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Chapter VI

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 [115] 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 reconnoissance and found the report well founded. He hastily returned 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 boardinghouse. 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 [116] 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 Campbellton 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 [117] 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 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 Confederate 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 [118] 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 Ashboth's 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.

On being advised of the Federal movement threatening Marianna and Tallahassee, General Jackson had ordered Brigadier-General Miller to assume command of subdis-tricts, Colonels Turney and Smith being sick; and ordered [119] all the troops in Colonel Smith's district and four companies of Fifth Florida cavalry, with Lieutenant-Colonel Scott, from Colonel Turney's district, to report to General Miller. Jackson also reported: ‘I think there is great danger of an attack from the west coast, of which this present raid is the precursor. My force is entirely inadequate to meet these different attacks; too small when concentrated, it is indeed too weak when divided.’

On the 23d of October, 1864, Captain Dickinson received a dispatch from Lieutenant Haynes of the Fifth battalion of cavalry, on the outposts near Green Cove Springs, that the enemy in considerable force had been met and driven back by his command about 3 miles. He immediately moved with all haste to the front, his command consisting of a detachment of Company C, Captain Chambers; a detachment of his own Company H, under Lieutenant McCardell, and one 12-pound howitzer in command of Sergt. J. C. Crews; in all about 90 men. Arriving on the morning of the 24th of October, and supposing that the enemy would again come out at or near the same place, he made immediate arrangements for an attack. They failed to come out. He then learned there was a crossing 5 .miles above at Finegan's ford, whither he sent a scout, who soon reported that a cavalry command had crossed at that place and taken the road to Middleburg, on Black creek. He immediately marched to meet them on their return. There being two roads to guard, he placed a detachment on each, at a distance convenient for rapid concentration should it become necessary. Presently the enemy were seen returning, driving in a large drove of fine cattle to enrich their commissary stores with what they called ‘rebel beef.’ Dickison concentrated his force to meet the Federals, who were preparing for the charge. On they came with drawn sabers, the polished blades flashing in the sunlight, but as they drew near they were met with a telling volley. Halting, they quickly reformed and charged a second time, again [120] to be checked by a deadly volley. Then the howitzer opened fire, and as they fell back in great confusion our intrepid men charged them, killing and capturing almost the entire command. The fight lasted an hour, through an open woodland nearly two miles in extent. Only three made their escape, by leaving their horses and taking to the swamp. One of them, a captain, was badly wounded in the head, but, before he would be taken prisoner, left his horse and pistols and concealed himself in the swamp. It was learned a few days later that he reached his headquarters and soon recovered from his wound. The enemy's loss was 9 killed and 65 prisoners, 12 of whom were wounded, 1 fatally. We captured 75 fine horses and all their arms, consisting of Spencer rifles, pistols and sabers. All without a wound in the Confederate ranks.

Only a short time elapsed when a scout from the east side of the St. John's river, where a small party was kept on watch, reported the enemy coming out in considerable force every day to the Fairbanks place, 2 miles north of St. Augustine, situated between San Sebastian and North rivers. Captain Dickison ordered 50 men of Company C, Second Florida cavalry, under the gallant Lieut. Samuel Reddick, and 50 men from his own Company H, to move at the shortest notice with four days rations. Starting at night he reached the St. John's river early the next morning, but having only one flatboat it took some time to cross the river with 100 cavalry. By marching all night they arrived within a short distance of the place where the enemy was expected. Leaving a detachment in front of St. Augustine to guard against the enemy coming out at that point to cut them off, he crossed the San Sebastian river at its head waters and at sunrise reached the Fairbanks place, where he arranged his command to surprise and capture the Federals. Lieutenant Reddick with his detachment was to watch them, but allow them to pass until they reached the Dickison detachment, when the two would attack in front and [121] rear. Soon the brave and faithful sentinel, B. F. Oliveros, signaled that the enemy were advancing. Happily for the Federals, their advance guard was a considerable distance to the front, so that when it reached Captain Dickison the main force had not passed the position of Lieutenant Reddick.

Captain Dickison had concealed himself about twenty feet from the road, and, when the advance was within a few yards of him, he arose and ordered them to surrender. They replied with a volley which drew the fire of the dismounted Confederates, and a charge immediately followed which resulted in the killing or capturing of the entire advance. At this alarm the main body wheeled around and dashed back in great confusion, Lieutenant Reddick gallantly pursuing them through an almost impenetrable scrub, killing 3 and mortally wounding their commanding officer. Company H remounted, and some of them also pursued the enemy through their picket lines, capturing and bringing out several of their pickets, the total capture being 35. Being only a mile and a half from the city, and knowing the enemy would soon be out in large force, the prisoners and arms were sent to the rear.

