Florida in the American Civil War

State of Florida
Great Seal
Nickname(s): None
Capital Tallahassee
Largest city Jacksonville
Admission to Confederacy  February 4, 1861 (3rd)
Population 154,494 Total
* 92,741 free
* 61,753 slave
Forces supplied 15,000 Total
* soldiers
* sailors
* marines
Major garrisons/armories  Fort Pickens
Governor Madison Perry (1861)
John Milton (1861–1865)
Abraham Allison (1865)
Lieutenant Governor
Senators Augustus Maxwell
James Baker
Representatives List
Restored to the Union June 25, 1868

Florida joined the Confederate States of America at the beginning of the Civil War, as third of the original seven states to secede from the Union, following Lincoln's 1860 election. With the smallest population, nearly half of them slaves, Florida could only send 15,000 troops to the Confederate States Army. Its chief importance was in food-supply to the south, and support for blockade-runners, with its long coastline full of inlets, hard to patrol.

On the outbreak of war, the Confederates seized many of the state's army camps, though the Union retained control of the main seaports. But there was little fighting in Florida, the only major conflict being the Battle of Olustee near Lake City in February 1864. However, wartime conditions made it easier for slaves to escape, and many of them became useful informers to Union commanders. As southern morale suffered, deserters from both sides took refuge in Florida, often attacking Confederate units and looting farms. Tallahassee became the second-last Confederate state capital to fall to the Union army. In May 1865, Federal control was re-established, slavery abolished, and the state governor John Milton shot himself, rather than submit to Union occupation.


Secession was declared January 10, 1861, and, after less than a month, Florida became one of the founding members of the Confederacy. The first six states to secede had the largest population of slaves among the Southern states. Although the vote to secede passed 62-7, there was a pro-Union and anti-Confederate minority in the state, an element that grew as the war progressed.

Florida sent a three-man delegation to the 1861-62 Provisional Confederate Congress, which first met in Montgomery, Alabama, and then in the new capital of Richmond, Virginia. The delegation consisted of Jackson Morton, James Byeram Owens, and James Patton Anderson, who resigned April 8, 1861, and was replaced by George Taliaferro Ward. Ward served from May 1861 until February 1862, when he resigned and was replaced by John Pease Sanderson.

According to historian William C. Davis, "protection of slavery" was "the explicit reason" for Florida's declaring of secession, as well as the creation of the Confederacy itself.[1]

Early Confederate years

The Battle of Olustee was the only major Civil War battle fought in Florida.

As Florida was an important supply route for the Confederate army, Union forces operated a blockade around the entire state. Union troops occupied major ports such as Cedar Key, Jacksonville, Key West, and Pensacola early in the war. Confederate forces moved quickly to seize control of many of Florida's U.S. Army forts, succeeding in most cases, with the significant exceptions of Fort Jefferson, Fort Pickens and Fort Zachary Taylor, which stayed firmly in Federal control throughout the war.

Governor John Milton, an ardent secessionist, throughout the war stressed the importance of Florida as a supplier of goods, rather than personnel. Florida was a large provider of food (particularly beef cattle) and salt for the Confederate Army. The 8,436-mile coastline and 11,000 miles of rivers, streams, and waterways proved a haven for blockade runners and a daunting task for patrols by Federal warships. However, the state's small population (140,000 residents making it last in size in the Confederacy), relatively remote location, and meager industry limited its overall strategic importance. Milton worked to strengthen the state militia and to improve fortifications and key defensive positions.

Overall, the state raised some 15,000 troops for the Confederacy, which were organized into twelve regiments of infantry and two of cavalry, as well as several artillery batteries and supporting units. Since neither army aggressively sought control of Florida, many of Florida's troops were sent to serve in Virginia in the Army of Northern Virginia under Brig. Gen. Edward A. Perry and Col. David Lang. The "Florida Brigade" fought in many of Robert E. Lee's campaigns, and twice charged Cemetery Ridge during the Battle of Gettysburg, including supporting Pickett's Charge.

In early 1862, the Confederate government pulled General Braxton Bragg's small army from Pensacola following successive Confederate defeats in Tennessee at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry and the fall of New Orleans. It sent them to the Western Theater for the remainder of the war. The only Confederate forces remaining in Florida at that time were a variety of independent companies, several infantry battalions, and the 2nd Florida Cavalry. They were reinforced in 1864 by troops from neighboring Georgia.

African Americans

By 1840 the Anglo-American population became the majority among people of European descent, influencing the development of the culture. It became more racist and based on a binary division of white and non-white, into which latter group the Muscogee (Creeks) and other Indians were classified. They were relegated to a status below the free people of color and above slaves.[2] White Floridians concentrated on developing the territory and gaining statehood. The population had reached 54,477 people, with African-American slaves making up almost one-half of it. Steamboat navigation was well established on the Apalachicola and St. Johns rivers, and railroads were planned.

