Jackson County, Florida: The Battle of Marianna, 1864

Battle of Marianna Marker after restoration. hmdb.org

A recollection of the Battle of Marianna, written by a soldier with the 2nd Maine Cavalry, October 8, 1864.

My Dear Father:

I should have written you before, but since I rejoined the regiment, I have been hard at work when in camp, and harder still while away. I only joined it five days before we started on the raid, which has given us, especially the raw recruits, a taste of real ‘soldiering.’ Our regiment, together with a part of the First Florida, (about 200 in number,) in all seven hundred strong, have been on a raid into the northern part of the State, and have had a hard march of five hundred miles. With a good map you can trace our course and know more about it that I do myself.

We left here the 15th September, and returned the 6th October, just three weeks from the time we started. As this is the first thing of the kind I ever experienced, and the first time I was under fire, I shall give you a description of the whole thing. I presume I shall see much harder times and think nothing of this, but it was really a stirring affair, and waked up a good many of the Second Maine Infantry veteran, in this Regiment.

We started from camp in steamer, and landed on Live Oak Point, about eight miles from here, and just across the Bay from Pensacola, where we waited for the 1st and 86th to come up; and on the 17th at 4 a.m., we started on our raid. It had rained all the time we were there, but cleared away towards morning. The boat, a small steamer used as a Quartermaster’s boat, accompanied us as far as she was able.

The first day we marched between forty-five miles and fifty miles, through a country perfectly level after we were some five miles from the coast, and met the boat where we camped at night. It commenced raining that night, and we had the ‘line gale’ with a vengeance. That part of the country is not settled; we saw only one log house, set down among the pine trees, and the road along which we marched was only a path, which half the time we followed by the old blazing on the trees. The soil is sandy, without a single pebble, and only wooded by scattering pitch-pines, and it is easy to march through if there was no road at all, as there is not a bush nor the least particle of underbrush. When we camped at ten o’clock at night we were too tired and sleepy to think of supper, or to mind the rain which poured down, soaking our clothes and blankets.

Next day we moved about two miles to a place where we could get wood and water, and stayed till next morning—still raining great guns.

We started at four next morning, after drawing two days’ rations from the boat. Here we committed what I consider the greatest blunder of the expedition. At the time we drew rations, we did not take the ammunition from the boat, for there it was dry, and the officers thought to keep it so as long as possible; consequently when we left the boat next morning it was forgotten, and we started on a raid of hundreds of miles into the enemy’s country, with about twenty rounds of cartridges apiece, and not mor3e than half good for anything. There is where we boys who bought the Spencer carbines at Augusta had the advantage, for the copper cartridges were in good order, and our guns perfectly efficient. We marched forty miles that day without seeing a single house. It ceased raining at 9 a.m., but towards evening recommenced and at 8 p.m. we again camped in the soaking rain.

We set out next morning at five, and as it cleared away at ten, we had a good ay to march. We were obliged to make a long halt in the middle of the day as the horses were getting very tired. At noon a small party went out to a plantation a few miles off, and captured a rebel Colonel and six men, who were there conscripting. By making a long march, and not camping until 11 o’clock, we accomplished nearly forty miles and stopped about ten miles distant from a small village called Rushuanna. There a few rebel soldiers were quartered and a party of our regiment went forward to take the place. The rebs fled precipitately without firing a single shot, and about seven next morning we marched into the shiretown of the county, a small village of log huts, with a frame courthouse and log hut for a jail. The next day was fair and hot. We stayed at Ruchesanna, and collected all the horses and mules we could find—about fifty—killed all the beef we wanted, got some sweet potatoes and corn meal, and next morning set off just at six.

When we halted at noon, Lt. Col. Spurling with twenty others, who had obtained rebel clothing at Euchesanna, started on a scout, leaving the Regiment in command of Major Miller.

One of the darkey soldiers here accidentally shot himself, and after dressing his wound, we were obliged to leave him at a house. That night we came to a settlement with a post office, called Cerro Gordo, and situated in Holmes county on th3e Choctawhatchie River, and seized a few mules. All the next day was spent in crossing the river, (thought it was there only twelve rods wide,) as the whole force was ferried across by one small scow.

The next morning being pleasant, we started early, picking up a few horses and mules, and negroes commencing to come in. The hard, steady marching was using up horses, and the mules were nearly all under the saddle. We found a few houses, and there obtained enough corn for our beasts, and potatoes for the men. Camped early and the next day had a hard, steady march till 12 o’clock at night, going out of our way some dozen miles, hoping to bad two companies of rebs, who were at Young’s Mills; but they got wind of our approach, and left one hour before we marched in.