Captain Dickison and Lieutenant Reddick rode up to where a wounded Federal officer lay near one of his men, mortally wounded. On examining the officer's wound, Captain Dickison saw it was mortal, and, as his surgeon, was not in attendance, he bound it with his handkerchief and made a pillow of his only blanket for the dying soldier. Choice being given him to be paroled or carried off as prisoner, he accepted parole, as also did his wounded comrade. The next day death, the last conqueror, claimed his own. After performing this humane act the Confederate officers had barely time to regain their command when a Federal force came out to remove their wounded and dead. Had not their advance guard been good soldiers and well trained, the entire battalion would [122] have been captured. The next day Dickison recrossed the river with his prisoners, arriving at his headquarters without a casualty.

The disastrous result of our heroic defense at Marianna led the enemy to attempt another invasion upon the most exposed points along the coast. On the 24th of October, 1864, almost at the same time of a similar movement on the St. John's river, two steam transports left Barrancas, having a force of 700 men and two howitzers, with orders to proceed up the Blackwater bay, whence the troops were to march to Pierce's mills to secure a supply of lumber, and thence advance toward Milton, about 12 miles distant. Nearing Milton they came upon a detachment of about 80 Confederate cavalry, and a brisk fight ensued, our troops steadily and gallantly meeting the attack until reinforcements of cavalry and artillery came up and they were forced to retire. The enemy pursued through Milton and on the road to Pollard. But the Confederate force, though unequal to a conflict with such superior numbers, succeeded in escaping capture. The Federals returned to Milton, leaving their cavalry to hold the place, where on the following morning a transport arrived, and the enemy secured several flatboats and destroyed the ferry across the river. In this ruthless invasion, what spoils could not be carried off were destroyed.

The Federals being strongly intrenched at Pensacola, with gunboats and transports in the bay, the towns lying on the Gulf coast having but limited means of defense and of easy access were made objective points of frequent expeditions. Too much credit cannot be given to our gallant soldiers on the west side of the Chattahoochee river who were thus constantly exposed to assaults by overwhelming forces.

In the east the enemy continued his demonstrations, and our outposts near Green Cove Springs, Palatka and up the St. John's river as far as Volusia county, were kept constantly engaged. Learning from his scouts on the [123] east side of the river that the enemy's garrison at Picolata was about 400 strong and was becoming very troublesome and insulting to our loyal citizens in that neighborhood, Captain Dickison resolved on an expedition across the river, could he gain the consent of his general commanding and arrange some plan for the relief and protection of these unfortunate people. In reply to his telegram the general replied that he would leave it to his good judgment; but to be very cautious, as the enemy were in large force at Jacksonville, Green Cove Springs and St. Augustine, with their gunboats in the river. Dickison at once decided to cross the river and reconnoiter near the enemy's stronghold, and ordered preparations made for five days rations. His cavalry consisted of a detachment from Company H of 64 men under Lieutenants McCardell and McEaddy, 33 from Company B of the same regiment, and 28 from Company H of the Fifth battalion of cavalry, under command of Lieutenants Mc-Leod, Haile and Haynes. His destination was not confided to his command.

On the 2d of February, 1865, just at sunset, they reached the deserted city of Palatka. He then formed his men and made known to them that he intended crossing over into the enemy's lines. Not one of the heroic little band faltered in his duty or desired to turn back. The distance across the river was one mile, their only transportation one flatboat that could carry but twelve men and horses. They were all night and until 10 o'clock the next morning making the passage over, but landed safely and in fine spirits. They had a long and circuitous route to march to reach Picolata, continuing until 2 o'clock that night. When within one mile of the fort a halt was called and a young soldier in the command, whose father lived inside the Federal lines, was detailed to pass through the picket line and bring out his father. This hazardous duty was performed and the worthy parent informed Captain Dickison that the enemy had been [124] reinforced that day with about 300 men and had several pieces of artillery in position on the fort. It was apparent that it would be futile to attack this strong post without artillery; but the same informant reported there was to be a large assembly of the people that night for a dance, from St. Augustine and Jacksonville, and that about 12 miles off, on the road to the house of entertainment, was a station where several soldiers and horses were kept. Sending down his line to arouse the men, who, after long and toilsome marches, would often fall asleep as soon as a halt was ordered, Dickison moved on rapidly to reach if possible each place before daylight. Arriving at the station, they captured the 12 Federal cavalry with as many horses, and then pressed on to the banquet hall.

