Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blood Beef and Salt: Florida in the Civil War

I wrote this paper for my American Civil War class.

“Next quickly Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida, all raised on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.”  This line from the Bonnie Blue Flag is perhaps the only popularly known reference to my home state of Florida in the Civil War.  Confederate Florida is little remembered today, and even in the1860s Florida was not taken seriously.  A northern newspaper called the state “the smallest tadpole in the dirty pool of secession.”[i]  Contrary to popular perception, Florida played an important role in the Civil War.  Fort Pickens, off the coast of Pensacola was almost the starting point of the war.  Floridian soldiers fought bravely in battlefields across the nation.  Salt from the Florida coast and cattle from Florida ranches sustained the starving Confederate army.  Florida was the least populous of all the Confederate states, but its contribution to the southern war effort is disproportionate, and ought to be recognized.   

To understand the significance of Florida in the Civil War, the broader history of Confederate Florida must be understood, starting with secession.  Contrary to the lyrics of the Bonnie Blue Flag, Florida seceded before Georgia.  Florida was the third state to secede, after South Carolina and Mississippi.  A state convention called for the purpose adopted an ordinance of secession on January 10, 1861 and formally declared that “the State of Florida hereby withdraws herself from the Confederacy of States existing under the name of the United States of America.”[ii]  From the opening of the convention, it was clear that Florida would secede.  Florida historian John E. Johns explains that the only debate at the time was not between secession and union, but between immediate secession and a plan of “cooperative secession” that would have had Florida secede with Georgia and Alabama.[iii]  As it happened, the radicals won the debate and Florida left the Union as soon as possible.   

By seceding, Floridians had put themselves in a somewhat precarious situation.  The Federal Government still held Fort Pickens in Pensacola as well as the Florida Keys.  Florida’s long coastline was a prime target for the Union navy.  The Confederate Army of Pensacola failed to drive Union troops from Fort Pickens and no attempt was made upon the Florida Keys.  In May of 1861, Southern troops withdrew from Pensacola to more important battlefields, and the city of Pensacola was taken by the Union army.  Jacksonville was periodically occupied by Northern forces starting in March 1862.  Jacksonville was the starting point for a union invasion of central Florida that ended in the battle of Olustee, where Union forces were defeated and pushed back to Jacksonville.  Periodic raids by federal forces continued, and a raid in March of 1865 was directed at Tallahassee, the state capital.  At the battle of Natural Bridge, southern forces, including the cadets at the Tallahassee seminary, mounted a successful defense of the city.  Floridians cheered this victory, but their jubilation was short lived as the Confederacy was ground down.  On April 1, John Milton, the Governor of Florida, shot himself in despair.  General Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, and on May 20, 1865, Florida officially surrendered to the Union and the Stars and Stripes flew over Tallahassee.[iv]  Thus ended Confederate Florida.

To return to the beginning of the war, Florida ought to be remembered for the role Fort Pickens played in the conflict.  Ft. Pickens was located on Santa Rosa Island in Pensacola Bay, on the Gulf coast of Florida.  Ft. Pickens was almost, and some might argue was in fact, the site of the first engagement of the Civil War.  In early 1861, two federal forts seemed likely as potential flashpoints for war, Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor, and Ft. Pickens, in Pensacola Bay.  These installations were claimed by Southerners and the Federal government.  Between the two, Pickens was arguably the more strategically significant because it guarded the Pensacola naval yard and commanded an excellent natural harbor.  In addition, forts Barrancas, McRee, and Advanced Redoubt stood on the mainland just west of the naval yard.[v]   

In the fall of 1860, Capt. Montgomery Meigs, the future Quartermaster General of the Union army, made a tour through several Southern states, including Florida.  Florida had not yet seceded, but Meigs could see that secession was coming and with it, the seizure of inadequately manned Federal forts in the state.  On November 10, Meigs sent a warning to General Winfield Scott, commander of the U.S. army, requesting reinforcements for the Florida forts.[vi]  Meigs’ warning was prescient.  On January 5, 1861, before Florida had actually seceded, Florida senator David Yulee wrote to his law partner Joseph Finnegan, “The immediately important thing to be done is the occupation of the forts and arsenal in Florida. The naval station and forts at Pensacola are first in consequence.”[vii]  

Pickens might have been handed over without a fight.  The commander of federal troops in Pensacola, Maj. John H. Winder, was a southerner, and joined the Confederate army in April of 1861.  Fortunately for the Union, the loyal Lt. Adam J. Slemmer had command of federal troops in the area in early 1861 while Maj. Winder and his second in command were on leave.[viii] 

