Florida then moved to prepare its defences, by passing legislature that agreed to appropriate $100,000 for ammunition and arms purchases, and raised one cavalry regiment and two infantry regiments, in February 1861. Governor Perry then managed to seize Fort Marion at St. Augustine and Chattahoochee’s federal arsenal, but not the more strategic Forts Taylor, Pickens, and Jefferson. Especially Pickens was of particular interest to both the South and the North and the military confrontation there brought dark clouds of civil war-threat; however, Fort Pickens remained in the Union’s hands from beginning to end of the war.
In 1862 (February 22), Florida becomes a Confederate state with 5,000 Floridians joining the Confederate States’ military forces, mainly the army rather than the navy, enforced with another two infantry regiments and an extra cavalry battalion, as well as a number of artillery, independent infantry and cavalry companies.
Under the executive leadership of John Milton, on October 7, 1861, Florida was forwarded to focus also on its own defences. Milton kept complaining that the volunteer units entering the Confederate army violated the state’s rights, as they did so without obtaining permission from the state first. But, he tempered his objections by accepting that such policies had to be tolerated for the greater good of the seceding states, so to achieve a common victory in the war.
The Union launched the first attacks on Florida, in 1862. Florida was a key-location to block the South from the sea, so federal troops landed on Amelia Island; St. Augustine fell to the North, and Jacksonville was finally occupied, on March 12. Under orders from General Robert Lee, who believed that the only viable strategy was that of an interior defense only, the Confederate forces withdrawn from the east coast of the state, for duty in the West, where the Confederacy has experienced dramatic defeats.
Most of Florida’s soldiers were deployed outside the state, by mid-1862, forming the Florida Brigades, and were also engaged in battles ranging from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River. Floridians fought most of the most significant battles of the war, such as the Battle of Antietam the Battle of Gettysburg, and The Battle of Olustee, the bloodiest battles in the US history, with severe casualties. They participated in the Kentucky invasion (August 1862) and joined the Tennessee Army in the Battle of Murfreesboro (December 1862), and then the Army of Tennessee in the defense of Atlanta, right before the Confederate started experiencing a series of defeats in the West from the Union, in 1863. Although the Florida Brigade of the West tried to bring back the Confederate’s power to the West, it failed, and Mississippi was surrendered to General Grant (July 1863). Later, the Army of Tennessee surrendered its forces to General W. Sherman and the Florida Brigade laid down its arms, alongside the rest of General Johnson’s army (May 1865), in North Carolina (Murphree). But, the increasing amount of suffering and death, made many volunteers desert the Confederate ranks, as one in every three Floridian soldiers (approx. 5,000) was already dead or killed, while those that survived were either short-lived due to military-hardships-related health problems, or disabled.
Florida’s contribution to the Civil War is also counted by the help it produced in regards the pressing needs for war materials, as the factories within the Confederate were limited and only produced a few number of items. Florida was a significant producer of raw materials.
The last important battle of the war was achieved when a Union forced tried to take over Tennessee, and landed near St. Marks (March 1865). Confederate forced then destroyed Newport’s Natural Bridge, and prevented the Union forces to cross St. Marks. This was proclaimed a significant victory, but it was very short-lived, as Milton took his life (April 1865), and General Lee signalled the end of the Confederate experiment by surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant. When General E. McCook, Union Brigadier, arrived in Tallahassee, to accept the surrender of all Confederate forces in Florida (May 1865), it all ended.
Murphree, Boyd R. “Florida and the Civil War: A Short History”. Florida Memory, Division of Library and Information Services. http://www.floridamemory.com/collections/civilwarguide/history.php
--, “Florida in the Civil War”. Florida Department of State, Division of historical Resources.http://www.flheritage.com/facts/reports/civilwar/06.cfm