Monday, September 24, 2012

Federal Raiders reach Holmes County, 148 years ago today

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park
The Raid on Marianna continued to push its way slowly eastward, with the Union troops moving into Holmes County 148 years ago today.

Having inflicted heavy losses on the people and farms of the Euchee Valley in Walton County, the raiders turned north up the west side of the Choctawhatchee River aiming for Cerrogordo, the county seat of Holmes County. Before moving out they had destroyed all of the boats in the vicinity, as well as the main ferry over the Choctawhatchee River that linked Eucheeanna with Vernon and Marianna.

The turn up the river did much to hide General Asboth's true intent. Since the main road from Walton County to Marianna was a direct route, by avoiding it he prevented Captain W.B. Jones' Home Guards at Vernon and Captain William A. Jeter's Company E, 5th Florida Cavalry, at Hickory Hill (Orange Hill) from discovering his movement. These two companies were placed at positions astride the Eucheeanna to Marianna road to warn headquarters in Marianna of any approach by Union troops from the west.

Water Pours from Ponce de Leon Springs
Instead of crossing the Choctawhatchee and continuing up the main road, however, Asboth detoured to the north into Holmes County and by midday on September 24th, 148 years ago today, reached the site of today's Ponce de Leon Springs.

As the entered Holmes County, the Federals struck the home and farm of Angus Gillis, where they took his livestock, fodder and corn, liberated and carried away his slaves and did other unspecified damage. They then paused at today's Ponce de Leon Springs State Park long enough to destroy the "double pen" log inn or hotel operated there for visitors who came to picnic or swim in the beautiful spring.

Monument at site of Cerrogordo in Holmes County
It was in this vicinity that the Union command suffered its first casualty of the raid. Private Joseph Williams of Company C, 86th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) was mortally wounded by an accidental gunshot. As was the custom of the day, he was left in the care of a local family. As best as can be determined, Private Williams was never heard from again and assuming the surgeon's description of his wound to be mortal was accurate, he probably died and was buried somewhere in the Ponce de Leon vicinity.

The raiders also raided the home of one of their own while in Ponce de Leon. Owen T. Parish was a private in Company C, 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.). He later filed with the Southern Claims Commission seeking reimbursement for his losses during Asboth's raid. His fellow soldiers, he reported, took a mare, saddle and bridle from his home as they passed by.

Site of Cerrogordo on the Choctawhatchee River
The Federals reached Cerrogordo on the afternoon of September 24th and went into camp for the night, feasting on the chickens, hogs and cows of local residents. The seat of government and largest town in Holmes County, the community was home to the county's small frame courthouse and jail. It also had a store and a scattering of houses, but more importantly to Asboth was the location of Hewitt's Ferry across the Choctawhatchee River.

I will post more on the raid tomorrow, so be sure to check back then. To read all of my other posts, visit this blog's main page at http://civilwarflorida.blogspot.com.

You can read about the Marianna Raid and Battle of Marianna in depth in my book The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition. It is also available as an instant download for Amazon Kindle and on iBooks.

You can also read more about the raid anytime at www.battleofmarianna.com.

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