By 1861, the slave population in Florida had reached 61,000. Their labor accounted for 85 percent of the state's cotton production. Confederate authorities used slaves as teamsters to transport supplies and as laborers in salt works and fisheries. Many Florida slaves working in these coastal industries escaped to the relative safety of Union-controlled enclaves during the American Civil War. Beginning in 1862, Union military activity in East and West Florida encouraged slaves in plantation areas to flee their owners in search of freedom. Some worked on Union ships and, beginning in 1863, more than a thousand enlisted as soldiers and sailors in the United States Colored Troops of the military.[3]

Escaped and freed slaves provided Union commanders with valuable intelligence about Confederate troop movements. They also passed back news of Union advances to the men and women who remained enslaved in Confederate-controlled Florida. Planter fears of slave uprisings increased as the war went on.[4]

Final Confederate years

Growing public dissatisfaction with Confederate conscription and impressment policies encouraged desertion by Confederate soldiers. Several Florida counties became havens for Florida deserters, as well as deserters from other Confederate states. Deserter bands attacked Confederate patrols, launched raids on plantations, confiscated slaves, stole cattle, and provided intelligence to Union army units and naval blockaders. Although most deserters formed their own raiding bands or simply tried to remain free from Confederate authorities, other deserters and Unionist Floridians joined regular Federal units for military service in Florida.[4]

Though numerous small skirmishes occurred in Florida—including the battles of Natural Bridge, Gainesville, Marianna, Vernon and Fort Brooke—the only major engagement was at Olustee near Lake City. Union forces under General Truman Seymour were repulsed by Florida and Georgia troops and retreated to their fortifications around Jacksonville. Seymour's relatively high losses caused Northern lawmakers and citizens to question the necessity of any further Union actions in militarily insignificant Florida. Many of the Federal troops were withdrawn and sent elsewhere. Throughout the balance of 1864 and into the following spring, the 2nd Florida Cavalry repeatedly thwarted Federal raiding parties into the Confederate-held northern and central portions of the state.

In January 1865, Union General William T. Sherman issued special orders that set aside a portion of Florida as designated territory for runaway and freed former slaves who had accompanied his command during its March to the Sea. These controversial orders were not enforced in Florida, and were later revoked by President Andrew Johnson.

In early May 1865, Edward M. McCook's Union division was assigned to re-establish Federal control and authority in Florida. Governor Milton committed suicide rather than submit to Union occupation. On May 13, Col. George Washington Scott surrendered the last active Confederate troops in the state to McCook. On May 20, General McCook read Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation during a ceremony in Tallahassee, officially ending slavery in Florida. That same day, his jubilant troopers raised the U.S. flag over the state capitol building. Tallahassee was the next to last Confederate state capital to fall to the Union army. Austin, Texas fell the next month.

Restoration to Union

After meeting the requirements of Reconstruction, including ratifying amendments to the US Constitution to abolish slavery and grant citizenship to former slaves, Florida's representatives were readmitted to Congress. The state was fully restored to the United States on July 25, 1868.

