Distant Storm: Florida’s Role in the Civil War, 1861-1862 (Part Two)

In commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, the Department of State’s State Library and Archives of Florida presents “Distant Storm: Florida’s Role in the Civil War.” Part Two, “The Confederacy in 1861-1862,” is now live on Florida Memory. The exhibit features original documents and photographs from the collections of the State Library and Archives of Florida, accompanied by a narrative on Florida’s role in the Civil War.

Confederate Columbiad guns at the entrance to Pensacola Bay (February 1861)

Confederate Columbiad guns at the entrance to Pensacola Bay (February 1861)

Florida entered the Civil War as one of the original seceding states. The second installment of “Distant Storm” begins with Florida’s role in the creation of the Confederate government and ends with Florida’s role in maintaining the Confederacy through 1862. During this period, Florida began the war at the center of the secession crisis, as Confederate and Union forces confronted each other at Fort Pickens off Pensacola Harbor.

The national focus on Florida soon shifted, however, and Florida was largely forgotten as Union and Confederate armies contested for control of Virginia and Tennessee. Florida regiments left the state to participate in the great battles to the north. The regiments, formed into the Florida brigades of the East and West, became integral units in the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee.

Richard B. Waller (ca. 1861)

Richard B. Waller (ca. 1861)

Back home, the state contended with economic and governmental problems that accompanied the lengthening war. Governor John Milton contended for control of the executive branch with restless members of the ongoing secession convention and had the unpleasant duty of implementing the Confederate Conscription Act, the first national draft in U.S. history.

Despite Union incursions and an ever-tightening naval blockade, Florida ended 1862 as an intact but increasingly brittle member of the Confederacy. Confederate Floridians grimly hoped that 1863 would bring the South final victory.

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