By Times Staff
Marianna – Improved recognition of the national and even international significance of a local Civil War event is drawing growing numbers of tourists to Jackson County. They are coming to see the site of the Battle of Marianna, but are also visiting local hotels, restaurants and business.
On Saturday, for example, a group of more than 60 military officers from around the world visited Marianna to learn about the tactics of the 1864 battle and see sites associated with the fighting. It was the second time Fort Rucker has arranged for a large group to visit the battlefield within the past year and countries ranging from Canada and Mexico to Germany and even the Philippines were represented.
U.S. officials indicate that part of their goal in hosting officers from around the world is to provide them examples for the futures of their own country by illustrating how the United States has developed into a great nation from a time of great division and conflict during the War Between the States.
Local historian Dale Cox, who spoke to the group through an interpreter, indicated that the military contingent was just one of many groups, large and small, that have been making their way to Jackson County to learn about the battle. His 2007 book - The Battle of Marianna, Florida – is now in its third year of international distribution and has attracted the attention of readers from around the world.
The group also heard from Commander Robert Daffin of the Theophilus West Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and had an opportunity to visit with men and women portraying citizens of the era. The tour was coordinated by SCV member Ashley Pollette.
"In just the last six months I’ve visited with an amazing variety of people wanting to learn more about the Battle of Marianna," Cox said, indicating that he has spoken with visitors from as far away as Texas, Kansas and Maine in addition to the military groups. "There is so much about this battle that has been traditionally overlooked," the author continued, "from the fact that a Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded for an incident during the fighting to the role of women and even children in the battle."
Cox further noted that the Battle of Marianna involved both white and black troops and that more than 600 Jackson Countians held in slavery gained their freedom as a result of the engagement. "For most of the local participants," he noted, "it was about defending their homes and families."
Although it was small in size, Cox’s research has revealed that the battle was of enormous significance. Jackson and three nearby counties sustained more economic damage as a result of the raid on Marianna than any other area of Florida, South Georgia or South Alabama. The expedition to Marianna, in fact, covered more ground than Sherman’s March to the Sea.
Editor’s Note: More information on the Battle of Marianna can be obtained on the internet at www.battleofmarianna.net or by reading The Battle of Marianna, Florida, Dale Cox’s book on the event, which is available online at www.amazon.com or locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna.