Saturday, September 27, 2008
The Battle of Marianna, Florida - September 27, 1864, 12:30 p.m.
These two photographs relate to one of the most intriguing stories to arise from the events of September 27, 1864.
The book shown here is the historic Bible of St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The soldier shown at right was Major Nathan Cutler of the 2nd Maine Cavalry.
After finally forcing the surrender of most of the Marianna Home Guards in the cemetery at St. Luke's, Colonel Zulavsky and his men found themselves still being fired upon by Confederate soldiers barricaded inside the church and two nearby structures. Unable to convince them to surrender, Zulavsky ordered them burned out.
Union soldiers approached the west end of the church with artillery swabs, coated the timber of the structure with a flammable liquid and then set it on fire.
According to legend, Major Cutler objected to the burning of the church. When Zulavsky repeated the order, the young officer supposedly dashed into the building to save the Bible. As he was emerging from the burning structure, however, he was confronted by two teenagers from the Marianna Home Guard. He turned on them with his sword, but when he saw their ages (under 14), he hesitated. The two youths shot him with loads of buckshot from their shotguns.
It is difficult to say whether the story is true. One Union eyewitness said that Cutler was wounded while leading the charge down the street. Confederate eyewitnesses said that he saved the Bible. Interviewed later in life, he did not admit to his role in the incident, but said that "someone" in the Union forces objected to the burning and expressed his own opinion that it was not a military necessity but had been an act of vandalism.
Whatever the truth of the story, the Bible remains a cherished artifact of the Battle of Marianna and is now on display inside the church. Other than the Bible, on the bell of St. Luke's survived the fire.
Our series will continue, but until the next post you can read more by visiting www.battleofmarianna.net.