Placing a detachment on the road leading to Jacksonville and one on the road to St. Augustine, just at the dawn of day Captain Dickison moved up in the rear. As he drew near the house he saw two officers, a major with his adjutant, riding off. He dashed up to them and demanded a surrender. These officers belonged to the garrison at Picolata. At the house, several soldiers, with 1 captain and 1 lieutenant, were captured. The detachment by the roadside captured the band of musicians, composed of 12 young soldiers, in a fine four-horse ambulance, on their way to St. Augustine. They were ordered to halt, our boys saying, ‘We want that carriage to take a ride.’ At these places were captured about 40 men, including 4 officers, also 18 horses and 1 ambulance. Dickison now learned that Colonel Wilcoxson, with the Seventeenth Connecticut and ten large six-mule wagons, had gone up the road in the direction of Volusia county. Dividing his command he took 52 men with one lieutenant to follow in pursuit of Colonel Wilcoxson, leaving the remainder under Lieutenants Haile, Haynes and McCardell with the guard in charge of the prisoners, with orders to move on by the way of Haw's creek and [125] meet him at or near Braddock's farm, about 6 miles east of the river. He then rapidly proceeded with his detachment. They had marched but a few miles when Lieutenant McEaddy, commanding the advance, met a detachment of cavalry under Captain Staples and captured 1 man and 2 horses, the others making their escape in the swamp near by. Upon reaching the main road, a bright moonlight smiling upon them, they continued to press forward until midnight, when a halt was ordered for an hour. They continued their march, every few miles meeting deserters on their way to St. Augustine. Gaining all the information desired from them they were sent to the rear as prisoners. On the evening of the third day they learned from two deserters who were just from Wilcoxson's headquarters at Braddock's farmhouse, only 2 miles distant, that they were making ready to start back their wagons loaded with cotton. Captain Dickison then advanced a little nearer, halted, and arranged his little command for a desperate encounter, as he well knew the enemy outnumbered him two to one, their regiment a fine and well disciplined one. Lieutenant McEaddy, the only commissioned officer with him except his surgeon, Dr. Williams, was directed to keep his men in good line, ready for the charge, the signal to be given to him from the head of the advance by a wave of his handkerchief.

Moving on slowly, his surgeon by his side, he saw the enemy at some distance moving down a long hill with a heavy train of wagons. He could see them marching along in no particular order by the side of the wagons, having no advance guard, as they had just left their headquarters. A branch being between the enemy and our men, he ordered our advance, consisting of 10 men under Sergt. William Cox, to dismount and take position at the branch and await orders. The enemy halted not over 150 yards distant, and our advance under the excitement fired into them without orders. They [126] were then ordered to make a charge. The heart of any commander would have thrilled with proud delight at the splendid heroism they displayed. They fought as only brave men fight. Charging up to the long line of wagons under a heavy fire, they pressed on until the enemy gave way and fell back to the woods, pursued by our intrepid dragoons. The captain demanded a surrender, ordering them to throw down their arms. This was all done before they had time to learn the strength of our force. As we passed the wagons in the charge Captain Dickison directed his surgeon, Dr. Williams, to remain with the wagons and stop our advance as they came up. At this juncture Lieutenant McEaddy, in making ready for a charge, struck a pond, around which he with a few of his command made the charge, Colonel Wilcoxson with his staff and a detachment of 20 cavalry being at that. moment ready to meet him. They charged down the hill upon our men, coming up near where the prisoners had surrendered. Our command then fired into the colonel's escort which dashed off on the road toward the wagons, where a lively fight ensued, our surgeon and Sergeant Cox with 10 men killing and capturing every one, except Colonel Wilcoxson. He fought fearlessly. After firing his last shot he threw his pistol at one of our soldiers, then drew his sword and started down the road where 3 men were guarding the prisoners. There was but one way for him to make his escape, between this guard and Captain Dickison, who was on the watch, fearing the prisoners would revolt. Seeing this officer approaching, not knowing who he was, he rode on to meet him, and demanded a surrender. Driven to desperation, the Federal drew his sword and made a furious charge at Dickison, who fired, the shot taking effect in his left side. As their horses were moving rapidly they passed each other. Dickison quickly turned and soon gained upon his adversary, whose glittering sword flashed defiance. Again he fired with sure aim, the saber strokes [127] falling fast. One more shot and his antagonist fell. At this moment one of our men rode up and the wounded man was left in his care. The fight ended, Captain Dickison on inquiry learned that Colonel Wilcoxson was not among the prisoners. He looked in the direction he had left the wounded officer and saw him approaching, leaning upon the arm of the young guard, who called to Captain Dickison that Colonel Wilcoxson desired to see him. He dismounted to meet him, with an emotion that stirs the heart of every brave man, for ‘the bravest are the tenderest,’ and addressed him, ‘Colonel, why did you throw your life away?’ The colonel with true manhood replied, ‘Do not blame yourself. You are only doing your duty as a soldier. I alone am to blame.’ Dr. Williams, our noble surgeon, soon came up and greeted the unfortunate officer as a brother united by the ‘mystic tie.’ He was faithfully ministered to by true and brave hearts until his ear was deaf to earth's rude alarms and the weary spirit peacefully departed to its eternal rest.

