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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The “Good Union Men of Marianna”

An Incident of the War Between the States

By Dale Cox

One of the more unusual incidents of the War Between the States in and around Jackson County was the opening of talks between a party of businessmen from Marianna and the officers of a Union blockade ship at St. Andrew Bay.

The strange negotiations began on the afternoon of January 16, 1864, when the crew of the U.S.S. Restless noticed a man standing on the shore of St. Andrew Bay waving a white flag. Thinking he was a refugee, Acting Master W.R. Browne sent an officer in a small boat to investigate:

He represented himself a good Union man having business with me on behalf of good Union men of Marianna. I took him into my cabin, where he remained during his stay on board. He made substantially the following statement: That there was a schooner of 60 tons burden, named the [William A.] Kain, lying at Bear Creek, North Bay, about 20 miles from here and partly loaded with cotton (of this fact I was already aware); that she would carry about 120 bales; that he, George W. Maslin, was the agent in this mission for four Union men of Marianna, named John T. Myrick, Alderman, Moore, and Burnett, one or two of whom owned part of the cotton on board the the vessel. All had determined to get away from the Southern Government, if possible, except Burnett, whom domestic affairs compelled to remain.

John T. Myrick, Sidney S. Alderman, Eli Moore and the also-named Burnett were wealthy Jackson County planters and merchants. They had been active in Whig politics in previous years and were well-known Unionists, although several sent sons to fight for the Confederacy. Alderman was one of the non-secessionists elected to represent the county at the secession convention in 1861 and had been part of an unsuccessful effort to delay Florida’s decision to leave the Union, although he ultimately voted in favor of the move in a show of unity.

The men proposed that a Captain Maslin be allowed to sail the William A. Kain through the blockade on their behalf. The schooner would then proceed to either Pensacola or Key West where it would be sold with its cargo. The men, with the exception of Burnett, would then use the funds obtained to flee the South:

The four men are known by refugees here to be true and loyal men. Captain Maslin says he is an Englishman who has been in this country about twelve years, residing most of that time at Key West, and has taken out his first papers of naturalization. While on board he took the oath of allegiance.

I told Captain Maslin I could make no promise whatever, or in any way compromise myself or Government; that if the vessel came down to me I should take possession of her, in the same way as if she were lawful prize, and refer the whole matter to you. Captain Maslin said he would report my answer to his principals and thought they would be willing to bring the cargo and schooner down and deliver them into my possession, to await the action of the proper authorities in the matter.

Browne warned the civilian captain not to attempt to run through the blockade and instructed him where to anchor the Kain to avoid misunderstanding. He then referred the matter to his commanding officer, Acting Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey in Key West, along with a letter from Myrick further elaborating on the scheme. Bailey consulted with the U.S. District Judge in Key West who ruled that “only the President, acting under laws of Congress” could approve such an arrangement. So far as is known, the matter was never referred to President Lincoln for his consideration. No records indicate that the “good Union men of Marianna” made any further effort to escape the Confederacy. The Kain itself was captured a short time later while preparing to run the blockade.

Editor’s Note: Dale Cox is the author of several books on area history including The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years and Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts. His books are available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at www.amazon.com.

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