The Kalendar

The Kalendar

Published Monthly by the Men's Club, St. Lukes Episcopal Church
To Coordinate All Parish Activities and Nurture Spiritual Growth

Vol 1                                                               Marianna, Florida, June 1, 1931                                      Number 4

Eye-Witness Tells of Burning of Church

A. Purdee, whom I have known for many years as a reliable and good citizen, wrote me, at my request, his recollections, as an eye witness, of the burning of St. Luke's Church at Marianna, during what is known as the Battle of Marianna, as follows:
W. H. Milton

The Honorable Senator,
W. H. Milton, City


I was born in Jackson County, Florida, about eleven miles west of the town of Marianna, on the plantation known as the Waddell Plantation, March 16th, 1856.

The Yankee raid was made on Marianna September 27th, 1864. I was a small boy. When they reached the Waddell place, the regiment made a halt in the road near the gate, about forty or fifty minutes, at which time scouts were sent out from the regiments, which remained in line until the scouts returned.

During the time that they halted, a Yankee white soldier said to me, "Boy, does you want to go?" I said to him, "Yes, sir." He moved one of his feet out of the stirrup and said "Put your feet in there," which I did. At the same time he reached for my hand and pulled me up on the horse, and placed me behind him and placed my hands about him, and said "Hold on; do not fall off."

From the Waddell place to Marianna they would stop at every plantation on the road for a few minutes and send soldiers out; the following named plantations to the best of my recollections: Webville, one owned by General W. D. Barnes, Mr. J. W. Russ, Mr. Thomas White, Mr. J. Finlayson. When reaching the Hopkins Branch about three miles from the city of Marianna, soldiers were again sent out on each side of the road. Firing of the little short guns were made at the Hopkins Branch, since learned the names of them were carbines, used by the Cavalry. The Yankee that I was riding behind left the road and said to me: "Hold fast; do not fall." The did not go around anything; they jumped their horses over fallen trees and logs, or anything. They reached the town about 2 or 3 o'clock. Just before arriving at what is known as the Ely Corner, two white soldiers were wounded and taken back to Russ Branch, and water was poured on them. one was shot in the right breast, my attention being attracted by his groans and calling for water.

The regiment continued to go forward until reaching the Episcopal Church, and stopped, seeming to be watching the Church. Very soon it was said by someone that the General was shot. All of the soldiers were off their horses. Orders were given to fire the church. Three men, two with long poles, and one with what seemed to me to be a can, threw something up on the church and the other two having something on the end of the poles, seemed to rub it up as high as the poles would reach, after which something like twisted paper was lighted and placed on whatever was put on the church and it blazed up. Men were shot down as they came out of the building.

I was an eye witness to the happening at the church. It was fired on the west side, on the side of the steeple. After this the dwellings of Dr. Saunders and Mrs. Hunter were burned, and I was about forty steps from the church on the south side of the road when it was fired, in line with it.

The shooting commenced at Russ branch and kept up until the church was fired. The scouting parties spread out and some of the Yankees came in by the Wynn house. All were on horses, but some were infantry and some cavalry. The infantry fired the church.

The Yankees were to remain in the town until eight ‘o clock the next morning, but news came that General Finlay was on his way back to Marianna with a regiment of Confederate soldiers and a regiment from Georgia. The Yankee soldiers were ordered to leave at 7 and not later that 8 on the same day of the raid. Women and children were put in wagons, the men and prisoners all walked until reaching Point Washington. Here women and children were put on a steamboat, men and soldiers crossed the Bluff, landed at Fort Barrancas and Fort Pickens, I being with them. My father found out where I was and came after me. We came back by Apalachicola.

Armstrong Purdee

* * * * * * * * *
The official record of the Union and Confederate Armies describes the 30-minute September 27, 1864, Battle of Marianna as follows:

Arrived at Marianna at 10a. The town was held by some 400 of the enemy, 150 of whom were cavalry. The rest home guards under command of Col. Alexander B. Montgomery . . . They were strongly posted behind building . . . Our troops were ordered to charge into the town. The advance Battalion from the 2nd Maine faltered and halted. The 2nd Battalion went bravely forward and through the town in chase of the enemies' cavalry, who were hastily decamped on our approach. The colored detachment were promptly brought up in front of the [St Luke] Episcopal Church, behind which one company of home guards were posted. They dismounted under a galling fire of buck ball delivered at a range of thirty yards and, fixed their bayonets, charged over the church year fence compelling the enemy's company to surrender, killing and wounded some eighteen."

Address questions, comments, etc.
Roy L. Roulhac
[email protected]

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