Major George W. Scott
The commanding officer of
the 5th Florida Cavalry, Scott
led the pursuit of Asboth's
column. A wealthy planter
before the war, he was a key
figure at the Battle of Natural
Bridge in March of 1865 and
later became a major donor
for Agnes Scott College in
The Battle of Vernon, Florida
The Battle of Marianna, Florida
Grave of Stephen Pierce
The only man killed during the
Battle of Vernon, Pierce was
buried near the site.
The Vernon Home Guard
Markers for a number of the
members of Jones' company
stand at Moss Hill Cemetery.
Many of them died in Union
prisons and were buried far
As the smoke from the burning buildings
diminished and the sounds of gunshots
ended, the women of Marianna flooded into
the streets to care for the wounded. Bodies
littered the main street of the town.
The Union surgeons were busy with their
own wounded, but did take the time to advise
local women on how best to care for the
Southern men and boys who had been shot.
The unwounded Confederates, along with a
few men with minor wounds, were herded
into the courthouse where they were confined
on the second floor. Some known to have
held Unionist sympathies were paroled.
The city itself was subjected to an evening of
intense raiding. Soldiers and liberated
slaves broke into homes, carried off items of
value, destroyed stocks of food and rounded
Some minor skirmishing continued along the
banks of the Chipola River as Confederate
soldiers on the east bank exchanged fire with
Union soldiers on the west bank. During the
night, however, the Federal skirmishers
disappeared and the intermittent fighting
ended. Southern reinforcements continued to
arrive through the night and by morning
several hundred Confederate soldiers were
gathered on the east bank of the Chipola.
They reentered town shortly after sunrise, but
found that the Union troops had been gone
The Federal column had begun its return
march to Choctawhatchee Bay during the
early morning hours of the 28th, followed by
nearly 600 liberated slaves and driving large
herds of captured horses, mules and beef
cattle. The traveled southwest on the Vernon
road and reached Orange Hill in Washington
County in time for their midday meal. The
barns of the Everett plantation there were
burned to the ground. By mid-afternoon the
soldiers were approaching the crossing at
Hard Labor Creek.
At the same time a Confederate force was
approaching the crossing from the opposite
direction. Unaware that he was moving on
the same road as the Union troops, Captain
W.B. Jones was leading the Vernon Home
Guard on its way to Marianna in response to
the call for help received from the city the
Like the Home Guards at Marianna, Jones'
company of around 50 men consisted
primarily of those too young or too old for
service in the regular Confederate army as
well as a few soldiers home on leave due to
wounds or illness. All were mounted.
The two forces ran head on into each other at
Hard Labor Creek. A brief standoff resulted
as the men of both sides tried to decide what
to do next.
The Union soldiers initially ordered Jones
and his men to disperse and go home, but
Stephen Pierce, a member of the Vernon
Home Guard and formerly a soldier in the 4th
Florida Infantry, began to taunt the raiders.
Tempers flared and a volley of fire erupted
from the Union lines.
Pierce was killed on the spot (although local
tradition holds that he was captured and then
executed) and another man was shot in the
shoulder. The Federal troops charged
across the creek and rode over Jones' lines.
A number of the Washington County men
were taken prisoner, but others retreated at
full speed back down the road to Vernon.
Participants in the fight later described how
they dodged bullets while riding hard for town
with Union soldiers on their heels.
The main body of Asboth's column moved on
to Vernon where the soldiers rested and ate
their evening meal before turning south and
continuing their return to Choctawhatchee
Although Confederate forces in the area were
mobilizing as quickly as possible, Asboth
reached Point Washington without running
into further resistance. The wounded, among
them the general himself were placed
aboard the Lizzie Davis and taken back to
Pensacola. The main body and the prisoners
crossed over East Pass and continued down
Santa Rosa Island to Fort Pickens under the
command of Colonel Zulavsky.
Major George W. Scott of the 5th Florida
Cavalry arrived in Marianna with militia units
from Gadsden County and Southwest
Georgia late on the afternoon of the 28th.
Organizing what forces he could, he set out
in pursuit of the raiders but soon realized the
chase was futile and turned back to Marianna.
The deepest penetration of Confederate
Florida by Union troops was over, but the
suffering caused by the raid would continue
for decades. Census data indicated that
Jackson, Washington, Holmes and Walton
Counties suffered more economic damage
during the Civil War than any other counties
|Copyright 2009 by Dale Cox
All Rights Reserved
|The Battle of Vernon
The tragic little skirmish took place near
today's wooden bridge over Hard Labor
Creek in Washington County, Florida.
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