Monday, August 23, 2010

Battle of Marianna Legend is Plagued by Inaccuracies

by Dale Cox

Note:  The following article is now available in its entirety at

On September 27, 1864, Union troops attacked the Jackson County city of Marianna. Almost since that day, it seems, confusion has reigned over what really happened in the engagement that could well be called "Florida's Forgotten Battle."

The traditional story of the bloodshed that afternoon is told by a marker on the grounds of St. Luke's Episcopal Church:

Here at High Noon on September 27, 1864, a Federal raiding force of 900 men under Brigadier-General Alexander Asboth fought a Confederate home guard of 95 men under Captain Jesse J. Norwood. Entering Marianna from the West, the main body of Federals encountered unexpected resistance at Ely's Corner, fell back, rallied, and charged, driving the home guard back to this churchyard, flanked by other Federals moving in form north of the church. The defenders engaged the invaders in fierce combat. By Federal order, St. Luke's Episcopal Church was destroyed by fire, and the bodies of five Confederates were burned almost beyond recognition. The West Florida News reported total Confederate losses of 9 killed, 16 wounded, 54 captured, and estimated Federal losses of 15 killed, 40 wounded.

Some other traditions that have grown up around the battle include the legend that the fierce resistance of the Marianna Home Guard prevented the Union troops from carrying out a plan to capture Tallahassee; that men and boys were intentionally massacred in St. Luke's churchyard after they surrendered; that the battle began with the home guards positioned behind a barricade of wagons and other items at Ely Corner, that Colonel A.B. Montgomery, the Confederate commander in Marianna, abandoned the city without a fight; and that only militia or "home guard" troops fought in the battle.

Unfortunately much of the legend of the Battle of Marianna was based on accounts... Please click here to read the entire article.

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