Sunday, September 28, 2008

Alexander Asboth's "other" Battle

This is a photograph of Brigadier General Alexander Asboth, a key figure at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas and the administrative force behind much of the organization of the Union army in Missouri at the beginning of the Civil War.
A freedom fighter during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Asboth had been forced to flee his native country when the effort to establish an American styled republic there failed.
Evacuated to the United States aboard the U.S.S. Mississippi, he settled in New York where he worked as an engineer and surveyor. In the years before the war, he is best remembered for his surveys of what is now Central Park in New York City.
When the South fired on Fort Sumter, Asboth volunteered his services to the Lincoln Administration. He was given the rank of general and sent to Missouri where he served as adlatus or chief of staff to Major General John C. Fremont. In this role, Asboth provided administrative structure to Fremont's efforts to establish a Federal army to preserve Missouri as a Union state.
He commanded a division at Pea Ridge, where he was wounded while helping to hold back Van Dorn's attack until the Union army could be turned around and faced in the right direction.
By 1863, Asboth had been assigned the command of the Union District of West Florida with headquarters at Fort Barrancas near Pensacola. At the time he was sent there, it was feared that Sherman's march on Atlanta might fail and the Union army would be forced to cut its way through to the Gulf of Mexico. Asboth was a competent officer and it was expected that he would be able to assist greatly in such an effort should it prove necessary.
On September 27, 1864, General Asboth was severely wounded while leading troops in a cavalry charge at the Battle of Marianna, Florida. Confederate home guards ambushed his force and the general was shot in the arm and cheek. Even so, the bloody little battle was a Union victory and culminated the deepest Federal penetration of Florida during the Civil War.
Greatly weakened from his wounds, Asboth returned to active duty before the end of the war. He subsequently became a U.S. diplomat to South America and died a few years later in Argentina from the injuries sustained at Marianna. His wounds had never healed. He is buried today at Arlington National Cemetery.
If you would like to learn more about General Asboth's "other battle," the Battle of Marianna, Florida, please visit

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