Sunday, September 28, 2008
The Raid on Marianna - September 28, 1864 (Part Two)
The Union column moved southwest from Marianna on the old St. Andrew Bay road.
Modern communities along their line of march on September 28, 1864, included Kynesville, Steele City, Orange Hill and Vernon.
As the troops approached Hard Labor Creek near today's Washington Church in Washington County, they unexpectedly and suddenly ran into a group of Confederate reinforcements on its way to Marianna.
The Southerners were the men of the Vernon Home Guard, commanded by Captain W.B. Jones. A noted community leader and one-time state senator, Jones had served as an officer in the 4th Florida Infantry earlier in the war but was severely wounded in battle and discharged for medical reasons. After recovering somewhat, he organized a "company of scouts" to defend the Vernon area from raids. This unit was rolled into the 1st Florida Militia when Governor John Milton issued his "Home Guard" order during the summer of 1864.
A courier from Marianna had reached Vernon (then the county seat of Washington County) on the evening of September 27th and Captain Jones had immediately called out his men. Several regular soldiers home on leave joined with them and a number of other men from the area were "conscripted" or ordered on the spot to grab a weapon and come along.
The company set out on horseback for Marianna on the morning of the 28th and took the same road via which Asboth was returning from the battle. The two forces came down the slopes on each side of Hard Labor Creek at the same time and unexpectedly came up with each other.
Exactly what happened is somewhat difficult to unravel. John J. Wright, a Southern participant, later wrote, "We suddenly met the Northern soldiers and they demanded that we surrender, fighting opened and a large man by the name of Pierce was killed near me. I was wounded, and was taken home. Captain Jones was captured, and was taken away."
Wright reported that he was hit twice by Union bullets, once in the shoulder and once in the right leg.
Stephen Pierce was a former member of Company H, 4th Florida Infantry (the "Washington County Invincibles"). He had fought in the Battles of Shiloh and Stones River, but fell ill and was given a medical discharge in 1863. According to local legend, he was shot after "loudly voicing his opinion" of the Union soldiers.
The sudden burst of gunfire from the Federals shattered Jones' company. Another participant, M.L. Lassiter, described what happened next. "I made my escape on horseback and outran them," he wrote. "I was pursued all the way back to Vernon and shot at many times but escaped without injury."
In addition to killing Pierce and wounding Wright, the Federals also captured Captain Jones and 10 of his men in the "Battle of Vernon." Half of the prisoners would die in Northern prison camps by the end of the war.
The Union column moved on into Vernon where they paused for the night. The next morning it continued to move southwest and on to Choctawhatchee Bay.
You can read more about the Battle of Vernon on the internet by visiting: http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/battleofvernon.html and as always you can learn more about the raid on Marianna at http://www.battleofmarianna.net/.