Wednesday, October 10, 2007
The man who saved the "Cutler Bible"
This faded image is of Major Nathan Cutler, an officer with the 2nd Maine Cavalry during the Civil War. Major Cutler is the man for whom the "Cutler Bible," now preserved at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Marianna, is named.
At the time of the Battle of Marianna, Cutler was a 20 year old officer who had left his studies at Harvard University to join the 2nd Maine Cavalry. He led the first charge on Marianna, but was driven back by strong Confederate fire. Later during the battle, as the story goes, orders were handed down from Colonel L.L. Zulavsky (who had assumed command of the Union forces following the wounding of Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth) to burn St. Luke's Church and two nearby homes to dislodge Confederate soldiers who refused to surrender.
Supposedly Major Cutler objected to the orders, but was overruled. He then dashed into the burning church and saved the Bible, bringing it through the flames to safety. A short time later, he was seriously wounded by two young members of the Marianna home guard and ultimately was taken prisoner after his comrades were forced to leave him behind in Marianna due to the seriousness of his wounds.
In later years Cutler was interviewed about the incident. Although he did not claim to have saved the Bible, he did remember the incident and described how "someone" in the Union force had objected to the burning of the church, but that the objections had been overruled and the orders carried out. A local historian who actually met the major evidently came away convinced the story was true, but that Cutler was simply being modest in the interview.
Either way, the Bible survives and is preserved in a glass case in the church and the legend remains one of Jackson County's most intriguing stories.
For more on the Battle of Marianna, please visit www.battleofmarianna.net.