Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Battle of Marianna, 148 years ago today

Battle of Marianna Monument
The Battle of Marianna, Florida, one of the sharpest small encounters of the War Between the States, took place 148 years ago today.

Here are some facts about this encounter that you may not know:
  • 25% of Marianna's war-time population vanished in a single day, either killed, wounded, captured or voluntarily going away with the Union troops.
  • 600 slaves followed the Union troops back to Pensacola, the largest single emancipation of slaves in Florida during the war.
  • Jackson, Washington, Holmes and Walton Counties sustained more economic damage during the Marianna raid than did any other counties in Florida during the entire war.
  • The Confederate commander, Colonel Alexander Montgomery, was a seasoned field officer who had remained on the field in command of the 3rd Georgia Infantry at the Battle of Second Manassas, despite being seriously wounded.
  • The Union commnader, Brigadier General Alexander Asboth, was a former Hungarian freedom fighter who was credited with helping to save the Union army at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. He was seriously wounded in that encounter and was wounded again at Marianna.
  • The raid ended mail service to the interior counties of the Florida Panhandle and it would not be restored until well after the end of the war.
  • Four Confederate soldiers and volunteers burned to death in St. Luke's Episcopal Church after refusing to surrender.
  • The Ely-Criglar home, which was in the line of fire during the Battle of Marianna, is thought to be the most battle-scarred private home in Florida.
  • The Confederate commander, Colonel Montgomery, was taken prisoner and refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Union at the end of the war and was held in prison for months after the final collapse of the Confederacy.
  • The Union commander, General Asboth, was a surveyor and engineer before the war. He supervised the surveys for famed Central Park in New York City.
  • There are multiple accounts, both Northern and Southern, that verify the participation of the women of Marianna in the fighting.
  • At least one Confederate, 15-year-old Woody Nickels of the Marianna Home Guard, was murdered by Union troops after the battle.
  • Armstrong Purdee, an 8-year-old slave taken from the Waddell Plantation, rode through the entire Battle of Marianna on the back of a Union soldier's horse. He later became Marianna's first black attorney. His daughter still lives in Jackson County.
  • Captain George Maynard, 82nd U.S. Colored Troops, received the Congressional Medal of Honor in part for his courage in saving the lives of Confederate prisoners of war at Marianna.
  • Boys as young as 12, 13 and 14 took part in hand to hand combat as members of the Marianna Home Guard, Greenwood Club Cavalry and Campbellton Cavalry.
To learn more about the Battle of Marianna, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com, and please consider my book: The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition. It is also available as an instant download for Amazon Kindle and on iBooks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Crossing at Cerrogordo, 148 years ago today

Choctawhatchee River at Cerrogordo
Rain was falling as the Federal troops advancing on Marianna began their slow, arduous crossing of the Choctawhatchee River on September 25, 1864, 148 years ago today.

The rain had actually been falling on the soldiers for over seven days. A tropical storm reported by ships in the lower Gulf of Mexico a couple of weeks earlier had moved ashore and then stalled out over the Florida Panhandle and South Alabama. The result was rain that continued for day after day after day.

The Union troops spent the entire day crossing the river.
The rains turned the primitive roads of the Florida Panhandle into muddy quagmires and brought the streams and rivers along the route of the raid out of their banks. This caused the Federal column to move slower than normal, but also proved to be an advantage to General Asboth as he drew ever closer to his target by keeping Confederate troops in their camps and under what shelter they could find.

The Holmes County Home Guard, for example, had formed during the summer under Captain Sam Grantham. Citizen soldiers who were expected to drop their daily pursuits and pick up their weapons during times of trouble, the men of Grantham's company were in their houses staying dry when Asboth reached their county seat of Cerrogordo on September 24th and do not seem to have been aware of his day-long crossing of the Choctawhatchee on the 25th, 148 years ago today.

Site of Cerrogordo in Holmes County
General Asboth reported that he crossed over the river from Cerrogordo in a small boat. His men came across on the ferry flat, while the more than 700 horses of the Union column swam the river. Remarkably, not a man was lost, even though the river was muddy and running high.

The crossing was completed by nightfall. No attempt was made by the Federals to resume their advance on the 25th. They bedded down for the night in the rain on the east bank of the Choctawhatchee directly across from Cerrogordo. They would continue their movement through Holmes County and into Jackson County the next day. The Battle of Marianna was now just two days away.

To learn more about the Raid on Marianna, please consider 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 read more about the raid at www.battleofmarianna.com. To read the other posts in this series, just visit the home page of this blog at http://civilwarflorida.blogspot.com.

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.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Asboth hits Eucheeanna, 148 years ago today

Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church in Eucheeanna
The Federal raiders had already been moving for five days when they hit the Walton County seat of Eucheeanna at sunrise on the morning of September 23, 1864, 148 years ago today.

The Second Maine Cavalry formed a line of battle outside the village and came down so fast the two detachments of Confederate cavalry camped there were not able to wage much of a defense at all. The Southern horsemen scattered, leaving behind their camp, supplies and even many of their weapons.

Asboth reported that he captured 9 prisoners of war and 6 political prisoners at Eucheeanna, which was located about 3 miles southeast of today's Defuniak Springs. Also taken were 46 horses, 8 mules, 26 stand of arms and bar lead bearing the mark of "Merchants' Shot-Works" in Baltimore, Maryland.

Euchee Valley as seen from a nearby hilltop
The real damage done that day, however, was not to the Confederate military but to the civilians of the Euchee Valley of Walton County.

The men of the community were rounded up and confined in the little two-story log jail while foraging parties spread out through Eucheeanna to began a day and night of destruction unlike anything seen in Florida since the Second Seminole War.

One of the men thrown into the jail that night was Alexander McCullum, a Unionist. He later filed a claim for his losses with the Southern Claims Commission, an agency established by the U.S. government after the war to consider the claims of Southern Unionists:

Grave of Giles Bowers of Eucheeanna
Asboth used his home as a headquarters.
...He was arrested by Genl. Ashboth Brigade, and put into the jail at Eucheeanna, where he remained all night, and brought before the General the next morning, and then and there examined and tried, and fully released, without any punishment whatever.

McCullum lost his horse, bridle and saddle to the Federal troops.

A foraging party hit the home of Mrs. McLean, where they looted her farm. Everything of value was taken and even her chickens were shot down in the yard. Her sick brother, who was home on medical leave from the Confederate army, managed to elude capture by lifting up the floorboards of the house and hiding in a hole beneath that had been dug to secure clay for the little house's "stick and daub" chimney.

Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church & Cemetery
At the plantation of Colonel John L. McKinnon, one of the few real plantations in the Euchee Valley, the soldiers ordered the slaves to hitch up all of the wagons and carts on the place. These were loaded with the meat from the smokehouse and corn from the corncrib. The slaves who did not want to go with the Federals were forcibly removed, although three escaped by hiding in a nearby swamp. One of these, Harriett Crow, was the wife of the Euchee (Yuchi) Indian chief Jim Crow. After the soldiers left, she came out of the swamp and set off on foot with one of the McKinnon daughters to learn the fate of a family member who was staying with friends nearby. Along the way they found a side of bacon in the road. It had fallen from one of the "confiscated" wagons. They were trying to get it back home when the missing brother appeared and lent a hand. The side of bacon along with kernals of corn sifted from the sand provided food for the family and slaves alike throughout the long winter of 1864-1865.

Euchee Valley as it appears today
At the home of Abigail McDonald, the raiders made off with a horse, a mule, 100 bushels of corn, a steer, 20 head of hogs, 75 bushels of potatoes, 500 barrels of fodder, 20 turkeys, 24 chickens and 3 sheep. In a claim filed with the Southern Claims Commission, she valued her losses at $799.80:

...[T]he mile was taken by Col. of Gen. Asboth's command, who said it was in compliance with an order of General Asboth, that their horses were worn out and they needed fresh ones, on the same day the poultry was killed, and the potatoes, corn and fodder also were taken.

Sexual assaults were a dark and often unmentioned part of such raids. The only recorded incident of sexual assault during the Marianna Raid took place that evening near Eucheeanna. A sergeant from one of the USCT detachments entered an isolated farm house where he allegedly raped both a woman and her teenage daughter. He was pointed out to Federal officers, but the local people were never informed of any action being taken against him.

To read about the Federal raid in Walton County in full detail, please consider my book The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition. It is also available as an instant download for Amazon Kindle and at iBooks.

To learn more about the Marianna Raid online, please visit www.battleofmarianna.com.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Federal Troops in Walton County, 148 Years Ago

Choctawhatchee Bay
The long column of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth's Union force continued to push westward across the Florida Panhandle on September 22, 1864. Despite heavy rain, they advanced deep into Walton County 148 years ago today.

