Thomas Sidney Jesup and the Second Seminole War (Part Two)

General Thomas Sidney Jesup commanded military operations against the Seminoles in Florida during the early stages of the conflict now known as the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). The Second Seminole War was the longest and costliest American Indian War in American history. Jesup’s field diary, available on Florida Memory, contains his perspective on the war from October 1, 1836, to May 30, 1837. This series of blog posts places significant entries from the Jesup diary in the context of the Seminole Wars and the history of Anglo-American Indian-African relations in the American South. Below is the second post in the series.

On November 27, 1836, Jesup learned of his appointment as commander of all U.S. troops operating in Florida against the Seminoles.

“They brought newspapers which announced that Gen. J[esup] had been ordered to take command of the Army and that an officer had been sent from Washington on the 4th with orders to that effect.”

“They brought newspapers which announced that Gen. J[esup] had been ordered to take command of the Army and that an officer had been sent from Washington on the 4th with orders to that effect.”

When he first arrived in Florida in October 1836, General Thomas Sidney Jesup assumed command of U.S. troops operating south of the Withlacoochee River. Governor Richard Keith Call commanded troops north of the Withlacoochee and presided over military operations in the territory of Florida.

Jesup arrived in Florida amidst controversy. While serving in the Second Creek War, Jesup disagreed with General Winfield Scott, his superior officer, on how to conduct the campaign against the Creeks. Jesup argued for swift action against Creek towns hostile to the United States. Frustrated by inaction on the part of Scott, Jesup went ahead without orders in hand.

In a fortunate turn of events for Jesup, his campaign worked and likely shortened the war. Scott, on the other hand, received criticism for his delay. In order to defend his reputation, Scott challenged Jesup to a review by a court of inquiry. Several months later, while Jesup was serving in Florida, the court of inquiry ruled in Jesup’s favor. Jesup’s bold move against the Creeks likely paved the way for his appointment as commander of military operations against the Seminoles in Florida.

Koreshan Unity Collection (Part Eight)

In Part Three of this series, we alluded to the fundamental principles of Koreshan belief that arose from founder Cyrus Teed’s “illumination.” Among the most interesting beliefs of Koreshanity was cellular cosmogony, or the hollow earth.

In The Cellular Cosmogony (first published in 1898), Teed explained that the earth was not a convex sphere but instead a hollow, concave cell containing the entire universe with the sun at its center. The earth was motionless while the heavens rotated within the concave sphere. Life existed on the inside surface of the cell, and people were held on that inner surface by centrifugal force. Teed dismissed gravity, heliocentricism, and other scientific theories as “gigantic fallacy and farce” and the convex appearance of the earth’s surface as an “optical illusion.”

Wall hanging at the College of Life building illustrating the hollow earth; photographed in 2008

Wall hanging at the College of Life building illustrating the hollow earth; photographed in 2008

In truth, according to Teed, “The earth is a concave sphere, the ratio of curvation being eight inches to the mile, thus giving a diameter of eight thousand, and a corresponding circumference of about twenty-five thousand miles. This fact is physically and mechanically demonstrated by placing a perpendicular post at any point on the surface of the earth, (though it were better to place it by the side of a surface of water,) and extending a straight line at right angles from this perpendicular. The line thus extended will strike the surface at any distance proportionate to the height of the vertical post.”

Title page and facing page from the second printing of The Cellular Cosmogony, 1899

Title page and facing page from the second printing of The Cellular Cosmogony, 1899

 

Teed’s inscription of the book to “H.N. Rahn, Pastor of the Church Triumphant in Baltimore”

Teed’s inscription of the book to “H.N. Rahn, Pastor of the Church Triumphant in Baltimore”

The Koreshans had in fact conducted this very experiment in 1897 to demonstrate the truth of their beliefs. The Koreshan Unity Geodetic Survey staff devised an apparatus they called a rectilineator and conducted tests on the Gulf Coast at Naples, the results of which Teed published in The Cellular Cosmogony as proof that the earth was indeed concave.

Koreshan Unity Geodetic Survey staff and onlookers with rectilineator (postcard image). The short gentleman in the center in black with the creased hat, next to the woman in white, is Ulysses Grant Morrow (1864-1950), who headed the geodetic survey and apparently wrote much of The Cellular Cosmogony.

Koreshan Unity Geodetic Survey staff and onlookers with rectilineator (postcard image). The short gentleman in the center in black with the creased hat, next to the woman in white, is Ulysses Grant Morrow (1864-1950), who headed the geodetic survey and apparently wrote much of The Cellular Cosmogony.

Bolstered by what he considered scientific proof of his theories, Teed now laid them out in detail in The Cellular Cosmogony. According to Teed, the sun and stars formed a “stellar nucleus” in the atmosphere above the concave surface of the earth at the very center of this hollow cell. Instead of the earth rotating on an axis and revolving around the sun, it was the heavens that moved, their movement generated by the “electro-magnetic substance created at and radiating from the stellar nucleus.” The heavens were, as Teed described them, “a great electro-magnetic battery.”

The only extant section of the original rectilineator, now preserved at the Koreshan State Historic Site.

The only extant section of the original rectilineator, now preserved at the Koreshan State Historic Site.

This universology also dictated Teed’s vision of what the final form of social government would be. “The government of the physical universe is imperial,” Teed wrote, “in that the head of government resides in one center; but democratic, in that all of the stars bear that reciprocal relation which makes the center dependent upon the reciprocal activity of the subsidiary but contributory centers. While there is a subordinate relation of the multiplicity of stars to the central one, so there is a subordination of the central star to all of the stars, whence the central one derives its powers of government. The regulation of society, therefore, is not left to another experiment, because former experiments have failed to accomplish for the people that for which government is established, but must be regulated by the scientific knowledge and application of principles which may be determined before the correct form of government is instituted.”

