marianna up to that time. Then, with passengers enjoying her luxurious staterooms and a crowd of well-wishers on shore, the steamer turned down the Chipola and began her journey back to Apalachicola.


Apalachicola River
Photo taken from Confederate battery site at
Alum Bluff in Liberty County, Florida.
The Jackson probably repeated her voyage to Marianna several more times in early 1861, but the imposition of the Union blockade soon brought cotton shipping to an end at Apalachicola. The boat was converted for use as a scout vessel and troop transport by the Confederate army and continued to navigate the Apalachicola River for much of the war. Captain Fry served as an important pilot for Confederate vessels on that river throughout the War Between the States (or Civil War).

The Jackson did not survive the war. She went down on the lower Apalachicola in 1864 after accidentally striking a snag.

Please click here to learn more about Look and Tremble Falls.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Last Fight on the Choctawhatchee (March 23, 1865)

Choctawhatchee River at Douglas' Ferry
Washington County, Florida
The spring of 1865 was a dark and turbulent time in the Florida Panhandle.

Asboth's Raid on Marianna the previous September had devastated the farms of Jackson, Washington, Holmes and Walton Counties. As hungry women and children emerged from the cold, lean winter, heavy rains saturated the ground and halted almost all planting and ground preparation in the region.

Making matters worse was the terror inflicted on civilians in the region by merciless deserter gangs. From secret hideouts in the swamps of the Choctawhatchee, Chipola and Chattahoochee/Apalachicola Rivers, these bands emerged with growing frequency during the final months of the war to prey on helpless communities and isolated farms.

Historic Douglas' Ferry Road
One of the most dangerous and ruthless of these groups was Ward's Raiders. Led by an Alabama refugee named Jim Ward, its members operated from a swampy hideout on Boynton Island at the confluence of Holmes Creek and the Choctawhatchee River. The group was notoriously responsible for burning the Coffee County Courthouse in Elba, Alabama.

Although defeated at the Battle of Fairview in September 1864, Ward and his men were undeterred and continued their guerrilla campaign against the people of Northwest Florida and Southeast Alabama. Their war was one of murder, robbery and destruction.

The raiders were riding at full strength on March 23, 1865, when a detachment from Company A, 5th Florida Cavalry, came up with them at Douglas' Ferry in Washington County:

Floodplain swamp at Douglas' Ferry
...[A] detachment of cavalry, fifteen in number, under Lieut. Jos. B. Barnes, encountered about fifty deserters near Doughlas Ferry on the Choctawhatchee river, Fla., and after a short engagement they were compelled to retreat, their ammunition being wet. (Augusta Chronicle, April 15, 1865).

A son of Lt. Col. W.D. Barnes of the 1st Florida Reserves, Joseph Barnes had served in both the 2nd and 5th Florida Cavalries during the war. He was a veteran of the Battle of Olustee and several other actions and was the ranking officer in his company following the promotion of Captain William H Milton to the battalion major.

Picnic pavilion at Douglas' Ferry
The retreat of the lieutenant's detachment was brief. Despite the rain-soaked condition of his ammunition and the numerical superiority of Ward's band, Barnes soon led his men back into action:

...On the second charge they discovered the body of Lieut. Frank M. Stovall, who is supposed to have been killed after he surrendered. His person was robbed of his pistol, sword and coat buttons. (Augusta Chronicle, April 15, 1865).

According to his Confederate Service Record, Stovall had enlisted as a private in Company A, 5th Florida Cavalry, at Camp Governor Milton on January 25, 1864. Not to be confused with the better known Camp Milton near Jacksonville, this camp was at Jackson Blue Springs near Marianna. He had been promoted from the ranks during the winter of 1864-1865 to fill a lieutenant's vacancy.

Unknown Confederates at Riverside Cemetery in Marianna
Lt. Stovall may be buried here.
The newspaper account of the skirmish indicates that Stovall's body was carried to Pensacola where it was buried with military honors, but this is highly unlikely as Pensacola was then in Federal hands and Stovall's company was headquartered at Marianna. An editor likely confused Confederate-held Marianna for Union-held Pensacola.

The boldness of the second charge by Barnes and his outnumbered cavalrymen stunned Ward's men and they broke for the woods, disappearing into the thickets of the floodplain swamp. Their casualties in the fight are not known.

The Skirmish at Douglas' Ferry is believed to have been the final action of the war on the Florida section of the Choctawhatchee River. It took place two days before the Action at Canoe Creek (or Bluff Springs) north of Pensacola.