Lt. J.  H. Gilman, Slemmer’s second in command, reported that on January 8, sentries were placed to guard Ft. Barrancas, and “about midnight a party of twenty men came to the fort, evidently with the intention of taking possession, expecting to find it unoccupied as usual. Being challenged and not answering nor halting when ordered, the party was fired upon.”  The intruders fled, and Lt. Gilman claims that this “was the first gun in the war fired on our side.”[ix] 

An even stronger claim for the first shots of the war can be made for an event that occurred on January 13.  On January 10, Slemmer’s men were transported from the mainland to Ft. Pickens with as many guns as could be moved.  The next day, Alabama and Florida soldiers arrived in Pensacola, and on January 12, the naval yard was surrendered to the southerners.[x]  Slemmer reports that the next night, “a body of some ten men were discovered evidently reconnoitering.  A shot was fired by them, which was returned by the sergeant.  They then retreated.”[xi]  The attack on Ft. Sumter in April 12, 1861 ought to be considered the official beginning of hostilities in the Civil War, but Floridians have a good claim on the unofficial first skirmish of the war. 

With the exception of the battle of Olustee, no major military engagements occurred in Florida during the war, but many Floridians fought and died across the country.  It is estimated that 14,000 Floridians served under the Confederacy, and 5,000 of them died.  At the time, the voting population of Florida was only 12,800.[xii]  According to an official state history, Floridian soldiers “were anxious only about the probability of receiving orders to go to the front, and whenever this appeared unlikely they resigned or broke up their companies and enlisted in those most likely to receive orders to go immediately to the front.”[xiii]  The fact that so many Floridians served is especially impressive because of the ease by which one might dodge conscription by hiding in the swamps and forests of Florida.  Of those men who petitioned Governor Milton for a draft exemption, few were satisfied.  A list of exemptions from November 1864 showed that the Florida governor had issued only 109 exemptions out of the Confederate total of 18,843.[xiv]  
Floridians fought across the country in service to the south while their home state was left nearly defenseless.  On February 15, 1862, General Braxton Bragg, commander of the Army of Pensacola, wrote to the Confederate Secretary of War, “On the Gulf we should only hold New Orleans, Mobile, and Pensacola; all other points, the whole of Texas and Florida, should be abandoned, and our means there made available for other service.”[xv]  By September of 1862, General Finegan, commander of Middle and Eastern Florida, had only 2,368 men under his command.[xvi]  The Confederacy may have abandoned Florida, but Florida did not abandon the Confederacy.
White males weren’t the only Floridians to serve the southern cause.  Ladies aid societies sent supplies to the front and Florida women volunteered as nurses for the army.  Mary Martha Reid, a nurse of aristocratic extraction who labored in a Richmond hospital, was recognized as a Southern heroine.[xvii]  In addition to women, Florida slaves worked for the Confederacy, though they did not have any choice in the matter.  Acie Thomas was a slave in Jefferson County who was commandeered by the army to move supplies from Tallahassee all the way to Virginia.[xviii] 

Floridian soldiers served far and wide, from Pensacola to Gettysburg.  On October 8, 1861, the First Florida infantry took part in an attack on Santa Rosa Island that succeeded in destroying the camp of the 6th New York Volunteer Infantry.  In April of 1862, the First was mustered out of service, but several companies stayed in the field and served with distinction at the battle of Shiloh.[xix]  The Second, Fifth, and Eighth, Florida Infantry Regiments formed a brigade under the command of General Edward A. Perry, for whom it was named.[xx]  Their finest hour would come at Gettysburg.  

The Floridians of Perry’s Brigade were on the front lines in the battle of Gettysburg.  The brigade was under the temporary command of Col. David Lang during the engagement because General Perry was recovering from typhoid.[xxi]   On July 2, 1863, the Floridians took part in a general attack on Federal entrenchments below Cemetery Ridge.  The men charged across open ground, braving intense enemy fire, and overran an advanced Union artillery position.  In his official report, General Richard Anderson praised the Florida men:

Never did troops go into action with greater spirit or more determined courage. The ground afforded them but little shelter, and for nearly three-quarters of a mile they were compelled to face a storm of shot and shell land bullets; but there was no hesitation nor faltering. They drove the enemy from his first line, and possessed themselves of the ridge and of much of the artillery with which it had been crowned.[xxii]
The brigade might have taken the second line of defense and even won the battle, but the Southerners on Lang’s right flank were thrown back, and Lang ordered a retreat to avoid being outflanked and destroyed.  The next day, General Lee ordered the infamous second attack on Federal positions that would become known as Picket’s Charge.  Along with another brigade under the command of General Wilcox, Perry’s Brigade took part in the second wave of the attack, after Picket’s division had already retreated.  In a letter to General Perry, Col Lang explained what happened:

 As soon as Pickett's division had retired we were thrown forward, as a forlorn hope I suppose, notwithstanding the repulse of the day before and the repulse of Pickett's whole division not twenty minutes before. . . Being unsupported by an advance upon any other part of the line, and having but one line, the enemy paid his undivided attention to us, and our only safety from utter annihilation was in retreat. The Second Florida being on the left and their color-bearer wounded, they lost their colors and the greater part of their men.
The brigade suffered severe casualties at Gettysburg.  Out of 700 men, 455 were killed, wounded, or missing, a casualty rate of sixty-five percent.[xxiii]

The First and Sixth Florida Battalions, the Second and Fifth Cavalry Troops, and artillery batteries from Leon and Milton counties took part in the battle of Olustee in February of 1864, the only major engagement in the state of Florida.  The combined Florida-Georgia forces acquitted themselves well, inflicting 1,355 casualties on a union force of 5,115 men, making Olustee proportionally the third bloodiest battle of the war for the Union army.[xxiv] 

The Third Florida Infantry was made part of the Army of Tennessee, and participated in the 1862 invasion of Kentucky in which it suffered substantial casualties.  The next year the Regiment participated in the battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge.[xxv]  The commander of the Third Regiment wrote an epitaph for his men that is applicable to Florida soldiers of other units as well: 

One by one they fell by the wayside.  Some lie buried by Georgia streams, some on the hillsides of Alabama, some in the valley of Tennessee, some on the bloody fields of Kentucky, some under the blue skies of Mississippi; some survived and struggled on until they reached the Carolinas; while a few came back to the old homestead and died in the arms of their loved ones.[xxvi]
Though Florida men fought bravely for the Confederacy, it was ultimately supplies rather than men that proved to be Florida’s greatest contribution to the Southern cause.  In October 1862, Governor Milton wrote, “I presume there is no State where, in proportion to the amount cultivated, such abundant crops of corn, peas, potatoes, and sugar-cane have been made, and which will afford a more abundant supply of pork and beef than in Florida.”[xxvii]  The exact amount of crops cultivated in Florida at the time is unknown, but there is no doubt that Floridians produced a significant amount of food for the confederacy.

When the war began, southern farmers had to step up food production.  Florida was largely unoccupied by Federal forces throughout the war, and it was important for Floridians to send crops to feed the Confederate armies. The former slave Bolden Hall lived on what seems a fairly typical plantation in Jefferson County, Florida.  He reports that the plantation “was devoted primarily to the growing of cotton and corn and secondarily to the growing of tobacco and pumpkins.”[xxviii]   Soldiers couldn’t eat cotton but the cash crop paid good dividends.  In 1863, the state legislature curtailed cotton production by law, and by 1864, only small sale cotton cultivation remained in Florida.  It is important to note that cotton planting had already been largely supplanted by food production in 1862, before the legislative mandate, demonstrating the dedication of Floridians to the southern cause.[xxix]  In a letter written in June of 1862, Lt. J.W.A Nicholson, the commander of a union gunboat on the St. Johns River wrote his commander, “The whole of the banks of the river as far as one can see is planted with corn.  The say corn enough is in Florida for all of the Southern rebel states.”[xxx]  

In addition to crops, beef was an important Florida export.  Florida beef became vital to the Confederate war effort in the summer of 1863, when supply lines from Texas were cut by victorious Union armies.  At this point, Florida became the primary source of beef for the South.[xxxi] 

All the beef in Florida would do Southern soldiers no good without salt to preserve it.  Florida’s long coast-line was perfect for collecting sea salt.  The importance of salt can be seen in the memoirs of Florida militiaman Joshua Hoyet Frier.  He wrote about the various shortages caused by the Union blockade but complained the most about the lack of salt, which was needed so badly that he was willing to eat dirt to get some:

But the most serious ill convenience however, that was felt was salt. . . . The salt was gone and it meant we had to either have some, or quit eating, the one looked like an impossibility, while the other was a dreadful alternative.  About this time some inventive person discovered that by taking up the dirt out of the meat houses, and leaching it a fair article of salt could be made. . . . But even a new danger confronted us; the supply of dirt was limited, in fact it was all utilized the first season. . . . However the people with the true spirit of American enterprise addressed themselves to the situation and before hogs was slaughtered the next season all the available marsh lands on the coast was one vast salt works, and you could get all the salt you wanted at fifteen dollars a bushel, by hauling it nearly one hundred miles.[xxxii]
Florida was the single greatest supplier of salt in the Confederacy.  The coastal salt works were so important to the Confederate war effort that salt workers were made exempt from the draft.[xxxiii]   Floridian salt alone made the state an important contributor to the southern war effort, a fact that should not go unappreciated.

General John Jackson’s August 1864 request for reinforcements in Florida shows how important the state had become as a source of supplies.  Referring to central Florida, he wrote that “Its productive capacity is very great, and the character of its supplies of inestimable value to the Confederacy. The sugar and syrup there produced, cannot, I believe, be supplied from any other portion of the country in our possession.”  In addition to sugar, citrus fruits, “salt, blockade goods, [and] iron” are mentioned.  Most important is the quantity of meat available from Florida.  Adding up the beef, pork, and fish being sent from Florida, Jackson wrote, “Counting the bacon at one-third of a pound, and beef and fish at once pound to the ration, there are of meat rations, 45,000,000, equal to the supply of 250,000 men for 180 days (six months).”[xxxiv]  Like all armies, the Confederate army marched on its stomach, which it filled with food from Florida.  

It turned out that Florida was far more than “a small tadpole.”  Florida forts were an important point of contention even before the war began, and a skirmish occurred on Santa Rosa Island two months before the official beginning of the war.  Florida sent thousands of sons to distant battlefields, and over a third never returned.  Food supplies from Florida, especially beef and salt, were invaluable to the Confederacy, and proved to be Florida’s most important contribution to the southern war effort.  Florida was an important part of the Confederacy, and the dedication and courage of Floridians in the Civil War should not be forgotten.

[i] Tracey J. Revels, Grander in Her Daughters: Florida's Women during the Civil War (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004), 1.
[ii] Journal of the Convention of the People of Florida (Tallahassee: Floridian and Journal, 1861), 99.
[iii] John E. Johns, Florida during the Civil War (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1963), 14.
[iv] Ibid., 25-26, 59-60, 66, 153, 190, 205, 208-209.
[v] George F. Pearce, Pensacola during the Civil War: A Thorn in the Side of the Confederacy (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000), 2, 8-9.
[vi] Russell F. Weigley, Quartermaster General of the Union Army: A Biography of M.C. Meigs (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959), 121.
[vii] War Department, comp., The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Records of Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880), ser.1, vol. 1, 442.
[viii] Pearce, Pensacola, 9.
[ix] J. H. Gilman, "With Slemmer in Pensacola Harbor," in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, ed. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buell (New York: The Century, 1887), 1:27.
[x] Pearce, Pensacola, 14, 18-20.
[xi] War Department, The War of the Rebellion, ser. 1, vol. 1, 337.
[xii] Johns, Florida., 213.
[xiii] Board of State Institutions, ed., Soldiers of Florida in the Seminole Indian, Civil, and Spanish-American Wars (Live Oak, FL: Democrat Print, 1903), 38.
[xiv] War Department, The War of the Rebellion, ser. 4, vol. 3, (1882), 851.
[xv] Ibid., ser.1, vol. 6, 826.
[xvi] Ibid., ser. 1, vol. 14, 615.
[xvii] Revels, Grander in Her Daughters, 28.
[xviii] Pearl Randolph, "Acie Thomas," in Florida Narratives, comp. Federal Writers Project, vol. 3, Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves (Washington: Works Progress Administration, 1941; 2011), Kindle.
[xix] Board of State Institutions, Soldiers of Florida, 38.
[xx] Gary Loderhose, Way Down Upon the Suwannee River: Sketches of Florida during the Civil War (n.p.: Authors Choice Press, 2000), 57.
[xxi] Ibid.
[xxii] War Department, The War of the Rebellion, ser. 1, vol. 27, 614.
[xxiii] David Lang to Edward A. Perry, July 19, 1863, in Texas and Florida, by J. J. Dickison and O. M. Roberts, vol. 11, Confederate Military History (Atlanta: Confederate, 1899), 11: 152-153.
[xxiv] William H. Nulty, Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990), 122, 203.
[xxv] Board of State Institutions, Soldiers of Florida, 101-102.
[xxvi] Canter Brown, Jr., "The Civil War, 1861-1865," in The New History of Florida, ed. Michael Gannon (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996), 235.
[xxvii] Nulty, Confederate Florida, 39.
[xxviii] Farrell, "Bolden Hall," in Florida Narratives.
[xxix] Johns, Florida, 144-145.
[xxx] Daniel L. Schafer, Thunder on the River: The Civil War in Northeast Florida (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010), 82.
[xxxi] Nulty, Confederate Florida, 61.
[xxxii] Joshua Hoyet Frier, "Excerpt from Joshua Hoyet Frier's Civil War Memoir," Florida Memory, accessed November 16, 2012,
[xxxiii] Johns, Florida, 128, 130.
[xxxiv] War Department, The War of the Rebellion, ser. 1, vol. 35, 606.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Annoy the Albigensians! (If there are still some around)  Give presents!  Celebrate the goodness of the material world redeemed by the Incarnation!

