Sunday, September 30, 2007

The End of the Raid


Concluding our retracing of the Marianna raid of 1864, the expedition ended with the end of September. Asboth's forces reached Point Washington on Choctawhatchee Bay without further opposition. The general and the other wounded were taken aboard the quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis for transport back to Pensacola.


Asboth soon underwent surgery performed by Union doctors, including Admiral Farragut's personal surgeon, assisted by Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan's surgeon, who had been captured at Mobile Bay. The general's wounds never healed, however, and he died from infection one year later while serving as a representative for the U.S. government in South America.


The 81 Confederate prisoners captured during the raid went on to New Orleans and soon Ship Island. Most went on to Elmira, New York. Nearly half of them died in prison before the end of the war. Colonel Montgomery was sent to officers' prisons in the north and was not released until well after the end of the war because he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.


Eight Federals were captured at Marianna and most were eventually sent to prison at Macon and Andersonville. At least seven are known to have survived their incarceration.


The counties impacted by the raid suffered severely. Census data indicates that Jackson, Washington, Walton and Holmes Counties sustained greater losses during the war than any other counties in Florida. It would take decades for the economy of the region to rebound.


More than 600 African Americans were liberated by Asboth's raid. Many went on to live lives of significant accomplishment. Armstrong Purdee, who at the age of 8 was taken from the John R. Waddell Plantation by a Union soldier and rode through the Battle of Marianna on the back of the man's horse, became Marianna's first African American attorney. He became a lawyer thanks to the influence of Major William H. Milton, a former Confederate officer and attorney.


Much of the scene of the fighting at Marianna is now a four-lane highway, but the grounds of St. Luke's Episcopal Church have been preserved. A number of homes in Marianna date from the antebellum era and at least one, the Holden House, still preserves scars from the battle. Markers to the Battle of Marianna can be found at St. Luke's Episcopal Church and Courthouse Square in Marianna. A large monument to the Southern defenders is a focal point of the city and another memorial was unveiled this year at Riverside Cemetery. Headstones for at least two Union soldiers can also be seen in the city. The weathered stone for Lt. Isaac Adams of the 2nd Maine Cavalry remains, although his body was long ago moved to Barrancas National Cemetery. Local citizens have also erected a headstone for Private Nicholas Francis, the U.S. Colored Infantry soldier killed in the battle.


For more, please visit http://www.battleofmarianna.net/ and consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida.


Friday, September 28, 2007

September 28 - The Battle of Vernon, Florida

On this date, 134 years ago, members of the Vernon Home Guard collided with Union forces withdrawing after the Battle of Marianna. The incident took place at Hard Labor Creek in Washington County as the men from Vernon were riding for Marianna after being called out by their captain, W.B. Jones, to respond to a summons for help from officials in Jackson County. They had not yet heard of the Battle of Marianna.

As they came down the hill on the old Marianna to Vernon road and approached the creek, they ran head on into the vanguard of Asboth's Federal column. The Union troops, trailed by large herds of confiscated livestock and more than 600 liberated slaves, had left Marianna before dark and were on their way back to Choctawhatchee Bay. In no mood to be delayed, they ordered Captain Jones and his men out of the road.

Although details are somewhat sketchy, a "large man" named Stephen Pierce verbally taunted the Federal soldiers. Before anyone knew what was happening, they opened fire on Jones and his men. Pierce was killed and at least one other man wounded. A running skirmish broke out that continued from Hard Labor Creek to Vernon, a distance of several miles. Captain Jones and a number of his men were taken prisoners and the rest scattered. Pierce, a former soldier in the 4th Florida Infantry, was carried up the hill to today's Washington or Hard Labor Cemetery and buried.

Pushing on to Vernon, the Federal column halted briefly before continuing its march to Choctawhatchee Bay. Some of the younger prisoners captured at the Battle of Marianna were released at Vernon and made their way back to Marianna on foot.

