This book covers the period of 1840 to 1876 in the Jacksonville, Florida area. It begins with the sectional debates regarding slavery and its expansion into the nations’ new territories, focusing on the reactions of citizens in northeast Florida, particularly those in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Town Council passed ordinances to regulate the life and labor of both slaves and free blacks living within the town of 2,100. Situated on the St. Johns River, it was an important shipping site exporting lumber, turpentine and cotton to the North and receiving manufactured goods from the North. Jacksonville also had a railroad junction that supplied food stuffs for other Southern states and later, Confederate troops. The Union Navy patrolled the river as part of the naval blockade of Confederate ports and in March 1862, transported troops to occupy Jacksonville for the first of four occupations. Neither side had the men or supplies to make the occupations permanent. During the occupations each side used the torch liberally, burning businesses, homes and whatever could be used by the enemy. Strife continued throughout the war between the pro Secessionists and the pro Unionists, as well as guerrilla warfare. In February 1864 the Battle of Olustee, the largest Civil War battle in Florida, was fought with Confederate troops and local militias soundly defeating black and white Union troops. Wounded blacks were shown no mercy and the Union troops retreated to Jacksonville. They would remain there until the end of Reconstruction in 1876.
Florida did not see much action in the war and this area has received little attention from Civil War historians. This excellent book gives you a complete picture of what was occurring at this time and place. The author’s research is thorough and detailed. First hand accounts include information on local citizens, including blacks, and names the owners of the properties destroyed, such as homes, mills, hotels, etc. Considerable coverage is also given to Union Naval operations. Better or more readable maps would have been helpful, though the photos and illustrations are interesting. I highly recommend this informative book to all Civil War readers.
Title: Thunder on the River – The Civil War in Northeast Florida
Author: Daniel L. Schafer
Publisher: University Press of Florida
-Courier book review by Duane Benell
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