The victory was a decided and brilliant one. The entire command was captured, about 75 in number, except 4 killed, also their wagon train, with ten fine wagons, each with six mules and horses, with best equipments, all loaded with sea island cotton that had been stored at Braddock's farm, and all of their fine cavalry horses. Not a man was hurt on our side.

Captain Dickison was then about 10 miles from the river, and up to this time had heard nothing of Lieutenant McCardell's command, which had left three days previous, with instructions to meet our detachment at or near this place. Considerable anxiety prevailed in regard to their safety, increased by the great difficulty to be met in making a successful crossing of the river. But he moved on for about 3 miles, when night coming on, a halt was ordered and a detachment of four men was sent on to Horse landing to order the flatboat brought over by the time he would reach the landing next morning. [128] Before crossing the river, he had directed Captain Mc-Gahaghan, who was at Horse landing with an infantry company of reserves for the purpose of removing the machinery of the gunboat Columbine, to be ready to assist him when he returned from his expedition. Early next morning on arriving at the landing the boat was found ready. The position was a very critical one. It was apprehended that the enemy would soon follow with a large force to cut them off—an almost impenetrable swamp to the right and the St. John's in front giving them the advantage. This called forth all the resources of the leader to plan the successful accomplishment of so dangerous a transportation. He sent a scout 8 miles in his rear to watch the enemy's movements. He fully understood, should Lieutenant McCardell come up, there would be about 250 men and over 200 horses, with ten heavily loaded wagons and two ambulances, to be moved across the St. John's river by means of one flatboat, with capacity to carry one wagon or twelve men and horses. Fortunately the infantry company of about 70 men on the opposite shore would render valuable assistance in unloading each transport. He then made a detail of three detachments, sufficiently strong to manage the boat and respectively take command.

At 10 o'clock a. m. they began their difficult and arduous task. The prisoners were first sent over, then the captured wagons and horses, until all were safely landed. Day and night these dauntless men worked with such caution and accuracy that not a mistake was made, either in loading or discharging. The boat was never stopped until the last man, horse and wagon were safely landed on the west side of the St. John's river. While this was going on a courier reported that Lieutenant McCardell and command were all safe and would soon be up. On their arrival they gave most efficient help to our tired men who had so often crossed and re-crossed the river in performance of their arduous and perilous duty. By 11 [129] o'clock the next morning, a period of 25 hours, the last boat, bearing Captain Dickison, landed, greeted by repeated shouts of welcome. After ten days from the time Dickison left his headquarters he returned with his proud command, all rejoicing over their brilliant victory, and feeling richly rewarded for the dangers and privations they had experienced by the assurance that the loyal citizens on the east side of the river, who had lived in constant dread of raiding parties, would now enjoy a happy security from their merciless enemies, who were now restrained in their vandalism by the brilliant and signal successes of our gallant and intrepid men in every expedition they had ventured upon in that section of country.

During the absence of the brave defenders of our homes, a weary period of ten days sad vigil, loved ones suffered great anguish of heart and every citizen felt the most intense anxiety. Appreciating the distress of such harrowing suspense Dickison lost no time in sending dispatches to his telegraph operator at Waldo, a distance of 50 miles, to be forwarded to the department at Tallahassee, also to his family at Quincy. The bearer of these dispatches was D. G. Ambler, a member of Company H, Second Florida cavalry, whose fearlessness and executive ability admirably fitted him for any important trust. On this memorable occasion, as on every other, he was not found wanting, and soon the electric current did its heaven-directed work. The wires flashed joy into every heart, and loud peans were heard from every home in the ‘land of flowers,’ and the good tidings borne to our sister States made glad the whole Southland, for all hearts beat as one that were enlisted in our sacred cause.

