Florida in the American Civil War

Florida in the American Civil War
Confederate State of Florida
Florida 1861.svg Floridaseal1861.jpg
State flag State seal
Capital Tallahassee
Declaration of secession  January 10, 1861 (3rd)
Admission to Confederacy  February 8, 1861 (founding member)
Population (1860) 140,424 total[1]
  • 61,000+ slave
Forces supplied
to CSA
15,000 approx. total
Casualties  no record (n/a dead)
Forces supplied
to USA
2,344 total[2] (all Union Army)[3]
Casualties  no record (215 dead)[4]
Major Garrisons
and Armories
Fort Zachary Taylor, Key West
Fort Pickens, Santa Rosa Island
Governor John Milton (1861–65)[5]
Abraham K. Allison (1865)[6]
Lieutenant Governor none
Senators James McNair Baker
Augustus Maxwell
Representatives First Confederate Congress
  • James Baird Dawkins
  • John Marshall Martin

Second Confederate Congress

Returned to
Union Control
May 20, 1865

Florida in the American Civil War served the Confederate States of America from the beginning of the Civil War. Following Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860, the state of Florida joined other Southern states in declaring secession from the Union, the third of the original seven states to do so.

With a small population, Florida would contribute more goods to the Confederate cause than manpower. It produced large amounts of sustenance and its large coastline made it difficult for Union Navy efforts to curb blockade runners bringing in supplies and material from foreign markets.



Secession was declared January 10, 1861, and, after less than a month, Florida became one of the founding members of the Confederacy. Although the vote to secede passed 62-7, there was a relatively large and vocal 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, VirginiaJackson 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 in turn replaced by John Pease Sanderson.

Early Confederate years

Florida being 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. 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 Zachary Taylor and Fort Pickens, 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, with Florida being a large provider of food (particularly beef cattle) and salt for the Confederate Army. The 13,000-mile coastline proved a haven for blockade runners and a daunting task for patrolling 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. Nevertheless, Milton worked feverishly 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 best home-raised troops instead served in Virginia in the Army of Northern Virginia under Brig. Gen. Edward A. Perry and Col. David Lang. The "Florida Brigade" fought with distinction in many of Robert E. Lee's campaigns, and twice charged Cemetery Ridge during the Battle of Gettysburg, including supporting Pickett's Charge.

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

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 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-American population

By 1840 white Floridians were concentrating on developing the territory and gaining statehood. The population had reached 54,477 people, with African American slaves making up almost one-half of the population. Steamboat navigation was well established on the Apalachicola and St. Johns Rivers, and railroads were planned.

There were over 61,000 slaves in Florida in 1861. 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. 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 more than a thousand enlisted as soldiers and sailors in the U.S. military.[8]

Escaped and freed slaves provided Union commanders with valuable intelligence about Confederate troop movements and passed on 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.[9]

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.[9]

Though numerous small skirmishes occurred in Florida, including the Battle of Natural Bridge, the Battle of Gainesville, and the Battle of Fort Brooke, the only major battle was the Battle of 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 openly question the necessity of any further Union involvement in militarily insignificant Florida, and 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 a set of special orders that set aside a portion of Florida as a designated home for runaway and freed former slaves that 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, whose Governor Milton had shot himself in the head 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, Florida's representatives were readmitted to Congress and the state was thus fully restored to the United States on July 25, 1868.

Battles in Florida


  1. ^ Eicher, p. 5.
  2. ^ Eicher, p. 5. 1,290 white soldiers, plus 1,044 uncredited United States Colored Troops (USCT)
  3. ^ Eicher, p. 54.
  4. ^ Eicher, p. 62.
  5. ^ Committed suicide April 1, 1865.
  6. ^ As president of the state senate (and no Lt. Governor) assumed governorship until he fled on May 19.
  7. ^ re-elected
  8. ^ Murphree, R. Boyd. "Florida and the Civil War: A Short History" State Archives of Florida. Retrieved on June 5, 2008.
  9. ^ a b Murphree (2008)


External links

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