The site of Douglas' Ferry is now a park and boat landing maintained by Washington County. It is located on Douglas' Ferry Road near Hinson Crossroads northwest of Vernon.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Battle of Gainesville, Florida 150th Anniversary

Scene of the Battle of Gainesville, Florida
Today (8/17) marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gainesville, Florida.

The Battle of Gainesville is one of the most overlooked military encounters in Florida history. It even shares a state historical marker with the earlier First Skirmish at Gainesville, an encounter of the Olustee Campaign.

Confederate monument in Gainesville
Like the small but desperate Battle of Marianna, the engagement at Gainesville is not listed on the American Battlefield Protection Program's list of recognized battles and skirmishes in Florida. The less bloody encounters at Fort Brooke, Tampa and St. John's Bluff are included on the list, but the furious fights at Marianna and Gainesville are not. Both are deserving of inclusion.

In addition, the Battle of Gainesville was won by outnumbered Confederates due to one of the most impressive battlefield performances of the "Swamp Fox" of Florida, Captain J.J. Dickison of the Second Florida Cavalry. Dickison and 175 of his men were engaged at Gainesville. They killed, wounded or captured 211 Federal soldiers.

Please click here to visit my new webpage on the Battle of Gainesville, Florida.



Friday, August 1, 2014

Woman in combat at the Battle of Marianna, Florida

Women saw action at the Battle of Marianna
Union officers reported that when they attacked Marianna, Florida on September 27, 1864, they were opposed by "every man, woman and child of the place." This was not just a figure of speech.

The roles played by women on the battlefields of the War Between the States (or Civil War) were varied and of great importance. The women of Atlanta and Vicksburg had their homes blown to bits and their families slaughtered around them when those cities were bombarded by Union troops. The ladies of LaGrange, Georgia, found their city's defenses so depleted that they formed into a military company dubbed the "Nancy Harts" in order to protect themselves.

In other cases, women served as nurses and provided critical medical services - often under fire - as battles swept across the South and small areas of the North.  They served as spies and in some cases even put on uniforms and disguised themselves as men in order to fight.  The ladies of St. Augustine even sparked a major incident by chopping down the flagpole at the city's St. Francis Barracks to prevent the U.S. flag from ever being hoisted on it again.

And then there was the Battle of Marianna.

Battle of Marianna marker at St. Luke's Episcopal Church
When Union troops swept down on the Jackson County city on September 27, 1864, the Confederates did not have time to evacuate most of the city's civilians. Boys as young as 12 and men as old as 76 turned out to fight alongside Poe's Battalion of the 1st Florida Reserves (CS) and Chisolm's Woodville Scouts of the Alabama State Militia. The girls and women of the city lined the roadways as their sons, nephews, brothers, husbands, uncles, cousins and fathers marched to the west side of town to await the Union advance. They prepared bandages and other medical supplies to treat the wounded. And in some cases they loaded their weapons and prepared to fight.

The Battle of Marianna is unique among most of Florida's battles because it took place in the streets of the city and involved house to house fighting. With civilians trapped in their homes, there was no way for the women and younger children to escape to safety.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Marianna, Florida

After driving back the screen of Confederate cavalry at Ely Corner (today's intersection of Lafayette and Russ Streets), Union troops drove straight up Lafayette Street only to be ambushed by the men and boys of the Marianna Home Guard and the volunteers that had turned out to defend the town.  A Union flanking column swept around the north side of town and occupied Courthouse Square, where some Confederates broke through in severe fighting.

Courthouse Square, scene of heavy fighting.
The heaviest fighting took place around St. Luke's Episcopal Church.  Confederate defenders fought a desperate resistance in the cemetery, where monuments and headstones still bear the scars of bullets. As the flanking party closed in behind them, they were cut off from retreat but refused to surrender. The fighting intensified with Confederate soldiers, militia and volunteers firing from the tower and windows of the church and the windows of the home of Dr. R.A. Sanders to the east across Wynn Street.

With the outcome of the battle in doubt and Union officers desperate to bring the fighting to a close, soldiers from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) carried out a bayonet charge into the cemetery.  They came under fire not just from the Confederate soldiers and volunteers, but also from across Lafayette Street as rifles, shotguns and pistols blazed from the windows of Mrs. Caroline Hunter's Boarding House.

St. Luke's Churchyard
Union troops made a bayonet charge across this ground.
Briefly the home of famed 19th century novelist Caroline Lee Hentz when it was the residence of her son, Dr. Charles Hentz, the two story frame structure stood across Lafayette Street from St. Luke's near today's MacKinnon House (now home to the Law Firm of B. Shannon Saunders), a beautiful old home built years after the war.