On the night Captain Dickison returned from his expedition just described, he received a dispatch from Capt. E. J. Sutterloh, reporting the enemy landing in large force at Cedar Keys, under cover of their gunboats, and marching out in the interior. A few hours later, another [130] dispatch from this vigilant officer stated that the enemy were at Levyville and a portion of their command moving in the direction of Lake City. This was communicated to headquarters at Tallahassee, whence orders came to move forward, with all the force available, to get in the rear of the enemy and harass them until General Miller could arrive with his brigade, which would soon leave by train for Lake City, and thence march through the country with all the ordnance stores needed. Dickison at once set out with 52 men from Company H, under Lieutenants McCardell and McEaddy, and 20 from Company H, Fifth battalion of cavalry, in command of Lieutenants Haile and Haynes, with one 12-pound howitzer, commanded by Lieutenant Bruton. The prisoners were forwarded to Tallahassee under a strong guard. Though almost broken down by fatigue, Dickison's men pressed on with great rapidity. A scout reported that the enemy had left Levyville in a hasty retreat. It was soon found to be impossible to cut them off. Just before sundown they reached ‘No. 4,’ near Cedar Keys, about 4 miles in the rear of the enemy. When night came on a halt was ordered and a strong picket put out. At daylight the next morning the following troops reported to Captain Dickison: Captain Sutterloh, with 18 men from the outpost, and the militia numbering 37 men, under Captains King, Dudley, Price and Watterson, making our entire force 160 men, including the artillery. A courier brought in a dispatch that General Miller was about 50 miles in our rear, on the road leading from Lake City. Confident that the enemy would fall back to the island, under cover of their gunboats, it was decided to engage them at once.

The enemy's force consisted of two regiments of white and negro troops, from 600 to 700 strong, occupying a strong position behind the high embankment of the railroad. Captain Dickison put out a picket line on his right and, with 142 men, moved and encountered the fire [131] of the Federal picket. Dismounting his men a volley was received and returned, and then the Confederates made a daring charge. The enemy in their stronghold gave way before such dauntless bravery and in a few minutes Dickison held the road. The fight then became general, our artillery shelling them at a furious rate. They would give way, but rally again and again and renew the attack. Lieutenant Dell brought word that the Federals had been reinforced and were crossing the railroad trestle to flank him on the right. Our left being well protected by Lieutenants Haile and Haynes, our center bravely holding their position, Lieutenant Bruton was ordered with his howitzer and 10 men to the trestle that crosses over to the island. They were soon at the place. Never was artillery better handled; never more effective service rendered. At every attempt of the enemy to cross, a distance of 300 yards, our heroic Bruton would throw a shell into their lines and they would fall back. He would then turn his gun and shell the enemy where the rest of the command were fighting.

Unfortunately our ammunition was soon expended. Lieutenant Bruton reported only four more shells. He was ordered to the center, leaving Lieutenant McEaddy with 10 men to hold the trestle as long as possible. As the gallant Bruton dashed up with his gun, making a desperate charge, he allowed the Federals to come within a short distance, then opened fire upon them with a storm of grape-shot which drove them back in the wildest confusion. There stood the invincible Bruton, calm and undaunted, until his last round was fired, when he turned and coolly said, ‘Captain, I have fired my-last shell; what shall I do?’ ‘Remove your gun.’ Captain Dickison, riding along the line, learned that many of his men had shot their last cartridges, and having 200, in the thickest of the fight he distributed them. In a few minutes every round was fired. The command then fell back in good order about 600 yards, in view of the enemy [132] and remained there some time, the enemy making no attempt to renew an attack. A courier at this time coming up reported the wagons within 6 or 8 miles, with ammunition for artillery and small arms. It was some time after dark before they reached our camp. The next day at an early hour the Confederates moved forward and learned that the enemy had left in great confusion, not removing their dead from the battlefield. During the fight many undertook to retreat across the bay to the island, being cut off from the trestle. Some were seen wading up to their necks, others trying to swim. Many found a watery grave.

Had our ammunition come in time, the entire force would have been captured. It is said by an eye witness of this most unequal fight of 160 men battling against not less than 600, that the cool determination and intrepidity exhibited by every man was too wonderful to describe. The Confederate troops and militia fought side by side. They were fighting on their own soil for their most sacred rights, many of them in sight of their once peaceful homes, knowing that the hearts of their loved ones suffered the most terrible agony as the sound of the distant cannon reached their ear. The enemy had advanced some distance in the interior, plundering the unprotected citizens, and were so insulting and brutal in their threats that the bravest hearts among our fair women trembled and sweet lips grew pale at their approach. Had it not been for the timely arrival of our heroic little band and the brave militia soldiery who so bravely hastened to their assistance, fearful indeed would the result have been. Thank God, who giveth the victory, ‘the battle was not to the strong,’ and the horrors that had again threatened every home were averted by His overwhelming love.

The slaves, horses and several hundred head of cattle, with other valuable property, were captured and returned to the owners. The enemy's loss was 70 killed and taken prisoner. We had 6 severely wounded. Three of [133] these gallant young soldiers, Joseph C. Crews, Edwin L'Engle and John M. Johns, never entirely recovered from their wounds. During the years that have gone by they have been often reminded of their heroic deeds on that memorable occasion by their sufferings and the scars left as a lasting memorial. All honor to our brave defenders!