Battles in Florida

See also


  1. Davis, William C. (2002). "Men but Not Brothers". Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America. pp. 130135. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  2. Jane E. Dysart, "Another Road to Disappearance: Assimilation of Creek Indians in Pensacola, Florida during the Nineteenth Century", The Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 1 (July 1982), pp. 37-48, Published by: Florida Historical Society, Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30146156, accessed 26 June 2014
  3. Murphree, R. Boyd. "Florida and the Civil War: A Short History", State Archives of Florida. Retrieved on June 5, 2008.
  4. 1 2 Murphree (2008)
  5. The Battle of Fort Brooke was a minor engagement fought October 16–18, 1863, near Tampa, Florida, during the American Civil War. http://www.americancivilwar.com/statepic/fl/fl004.html
  6. The Battle of Ballast Point, fought on October 18th, 1863 at Ballast Point, Tampa, Florida, was considered a continuation of The Battle of Fort Brooke. http://www.americancivilwar.com/statepic/fl/fl1004.html
  7. March 1, 1864, 10 days after the Confederate victory at Olustee the outnumbered Union forces had fallen back to Cedar Creek to take advantage of its natural barrier. The marshy ground also hampered the Confederate advance and a short, intense fight ensued. After half an hour, Union forces continued their withdrawal toward 3 Mile Run (today's McCoy's Creek). http://www.museumsouthernhistory.com/warcomestoflorida/battleofcedarcreek.htmll
  8. On February 20, 1865 Confederates of the 1st Battalion, Florida Special Cavalry attacked Fort Myers. The attack erupted into a cannon duel with the 2nd USCT in charge of artillery. http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc16/fortmyers1.htm
  9. August 17, 1864, In Gainesville, 342 Union troops of the 75th Ohio Mounted infantry, reinforced by two companies of the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry and supported by a battery of 3 cannons from the 3rd Rhode Island Artillery under the command of Colonel Andrew L. Harris occupying the city were attacked from the rear by some 200 soldiers of the Second Florida Cavalry under Captain Jonathan J. Dickinson (companies H and F), supported by local militia, elements of 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion and a small artillery battery of two cannons. http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc5/gainesville1.htm
  10. The Battle of Marianna then degenerated into a brutal fight in the cemetery behind the church. The battling forces fired at each other from just yards away. Even after the main body of the Home Guard surrendered, Union troops fired a volley into their ranks. Seeing this, Confederates firing from the windows of the church and two nearby homes refused to surrender and continued to fight. The church and both homes were burned to the ground. Four men and boys died in the flames. http://www.battleofmarianna.com
  11. March 6, 1865, Maj. Gen. John Newton's army marched out before dawn on March 6. from the fleet in St. Marks Bay, attempting to cross the river at Natural Bridge. The troops initially pushed Rebel forces back but not away from the bridge. Confederate forces, protected by breastworks, guarded all of the approaches and the bridge itself. The Federal withdrawal left Tallahassee as the only Confederate Capital east of the Mississippi River not to fall during the war. http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/natural-bridge.html
  12. The Battle of Olustee also known as The Battle of Ocean Pond, February 20, 1864. In February 1864, Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour moved deep into the state, meeting little resistance on February 20, he approached Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan's 5,000 Confederates entrenched near Olustee. The Union forces attacked but were repulsed. The battle raged, and the Union line broke and began to retreat. Finegan could not exploit the retreat (due largely to few and sick horses), much of the fleeing Union force reached Jacksonville, abandoning equipment all along the way.
  13. http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/olustee.html
  14. October 1–3, 1862, Brig. Gen. John M. Brannan [US]; Lt. Col. Charles F. Hopkins [CS]. A fortified Confederate battery on St. John' s Bluff near Jacksonville, designed to stop the movement of Federal ships up the St. Johns River. Union Brig. Gen. John M. Brannan embarked with about 1,500 infantry aboard the transports on September 30. The flotilla arrived at the mouth of the St. John' s River on October 1, where Cdr. Charles Steedman' s gunboats—Paul Jones, Cimarron, Uncas, Patroon, Hale, and Water Witch—joined them. The Bluff held off the Naval squadron until the troops were landed to come up behind it, the Confederates quietly abandoned the works. http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/fl003.htm
  15. October 9, 1861, Col. Harvey Brown [US]; Confederate Brig. Gen. Richard H. Anderson [CS]. After midnight on October 9, Brig. Gen. Richard Anderson crossed from the mainland to Santa Rosa Island with 1,200 men in two small steamers to surprise Union camps and capture Fort Pickens. He landed on the north beach about four miles east of Fort Pickens and divided his command into three columns. After proceeding about three miles, the Confederates surprised the 6th Regiment, New York Volunteers, and routed the regiment. Col. Harvey Brown sallied against the Confederates, who reembarked and returned to the mainland. http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/fl001.htm
  16. Other Name: 'Yankee Outrage at Tampa.' June 30-July 1, 1862, Capt. A.J. Drake [US]; Capt. J.W. Pearson [CS]. On June 30, a Union gunboat came into Tampa Bay, turned her broadside on the civilian town, and opened her ports. The gunboat then dispatched a launch carrying 20 men and a lieutenant under a flag of truce demanding the surrender of Tampa. The Confederates refused, and the gunboat opened fire. The officer then informed the Confederates that shelling would commence at 6:00 pm after allowing time to evacuate, after a day of exchanging fire the Federal gunboat withdrew. http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/fl002.htm
  17. The Battle of Braddock Farm, February 8, 1865, also known as the Battle of Dunn's Lake (currently called Crescent Lake). A Federal wagon train on a mission of pillage and plunder, under the command of Colonel Wilcoxon and the 17Th Connecticut Regiment was attacked and captured by Captain J. J. Dickison with elements of Companies B and H or the Fifth Florida Battalion of Cavalry. The Federal colonel was killed by Captain Dickison as the battle concluded in a (Hollywood style) man to man action. For the south it represents the ability of the Confederates even at this late date in the war to stage a significant raid behind Union lines and escape with prisoners and supplies across the St. Johns River. http://www.fcphs.com/Battle_of_Braddocks_Farm.htm
  18. The Battle of Station Four opened at 7 a.m. on February 13, 1865. At 7 a.m, Union pickets spotted the Confederates approaching and opened fire. The Confederates responded with the fire of 120 rifles and a 12-pounder field gun. The Confederates finally ran short of ammunition and fell back slightly, a move that also gave the Federals a chance to fall back across the trestle into Cedar Key. http://civilwarflorida.blogspot.com/2010/04/battle-of-station-four-cedar-key.html
  19. On March 17 the Union artillery commenced a cross fire from their intrenchments upon a portion of Major Brevard's battalion at the "Brick Church." The Confederates held their position for about two hours, when the Federals appeared in force. A sharp engagement followed, and the Federals were driven back. http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-mar-lost-church-lost-battlefield-lost-cemetery-lost-war
  20. Daniel Velásquez, "Episode 14 Cannonball," A History of Central Florida, podcast video, April 25, 2014. http://stars.library.ucf.edu/ahistoryofcentralfloridapodcast/14/
  21. On February 11 A Federal reconnaissance force approaches Lake City but withdraw after a brief skirmish. https://books.google.com/books?id=Xvu0C2XIAKAC&pg=PA198


Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Florida in the American Civil War.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/20/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.