On September 27,1864,a small force of southern soldiers farmers, politicians, businessmen, teenagers, and senior citizens made a brave stand in the streets of Marianna, Florida against overwhelming Federal forces in what history has called the battle of Marianna. In reality nothing more than a skirmish the battle began at high noon on Sept 27th, when a force of Union Cavalry and mounted Infantry approached Marianna from the Northwest after having camped in Campbelton ( a small Jackson County town Northwest of Marianna). The Union force, led by brigadear General Alexander Asboth, had left Fort Barrancas in Pensacola on September 18, numbering 700 men, but by the 27th that force had dimenished to probably 500 men, as several companies had been dispatched on smaller raiding operations, and to escort prisoners back to Pensacola. Unable to summon in outlying Confederate forces, the confederate Commander in Marianna, Colonel Montgomery, was in trouble.
On the morning of September 27th 1864, Montgomery gathered his available forces at the Jackson County Courthouse in Marianna. The force at that time numbered approximately 180 men composed of civilians strengthened by a small contingent from the 15th Confederate Cavalry and an occasional Confederate soldier home on leave from the fighting in the North. The Colonel positioned his men behind a hastily constructed baricade at what is now intersection of Lafayette and Russ streets in Marianna to wait out the Federal approach. Shortly before noon Montgomery sent out several scouts to forewarn of the Union approach, and in a matter of minutes those scouts gallopped back into town to report that a large Northern Force was moving down the Campbelton Road towards Marianna.
The first line of skirmishers (2nd Maine Cavalry) rounded the bend at Lafayette and Russ at roughly high noon, and found themselves faced with the rag-tag Confederate contingent behind the barricade. The Federals made a brief attempt to charge, but were rolled back by the Confederate fire and retreated. The rest of the day would not go so well for the southerners.
Confederate Colonel Montgomery, realizing the hopelessness of his situation ordered his men to fall back to safety beyond the Chipola River. While most of the regular soldiers complied, the local volunteers refused and Montgomery found himself faced with mutiny, With no other choice than to protect his regulars, he fell back leaving the volunteers at the barricade commanded by Captain Norwood. Meanwhile the Union General, Asboth, decided to flank the Confederate by sending a party around town, to attack from the rear.
The Confederate regulars began to fall back to the east along Lafayette street until they reached roughly the area where the Marianna Post office is now located. Here they collided head on with the Union flanking party. Firing erupted, and that resulted in two things. First, the defenders at the barricade realized that they were in real trouble and began to move away. Secondly, the Union Army charged towards the barricade.
Panic followed, with most of the Confederates fleeing into the homes and buildings north of Lafayette street and slowly falling back to the area of the St. Lukes Episcopal Church. The Union Force charged on horseback, thundering over the barricade and down the street. During the melee, General Asboth was shot and angerily ordered the burning of the town. Although his orders were not carried out St. Lukes Church and two other buildings went up in flames, Burning several Confederates to death. Most of the Southern force surrendered after severe hand to hand combat at the church, but another force continued on towards the river, led by Colonel Montgomery. The Union Forces pursued, and Montgomery was unhorsed and captured at the courthouse, but the rest of the Confederates, about 30 in number reached the Chipola River and tore up the bridge to keep Federals from following. The battle of Marianna was over, well over fifty men lay dead or wounded and over eighty Confederates had been captured. The Federals held the town overnight before leaving during the predawn hours the next morning after recieving word that Confederate reinforcements were approaching.
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