Give them the meed they have won in the past,
Give them the laurels they won in the strife.

On their return to headquarters at Waldo they were met by General Miller and his command at Gainesville, also a detachment of cavalry under Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick. The noble matrons of the town gave them a kindly welcome, with a sumptuous dinner they had prepared in anticipation of their arrival.

In his report of this engagement Captain Dickison said, after recounting the events already narrated: ‘I desire to make especial mention of the good conduct and gallantry of Lieutenant Bruton, of the artillery, and the heroic men under his command. Their conduct upon the field, under the most trying circumstances, was all that could be desired. Sergt. William Cox of Company H, Second Florida cavalry, acting adjutant, was conspicuous for his gallantry and is entitled to the highest commendation for the efficient services rendered by him. The entire command, officers and men, behaved in such manner as entitle them to the grateful thanks of their commanding officer and the plaudits of their countrymen.’

On March 15th Captain Dickison reported subsequent operations in his field as follows:

On the evening of the 10th inst., I received information from Marion county, through Col. Samuel Owens, that the enemy was advancing by way of Marshall's bridge and had advanced 12 miles in the interior, burning the bridge. I immediately ordered out my command and in two hours was in rapid [134] march in that direction. While near Silver Springs a courier reached me with a dispatch, stating that the enemy had burned the Ocklawaha bridge and were retreating toward the St. John's river. I then ordered my command to march back in the direction of Palatka, and sent an advance guard to have the flatboat in readiness for us to cross the river. On arriving at the river the wind blew very strong, which delayed our crossing about ten hours. After much difficulty, hard labor and great peril, we succeeded in crossing 50 of my command, leaving the remainder with one piece of artillery to guard and picket other points on the river. Hearing, on my arrival at Palatka, that the enemy had gone up the river in barges, I marched all night and at times at half speed and reached Fort Peaton, 7 miles from St. Augustine, where I overtook four negroes. We continued at fast speed toward the city and within a mile of their picket line, and captured twenty more, also a wagon and six ponies. Three of these ponies have since been claimed by citizens and delivered to them. . The enemy, on hearing we were in pursuit of them, left wagons, mules and provisions at the river, where they had crossed near Fort Gates.

The march was truly a hard one. We marched four days and nights with but little forage or provisions. My men were resolved, and showed a determination to pursue the enemy to the very gates of the city. The negroes, twenty-four in number, with the wagons and mules captured, belonged to Mrs. Marshall, of Marion county. The raiding party on reaching her plantation destroyed 200 hogsheads of sugar. Some of our militia met them, and in an engagement two of our men were killed. Had information reached me earlier they would have been overtaken with their rich spoils before reaching the river. All praise is due these noble, gallant men for their unflinching spirit and resignation, having endured every hardship without a murmur.

On April 5th Captain Dickison reported: ‘I have the [135] honor to report that my picket of two men on the east side of the St. John's river intercepted the courier line between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, killing four of the enemy and wounding the fifth, capturing two horses and the mails from St. Augustine and Jacksonville. I have allowed the gallant party to retain these horses for their use, and hope this reward to brave men may meet with approbation from the department.’

After the defeat of the Federals at Cedar Keys on the 13th of February, 1865, they determined upon making another effort to capture Tallahassee, and for this purpose an expedition was planned by Gen. John Newton for a concentration of forces from Cedar Keys, Punta Rassa and Key West, to land in the neighborhood of St. Marks and, in conjunction with a naval force, ascend the river. Landing their forces of cavalry, infantry and artillery at the lighthouse, they marched to Newport and, finding that the bridge had been burned, advanced about 8 miles further up to the Natural Bridge, where some of our troops had taken position and were ready to meet them. This was a surprise to the enemy, as the opinion prevailed that our forces were so scattered from Fort Myers to the extreme western border of the State that it would be an opportune time for a successful expedition.

Our troops made a most gallant and determined charge, repulsing the Federals at every point until they were forced to fall back to their gunboats, sustaining a very heavy loss. In this engagement the negro troops were commanded by Maj. Edmund C. Weeks, who a few weeks previous had been completely defeated and routed by Dickison's command and the militia forces at ‘No. 4,’ near Cedar Keys. During the dark days when our people were passing through the fiery furnace of the reconstruction stage and withering under carpet-bag rule, Major Weeks, with other carpet-baggers, made his home in the city of Tallahassee. Among the captured papers was an order from his commanding general, John [136] Newton, promising the negro troops, ‘that should the expedition prove successful and Tallahassee be taken, they would be at liberty to sack the city.’ But our victory at Natural Bridge was a signal one, and again were the invaders foiled in their long cherished design to get possession of Tallahassee. Many instances of individual gallantry could be recorded, but where all fought with such dauntless intrepidity, not once wavering in their steady advance upon the enemy, repulsing them at every charge, they are all entitled to the highest commendation.

