By Dale Cox
Marianna – The Blue Springs Society of the Children of the American Revolution will offer area residents a unique opportunity to learn more about one of Jackson County’s most significant historic events on Saturday, September 27th. The organization is hosting guided tours of the site of the Battle of Marianna.
The tours will begin at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the historic Russ House (Jackson County Chamber of Commerce) at the intersection of West Lafayette and Russ Streets in Marianna. The cost to participate is a $5 donation to the organization, with children under 12 able to participate for free.
The main fighting of the Civil War battle began at high noon on September 27, 1864, at what is now the intersection of Lafayette and Russ Streets and then moved east on Lafayette Street to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and eventually to Courthouse Square and the Chipola River. Dozens of men and boys on both sides were killed and wounded and roughly 25% of Marianna’s wartime male population was carried away to Northern prison camps.
The Battle of Marianna was unique for a number of perspectives. Hundreds of local residents turned out to defend their homes and community. Some reports of the time even claimed the women of the community took part in the fighting. One of the most intense battles ever fought in Northwest Florida, the engagement marked one of the first times that black troops went into combat in the region and culminated the deepest Union penetration of Florida during the entire Civil War.
There has been a growing national and international appreciation for the significance of the fight at Marianna over recent years. In addition to my 2007 book, titled The Battle of Marianna, Florida, the Marianna engagement also received prominent treatment in Noah Andre Trudeau’s outstanding book, Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War, 1862-1865.
Saturday, September 27th, will mark the 144th anniversary of the battle and the tours that day will give those interested a chance to learn more about the Battle of Marianna and to see some of the areas where the heaviest fighting took place. From the Russ House, the tours will lead east along Lafayette Street to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where the "last stand" of the local home guard took place. Highlights will include discussions of military strategy and tactics, comments on the significance of the battle and some of the local legends that have grown up around the fight.
The tours are open to the general public and will begin at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Russ House Commons, the park area in front of the Russ House. One hundred percent of the money raised will benefit the Blue Springs Society of the Children of the American Revolution, an organization that promotes interest in history among the school students of Jackson County.
Editor’s Note: The tours will be conducted by writer and historian Dale Cox, author of The Battle of Marianna, Florida and a regular contributor to the Jackson County Times. He is donating his time to assist the Children of the American Revolution and will also be available to answer questions about the battle following each of the tours. To read more of his writings on Jackson County history, please visit the Local History section at www.jacksoncountytimes.net.