St. Luke's Episcopal Church
The wartime church, similar
appearance to today's, was torched
at its western end near the tower.
St. Luke's Cemetery
The main Union assault on the
home guards came from the far side
of the cemetery.
The Battle of Marianna, Florida: Phase Two
The St. Luke's Bible
Legend holds that Major Nathan
Cutler saved the Bible from the
Major Nathan Cutler
Cutler supposedly saved the Bible
from the church but was then shot
down by two young boys.
The bayonet charge over the board fence
surrounding St. Luke's Episcopal Church
brought about the climactic moments of the
Battle of Marianna.
If Colonel Zulavsky hoped the brave charge
would bring about the end of the battle, it did
not. Instead of surrendering, Norwood and
the Marianna Home Guards fell back into the
cemetery behind the church and continued to
Finding themselves cut off there by the men
of the Union flanking party who had moved
up after the hand to hand fight at the court-
house, Norwood's men came under fire from
three sides (the fourth side being protected
by the church itself). The shooting was now
taking place at extremely close range, but
due to the madness of the scene and nature
of the battle was not particularly effective on
The resistance of the home guards amazed
the Union soldiers, who now were engaged
in a deadly stalemate with Norwood's men.
One of them later asked Dr. Ethelred Philips,
a local physician, how untrained men were
able to make such a fight. He replied that
they were "born to it," explaining that they had
grown up hunting and practicing with guns.
While this was true, it must also be admitted
that the backbone of Norwood's company
was stiffened considerably by the presence
in his unit of a number of officers and men
from the regular Confederate army. When
they heard the news of the impending attack,
men home on leave due to wounds or illness
turned out to fight. Principal among these
were Captain Henry O. Bassett of Company
E, 6th Florida Infantry, and Captain Walter J.
Robinson of Company A, 11th Florida
Infantry. Both had extensive battlefield
experience and each was joined by several
men from his company.
The men were also fighting fiercely to defend
their homes and families. Many of them had
turned out to fight that morning knowing that
their wives, daughters and granddaughters
were waiting at home for the outcome of the
At least two eyewitnesses also reported that
several of the women of the town took a hand
in the fighting, firing from the windows of their
homes at the Union troops in the streets.
Despite their numerical seniority, the Union
soldiers found themselves engaged in a
bloody standoff with Norwood's men. The
upper ranks of the Federal force had been
badly bloodied. Thus far the raiders had lost
a general, two majors, a captain and three
lieutenants either killed or wounded, not to
mention an array of sergeants, corporals and
privates. All three of the 2nd Maine Cavalry
battalions were fighting without their
An officer with the 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry
later wrote that concern was growing that the
attack might actually be repulsed, so it was
decided to try to negotiate a surrender.
A Union officer moved forward to convince the
Confederates to lay down their arms. Some
began to do so, but not everyone was ready
to give up the fight. An unknown Southern
soldier promptly shot the man down and the
fighting again erupted.
Although the shooting of the officer outraged
the Union soldiers, the stalemate continued.
In fact, one eyewitness noted just a few days
later that the Confederates might have
prevailed had they not started to run low on
A second surrender was negotiated and
Norwood and his men began to lay down
their weapons. A volley was promptly fired
into them by soldiers from the U.S. Colored
Infantry companies, evidently still outraged
over the shooting of the Union officer during
the earlier surrender attempt. Several of the
Federal officers noted that they could no
longer control their men and it appeared for a
moment that the situation might deteriorate
into a massacre.
At this critical moment, however, Captain
George H. Maynard of the 82nd U.S. Colored
leaped from his horse and placed his pistol
to the head of one of his own men, yelling
that he would "blow out the brains of the first
man who dared to shoot a prisoner." His
quick action saved the lives of many of the
Confederate prisoners and he was awarded
the Congressional Medal of Honor in part for
his actions at the Battle of Marianna.
The surrender of Norwood's company still
did not bring the fighting to a complete close.
Several Confederates remained barricaded
in the church and two nearby homes from
which they continued to fire on the Union
soldiers. Colonel Zulavsky ordered all three
structures burned and the order was carried
out, despite the opposition of at least one of
the Union officers. Major Nathan Cutler of the
Second Maine Cavalry was later credited with
dashing into the burning church to save the
Bible from the lectern.
The charred bodies of four Confederate
defenders were later found in the ashes of
St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
|Site of the "Last Stand"
The men and boys of the Marianna Home
Guard made the desperate last stand here
among the graves in St. Luke's Cemetery.
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The Battle of Marianna, Florida
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Last Update: October 2, 2014