When we think of Florida, we think of beaches, sunshine and tropical weather. We think of palm trees, oranges, the everglades, and coastline along that ocean peninsula. Yet Florida is so much more and filled with the American legacy.
When we think of the War Between the States, one must recognize the contribution of all during that tragic time.
Each state provided soldiers and might to the causes of the blue or gray. The state of Florida has a glorious history that must be preserved. Ranging from the northern region of the Pan Handle to the most southern point of Key West, Florida’s Civil War Heritage is well entrenched with history.
Florida’s population was less than one hundred forty-two thousand at the beginning of the war.
An estimated forty-five percent were slaves. Most of the people lived in urban areas such as Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Marianna, and Key West.
Though few in number, their tenacity of spirit showed when on January 10, 1861, the Succession Convention voted overwhelmingly (62-7) to leave the Union.
Over eleven thousand men from Florida joined the Confederacy. They were from all walks of life and ethnic background.
Florida was the third state to do so (South Carolina and Mississippi being the 1st and 2nd). Both sides scrambled to take over fortifications and establish bases within the state. Fort Pickens and Key West were major stronghold for Federal forces.
Later, Key West would play a pivotal role in the Anaconda Blockade, as well as capturing blockade runners.
Several battles took place on Florida’s soil inclusive of the Battle of Marianna, Fort Pickens, Olustee, and Natural Bridge. Numerous skirmishes and engagements occurred as represented by the city of Jacksonville being occupied four times during the war.
All along the coast line of the peninsula tension ruled, as sentries, scouts, ad those loyal to either blue or gray, would monitor the bays and inlets.
Florida’s history has been far too long shortchanged. Florida’s contributions have long been overlooked by historians One Northern newspaper referred to Florida as the ‘smallest tadpole in the dirty pool of succession.’
The state contributed to the war between brothers by sending soldiers on both sides, were a major producer of cattle, manufactured uniforms, the ladies sewing societies made unit flags, provided salt from the ocean and the ladies offered their services as nurses and establishing hospitals.
Those not fighting tended to the farms and plantations, while maintaining a semblance of a home. Florida units were in the heat and heart of the battles not only within the state but in Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Shiloh, Nashville, and Franklin to name only a few.
Those brave men and women of blue and gray persuasion gave so much for what they believed. Their stories and legacy must be preserved for the rising generation.