One of the most nationally significant events in Jackson County history took place on September 27, 1864, during the engagement remembered today as the Battle of Marianna.
A Union officer, Captain George H. Maynard of the 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in part for his actions in saving the lives of local men and boys on the grounds of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
A Northerner by birth, Maynard had joined the Union army early in the war as a private in Company D of the 13th Massachusetts Infantry. He quickly displayed an unusual combination of both heroism and mercy on the battlefield that attracted the attention of his superior officers.
At the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), Maryland, on September 17, 1862, for example, Maynard personally went under fire to remove two wounded comrades from danger. He then joined each Union regiment advancing to his location of the battlefield and by the time the fight was over had charged the Confederate lines with six different units.
At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, three months later, he went twice alone into enemy fire to bring wounded men to safety. This heroic act resulted in his promotion to captain and assignment to the 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry, a new regiment formed of liberated African American men from Mississippi and Louisiana.
A detachment from the regiment fought at the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864, and in the final stages of the fighting, Maynard found himself with his men on the grounds of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church where Captain Jesse Norwood and the local citizens of the Marianna Home Guard refused to surrender.
According to Maynard’s personal account of the battle, the Union troops ceased firing in an effort to talk Norwood and his men into giving up, but the local citizen soldiers intensified their fighting. The action, he said, "infuriated" his men and the battle degenerated into a bloody melee.
Finally, Norwood and his men realized that their situation was hopeless and began to lay down their weapons. To Maynard’s shock and outrage, however, his men began shooting the defenseless prisoners. "I at once dismounted and rushed into the graveyard," he reported, "just in time to knock away a musket placed at the head of a prisoner." According to his account, he then leveled his pistol at his own men and "threatened to blow out the brains of the first man who dared to shoot a prisoner."
According to men present from both North and South, Maynard’s actions at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church prevented the massacre of many of the captured men and boys of Marianna.
The captain was subsequently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism under fire, in part for his actions during the Battle of Marianna. The medal survives today, a reminder of a remarkable act of courage and compassion for which Maynard was recognized by his government. The medal is accompanied by the notation that he was honored for being "heroic and humane."
Editor’s Note: Read more about the history of Jackson County online by visiting the "Local History" section at www.jacksoncountytimes.net.