Icon from Monastery of Stavronikita, Mt. Athos

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Bear is Not a Hog

I've been hog hunting in the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area over the past week.  I've seen a herd of 20 piglets, some adult hogs, a couple of racoons, and most impressive, a large black bear, a relatively uncommon sight in Northern Florida.
I missed an easy shot at a hog yesterday, but the bear sighting today made up for it.  I stalked up on the sound of the bear from a dirt road, thinking it was a hog.  I realized it was a bruin rather than a porcine when it walked onto the road about 30 yards in front of me.  The bear looked at me for a few seconds, was unimpressed, finished crossing, and disappeared into the swamp.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The HHS Mandate at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court should hear challenges to the HHS contraceptive mandate next year.  I foresee three possible outcomes.

The mandate is entirely upheld.

I don't think this will happen.  If it does, the immediate results could be good.  The church may finally commit to full battle against the secular Leviathan.  This could be the defining moment for the modern American church.

The mandate is struck down as it relates to religious institutions but enforced against private businesses.

I think this the most likely outcome.  Forcing Catholic businessman to pay for contraceptive coverage violates freedom of conscience but not necessarily freedom of religion, and it is the latter that is protected by the First Amendment.  Once hospitals and schools are safe, many people may stop caring about the issue.  Apathy could sap what little energy the bishops have, and the battle may be largely abandoned, along with the laity who will now have to lose their businesses or cooperate with evil.

The mandate will be completely struck down.

I would be very surprised if this happens.  In cases like Employment Division v. Smith, the court has upheld government restrictions on private religious activity.  It seems unlikely that the court would break with precedent and protect the consciences of lay Catholics.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Bazaar

I finished my semester and am back to blogging.  This should be my last photo essay on Kurdistan.

A multitude of stores, sidewalk shops, and food stands operate in the Erbil bazaar, in the shadow of the Citadel.  The heart of the bazaar is inside a large enclosed structure roofed with corrugated metal.  Storefronts of various sizes are packed together and grouped by product.  These include,





Vendors sell food from carts and stands interspersed throughout the bazaar, even during Ramadan.
Tangled wires hang above the shoppers, keeping the store lights on.

Outside, a ring of shops and restaurants surround the inner bazaar.


The bazaar area extends outside of this circle, and includes a variety of shops, including the rug store below.  The wool rugs were handmade in Kurdistan, and the tapestries were probably machine made in Iran.  The rug I purchased is my favorite souvenir.  

These last couple of items are from stores outside of the bazaar but I believe them to be worth sharing.

At the "Family Mall," I found these pollywog dolls.  Dolls like these were once popular in the west but have disappeared, for obvious reasons.

At a grocery store, I found a multitude of canned hot dogs.  I cannot imagine that they taste very good.

This photo was taken at another grocery store.  The Kurds are not squeamish about the origin of their meat.

Shopping in Kurdistan was in many ways like shopping anywhere else.  The major differences I noticed was the mass of small businesses of various types all crammed together.  I suppose that Iraq has not yet been afflicted with zoning laws.  In addition, small family owned businesses outnumbered large chain stores.  This made shopping slightly less convenient but a lot more interesting.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Have a blessed Advent everyone!  I have had an intense semester, but I'm still alive.  Blogging will resume shortly.