Florida Civil War Timeline
In many respects, Florida remains the forgotten state of
the Confederacy. Although the third state to secede, Florida’s small
population and meager industrial resources made the state of little
strategic importance to either side.
However Florida’s 13,000 mile coastline proved invaluable
for the production of salt, made by boiling sea water in large kettles or
evaporating it in man-made tidal pools.
Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital not sacked
by Union troops.
Teacher's Resource Page
Florida's Role in the
"Supplier of the Confederacy"
Settlers began to
move to Florida once it became a United States territory. By the mid
1800s, it was a rural territory with large farms and plantations. In 1845
when Florida became a state, the population was approximately 140,000. Of
these, 63,000 were African Americans, most of whom were slaves. The
state's economy was based on cattle and crops. Slavery was practiced in
Florida but not all African Americans were slaves. Many bought their
freedom or were freed by their owners. Some were Creoles, free descendents
of Spanish citizens of African ancestry. When Florida became a state, it
was considered a slave state. This was an important factor in Florida's
part in the Civil War.
Many states in the
north did not believe in the practice of owning slaves and began to
abolish slavery. By 1860, slavery was only found in the southern states
and territories. The Presidential election that year was based on two
candidates who debated about slavery. Many southern states were upset
because Abraham Lincoln discussed stopping the spread of slavery. He did
not want slavery in the west and hoped that it would eventually die out in
the south. He was elected President on November 6, 1860. South Carolina
decided to secede from the Union on December 20th. That meant that it
would not recognize the United States as its government and instead would
make its own state laws.
On January 10, 1861, Florida seceded as well. It became a separate state from the Union. By
February, Florida and six other southern states had formed a new
government, the Confederate States of America. Four other states joined a
month later. The Confederate states were South Carolina, North Carolina,
Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee,
Texas, and Arkansas. Jefferson Davis, from Mississippi, was elected
President and Montgomery, Alabama was selected as the capital, though it
was soon moved to Richmond, Virginia. Union troops refused to leave Fort
Pickens when Florida seceded from the Union.
The Civil War
If the shot fired at Lexington in 1775 was the one heard 'round the
world, then the opening volley at Ft. Sumter was at least as loud. The
American Civil War would forever change the way wars were waged. The shot
fired by Confederate troops at Union troops in Fort Sumter, in the harbor
at Charleston in South Carolina on April 12,
1861 began the Civil War. The North, also known as the
Union, fought against the
Confederate South. The two major issues of
the Civil War were state's rights and slavery. Many families lost all or
most of the men of the family. Sometimes brother fought against brother or
cousin against cousin as families differed in their view on slavery and
loyalty to the United States. There were occasions when the entire young
male populations were killed in a single day's worth of fighting.
The battle lines, both physical and political were often ill defined. Not all southerners
supported slavery, so they fought for the North, and not all northerners
supported the war against the South. The border states between the North
and the South had the most difficulties during the war. Missouri, for
example, had troops that fought for both the Union and the Confederacy.
Florida provided over 15,000 troops for the Confederacy.
They were organized into twelve infantry regiments, two cavalry regiments,
a handful of artillery batteries, and a variety of smaller organizations.
Florida units fought in most of the major battles of the war, with the
exception of 1st Manassas and Fort Donelson.
The battle flag at left was carried by the Florida 5th Infantry
The Florida Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia,
for example, earned a solid reputation despite suffering from a serious
shortage of replacements for most of the war. One source claims that
Florida’s percentage of enlistments to population was the highest of any
The majority of the
battles were fought in other states, but two major battles and several
smaller skirmishes took place in Florida. The Union sent ships to blockade
or occupy Florida ports: St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Key West and
Pensacola. This blockade left Floridians unable to participate in their
normal sea trade. However, the Union navy was
unable to guard Florida's
entire long coastline. Smaller ships would slip through the blockade at
night and continue to supply goods to the Confederate troops.
Pictured at left is a view of Confederate defenses at Pensacola Bay.
People in Florida
who worked on farms and plantations raised crops and cattle to send to the
troops. They sent beef, pork, fish, fruit and salt. Florida was a large
producer of salt. Salt work plants would separate salt from the seawater.
Two of the biggest salt works (factories) were at Apalachee Bay and St.
Andrews. Salt was a very important resource to the army. Because refrigeration
had not been introduced yet, it was used to keep the meat from spoiling.
An estimated 16,000
Floridians fought in the war. Most were in the Confederacy, but
approximately 2,000 joined the Union army. Some Floridians didn't want to
fight for either side, so they hid out in the woods and swamps to avoid
being drafted. The Floridian soldiers were organized into eleven regiments
of infantry, two cavalry, and numerous small units. Almost 5,000 Floridian
soldiers were killed during the war.
With most of the
Floridian men fighting, it was up to the women, children, and slaves to
keep the farms working. Money was very tight and most families, even in
the cities, had to grow their own food and make their own clothes.
Clothing was collected to send to the troops and iron was collected to
make swords, guns, and other arms.
At left is a Harper's Weekly view of Ferdnandia, Florida (near
Jacksonville) during the Civil War.
By 1863, the
Confederate Army was in trouble. The bigger Union Army was decreasing the
Confederate's numbers. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation
Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the southern states. This angered
the Confederacy and the war continued. Many freed slaves joined the Union
Army and fought to defeat the south and free their brothers and sisters
who were still in bondage.
Battles were fought
in the North and the South, but most took place in the South. There were
two large battles that that took place in Florida and both were won by
Confederate troops. On February 20, 1864, the largest Civil War battle in
Florida occurred near Lake City. It was called the Battle of Olustee. It
was a victory for the Confederacy, but did not help win the war.