The Kilcrease artillery, Gamble's battery commanded by Capt. Patrick Houston, and a section of Dunham's battery under Captain Raube, acted in the most gallant manner, dealing death and destruction to the invaders and contributing largely to the result of the battle.

This battle and the operations closely preceding it were officially reported by Gen. Sam Jones on March 20, 1865, from Tallahassee, as follows:

Since I have been in command in this military district several raids have been made on it, and one demonstration of a more formidable nature, designed to get possession of St. Marks and this city. All have been frustrated with little loss to us, and in a manner highly creditable to those of our troops engaged. The first was made from Cedar Keys by a party of from 600 to 700 men on the 9th of February. It was thought they intended to penetrate by way of Newnansville to the railroad bridge, over the Suwannee river. I sent a party of the reserves and Second cavalry to Newnansville, under Brigadier-General Miller, and directed Capt. J. J. Dickison with his command to endeavor to get in rear of the enemy. Finding, I suppose, that they would encounter more opposition than they expected, they did not advance as far as Newnansville, but fell back to a position, ‘No. 4,’ on the Florida railroad, near Cedar Keys.

Captain Dickison attacked them early on the morning of the 13th ult., and though his numerical strength was scarcely a sixth to that of the enemy, in a sharp fight of [137] two or three hours duration he punished them so severely that they retired hastily to Cedar Keys, leaving their dead on the field; the loss on our part 6 wounded. Our men inflicted on the enemy a loss of 70 in killed, wounded and captured, and captured a quantity of cattle, wagons and other property which the enemy had taken on the march. Captain Dickison and his men started on this service the day after they had returned from the last on the St. John's river, where, without the loss of a man, they killed 4 of the enemy, including the adjutant, and captured 88 prisoners, including a lieutenant-colonel and 3 captains, an ambulance and 10 wagons with their teams, a number of small arms and horses and several thousand pounds of cotton. The lieutenant-colonel (Wilcoxson) captured was mortally wounded, and has since died in hospital at this place.

On the 4th inst. a fleet of fourteen vessels, most of them transports, appeared off Saint Mark's lighthouse and landed a force estimated from 1,500 to 2,000 men, Brig.-Gen. John Newton commanding. On the 5th they moved inland, retarded in their march by a part of the Fifth battalion Florida cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Scott commanding. They reached Newport in the afternoon, after capturing a piece of artillery, the horses of which became unmanageable, shelled the village and burned two houses on the left bank. We burned the bridge at that point. I went to Newport early in the night of the 5th, where I found Brigadier-General Miller, who had promptly gone there with a company of cadets and a small body of militia. On the first intimation that the enemy had landed, the militia were called out and all the available troops in the district within reach were ordered to Tallahassee. During the night of the 15th, the enemy left a detachment opposite Newport and moved the principal force up to cross the St. Mark's at the Natural Bridge. Brigadier-General Miller, anticipating the movement, sent Colonel Scott with a small body of cavalry to meet them there. I ordered the reserves, militia and two sections of artillery, and the force at Newport under command of General Miller, to the same point. They arrived at the Natural Bridge about 4 o'clock in the morning, just in time to meet and repel two attacks. The enemy then formed under cover of a thick hammock and kept up an obstinate fight at intervals for ten or twelve hours. [138] Early in the afternoon a part of the Second Florida cavalry under Col. Caraway Smith arrived. Our artillery, four pieces, opened a brisk fire, which our men followed up by a charge, and the enemy fled to their boats leaving many of their dead on the field. Our numbers were scarcely a third that of the enemy. Their loss is estimated at not less than 300 in killed, wounded and captured. Prisoners captured represent the loss as particularly heavy in officers; General Newton reported wounded. Our loss 3 killed and 22 wounded. Among the killed was Capt. H. H. Simmons, Second Florida cavalry, when gallantly leading his company.

Between the 3d of February and the 6th of March, 1865, it is estimated that our troops in this district have killed, wounded and captured a number of the enemy equal to one-third of our effective strength, as borne on the last return. Have added materially to our field transportation and recaptured much stolen property. The enemy's squadron is still off St. Mark's, and I anticipate another and more formidable demonstration to get possession of that port and this city.