We had very little sleep except that snatched while in the saddle, and at 4 a.m. were on the march. That was the day of the fight, the day I first heard the music of whistling bullets. Early in the morning, we marched through Campbelltown, fourteen miles from Marianna, where without stopping, we took mules and horses, and all the way from there to Marianna, the negroes came flocking in with mules and horses.—There, my poor horses being used up, I was obliged to mount a mule. – The road, here led by plantations till within three miles of Marianna, where we again entered woods, now no longer open, but with much underbrush. Marianna was to be the terminus of our raid. There we expected to meet several hundred rebels, whip them, get whatever property we could carry and return. The brigade was marching in a column of fours—close upon each other, in the following order: Second Main on the right—leading battalion under command of Major Custer, three companies—Co. F in front, then I, next K; Second Battalion, under Major Hutchinson, four companies,–first L, second E, third G, fourth D; Third Battalion, under Capt. Lincoln, four companies,–I don’t remember the order. Next came the first Florida; then the prisoners, under charge of the Provost Guard; and the contrabands with the 86th (colored) brought up the rear. The General and staff were riding along the line. The head of the column had advanced as far as the meeting house, not seeing a person or firing a gun, when a shouting was heard, and about a hundred rebel cavalry came charging up the street, firing as they came, till within ten or fifteen rods of the head of the head of the column. Our cavalry halted and commenced firing; but on two or three being wounded, they gradually gave ground, and commenced slowly falling back. As soon as this was noticed by the rebs, a scattering fire was directed upon them, and the whole leading battalion commenced falling back. The General and staff galloped to the front regardless of bullets, urging them to keep their order and charge through the town. The company officers threatened to fire their revolvers at them if they did not keep their places, but it was of no avail.

The General then received a bullet in the face, and one through the arm. By this time the battalion had fallen back upon the flanks of our battalion (No. 2), leaving us standing in the middle of the road, with bullets whizzing uncomfortably near our heads. The rebels just below the barricade began to move as if retreating. The officers again begged the 1st battalion to reform, but it was to no effect. The General then rode up to Major Miller (commanding the 2d Maine), saying: ‘For God’s sake, is there not a Major in your regiment who will lead a charge through town?’ Our Major (Hutchingson) answered, ‘I will lead my battalion through,’ and riding to the head, immediately called out ‘Second Battalion—Forward;’ We struck spurs to our horses and galloped forward—company L being in advance. The rebel cavalry, the only men we could see, on our approach, turned and fled. We galloped on; and when between the first three or four dwelling houses, a terrible fire was poured upon us from both sides of the street, and before reaching the barricade opposite the church, a volley was poured from the church on one side, and the blacksmith shop on the other, so hot that it seemed as if the street on either side was a blaze of fire. We had gone too far to retreat, so on we went, (though five of our twenty were wounded, and three others had their horses shot from under them,) charging the rebs across the bridge into the woods on the other side of town. (It was on this bridge that I invited a reb to present me with a revolver, all loaded and capped, and his powder horn and bullets. I was eager to send them to you, but two days after, the Provost Marshal, seeing them, relieved me of the charge.)

Only about 25 of us had reached the bridge, and after driving the enemy into the woods, they, seeing the smallness of our force, reformed, and 50 or 75 charged upon us. We could but retreat, –and after gaining the brow of the hill, those of us who had ‘Spencer’s’ dismounted, and going to the edge of the hill, poured a hot fire into them.

Meanwhile the fire continued from the church and blacksmith shop, our men still firing upon every reb who showed himself. This continued for about twenty minutes, when the General ordered every house from which firing proceeded to be burned; and they were set on fire with a good will. Upon this about fifty came out of the houses, holding up their handkerchiefs in token of surrender, and about two hundred escaping to the woods, leaving us in possession of the place.

The rebel arms were generally double-barrelled guns, loaded with a bullet and three or more buck-shot, so whoever was hit at all, received several wounds from the same gun. Had they not been pointed too high, few of us who charged through the town would be left to tell the story.

Major Cutler had two horses shot from under him, and received four wounds in his left leg and one through his left wrist; Major Hutchinson on in the leg and one in the in the groin; Lt. Adams of Co. M, wounded, supposed mortally. He together with Major Cutler, and the men were too dangerously wounded to be moved, were left and are probably prisoners. Three men from our company (L) were left.

Our whole loss is not exactly known.—About eight or ten killed and forty wounded in the brigade. The loss of the enemy is not known, but is greater than ours, as prisoners say that at least twelve bodies were burned in and under the church. The negroes fought like tigers, paying no more attention to bullets than if they had been hail stones. They would take no prisoners, and were only prevented from blowing out the brains of the ‘grey backs,’ who had surrendered, by the officers.

It was noon before everything was quiet. As we had no artillery we could not hold the city, if the enemy came back in force, so at 8 p.m., after collecting all the mules, horses and contrabands, and taking all the wounded who could be moved we commenced our backward march. The retrograde movement was like the advance only harder—steadier marching, less sleep, scantier rations; besides we had nearly one hundred prisoners to guard—many wer3e paroled.

The rebs did not attempt to follow us, but we met a party of forty coming to reinforce Marianna, and captured six.

We met the boat at Washington Point, and putting our wounded and prisoners on board, continued our march to the East pass of Santa Ross Island, crossed over and marched down to Fort Pickens, and are now in camp at Fort Barrancas resting—horses, as well as men, tired out or left behind. Our Company left camp with forty-two horses, and brought back twenty of them, which is about the ratio of the Regiment. While we were gone quite a number were sent home on sick furloughs. The next boat will take the wounded.

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