Massacre at Marianna, Florida
We are constantly reminded of Forrest’s massacre at Fort Pillow. Seldom if ever do we hear about the massacre at Marianna, Florida. I would love to have more accounts of such instances to post to the Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education website. If someone knows of such instances please email me at
George Purvis
VP SHAPE (Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education)
From Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history (1899) Vol. XI, Chap. VI, page 114 By Clement A. Evans.
Massacre at Marianna, Florida.
ON the morning of the 25th of September, 1864, the usually quiet little town of Marianna, in west Florida, of about 2,000 inhabitants, was in a state of great anxiety over the report that the * Yankees were coming. The nearest railway station was Quincy, some 50 miles east, and the nearest point on the gulf coast, St.
Andrews bay, about an equal distance, where a number of Federal gunboats blockaded the sound. Pensacola,
the largest naval station in the South, 150 miles to the west, was held by the Federals. The inhabitants, aside
from the slaves, consisted of well-to-do planters, mostly emigrants from North Carolina and Georgia. The politics of this county previous to the war was strongly Whig, and secession was bitterly opposed ; but after the
war commenced the young men volunteered freely in the Confederate army. A small detachment of Confederate
cavalry was then stationed at and near Marianna, about 300 men all told, residents of Jackson and adjoining
counties, and men of fine intelligence. At Marianna was a cavalry company, commanded by Captain Chisolm;
two other companies detached from Colonel Scott s battalion of cavalry were stationed, one under Capt. W. H.
Milton 25 miles south of Marianna, and one under Captain Jeter 20 miles west, at Hickory hill. They were
under the command of Colonel Montgomery, once a lieutenant in United States army and appointed from private life. He was a martinet with little or no experience in the field. There was also a post hospital in charge of
Assistant Surgeon H. Robinson, C. S. A.
The scouts had often brought alarms that the Yankees were coming from St. Andrews bay, but they generally
proved false. On this occasion, however, September 25th, Colonel Montgomery made a personal reconnaissance and found the report well founded. He hastily re turned to headquarters and sent out couriers to his scattered companies, with orders to report in all haste at Marianna.  The church bells were rung, calling out all citizens to the court house, where a meeting was held and resolutions passed to repel the invaders. A few Confederate soldiers, then at home on sick leave, formed a nucleus of an organization which was at once perfected.  Grayheaded old men, boys under 16 years of age within the town and ten miles around, regardless of previous Union sentiment, arrived with shotguns and formed what they themselves called * The Cradle and Grave militia company," in all about 200, and partly mounted. They elected Captain Norwood, a prominent Unionist, as their captain, and reported for duty to Colonel Montgomery, full of ardor and brave endeavor.
Two roads enter Marianna from the west in parallel lines, one from Campbellton and the other from St.
Andrew s bay. At the point where the two roads unite in the center of the village, forming the main street,
there was on the left an Episcopal church and cemetery, and opposite the church a large two-story boarding-
house. Another road, diverging from the Campbellton road, led around the town in the rear. As Colonel Montgomery had no pickets out he did not know from which direction the Federals would advance. He ordered his hastily levied militia to form a line, and constructed an abatis of old wagons and logs of wood across the street at the junction of the Campbellton and St. Andrews roads, forming his right at the boarding-house and his left resting at the Episcopal church. Here the gallant men and boys impatiently awaited the arrival of the enemy. The Federal command consisted of a battalion of the Second Maine cavalry under Maj. Nathan Cutler, of Augusta, Me., and several companies of deserters, the so-called First regiment of Florida Union troops, and two full companies of ferocious Louisiana negroes, in all about 600, under the command of Brigadier- General Ashboth.
