The Battle of Marianna
by Major Keith Kohl,
4th Florida Infantry, CSA
Brigadier General Alexander Asboth was an active
commander in Florida as well an experienced soldier. In July of
he was General John Fremont’s Chief of Staff. He was promoted to
Brigadier General on September 7, 1861, though Congressional approval
not occur until March of 1862 when Asboth distinguished himself at the
Battle of Pea Ridge or Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas. Though wounded
the engagement, he was able to take the field the following day.
After serving in Kentucky, he was placed in command of the Union
at the forts in Pensacola, Florida.
In September of 1864, General Asboth prepared for a large
raid across the Florida panhandle. His force, numbering some 700
mounted soldiers, consisted of Lieutenant Colonel Spurling and three
of the 2nd Maine Cavalry, two companies of the 1st Florida Cavalry US
by Major Ruttkay, and Colonel L. L. Zulavsky with one mounted company
each of the 82nd and 86th United States Colored Troops. With only
scant Confederate forces in western Florida, little opposition was
The Federal troops departed from Pensacola on September 18. Along
the way, they paused to obtain supplies from the steam ship Lizzie
then resumed their march.
The Union soldiers made their way east clashing
with small Confederate forces. At dawn on September 23, the
column reached Euchee Anna Courthouse. There was a brief skirmish
with a handful of Confederates, but the town was soon in Union
Nine military prisoners were taken, among them 1st Lieutenant Francis
of the 15th Confederate Cavalry and Militia Colonel W. H.
Six additional prisoners were also captured, including Southern leader
William Cawthon and beef contractor Allen Hart. The Federals also
28 stands of arms, 46 horses, eight mules, and a large amount of bar
marked “Merchant Shot Works, Baltimore”.
Word had already reached the Southern forces in the region
about the Union column. Colonel A. B. Montgomery, C.S.A., was
to consolidate the scattered Confederates to oppose the Federals.
The shortage of Southern troops was further complicated by the question
of where to concentrate the soldiers, as the destination of the
General Asboth left Euchee Anna Courthouse and continued
east toward Marianna. The two companies of the 1st Florida
US had been dispatched to see to the prisoners and captured
This, along with the small losses from the occasional skirmishing, left
Asboth with some 500 troops. The Federals advanced by way of
forcing the Campbellton Home Guard into Marianna.
With the arrival of the Campbellton Home Guard, it became
clear the Federals were likely heading for Marianna. Colonel
began to assemble his troops at that town. Among his force were
companies of the 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion, and the Marianna Home
Campbellton Home Guards, and Greenwood Home Guards militia
The Southerners were also joined by some wounded Confederates home for
recovery, and a group of elderly men and young boys who referred to
as the “Cradle and Grave Company”. All together Montgomery had
150 to 170 soldiers.
On September 27, the Federal column approached
Colonel Montgomery had organized his forces and deployed them on the
edge of the town. Some of the Southerners built a barricade
the road, while others took up positions in the neighboring church and
surrounding cover. As the Federals drew near, they found the
awaiting them. The 2nd Maine Cavalry charged up the road, but was
driven back in a hail of bullets from the barricade and
The Federals made another attack, but this time Asboth sent a flanking
force around the town. Soon the Confederates found the enemy in
and on their flank, but fought on as best they could. Asboth
was wounded in the engagement, with bullets breaking his jaw and
During the fighting, orders were issued to set fire to
the church to drive out the Southerners. Flames soon engulfed the
church and two other buildings. Of the numerous stories, some confirmed
and some not, that have built up around the Battle of Marianna, at
one is generally regarded to be correct. Major Nathan Cutler of
2nd Maine Cavalry dismounted and, braving the fire, entered the
Finding the lectern, Cutler retrieved the church Bible to save the book
from the flames, and ran from the church.
Well outnumbered and seeing the desperate situation, Colonel Montgomery
took his troops and tried to withdraw from Marianna. Many of the
local militia remained in an effort to still defend the town.
of the defenders were trapped inside when the church collapsed.
were struck down as they fled the building. At this point some of
Southern troops surrendered to the Northerners. Pictured at right
is the Battle of Marianna monument. Photo courtesy Florida State
While some of the Confederates were fighting their way
from the town, Colonel Montgomery was captured by Union troops.
40 Confederates put a fighting retreat from the town toward the Chipola
River. They successfully gained the bridge, where Surgeon
one of the officers who made it to the span, gave orders for the bridge
planks to be torn up to block the enemy’s advance. Some musketry
was exchanged here, but the battle was largely over.
The battle reportedly lasted an hour or so. The
Federals had lost 13 killed and 26 wounded. Confederate
numbered 10 dead and 16 wounded, as well as some 50 or so
However, accounts vary slightly as to the losses. Union soldiers also
95 stands of arms, 400 cattle, 200 horses and mules, and 17
Among the Union wounded was Major Cutler, who was left
in Marianna. He is believed
have later returned to his command. Later that
day the Federal column left Marianna, and on October 4 the Union troops
returned to Pensacola.
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information contained herein are copyrighted
and may not be reproduced in any form without
written permission of the editor and its authors.
Contents Section One / History
Contents Section Two / Contact
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