Dazzled as we are by the transcendent brilliancy of the military achievements of our great leaders, Lee, Jackson, Johnston, Longstreet, Hill, Stuart, Ashby, Hampton, Gordon, Forrest, Morgan and a host of others whose names will shine through the ages with undiminished luster on the page of history, yet there were thousands of gallant men in our own proud little State whose brave hearts never faltered, even at the cannon's mouth, the grandeur of whose character and warlike deeds have proudly illustrated the age, renowned as it is with heroes and events unparalleled in the annals of the world. Such the heroic soldier whose valorous deeds have been recorded in these pages, and whose patriotism and adherence to principle are worthy of emulation by the chivalrous and brave in every land. May the youth of our grand Southland ever revere these illustrious heroes, living or dead, of a lost but just cause. All did their duty nobly, and their deeds of heroism will live in the heart of every true patriot and lover of the land that gave birth to such noble sons. [139]

The surrender at Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1865, of our noble chieftain, Robert E. Lee, the incorruptible patriot and brave defender of his country's rights, soon followed by the surrender of that faithful, devoted patriot and grand hero, Joseph E. Johnston, was the death-knell to our long-cherished hopes and sealed the fate of the Southern Confederacy. As a proud and honorable people we accepted the arbitration of our leaders and, as heaven willed, resigned ourselves to the inevitable.

When the banner of the Confederacy was furled and the terms of peace had been accepted, the summons came for own heroic soldiers to assemble in their respective districts to be paroled. It was a bitter trial to these dauntless men to accept a situation so hard to realize; but with proud consciousness of having done their duty they laid down their arms, received their parole, bade farewell to their brave companions in arms and returned to the enjoyment once more of the endearments of home, beguiled by the hope that peace was restored. Alas! how evanescent so blissful a dream! Owing to the lamentable death of our patriotic governor, John Milton, Gen. A. K. Allison, president of the senate, filled the executive chair for a short time. The Hon. William Marvin was made provisional governor, and held the office, by appointment of the president of the United States, until the winter of 1865, when we were granted the privilege of an election by the people for our State officers. One of our supreme judges, David S. Walker, by the unanimous voice of a proud constituency, was made governor. Not long, a little over two years, were we permitted to enjoy the blessings of his wise and peaceful administration. The red planet Mars was still in the ascendant, and eclipsed the pure lambent light of the beauteous star of peace. Our courtly governor was deposed by order of a military satrap, and a new regime established, most destructive to our prosperity and inexpressibly galling to the proud spirit of our citizens ‘to the manor born.’ The despot's [140] heel was upon our beloved land. We were deprived of all civil and political rights. We had neither law nor order; there was no protection of life, liberty or property. As a conquered province we were held in durance vile. With military dictators in authority at every city, town and village, the ‘Bureau’ for ‘the wards of the nation,’ and that valiant cohort of carpet-baggers fraternizing with the ‘brother in black,’ a scene of degradation followed that presented so appalling a picture no pen can portray. With such rulers over our State, corruption, fraud and profligacy held high carnival. From every wronged heart the cry arose, ‘How long, oh Lord, how long, wilt thou delay thy vengeance.’ After a weary decade of bitter humiliation, our noble leaders made a bold charge as grand as that of the famous Light Brigade, and completely routed their political opponents. The great seal of State once more passed into their hands, and from that time to the present hour sacredly have they guarded it.

It was not easy to discharge the duties of citizenship in the States which had formed the Southern Confederacy during the years immediately succeeding the war. The plan of reconstruction inaugurated by the executive in 1865 was accepted by the people; they returned to their usual vocations, and peace and order were gradually restored; but before the new State governments were fully organized the plans of the executive were overthrown by the Congressional scheme, and the newly enfranchised freedman became a potent political factor under the second reconstruction. Years of strife, confusion, corruption and misgovernment necessarily followed., They were hard years for the inhabitants of the States who had been identified with the Southern cause. No other teacher than experience can enable one to form a correct idea of the trials and difficulties and perplexities of those days. In sections of country where the white people were in the minority—a very large minority in [141] States bordering on the Gulf coast—the conditions were aggravated. It was a contest for the preservation of civilization, and in the end the intelligent citizens regained control of the States, because they had leaders with wisdom and prudence and determination to take advantage of suitable opportunities such as from time to time aided them to restore good government. When, as the work of restoration progressed, these representative men were sent by their States and districts to Washington, there were many who declared that those who had once been in arms against the government could not be trusted to legislate for its maintenance, and that their admission to seats in the Senate and House, and to other high places, threatened the permanence of the Union. But this personal contact of senators and representatives who were on different sides during the civil war has been a potent influence in bringing the sections into closer and more friendly relations; and whatever fears may have been entertained of the effects of the return of the Southern lead-ers to place and power in the national government, they have long since been dissipated. [142]

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