For more on the Battle of Marianna and the 1864 raid, please visit www.battleofmarianna.net. And, of course, I encourage you to consider my new book on the topic, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available now through all major online bookstores or for order through your favorite local bookstore. It is stocked in Marianna by Chipola River Book & Tea on Lafayette Street downtown and can be ordered online at www.battleofmarianna.net.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

September 27 - The Battle of Marianna, Florida


Today is the 143rd anniversary of the September 27, 1864, Battle of Marianna, Florida. Over the past couple of weeks, we've been recounting the activities associated with General Alexander Asboth's West Florida Raid. We continue today with a look at the primary engagement of the expedition.


Leaving Campbellton on the morning of the 27th, Asboth and his 700 Federal troops pushed southwest to Marianna, raiding numerous plantations and farms along their route. By this point, the raid had become the deepest Federal penetration of Confederate Florida during the entire Civil War. Colonel A.B. Montgomery, the Confederate commander, fell back slowly ahead of the oncoming Federals, carefully watching their movements until he became convinced that Marianna was their ultimate destination.


About three miles northwest of Marianna at a small stream called Hopkins' Branch, Montgomery attempted to stall the Union advance. He formed his men in a line of battle on the Marianna side of the branch and opened fire as the Federals approached. After a sharp exchange of fire, the Union troops charged the Confederate position, forcing back Montgomery and his men. A sharp skirmish then ensued, which continued all the way to the outskirts of Marianna.


As the Federals approached the city, Southern forces organized for defense. Montgomery formed his mounted troops in a line of battle on the western edge of the city at today's intersection of Lafayette and Russ Streets. The rest of the Confederate force, composed primarily of "home guards" and local volunteers, lined both sides of the main street entering Marianna and hid behind fences, trees, shrubs and in buildings.


The first Union attack on the city was rolled back by Montgomery's cavalry. The second attack, however, came on before the Southern horsemen could reload and the colonel was forced to withdraw up the main street, drawing the Federals into the ambush prepared by the militia and volunteers.


By the time the fighting ended, 18 men were dead or dying, dozens were wounded and St. Luke's Episcopal Church and two nearby homes had been burned to the ground. The Confederate forces west of the Apalachicola River had been largely demolished and Asboth's men took control of Marianna. The city was severely looted during the evening hours.


To learn more about the Battle of Marianna, be sure to visit http://www.battleofmarianna.net/. Also consider The Battle of Marianna, Florida, my book on the topic. It is available through all online retailers and at the Battle of Marianna website.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

September 26 - Skirmish at Campbellton

We continue today our recounting of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's raid on Marianna, Florida. The raid took place 143 years ago this week. On this date, September 26th, Asboth and his troops crossed Holmes Creek into the northwestern corner of Jackson County. As they moved on nearby Campbellton, then the second largest community in Jackson County, they were confronted by the men of Captain Alexander Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry, a small "home guard" or militia unit made up of men from throughout northern and western Jackson County.

Exactly how many men were with Godwin when he tried to oppose Asboth's 700 Union troops is not known, but at the most he had no more than 30-40 poorly trained and poorly armed citizen-soldiers. The Campbellton men, however, performed effectly as cavalry by skirmishing with the Federal vanguard and then pulling back as the Union troops formed for action. Over the course of the afternoon of September 26, 1864, three of Godwin's men were captured but otherwise neither side reported any casualties.

Godwin did send a courier to Marianna to alert Colonel Alexander B. Montgomery that the Federals were approaching. Montgomery assembled his available forces and rode north to Campbellton late that afternoon. His total command, in addition to Godwin's men who were shadowing the raiders, consisted of Captain W.W. Poe's Company C, 1st Florida Infantry Reserves (Mounted) and Captain Robert Chisolm's cavalry company from the Alabama State Militia.

The Federals camped in the Campbellton vicinity for the night, while Montgomery and his men approached from the south. Other couriers, meanwhile, rode out from Marianna to summon in other home guard units from the area along with Montgomery's other two cavalry companies.

