Colonel A.B. Montgomery
Seen here in a parade years
later, Colonel Montgomery (at
left) was a highly regarded
officer who was wounded at
Second Manassas.
The Battle of Marianna, Florida - Phase One
The Battle of Marianna, Florida
www.battleofmarianna.com
Ely Corner Today
At the time of the Battle of
Marianna, the intersection
was little more than an open
area on the edge of town.
Major Nathan Cutler
The young Harvard-educated
Union officer is said to have
saved the St. Luke's Bible.
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The first shots of the Battle of Marianna rang
out as the vanguard of Asboth's column
approached Hopkins' Branch about three
miles northwest of the city itself.

As bullets whistled through the trees of the
swamp from Colonel Montgomery's men on
the opposite side of the creek, the Federals
moved into a line of battle and charged on
horseback through the thick underbrush and
across the shallow stream. After briefly
resisting, the outnumbered Confederates
began to fall back, fighting as they went.

Private Wade Richardson of the 1st Florida
U.S. Cavalry later wrote that brisk skirmishing
continued as the two forces approached
Marianna. The Confederate cavalry, however,
had neither the numbers nor the firepower of
the oncoming Union troops.

As news came that the enemy force was
approaching town, the men of the Marianna
Home Guard took up positions along both
sides of today's West Lafayette Street, using
trees, shrubs, fences and buildings as cover.
A barricade of wagons and other debris was
placed across the street at about the mid-
point between today's Russ and Wynn Street
intersections. Contrary to tradition, the
Confederates did not use this a breastwork.
It was an abatis intended to slow a Union
cavalry charge down the street.

Montgomery's cavalry, now joined by the
Campbellton unit and the Greenwood Club
Cavalry, formed a line of battle at Ely Corner
(today's intersection of Lafayette and Russ)
and waited for the Federals to approach.

The plan was simple. The mounted men
would resist as long as possible and then
fall back up the street, drawing the Federals
into pursuing them. As they enemy reached
the vicinity of the barricade, the Home Guards
would ambush them from both sides of the
street.

The first Union charge, by Major Nathan
Cutler's battalion of the 2nd Maine, ran head
on into a fierce volley from Montgomery's
horsemen. Several of the Union soldiers
were wounded and Captain M.M. Young of
Asboth's staff was killed on the spot. The
charge fell apart and the Federals retreated,
much to the chagrin of the general himself
who rode among them shouting "For Shame!"


Asboth led the second charge in person,
ordering forward Major Eben Hutchinson's
battalion and thundering up the narrow road
to Ely Corner with Majors Hutchinson and
Cutler by his side. The Confederate cavalry,
not given time to reload their muzzle-loading
carbines and shotguns, began to withdraw
up the street. The Union cavalry charged
close on their heels.

As they reached the barricade, Montgomery
and his men went around, over and through
it, drawing the charging Federals into the
ambush set by Captain Jesse Norwood and
the Marianna Home Guards. From both
sides of the street, Norwood and his men
opened up on the Union troops.

Asboth went down with wounds to his arm
and cheek and, according to eyewitnesses,
"literally every officer and man at the head of
the column was mowed down." With a single
volley, the Marianna Home Guard inflicted the
heaviest loss of the war on the 2nd Maine
Cavalry. Unfortunately for Norwood and his
men, it was not enough.

Weight of numbers kept the Union column
moving forward. Hutchinson's battalion
continued forward in pursuit of Montgomery's
horsemen who were now in a hard retreat for
the Chipola River. They reached Courthouse
Square and plowed into a Federal flanking
party that had come around the northern
edge of town and taken up positions there.

Breaking through in hand to hand fighting,
most of the mounted Confederates reached
the river where they tore up the planking on
the bridge and held off Union attempts to
seize the span for the rest of the day. Colonel
Montgomery himself was knocked from his
horse and captured at the intersection of
Madison and Jackson Streets.

The heaviest fighting of the day, however,
took place around St. Luke's Episcopal
Church on West Lafayette. Forced back from
its position along the street, the main body of
Norwood's company withdrew to the church,
using its stout board fence as a makeshift
breastwork.

With Asboth wounded, command of the
Union column now fell into the hands of
Colonel L.L. Zulavsky. He ordered the two
companies of African American soldiers from
the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Infantries to
dismount and then sent them forward in a
bayonet charge that went up and over the
churchyard fence. The Home Guards fell
back into the cemetery behind St. Luke's and
continued to fight, in some cases firing from
behind the tombstones of their ancestors.

The flanking party moved in behind them,
cutting off their route of retreat and opening
the phase of the battle that some have called
"Florida's Alamo."
Copyright 2009 by Dale Cox
All Rights Reserved
St. Luke's Episcopal Church
The heaviest fighting of the Battle of
Marianna took place on the grounds
around the beautiful church.
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St. Luke's Cemetery
The Marianna Home Guard
made its "last stand" here
among the graves.