Edgar B. Davis
October 2, 1864
Private Edgar Davis of the 2nd Maine Cavalry may have been the only soldier remaining who knew how to write an official report after the losses suffered by the Regiment at the Battle of Marianna, Florida. Davis notes in his report to Adjutant General John Hodsdon that "the large number of casualties among our officers is a proof that they do not ask their men to go where they dare not lead."
A 25 year old clerk from Belfast, Davis joined the 2nd Maine when the Regiment was mustered in January, 1864. The unit was sent to the Department of the Gulf and based at Fort Barrancas, outside Pensacola, Florida.
Davis writes that "an Expedition under the command of General Asboth .... left this place on the 16th of Sept with the intention of making a raid on the Western part of Fla." (General Alexander Sandor Asboth was a Hungarian patriot who participated in the unsuccessful 1848 revolution against the Austrian Empire, came to America as an exile, and joined the Union Army in 1861.)
As both had Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Spurling, of Orland, take a detachment of troopers on a separate foray while "the main body pushed on, crossed the Choctowatchie River at Cerro Gorde and encountered a strong Rebel force at Marianna, the County seat of Jackson County," Davis writes.
The Confederate defenders – local citizens and a modest militia – put up a vigorous defense and laid a trap for the 2nd Maine.
Led by Majors Nathan Cutler, of Augusta, and Eben Hutchinson, of Athens, the cavalry charged, "the Rebs fleeing like a flock of sheep before them."
The 2nd Maine followed at a gallop, Davis writes, and "met a barricade of wagons which they cleared in gallant style, when they received a volley from a body of militia concealed in the stores, houses and churches, which literally mowed down the head of the column."
Davis informs Hodsdon of the Regiment’s losses, but does not mention the destruction wreaked on the town of Marianna and its inhabitants by the 2nd Maine. Confederate sources claimed that food, clothing, and civilians’ valuables were stolen, and that a church and several other buildings were burned. Despite that claim, a local family promised that the wounded Maine officers left behind "should have the best of care."
Davis reports that shortly thereafter, Col. Spurling returned from Cerro Gorde. "He and his 19 men came in with 15 prisoners, 50 horses, several teams and a large train of cattle, mules and contrabands."
By autumn, 1864, the War had taken an ugly destructive turn. Union General Philip Sheridan was laying waste to the Shenandoah Valley, and General William T. Sherman was completing his Atlanta campaign and was about to begin his march to the sea.
- Can you visualize the 2nd Maine Cavalry thundering down the street straight into a trap?
- What are "contrabands"?
- Why did Colonel Spurling bring them in?