Showing posts with label home guard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label home guard. Show all posts

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 To read the other posts in this series, just visit the home page of this blog at

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Raid on Marianna - September 27, 1864, 8:30 a.m.

The long column of Federal soldiers continued south down the Campbellton Marianna road on the morning of September 27, 1864.
They continued to raid homes, farms and plantations along their route. Eight year old Armstrong Purdee remembered that the column stopped at the Russ plantation before crossing Russ Mill Creek and climbing the hill seen here to Webbville.
Once a town that had rivaled Marianna for the title of County Seat of Jackson County, Webbville had vanished as a community by 1864. The name was preserved, however, in the plantation of Lt. Col. W.D. Barnes.
The second in command of the 1st Florida Reserves, Barnes was not in Jackson County on the day of the raid, but his home and farm sustained heavy damage at the hands of the raiders. The slaves at Webbville were liberated and soldiers rounded up wagons, horses, mules, cows and carted off all the supplies they could.
From here the column passed straight down this hill and continued on to the Whitesville plantation of Marianna Mayor Thomas M. White. Their route followed the old road, which wound its way through rich farmland before finally turning east and leading on to Marianna.
In town, bells suddenly sounded. It was the previously agreed signal to alert the men of Captain Jesse Norwood's Marianna Home Guard that they should grab their weapons and assemble at the courthouse.
Several eyewitnesses recalled that it was a clear blue morning and that days of rain had finally ended. The day dawned cool and beautiful and people were just beginning to go about their activities when the bells began to sound. Word quickly spread that Union troops were approaching Marianna on the Campbellton road and bedlam erupted.
Eyewitness Fanny Champan remembered it as a "frightful time" and Dr. Ethelred Philips, a prominent Unionist, wrote of sending his wife and youngest son out of town for their safety.
Although the Florida Home Guard technically included only men and teenagers over the age of 15, boys as young as 12 and 13 turned out with weapons that morning to assist in the defense of their city. Citizens from the area that happened to be in town also took up arms and joined Norwood's men, as did a key group of Confederate soldiers and officers that happened to be home on medical leave due to wounds or illness. Among these were Captains Henry O. Bassett and Walter Robinson. The recuperating Confederate regulars gave Norwood's unit a level of experience and leadership rare among such citizen organizations. Although Norwood functioned as captain of his unit, he was well aware of the value of such men and placed the regular officers in charge of various sections of his command.
In the next hour or so the Marianna Home Guard was joined by Captain Henry Robinson with the school boys and volunteers from Greenwood.
It is an interesting footnote of the Battle of Marianna that three captains named Robinson were associated with the engagement. Captain Henry Robinson commanded the Greenwood unit. Captain Walter J. Robinson volunteered for service with Norwood's men. And Captain George Robinson was captain of the home guard unit from the Blue Spring/Cowpen Pond area, but did not reach town in time for the coming fight.
Our series will continue. Until the next post you can read more by visiting