Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yankees in Holmes County as Marianna Raid continues (149 years ago)

Cerrogordo in Holmes County, Florida
149 years ago today on September 25, 1864, the Union column of Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth crossed the Choctawhatchee River in Holmes County, Florida.

Water was high as the rain from a stalled tropical system had been falling for at least seven straight days, so the crossing was difficult, perilous and slow. The soldiers moved over in detachments aboard a small barge that local people used as a ferry, while the horses swam across the muddy river. Gen. Asboth described the boat as a "small scow," which in his terminology meant it was a flat-bottomed boat with a blunt bow.

Choctawhatchee River where Asboth crossed
The crossing took place at Cerrogordo, then the county seat of Holmes County. Located around five miles north of today's Westville, the community in 1864 consisted of a small courthouse, a jail, one store and a scattering houses. The total population numbered around 25 people.

The 700 Union soldiers had spent the night of September 24th in Cerrogordo after moving north from Eucheeanna in Walton County (see First Fighting of the Marianna Raid) by way of Ponce de Leon Springs. Although a skirmish had been fought at Eucheeanna, the only casualty of the raid so far had been sustained at Ponce de Leon when a Union soldier was wounded in an accidental shooting.

Asboth practiced Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's concept of "total war." As he advanced, his men did as much damage as possible to the businesses and farms they encountered. The objective was to inflict so much suffering on the civilian population that Confederate soldiers in the main armies would desert to go home and care for their families.

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park
n Walton and Holmes Counties, barns were burned, livestock stolen or killed, foodstuffs taken or destroyed and a population made up primarily of the elderly, the disabled, women and children was left with little food or anything else with which to survive the coming winter. The log hotel or inn at Ponce de Leon Springs was "broken up" by the soldiers. The store, homes and courthouse at Cerrogordo were damaged.

The crossing of the Choctawhatchee moved slowly and it took all of the rainy day of September 25, 1864, for the soldiers to get across. They camped for the night in the mud on the east bank of the river, within view of their campsite of the previous evening at Cerrogordo across the water.

Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth
They would continue their advance on Marianna the next day, moving first on Campbellton. The Battle of Marianna was now just two days away.

A memorial service commemorating the 149th anniversary of the battle will be held in Marianna on Saturday, September 28th. The commemoration will begin at 9 a.m. (central) at Confederate Park in downtown Marianna (intersection of Lafayette and Caledonia Streets). The public is encouraged to attend. Historic St. Luke's Episcopal Church, where heavy fighting took place during the battle, will be open from 10 a.m. until 12 noon, with young people from the church and the Blue Springs Society of the Children of the American Revolution as hosts.

To learn more about the Marianna Raid, please consider my book - The Battle of Marianna, Florida - which is available on the right side of this page, through your favorite online bookseller or from the Walton County Historical Museum in Defuniak Springs, the Washington County Historical Museum in Chipley and Chipola River Book & Tea in Downtown Marianna.

You can read more anytime at

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