Tomorrow we will continue our recounting of the raid with a look at the Battle of Marianna, Florida. Until then, be sure to visit our website at www.battleofmarianna.net.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Marianna Paper to publish Battle of Marianna edition

The weekly Jackson County Times, a very nice community newspaper published in Marianna, will publish a special commemorative issue this week to mark the anniversary of the 1864 Battle of Marianna.

The issue will include photographs and coverage of local memorial events, historical articles looking back at the battle, and even a "Yanks are Coming" headline. It should make for a good read.

By the way, this is a good time to mention that autographed copies of my books, The Battle of Marianna, Florida and The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida are now available at Chipola River Book & Tea in downtown Marianna. As always, you can order them online at www.battleofmarianna.net or www.exploresouthernhistory.com.

September 25 - Crossing the Choctawhatchee

Continuing our recounting of Asboth's raid on Marianna, on September 25, 1864, the Union troops crossed the Choctawhatchee River at Cerrogordo in Holmes County. They had moved north from Walton County the previous day, passing today's Ponce de Leon Springs along the way.

The first casualty of the raid was sustained on the afternoon of the 24th at Big Sandy Creek in Holmes County when one of the Union soldiers was mortally wounded in an accidental shooting. He was left behind in the care of a local family and his eventual fate is unknown, although it was believed by his comrades that he had died.

In 1864, Cerrogordo was the county seat of Holmes County (the modern city of Bonifay was not founded until some years later). The troops crossed here on the ferry, an operation that took all day. They camped on the night of the 25th on the east bank of the river. On the next day they would begin their final advance into Jackson County and fighting would begin with local home guard units.

For more information before tomorrow, be sure to visit www.battleofmarianna.net

Monday, September 24, 2007

September 23 - The Skirmish at Eucheeanna

As we continue our look back at the 1864 raid on Marianna, September 23rd was the date of the first known fighting associated with the expedition. After spending two days moving through what is now western Walton County, Asboth's men reached the small community of Eucheeanna at sunrise on the 23rd.

Approaching the settlement, then the seat of government for the county, undetected, they charged a camp of Confederate cavalry. The Confederates were in town enforcing the conscription or military draft and undoubtedly numbered no more than a couple of dozen men. The 2nd Maine Cavalry swarmed down on them so fast there was little they could do but break and run.

A handful were captured, but the rest managed to escape. Otherwise, there were no reported casualties on either side.

Following the brief skirmish, the Federal troops spread out through the Eucheeanna area, raiding homes and farms and inflicting as much economic damage as possible. Boats on the Choctawhatchee River were destroyed and the community was severely looted.

We will continue our account of the raid tomorrow with details on the movement north into Holmes County, Florida. In the meantime, feel free to learn more by visiting www.battleofmarianna.net.

Friday, September 21, 2007

September 21 - The Raid continues

Continuing our daily recounting of the September 1864 raid on Marianna by Federal troops under General Alexander Asboth, on this date (September 21, 1864) the Union force continued its movement inland via the Ridge Road from Santa Rosa Sound. No opposition was encountered and, as the Federals were moving through a largely unpopulated area, little of consequence took place.

In a subsequent report, General Asboth indicated that his troops were in good spirits during this phase of the raid, although exposed to constant rain. Naval records indicate that a tropical disturbance had been observed in the lower Gulf a week or two earlier, so it is possible that the soldiers were raiding through what remained of that system. Possibly because of the constant rain, Confederate forces and civilians in the area generally remained out of the weather. As a result, the Federals were able to move well inland without being detected.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sept 20 - The Raid turns inland

Continuing our look back at the Union raid on Marianna, it was on this date (September 20, 1864) that General Asboth turned his command inland from the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound and began a push into Walton County.