At the time of the Battle of Marianna, a portion of the lot was occupied by Mrs. Hunter's place.No longer a single family residence, it has been converted for use as a boarding house for ladies. With so many of their fathers and husbands off fighting on the front lines, women often clustered together in private boarding homes.

Unable to evacuate ahead of the attack, the ladies there prepared to fight.  Taking aim at Union soldiers from the doors and windows of the house, they opened fire with with every weapon they could find. Reports of their decision to fight in the Battle of Marianna received widespread coverage in both military reports and newspaper accounts of both sides during the days and weeks after the engagement.

MacKinnon House in Marianna
Built during the Reconstruction era, this structure stands
near the site of Mrs. Hunter's Boarding House for Ladies.
Even after the Confederates in the cemetery surrendered, men, boys and ladies inside the church, Dr. Sanders' home and Mrs. Hunter's Boarding House continued to fight. Union Colonel Ladislas L. Zulavsky ordered his men to fire the structures and all three went up in flames.  Four men burned to death inside St. Luke's, which is remembered by some still today as "Florida's Alamo."

At Mrs. Hunter's Boarding House, the ladies fought even as flames licked up the sides of the structure. Forced to lay down their arms and come out, they emerged from the smoke into the street even as screams could be heard from the second floor.  The ladies pleaded with Union officers for help, telling them that a young woman had given birth the night before and was trapped on the second floor with her baby. Soldiers in blue, according to accounts by soldiers in butternut and gray, rushed into the burning house and rescued the young mother and her child.

Bullet hole in a grave monument at St. Luke's Churchyard
The women were moved to a point of safety in the hollow between St. Luke's and today's Wynn Street Park. Their fight was over but their courage remained a point of pride for for as long as participants of the Battle of Marianna lived. The story eventually faded with time.

Marianna will observe the 150th anniversary of the battle with a special commemoration on September 26-27, 2014.  The ladies of Mrs. Hunter's Boarding House will be represented in this year's reenactment of the battle by a small unit of women.

To learn more about the Battle of Marianna, please consider my book The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available in Marianna at the Vintage Depot (restored L&N Train Depot) on South Caledonia Street.or online in either book or Kindle format from Amazon.com:

(Book Edition) The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition

(Kindle Edition) The Battle of Marianna, Florida

You can also learn more about the battle at www.battleofmarianna.com.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Battle of Marianna Reenactment is a go for September 27, 2014

Battle of Marianna Reenactment
UPDATE:  Commitments have come through and the Battle of Marianna reenactment will go on as planned on September 27, 2014!  If you are a reenactor and would like to join us, contact me at http://battleofmarianna.com/contact.html.  We are still seeking both units and individuals (who will be formed into a temporary unit)!

Thank you to all who stepped up and helped save our 150th commemoration!!  I will have more details soon.

Best,
Dale Cox

--


September 27th will mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Marianna, Florida.

Fought on September 27, 1864, the encounter was one of the most desperate fights in all of Florida and was compared by seasoned soldiers of both sides with much larger engagements of the war. A Confederate force of 350-400 reservists, militia, home guards and volunteers tried to hold off a larger Union force of 700 men. The result was a bloody "urban" battle that involved house to house fighting and the disappearance in a single day of 25% of the male population of Marianna.

Marianna and Jackson County will be hosting a special commemoration of the battle on September 26th and 27th, 2014.  Planned events include guided tours, memorial services, a tour of homes, historical conference, living history demonstrations and more.  We also would like to include a reenactment of the section of the battle that took place around Courthouse Square in the center of town.

Battle of Marianna Reenactment
That reenactment is currently endangered due to problems and personality conflicts that took place at past Marianna reenactments, as well as competition from events in Atlanta the previous weekend and Tavares on the same day.

In an effort to save the reenactment for this year, we have shifted it from past management to the supervision of the Jackson County Tourist Development Council.  To make it easier and less expensive for reenactors from Florida, Alabama and Georgia to attend, we are planning it primarily as a Saturday morning event and participants will be provided with powder and a free lunch. Camping is available for those who would like to come on Friday and stay overnight.

Please help us save the Battle of Marianna!  I was not involved in past reenactments, but hear constantly of issues and problems from previous years.  We are under different leadership this year and are doing everything we can to save this event and improve it for future years.

