Friday, September 19, 2008

Skirmish at Campbellton was important preliminary to the Battle of Marianna


Campbellton – The Battle of Marianna is a well known part of local history, but fewer people know about a smaller but also important skirmish that took place the previous day near Campbellton.

The fight developed as 700 Union soldiers from the 2nd Maine Cavalry, 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry and 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Infantries splashed their way across Holmes Creek and began moving northeast up the old road leading from the “Marianna Ford” to Campbellton. This road followed roughly the route of today’s Tri-County Road to the Galilee community before eventually leading along the approximate route of Highway 273 to Campbellton.
As the Federal troops crossed into Jackson County on the morning of September 26, 1864, word spread like lightning throughout the area. The community had a local “home guard” or volunteer military unit and its commander, Captain A.R. Godwin, soon summoned his men to arms.
Godwin’s company was known as the “Campbellton Cavalry” and its volunteer members were under standing orders from Governor John Milton to resist any attack until reinforcements could arrive from the nearest Confederate headquarters, in this case Marianna. Following their orders to the letter, Godwin and his men sent a courier to Marianna with news that an enemy force was in the county and then rode out to oppose the oncoming Federals.
The Union troops, commanded by Brigadier General Alexander Asboth, moved slowly that morning, pausing to strike at homes and farms along the road. They confiscated provisions and livestock, freed slaves and did as much damage as possible to the local economy as they advanced.
As the day progressed, the Federals began to encounter resistance from Captain Godwin and his men. Exactly where the fighting started is not clear. Asboth said only that “rebel troops” were constantly hovering around the head of his column, engaging in “frequent skirmishes” with his men.
The Campbellton men, numbering less than 50, engaged in a standard cavalry practice of the time by approaching the Union troops on horseback, firing on them and then retreating back out of range. The routine was repeated time after time as Asboth’s column continued to move up the road to Campbellton.
There is no indication that any of Godwin’s men were killed or wounded in the fighting, but at least two were taken prisoner. Union records note that William Clayton and Charles Tipton were captured by Asboth’s men on September 26, 1864. Clayton identified himself as a member of Godwin’s company and Tipton reported that he was a Confederate soldier home on leave from the 11th Florida Infantry. He had turned out with his neighbors to oppose the raid.
Despite the resistance of Godwin and his men (against odds of more than 12 to 1), the Union troops finally reached Campbellton late in the afternoon. His soldiers exhausted from a day of riding and fighting, General Asboth set up camp in the town and halted his advance on Marianna until the next morning. The Campbellton Cavalry hovered in the distance, watching and waiting, until they were reinforced during the evening by Colonel Alexander Montgomery and two companies of Southern troops from Marianna.
The Union troops would move on the next morning and by noon would fight the Campbellton men again, this time at the Battle of Marianna.
Note: This article appeared in this week's issue of the Jackson County Times. You can visit the paper online at www.jacksoncountytimes.net.

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