The soldiers moved up the old Ridge Road, which passed around the northern edge of Choctawhatchee Bay and then led northeast into the heart of Walton County. At the time of the war, the route was entirely within Walton County, but Okaloosa County was created in subsequent years and encompasses what was then the western side of Walton. The soldiers camped on the night of the 20th somewhere in what is now eastern Okaloosa County. They encountered no resistance as they moved inland.

Meanwhile, the Quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis, formerly a Confederate blockade runner, moved across to the eastern side of Choctawhatchee Bay to await developments and support the expedition as necessary.

Confederate forces in Marianna still had no news of the movement of Asboth's command and Union reports indicate that steady rains continued to fall as the soldiers moved inland on the 20th.

We will continue our recounting of the Marianna raid tomorrow, but in the meantime visit our site, www.battleofmarianna.net, for complete information.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September 19 - The Camp on Santa Rosa Sound

Continuing our daily recounting of the Union raid on Marianna, the Federal troops under General Asboth spent September 19, 1864, in a camp on Santa Rosa Sound just west of present day Fort Walton Beach.

The troops had moved down the old Military or Jackson Road from Navy Cove (Gulf Breeze) on the 18th and spent the day of the 19th making final preparations for their planned turn inland. The command consisted of roughly 700 men and was comprised of three battalions from the 2nd Maine Cavalry, 1 battalion from the 1st Florida U.S. cavalry and 2 companies of picked men from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Infantries. Two pieces of artillery, 12-pounder howitzers, were attached to Company M of the 2nd Maine. The only other unit known to have been representated was the 7th Vermont Veteran Volunteers. A single member of that regiments, Captain M.M. Young, volunteered for service on Asboth's staff.

Following final preparations, the troops would turn inland on the morning of the 20th to begin their raid through Walton, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties. Our blog history of the raid will continue tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to visit www.battleofmarianna.net for more information.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

September 18 - The Marianna Raid Begins

As promised, we begin today our recounting of the Union raid on Marianna, that began on this date in 1864.

After having crossed Pensacola Bay from their quarters at Barrancas Post to Navy Cove, the site of today's Gulf Breeze, the 700 soldiers of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth began an eastward march along the old Jackson or Military road along the shore of Santa Rosa Sound.

The troops reached the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound (just west of today's Fort Walton Beach) by nightfall on the 18th and established camp there. They would remain here for the next couple of days, receiving supplies from the Quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis and preparing to turn inland for their anticipated attack on Marianna. No Confederate opposition had been encountered so far.

For more on the Marianna raid, be sure to visit www.battleofmarianna.net.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Alexander Asboth and the Marianna Raid


The photo at right is of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth. On this date, September 12, 1864, Asboth informed his superiors in the Department of the Gulf that he was planning an attack on the Northwest Florida city of Marianna.
The general had learned from Southern informants that Confederate forces were in the process of fortifying Marianna, but that the troops assigned to defend the city were widely scattered. He believed that he could take the town and snap up the isolated Confederate companies in detail. He also was told by his informants that several hundred prisoners of war were being held in Marianna, but this information proved false. Otherwise, however, the intelligence he received on the eve of the Marianna raid was surprisingly accurate.
In his initial outline of his plans, Asboth indicated that he planned to move a large mounted force east down Santa Rosa Island from Pensacola and cross East Pass to the mainland near present-day Destin. The pass could then be forded at low tide. From there he planned to strike northeast through Washington and Jackson Counties to Marianna and then return via the saltworks on St. Andrews Bay. The plan would be altered over the next few days to expand the scope of the operation.
For the rest of this month, I will follow the daily progress of the Marianna raid in my postings. be sure to check back daily as I think you will find it interesting. As always, if you are interested in learning more about the Battle of Marianna, be sure to visit http://www.battleofmarianna.net/. Be sure to consider my books while you are there!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Captain Henry Grace - Graceville


