General Alexander Asboth
A native of Hungary, Asboth became
a naturalized citizen of the United
States and was twice wounded
during the Civil War. He became a
U.S. diplomat and died in South
America. He is buried at Arlington.
Asboth's 1864 Raid on Marianna
Asboth's 1864 Raid on Marianna
Point Washington
The raiders planned to return by
was of Point Washington on
Choctawhatchee Bay.
Fort Barrancas
Asboth's headquarters were at the
Post of Barrancas, a
large complex
adjacent to the historic old fort.
The receipt of reasonably good intelligence
on Confederate activities in the Marianna
area led Brigadier General Alexander Asboth
to plan a cavalry raid against the Northwest
Florida city.

A native of Hungary and trusted associate of
the famed revolutionary Kossuth, Asboth had
fought against Austrian and Russian forces
in a desperate attempt to establish an
American-style democracy in his homeland.
The effort failed and he fled to the United
States aboard the
U.S.S. Mississippi and
made a home for himself in New York.

A well-educated and skilled engineer, he
conducted the surveys for New York city's
beautiful Central Park and also developed a
new technique of road paving. When war
erupted between the North and South, he
offered his services to President Abraham
Lincoln and because of his prior experience
as a staff officer was sent to St. Louis where
he served as Chief of Staff to Major General
John C. Fremont and helped to organize the
Army of the Frontier.

Asboth was wounded while commanding a
division at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas,
where he was commended for heroism for
his role in holding back a desperate charge
by Confederate troops.

He later served in Mississippi, Tennessee
and Kentucky, but assumed command of the
Union District of West Florida in 1863. It was
a vital post at the time, as Sherman was then
marching through Georgia and it was unclear
whether he would be forced to turn back or try
to cut his way through to Pensacola on the
Gulf of Mexico.

Asboth spent most of the winter of 1863-
1864 organizing and expanding his forces on
Pensacola Bay. He sought and received
approval to organize a new regiment of Union
volunteers from the hundreds of "disaffected
Southerners" the in camps near his head-
quarters at Fort Barrancas. By the summer of
1864, these men had been assembled into
the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry, a regiment that
included both officers and men from the
Marianna area.

After informing his superiors of his plans, the
general began moving troops across
Pensacola Bay aboard the quartermaster
Lizzie Davis during the third week of
September. He crossed in person on the
morning of September 18, 1864, and began
moving east along the Old Federal Road
which paralleled Santa Rosa Sound.

Asboth's force totalled roughly 700 men, all
mounted. The command consisted of three
battalions from the 2nd Maine Cavalry, one
battalion from the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry
and two picked companies from the 82nd
and 86th U.S. Colored Infantries. Company M
of the 2nd Maine also carried along two 12-
pounder mountain howitzers.
The force advanced along the Federal Road
through today's Naval Live Oaks area of Gulf
Islands National Seashore and soon came
to today's Fort Walton Beach on the Narrows
of Santa Rosa Sound. There they spent a day
landing additional supplies from the
and making last minute preparations
for the raid.

After ordering the steamboat to the head of
Choctawhatchee Bay (near today's Point
Washington and Freeport), Asboth turned
inland on the morning of September 20,
1864. Moving slowly up the Ridge Road
across the sand hills of today's Eglin Air
Force base, he struck first at the vast cattle
ranches along the Shoal River. Rounding up
beef and capturing a few Confederates found
home on leave, he turned east and by the
night of September 22nd was camped on the
rolling hills surrounding Lake Defuniak. The
modern city of Defuniak Springs was not
founded until some years later.

Either from his own scouting parties or from
one of his prisoners, the general learned that
a small force of Confederate soldiers were
camped about three miles from the lake at
the village of Eucheeanna, then the county
seat for Walton County. He determined to
strike this force at dawn the next morning,
hoping to keep the Southerners from alerting
the main command in Marianna that he was
on the move.

Heavy rains, probably left over from a tropical
system that had been reported in the lower
Gulf of Mexico, had drenched the Federals
since they left Pensacola, but according to
Asboth they remained in high spirits. The rain
probably also kept Confederate troops in the
area close to home and it appears the
soldiers at Eucheeanna had no idea of the
approaching danger. The first fighting of the
raid would take place on the next morning,
September 23, 1864.
General Alexander Asboth
This war-time sketch shows General
Asboth (foreground) on the march. Note
that he is accompanied by his dog.
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Last Update: September 17, 2014