After camping two days at Camp Walton (Fort Walton Beach), the column moved around the northern rim of Choctawhatchee Bay to LaGrange Landing at present-day Freeport. There they took on supplies from the Quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis before turning inland on the morning of the 21st.

Instead of moving directly up the road to Eucheeanna, then the county seat of Walton County, the Federals turned to the northwest and rode for the Shoal River (between the present-day cities of Defuniak Springs and Crestview). The Shoal was the center of an area of extensive cattle ranches in 1864, the largest being owned by the Cawthon family.

Two brothers, Lafayette and William J. Cawthon, were home on leave from the Fifteenth Confederate Cavalry when Asboth arrived at their home. They were taken prisoner and were carried along with the raiders, who also seized corn, fodder, meat, livestock and inflicted as much damage as they could on the isolated farms and ranches of the area.

Lake Defuniak
By late afternoon on the 22nd, 148 years ago today, the raiders had turned east and were approaching Lake Defuniak, where the city of Defuniak Springs would grow in later years. It is an area of beautiful rolling hills and lakes and was then a cattle range.

Several individual soldiers noted in their diaries and letters that the rain continued to fall and that they were unable to camp that night because the ground was so wet. They continued to move slowly forward, sometimes falling asleep in their saddles.

Either before or during the early days of the raid, General Asboth had learned that there was a small Confederate cavalry camp at Eucheeanna. The Southern troopers had yet to show themselves, so the general decided to take the battle to them. Plans were made for an attack on Eucheeanna at sunrise the next morning.

I'll post on what happened at Eucheeanna tomorrow, so be sure to check back for more!  You can always learn more about the Marianna raid in my book: The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition (also available for Amazon Kindle).

You can also read more at www.battleofmarianna.com.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Raid on Marianna began 148 years ago today

Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth
 On September 18, 1864, 148 years ago today, Brigadier General Alexander Asboth crossed Pensacola Bay on the Quartermaster steamer Lizzie Davis to begin what would become the deepest penetration of Confederate Florida by Federal troops during the entire War Between the States.

Most of the general's troops had already crossed the bay from Fort Barrancas to Navy Cove at what is now Gulf Breeze. Other companies would continue to cross throughout the day. The 700 man force was made up of three battalions from the Second Maine Cavalry, one battalion from the First Florida Cavalry (U.S.) and two companies of picked men from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT). One officer, Captain Mahlon M. Young, from the Seventh Vermont Veteran Volunteers also took part as a member of Asboth's staff. All were mounted.

In addition to the soldiers making up the Union strike force, a company of New York troops manned field artillery that had been placed aboard the Lizzie Davis for the protection of that vessel. These men would not take part in the inland movement.

Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound
On the same day of his crossing, General Asboth moved east up the old Federal road to the Narrows of Santa Rosa Sound, a point known today as Fort Walton Beach. He indicated that his men were exposed to constant rain and individual soldiers noted in letters and their diaries that they advanced through heavy rainfall and mud that sometimes came up to the skirts of their saddles. Portions of the old road they followed can still be seen today in the Naval Live Oaks Reserve area of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Fort Walton Temple Mound

The Federal encampment at the Narrows was where downtown Fort Walton Beach stands today. This was the site where the Confederates built Camp Walton in 1862. They had evacuated the position in 1862, but it stood around the well-known Fort Walton Temple Mound which can still be seen today. Centuries old, the platform mound was built during the Mississippian era (A.D. 900 - 1500) and was the center of a large chiefdom from which the Fort Walton culture of North Florida, South Alabama and Southwest Georgia derives its name.

War-time Sketch of Asboth & His Dog
Asboth remained at Camp Walton until the morning of September 20th before turning inland around the north side of Choctawhatchee Bay. While his primary objectives were to take Marianna, capture the Confederate cavalry and mounted infantry headquartered there and enlist recruits for the Union army, his route would give him the opportunity to inflict shocking damage on civilian targets in Walton, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties.

I'll post more about the raid in coming days, focusing on some original accounts and details that you might not have read before.  Here are some links that provide information on some of the sites involved in the first day's movement.
If you are interested in reading about the raid in detail, please consider my book:  The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Expanded Edition (also available for Amazon Kindle and on iBooks).