About two o clock in the day the advanced pickets of the enemy made their appearance on the edge of the
town, from the Campbell ton road. It was then too late to draw in Colonel Montgomery s straggling line, so fire
was opened upon the pickets about 200 yards in front of our men, under which the Federal advance made a hasty retreat, inspiring the little Spartan band of defenders with hope of victory. But presently the main body made its appearance and General Ashboth detached a part of his command to flank the village, and advanced the main body directly toward the church. An indiscriminate firing began from the Confederate front and rear, the old men and beardless boys fighting like enraged lions, disputing every inch of ground. The contest was fierce and deadly for half an hour, when General Ashboth ordered the church, boarding-house and a private residence opposite burned. The militia kept their ground manfully between the two walls of flames. In the meantime the Federal flanking party gained the rear of the militia and commenced an indiscriminate slaughter, giving no quarter to any one. The negro companies in particular acted in the most fiendish manner. Old men and boys who offered to surrender were driven into the flames of the burning buildings ; young lads who laid down their arms were cut to pieces; others picked up bodily by stalwart negro soldiers and thrown into the seething, burning church. The charred remains of several of the half-grown boys were afterward found in the ruins of the church. Colonel Montgomery and his staff made a very precipitate retreat toward the Chipola river, the eastern boundary of the village, leaving the men to fight it out the best they could. The colonel was unhorsed and captured, and the staff made their way across the river in safety. The Confederates scattered in every direction, every man for himself, pursued by the Maine cavalry who kept up a steady fire upon them. The casualties on the Federal side were Captain Adams and i o men of the Second Maine cavalry, killed. General Ashboth and Maj. N. Cutler were seriously wounded, and about 25 enlisted men wounded. The loss on our side was about 60 killed,
burned and wounded. About 50 of the Confederates succeeded in crossing the Chipola river and tore up the
bridge. Captain Miller, quartermaster, and Dr. Robinson, post surgeon, made attempts to reform the scattered
command, and held them together until late in the evening, when they were reinforced by the arrival of Captain
Milton with 75 mounted men. The whole fight lasted about an hour. With the retreat of the Confederates
across the river, the town was in full possession of the Federals. General Ashboth and Major Cutler were carried to a private house, where their wounds were dressed.  A council of war was held by the Federal officers, who concluded that in consequence of the wounded condition of their general they would return to Pensacola with their prisoners, contraband and plunder. About midnight General Ashboth was carried off in a carriage.
Major Cutler and the other wounded were left behind, and the town evacuated. The several companies of Con
federate cavalry who had been previously sent for made their appearance on the east side of the river, anticipating and hoping for a renewal of hostilities next morning.   By dawn their scouts were sent in town and learned of its evacuation by the enemy.
It was deemed advisable not to attempt a pursuit until stronger reinforcements that were looked for from Tallahassee should arrive, but to take possession of the town and await results. The prisoners carried off by the Federals were most of them old men and boys who had surrendered, also a number of non-combatants, in all about 100 men.  They were sent to northern prisons, principally Elmira, N. Y. About 40 of these unfortunates survived the rigor of the climate and the painful experience of prison life and returned to their homes so enfeebled in health and broken-hearted that most of them were soon released from a life of suffering before the year expired, and but few are living to tell the tale of their sufferings.
On the arrival of Col. G. W. Scott with a battalion the day following, an attempt at pursuit was made, but the
enemy had 24 hours start and the desperate Confederates failed to overtake them. The day after the fight, Marianna presented a pitiable sight. The dead and wounded lay all about, and the wails and cries of mothers, wives and sisters could be heard in every direction. Women and children searched for father, son or brother in the ashes of the burnt buildings. Here and there a charred thigh or ghastly skull was disinterred from the debris. Eventually some sort of order was evolved from the chaos.  The dead were buried, the wounded citizens taken to their homes or those of friends, and the Federal wounded to the military hospital. While this skirmish was a defeat to the people of Marianna, it in reality resulted in a victory. The objective point of General Ashboths expedition was to capture Tallahassee, the capital of the State, and as the resistance made at Marianna frustrated his object and compelled his hasty retreat to Pensacola, his success was barren.
The foregoing account of this cruel raid was given by the post surgeon, an eye-witness of the horrors of the invasion and the atrocities that were perpetrated.