I am issuing a personal appeal to my many friends and relatives who do reenacting to join us and save the event so that it can be part of our 150th anniversary commemoration. Please join me and let's save the Battle of Marianna.  We will continue with our commemoration plans either way, but it would mean a great deal to the community and its citizens to save the reenactment.

Contact me at http://battleofmarianna.com/contact.html with questions or to let us know you will come and help us. It would be a real shame to see this event become a thing of the past, especially on the 150th anniversary of this deadly Northwest Florida engagement.

To read more about the Battle of Marianna, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.

I hope to hear from you.  We welcome individuals or organized groups.  Our deadline for deciding on the reenactment is Friday, August 1st.

Best,
Dale Cox
http://battleofmarianna.contact.html

Sunday, July 20, 2014

St. Andrew Bay Raid 150th Anniversary (July 20, 1864)

St. Andrew Bay at Panama City, Florida
The Union transport steamer Ella Norris arrived at St. Andrew Bay in Northwest Florida 150 years ago tonight.

On board were troops from the 2nd U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) and the 2nd Florida Cavalry (U.S.) under the command of Major Edmund Weeks. Their objective were the bridges, mills, small farms, plantations and a Confederate camp along Econfina Creek in what are now Bay and Washington Counties. The entire area was then part of Washington County.

St. Vincent Island
Numbering 400 men, the raiding force had reached St. Vincent Island off Apalachicola on July 16, 1864. The island was the site of a large refugee colony populated by the families of Southern Unionists, Confederate deserters and escaped slaves. Major Weeks spent time interviewing leaders of the camp along with new arrivals to obtain more information about the location and strength of Confederate troops around St. Andrew Bay.

Major Edmund Weeks, USA
State Archives of Florida/Memory Collection
This intelligence in hand, Weeks returned to the Ella Norris and the steamer set sail for St. Andrew Bay where it arrived late on the evening of July 20, 1864, 150 years ago today.

St. Andrew Bay was notorious for its shoals and oyster bars and navigating its waters under cover of darkness could be extremely treacherous, as the Union navy learned during an 1862 raid to capture the blockade runner Florida.

Despite the danger, the Ella Norris moved into the bay and passed the chimneys of the town of St. Andrew. Once a popular resort area for the citizens of the interior counties, the community had been shelled and burned to the ground by the U.S. Navy earlier in the war. It stood on the bluff along what is now Beach Drive in Panama City.

St. Andrew Bay
Passing around Dyer's and Sulphur Points the steamer moved up the bay and around into North Bay. Its route took it past the sites of today's Naval Coastal Systems Center, Gulf Coast College, Southport and Lynn Haven and to an anchorage at Bayhead in the far eastern end of North Bay. This area is recognizable today as the site where Deer Point Lake meets the bay.

During the mid-19th century, this area was an important port for the farms along Econfina Creek which entered the bay there before the construction of the Deer Point Lake Dam. Farmers would barge their shipments of cotton, timber, corn and other commodities down the creek on small flatboats to North Bay where the cargoes were transferred to sloops, schooners and steamboats for passage on to Pensacola, Mobile and New Orleans.

Map of St. Andrew Bay (right) by Major G.W. Scott (CSA)
State Archives of Florida/Memory Collection
The 400 soldiers of Major Weeks' command came ashore at sunrise on July 21, 1864, pausing briefly to make coffee and rest before turning inland on the Econfina Road.

Among the officers of the 2nd Florida Cavalry (U.S.) was William McCullough. A Florida Unionist, he reported that the force had marched out at 8 a.m., covering 8 miles over 5 hours to reach the Bear Creek ferry at 1 p.m. There he was left behind with 30 men to guard the ferry until the main command returned. He remembered it as something of a picnic, describing how he and his men raided the farm of a "Mr. Vickrey" where they stole a cow, chickens, corn, salt and honey. They killed the cow and chickens and dined well that night.

The main body of the Union force, meanwhile continued its march north up the Econfina Road, raiding farms and plantations along the way. They pushed as far as Orange Hill in Washington County, less than 30 miles from the Confederate headquarters at Marianna. Along the way the soldiers inflicted devastating damage, destroying 2 bridges, a grist mill, 80 bales of cotton, an unoccupied military camp with storehouses and corn cribs, barns and anything else of use to the Confederates.

Among the farms they raided was that of William Gainer. One of the largest plantations in the county, his place was worked by 56 enslaved African Americans and he lost almost all of them to the Union raiders. Weeks and his men liberated 115 slaves (or "contrabands" as the U.S. Army called them), nearly one-third of the total slave population of Washington County.