The war continued,
but with the Confederacy becoming weaker and weaker and most of the
southern capitals captured, supply lines to the confederate troops were
cut off. On April 4, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered
to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. The war was officially over. Some
battles continued for a short period of time, but, once word reached
troops who were still fighting, the southern generals surrendered. Florida
officially surrendered April 26, 1865. Union troops took over Tallahassee
and immediately raised the United States flag. Once again, the states were
Civil War Battles
and Troops in Florida
War could have begun in Florida instead of Fort Sumter, South Carolina. In
early January of 1861, when Florida
the other Confederate states and seceded from the Union, there were Union
(U.S. Army) soldiers stationed at Fort
Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, right off Pensacola. Confederate soldiers
demanded that the Union soldiers surrender now that Florida was a
Confederate state. The Union soldiers refused to leave the fort. The Union
quickly moved in more troops to reinforce the number of soldiers in the
fort of Pensacola. A battle began and a standoff lasted over several
The first flag of the Confederacy.
The Confederate army
landed 1,000 soldiers on the island on October 9th to raid a small Union
army camp outside of the fort. More Union soldiers were sent from the fort
to reinforce their camp and they were able to drive the Confederates off
the island. Battles continued throughout the early part of 1862. Finally,
by May, the Confederate troops withdrew from the area and the yearlong
standoff was over. The Union occupied Pensacola for the rest of the war.
June 30, 1862: A
small battle took place in the Tampa Bay area over a two-day period early
in the Civil War. A Union general sailed into Tampa Bay. Soldiers
disembarked, went into town, and demanded Tampa's surrender to the Union.
A small Confederate militia group stationed in Tampa called the Osceola
Rangers refused to surrender. The Union gunboat then began to open fire.
The Union General warned the soldiers that they would fire again beginning
at 6 pm in order to get civilians out of the way. The Osceola Rangers
remained steadfast in their refusal to surrender. Gunfire began again and
shots rang out most of the next day into Tampa. Eventually, in the late
afternoon of July 1st, the Union soldiers stopped firing and the gunboat
withdrew. Luckily, there were no casualties in this battle.
Battle of Olustee
February 20, 1864:
One year after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, the largest Civil
War battle in Florida
occurred near Lake City. The Battle of Olustee
(pictured at left from the Union point of view)
lasted for six hours in the woods close to Olustee station.
The Union army
launched an expedition inward from the coastline in order to cut off
supply lines to the Confederates. They also were searching for African
Americans to join their side. Brigadier General Truman Seymour marched
5,000 men toward Lake City. Confederate General Joseph Finegan set up
5,200 men at Olustee to block their advance. Three regiments of African
American troops fought in this battle on the Union's side and many of
these men were lost. The Confederate troops defeated the Union Army and
sent them back toward Jacksonville. The Battle of Olustee has been
described as one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War. Almost 3,000
men out of the 11,000 who fought were killed.
Battle of Natural Bridge
March 4, 1865:
Another large battle in Florida took place near Tallahassee. Major General
John Newton landed U.S. Navy ships at the mouth of St. Marks River. They
had trouble getting up the river, so the soldiers marched northeast to
Tallahassee. A small Confederate militia group burned a bridge in their
path so that the Union soldiers could not cross the river. The Union
soldiers pressed on and the two groups met at the Natural Bridge, a place
where the river goes underground for a short distance. The Confederates
were able to protect the natural crossing and push the Union soldiers
back. The Union soldiers quickly retreated to their ships. Once again, the
Confederates were victorious in Florida. Because of this victory,
Tallahassee was the only Confederate state capital east of the Mississippi
River that was not seized during the war.
The Anti-War movement in Florida
Small militia groups
were formed to protect the inner part of Florida. These units were mostly
made up of ranchers and cowhands. They were called the "Cow Cavalry."
Small numbers of Union soldiers would hold cavalry raids in south Florida
to capture cattle. The Union Navy would also conduct raids along the coast
trying to destroy the salt work plants. It was the mission of the cow
cavalry to protect the cattle ranches, salt works, and small towns of
south Florida. Numerous small battles occurred as the groups met, but most
battles were never documented. Florida's greatest contribution to the war,
besides the 5,000 Floridian men who fought, was food supplies. Florida
sent beef, pork, fish, and fruit to the Confederate troops. A vital part
of the Confederate strategy was to keep Florida's inland roads and rivers
protected so that the supplies could get safely northward. The soldiers of
the "Cow Calvary" helped keep the Confederate army supplied with food from
sentiment grew in Florida during the latter stages of the war. The state
became a haven for Confederate deserters and draft evaders and by late
1864 Confederate control over the state was effectively reduced to
portions of northern and central Florida. In October, 1864, a Federal
expedition from Pensacola attacked the panhandle town of Marianna. The
Confederate defenders, primarily home guards, put up a stout resistance
but the town was occupied and partially burned. The last fight of
consequence in Florida took place in early March, 1865, when a naval
armada landed 1,000 Federals on the coast south of Tallahassee. The Union
troops, commanded by Brigadier General John Newton, were soundly defeated
at the Battle of Natural Bridge. This confederate victory assured that
Florida would stay in southern hands until the end of the war.
April, 1865 began with the shocking news that governor Milton, ill and
depressed over the deteriorating military and political situation, had
committed suicide at his home near Marianna. Within weeks Floridians
learned of the surrender of Lee’s and Johnson’s armies. Because of
the remoteness of the region, it took some time for Union troops to occupy the areas of the
state still held by southern forces. Edward McCook occupied Tallahassee,
the last state capitol east of the Mississippi still under Confederate
control, on May 10. In a formal ceremony ten days later the stars and
stripes rose over the capitol building. By early June the last organized
resistance in the southern half of the peninsula collapsed as well.
war was over.