This faded photograph is of Captain Henry Grace of Jackson County. Grace was one of the men for whom the modern town of Graceville was later named.
Early in the war, Captain Grace organized a company in Northwest Jackson County that he dubbed the "Campbellton Boys." This unit became Company G, 6th Florida Infantry, when that regiment was formed in 1862. The 6th served at Knoxville and in the Kentucky campaign before being attached to the Army of Tennessee. The men went on to fight at Chickamauga, Chattanooga (Missionary Ridge), the Atlanta Campaign, Franklin, Nashville and finally in the Battle of Bentonville in North Carolina. It was surrendered to Sherman at the end of the war.
Captain Grace's home was raided by Union troops under Lt. Col. Andrew Spurling during the September 1864 raid on Marianna. His wife and father-in-law were home at the time, but were not injured.
After the war, Grace and other family members founded the modern community of Graceville in Jackson County. He died in 1899 and is buried at Marvin Chapel Cemetery in Jackson County.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Orange Hill, Florida


The photo at right is of the old Marianna to Vernon road at the point it crosses Orange Hill, one of the highest points in Florida.
Known during the Civil War as Hickory Hill, this landmark was a key feature in both Union and Confederate documents. The center of a significant grouping of large plantations, including the massive operation of David Porter Everett, Hickory or Orange Hill was one of the most populated areas of Washington County. Confederate troops operated from a permanent encampment here for much of the war due to the community's strategic location at the intersection of the Marianna to Vernon road and the old road that led south via the Econfina settlements to the important saltworks on St. Andrews bay.
The hill was also the site of a Baptist-affiliated academy during the years leading up to the Civil War. This institution was the ancestor of today's Stetson University in Deland.
On September 28, 1864, Union troops crossed over Orange Hill on their way back to Pensacola from the Battle of Marianna. Local tradition holds that they halted on the grounds of the academy for their noon meal before continuing down the road in the photograph to Vernon and Point Washington.
The academy site is on the grounds of today's Orange Hill United Methodist Church.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Brig. Gen. William Miller


The photograph at right is of Brigadier General William Miller, the man remembered by generations of Floridians as the "hero of Natural Bridge."
General Miller, who made his living in the Northwest Florida timber industry before the war, was the original colonel of the 1st Florida Infantry. A veteran of the Mexican-American War, he commanded the 1st Florida during the bloody combat at Shiloh, Tennessee. Miller was still in command of the 1st Florida during the horrendous winter battle at Stones River, Tennessee. During the second day of fighting there, he was severely wounded while leading Confederate troops in an assault on the Union left flank. Disabled from command by his wounds, he spent months recovering until he was again able to resume some semblance of duty.
In 1864, General Miller was appointed to coordinate the organization of reserve forces in Florida. He was responsible for the coordination and training of the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves, a regiment raised for state defense. He also commanded a force of 1,000 impressed slaves who worked to improve roads, railroads and fortifications in North Florida during the final months of the war.
In March of 1865, Miller and his commanding officer, Major General Samuel Jones, directed the successful defense of Tallahassee and Thomasville, Georgia at the Battle of Natural Bridge. Both men were under fire during the battle.
After the war, Miller resumed his career in the timber industry and eventually settled in Walton County's Point Washington community. He died early in the 20th century and is buried in Pensacola.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Have a good Labor Day!

Just a quick note to wish everyone a happy and safe Labor Day! I'll resume Civil War blogging tomorrow, but for today I'm going to relax and get ready for tonight's Florida State-Clemson game!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Review of The Battle of Natural Bridge

The first review of The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida is out and I'm pleased. You can read it at Civil War Books and Authors (http://cwba.blogspot.com).

We'll get a few typos fixed before next week when the main printing goes out.

In the review, Drew mentions something that was a real labor of love in the writing of this book. In the appendices, I try to identify every unit and individual who fought at the Battle of Natural Bridge. I believe I have all of the units, but obviously the list of names (although it includes hundreds) is incomplete. If you get a chance to read the book and know of any individual's name that you don't see included, please let me know so we can include it in future editions.

Thanks!