The raid took Confederate forces in the area by complete surprise. A detachment of Captain William Jeter's Company E, 5th Florida Cavalry (C.S), was stationed at St. Andrews to watch for signs of a Union attack, but the Federals came in under cover of darkness and passed by the town site and into North Bay before Jeter's scouts became aware of their presence. By the time the Confederate cavalry realized the situation the next morning, the Union troops were between them and their headquarters at Marianna, with McCullough's small detachment guarding the ferry over Bear Creek on the main road connecting the two places.

Col. A.B. Montgomery, CSA (at left)
Cut-off and blocked from using the most direct route, the Confederate scouts were forced to make a 45 mile detour to the east in order to cross Bear Creek at what is now White City so they could get to Marianna and alert Colonel Alexander Montgomery of the situation. By the time they got to Marianna and Montgomery could respond, the raiders were already on their way back to the bay.

A raid was made by the enemy on last Thursday composed principally of Negro troops (supposed to be between three and four hundred strong) into the Econfinee settlement near St. Andrews Bay and upwards of one hundred negroes, mules, horses and provisions were captured and carried off before my forces could reach them, although a cavalry co. was dispatched in pursuit of them as soon as the news reached me. - Col. A.B. Montgomery, CSA, to W. McCall, July 24, 1864.


St. Andrew Bay at site of old St. Andrew
The Confederate company sent in pursuit of the raiders was Captain Jeter's unit from the 5th Florida Cavalry. It reached St. Andrew Bay only to find the Federals already gone. As they withdrew without losing a man, however, the Union soldiers warned local residents that they would be back:

The enemy informed residents whose houses [they visited] during this raid that this place [i.e. Marianna] would be their next point of attack. This may be mere bravado on their part. I think the next raid they make will be in the direction of Hickory Hill [i.e. Orange Hill] & Campbellton twenty miles west of this point and represented by large planting interests. - Col. A.B. Montgomery to W. McCall, July 24, 1864.


Governor John Milton of Florida
Montgomery asked for 1,000 infantry reinforcements and that he be allowed to maintain the services of the full strength of Captain Wilson W. Poe's Company C, 1st Florida Reserves (C.S.). Poe's unit had previousl been ordered to send half its men to Quincy.

The state had no infantry to send to Marianna, but orders transferring half of Poe's men to Quincy were rescinded.

The St. Andrew Bay was a serious warning for Confederate authorities in Florida. The Union soldiers had marched to within 30 miles of Marianna without encountering opposition of any kind. They expressed in their letters and reports that they could have taken the city with relative ease. Governor John Milton, Colonel Montgomery and other officers in the state would tried improve the defenses of Northwest Florida over coming weeks, but their efforts would fall short at the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864.

If you would like to read more about the St. Andrew Bay raid and related events, including the Battle of Marianna, please consider my book:  The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition.

It is also available as an instant download for Kindle readers at: The Battle of Marianna, Florida.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Florida's Oldest Confederate Monument re-dedicated in DeFuniak Springs

U.S. and C.S. flags fly over the restored monument.
I had the rare opportunity and honor today to speak at the re-dedication ceremony for Florida's oldest Confederate Monument.

Located on the grounds of the Walton County Courthouse in DeFuniak Springs, the monument was erected in 1871 just six years after the end of the War Between the States (or Civil War). Carved from Alabama marble, it once stood in Eucheeanna when that community was the county seat of Walton County. The village had been severely looted by Union troops on their way to the Battle of Marianna in 1864.

Rev. Tyrone Broadus delivers the Invocation
The county seat was moved from Eucheeanna to DeFuniak Springs after the courthouse in the former community burned in an arson-related fire. The monument followed in 1927 and has stood on the grounds of the courthouse in DeFuniak Springs ever since.

Last year the Walton County Heritage Association launched a drive to raise funds to restore the monument, which had been vandalized several years ago. The $3,500 restoration is now complete and citizens from throughout Northwest Florida gathered this afternoon for an official re-dedication of the monument.

Honor Salute by the Walton Guards
As both the Confederate and United States flags flew overhead, participants and guests enjoyed a breezy, warm afternoon that culminated with an Honor Volley fired by the reenactors of the Walton Guards and a sidewalk social.

The restored monument is designated by a historical marker and faces U.S. 90 on the southeast corner of the courthouse grounds in DeFuniak Springs.

Here are more photos from the ceremony:
Setting up for the Ceremony
The restored monument and the Walton County Courthouse
Speaker's view of those assembled from the ceremony.