When Florida became a territory of the United States many settlers began to occupy the State. By the mid 19th century, Florida had become a rural territory with vast plantations. When Florida became a State in 1845, its population was roughly 140,000 with 63,000 of the population being African Americans, majority of who served as slaves (Eicher & David 24). Though slavery was practiced in Florida, not all African Americans were slaves. There are those how bought their freedom and those who were freed by their masters. In its early days, Florida was assumed to be a slave state. This was an important aspect in Florida’s contribution to the civil war.
In keeping with Brown (89), many States in the north did not support the practice of owning slaves and had begun to abolish the practice. By 1860, it was only the southern Territories and States that were involved in slave trade. The national election of 1960 was based on two candidates who debated extensively about slavery and slave trade. Majority of the southerners were upset because Abraham Lincoln was against slavery. He hoped that slavery would stop in the south and when he was elected on 6th November 1860, South Carolina and Florida, among other southern states secede from the union and formed a new government – Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis was elected as the president and Alabama became the Capital though it could later be moved to Richmond Virginia. When Florida seceded, the Union troops refused to leave Fort Pickens.
The Civil War
According to Brown (89), decades of growing dissension between North and South ended up in civil war that begun on 12th April 1861. The war commenced when Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Eicher and David (24) note that the two major issues that brought about the civil war were State’s rights and the slavery. During this period, majority of the families lost their men. In some occasions, brothers would fight against brothers, relatives against relatives since families differed in the way they viewed loyalty to United States and slavery. As indicated by Taylor (67) not all Southerners supported slavery and they supported the North, and not all Northerners supported war against the South. Taylor (78) further establishes that those states that bordered the south and the North had the most difficulties during the war. According to Taylor (78) majority of the wars took place in other states, but two critical battles and numerous other skirmishes took place in the State of Florida. The union had sent ships to blockade Florida ports of; Jacksonville, St, Augustine, Pensacola, and Key West. Janet (44) argues that the blockage left Floridians incapable of participating in the normal sea trade. Nevertheless, the Union Navy was not able to guard Florida’s entire coastline and small ships would easily slip through the blockade and continue to supply essentials to the Confederate troops.
According to Taylor (78), residents of Florida who worked on plantations raised cattle and crops to support the troops. The farmers sent beef, fish, pork, salt and fruits. Florida was a great producer of salt and it was an important resource for the army because refrigeration had not been discovered. The salt was useful in keeping meat from spoiling. In keeping with Janet (44) about 16,000 Floridians were involved in the Civil War. Most of this army was Confederacy, though 2,000 joined the Union army. Majority of Floridians did not want to fight for their States side and so they hid in the swamps and woods to avoid being drafted. About 5,000 Floridian soldiers perished in the Civil War. Since majority of men in Florida were in the battle fields, it was up to the women, slaves and the women to work in the plantations. Money was extremely tight in many families, clothed were collected and sent to the soldiers while iron was used to make arrows, guns, among other weaponry. Janet (44) states that by 1863, the Confederate army was troubled and they had greatly decreased in number. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation - its purpose was to free all slaves in the southern States. This was a move that angered confederacy and the war continued. Majority of the freed slaves joined the Union Army and fought to defeat the south and free other relatives who were still in bondage.
Most of the battle took place in the south but they were two battles that happened in Florida both that were won by the Confederate troops. On February, 1864, the largest civil war took place in Florida near Lake City – the Battle of Olustee. Though Confederacy won the battle, they continued to become weaker and most of the Southern capitals were captured and supply line for the Confederate army cut off. On April, 1865, confederate General Robert Lee surrendered to the Union General Ulysses Grant. They war was officially ended though some battles for some time, Florida surrender on April 26th 1865. Union Troops took over Tallahassee and instantaneously raised the United States flag. Once again the state became united.
Civil war battles
Fort Pickens: early in 1861 when Florida joined the Confederate States and seceded from the Union, U.S. army soldiers were stationed at Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. Confederate soldiers demanded that the U.S. army surrender that Florida was a Confederate state but the Union army refused to vacate the fort. Instead the moved more troops to reinforce the number of soldiers in fort Pensacola. A battle that lasted for several months began. By May 1862, the confederate troops had withdrawn from the area and the yearlong battle was over. The Union army occupied the fort throughout the entire civil war period. Another incidence is the Tampa Incident. In June 30th 1862, a battle at Tampa Bay took two days in the early period of the Civil War.
The Battle of Olustee that took place on February 20, 1864. Just one year after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the greatest civil war stand off took place near Lake City. The battle took six hours in the woods near Olustee station. U.S. army launched an expedition inward from the coastline and they aimed to cut off supply line for the confederate army. U.S. army, aimed at searching for African Americans to join them (Janet 44). Almost 3,000 of the 11,000 men who were involved in the battle died. This is described as the bloodiest of all the battles in the civil war.
The Battle of the Natural Bridge took place on 4th March 1865 at a place near Tallahassee (Janet 44). The Major general John Newton landed U.S. Navy ships at St Marks River. The confederate army successful protected the natural crossing and pushed the union soldiers back. However the union army quickly retreated to their ships and the confederates emerged victorious. Due to this victory, Tallahassee remained as the only confederate state capital that had not been seized during the Civil War.
Lastly, was the “Cow Cavalry”, Janet (44) states that some small militia groups emerged to protect the inner part of Florida State. The units comprised of cowhands and ranchers who named themselves cow cavalry. Small numbers of U.S. army would raid and capture cattle in Florida. The U.S. Navy would also raid he coastal salt factories and destroy the work plants. Numerous small battles continued throughout the civil between the Union army and the cow cavalry who aided in making sure that the confederate army was continuously supplied with food and weaponry.
Brown, Canter. Tampa in civil war and reconstruction. Tampa, Fla: University of Tampa Press, 2000. Print.
Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War high commands. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2001. Print.
Janet B. Hewett. Updating The Documentary History of the U.S. Civil War: The Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Original Research Article. Journal of Government Information, Volume 26, Issue 1, January–February 2009, Pages 43-55
Taylor, Paul. Discovering the Civil War in Florida: a reader and guide. Sarasota, Fla: Pineapple Press, Inc, 2012. Print.