Drop on Down in Florida

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Florida was the only southern state to experience an increase in its African-American population in the first half of the 20th century. At a time when many southern black Americans were moving North in search of a better life, African-Americans from other parts of the South migrated to the Sunshine State due to its warm climate and the hope of year-round employment opportunities in the state’s varied agricultural industries.

View of workers harvesting oranges – Winter Garden, Florida

With this migration came distinct cultural traditions, in which music—both sacred and secular—played a large role. In the late 1970s, the Florida Folklife Program retraced the groundbreaking fieldwork conducted in the 1930s by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration in Florida. This project involved identifying and recording folk artists maintaining African-American sacred and secular music traditions in the same communities documented by Zora Neale Hurston, Stetson Kennedy and other fieldworkers approximately 50 years earlier. The result was a double LP released in 1981 titled Drop on Down in Florida: Recent Field Recordings of Afro-American Traditional Music. Although the records were a valuable educational tool, they had relatively small impact at the time, and have been long unavailable to the public.

Moses Williams playing the diddley bow at a vegetable stand- Waverly, Florida

Moses Williams playing the diddley bow at a vegetable stand – Waverly, Florida

In 2012, the Florida Folklife Program, the State Archives of Florida and Dust-to-Digital, a Grammy award-winning record label, collaborated to release Drop on Down in Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music 1977 – 1980. This is an expanded book and two-CD reissue of the double LP the Folklife Program released in 1981. The original audio recordings and many of the photographs from the fieldwork conducted for Drop on Down in Florida are now part of the Florida Folklife Collection housed at the State Library and Archives of Florida.

M.L. Long leading sacred harp singing at S.E. Alabama & Florida Union Sacred Harp Sing - Campbellton, Florida

M.L. Long leading sacred harp singing at S.E. Alabama & Florida Union Sacred Harp Sing – Campbellton, Florida

To celebrate the completion of this project, we’ve created a podcast with State Folklorist and co-editor of the book, Blaine Waide, detailing some of the work involved in the reissue process, as well as previewing a selection of field recordings made for Drop on Down in Florida. You can learn more about Drop on Down in Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music 1977 – 1980 by visiting Dust-to-Digital’s website.

Florida and the Civil War (November 1862)

Three Heads are Better than One

Historians have long pointed to lack of cooperation between state governors and the central government in Richmond as one of the principal reasons for the defeat of the Confederacy. Added to that problem was contention between many of the governors about how best to wage the war. Since bad news sells better than good news, instances of cooperation between Confederate governors or between the governors and Richmond are less well known. One such episode occurred in Florida in November 1862, when the Confederate government agreed to support the creation of a new military department to strengthen the defense of the tri-state region bordered by Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

Florida Governor John Milton (between 1861 and 1865)

Florida Governor John Milton (between 1861 and 1865)

Florida Governor John Milton conceived the idea of the tri-state military district. In doing so, Milton acted on his long-held belief that the Apalachicola River was the most promising avenue for a Union invasion of Florida. He feared that Union capture of the port of Apalachicola and an advance up the river would allow the Yankees to capture and destroy the rich cotton fields of Gadsden and Jackson counties—Jackson was also Milton’s home county—before proceeding to the tri-state border, where the Apalachicola meets the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers flowing down from Georgia and Alabama, respectively. Union forces could then push on to Columbus, Georgia, the Chattahoochee’s most important port and one of the Confederacy’s few industrial centers. Milton hoped that a tri-state military department providing for the defense of portions of West and Middle Florida, southeast Alabama, and southwest Georgia would enable him to call on the bordering states for troops to help defend Florida, where only a small number of Confederate troops remained after the spring of 1862.

Junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers to form the Apalachicola (1926)

Junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers to form the Apalachicola (1926)

Milton first proposed the tri-state defense department in a letter to Jefferson Davis as early as October 29, 1861, barely more than three weeks after becoming governor. At the same time, he wrote to Governor Joseph E. Brown of Georgia and Governor A. B. Moore of Alabama requesting their support for the idea. At that time, his fellow governors were not enthusiastic—they did not see the need for such a department—and Davis passed on Milton’s proposal to the Confederate War Department, which ignored Milton’s request. A year later, however, Brown and Alabama’s governor John Gill Shorter were more receptive. They realized that with Florida’s denuded defenses their states were more vulnerable to attack from the south. In addition, both states had invested heavily in salt production along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Thousands of Georgians and Alabamians were producing salt in Florida and their citizens, along with the rest of the Confederacy, depended on the vital supply of salt from Milton’s state.

In October 1862, Milton again asked President Davis to support the tri-state department. This time he agreed. Davis may have changed his mind due to Milton’s loyal support for the unpopular conscription law, which Davis had pushed the Confederate Congress to pass in April 1862. Assured of Davis’ backing, Milton, Brown and Shorter submitted a formal request for the creation of the department to Davis on November 11, 1862. The governors’ proposal placed the following counties within the department: Henry, Dale, Barbour, Russell, Covington, Coffee, and Pike in Alabama; Decatur, Thomas, Miller, Early, Baker, Clay, Calhoun, Randolph, Quitman, Stewart, Muscogee, Chattahoochee, Mitchell, and Dougherty in Georgia; and Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Liberty, Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, and Franklin in Florida.

Map of the Tri-State Area-Florida, Georgia and Alabama (ca. 1865)

Map of the Tri-State Area-Florida, Georgia and Alabama (ca. 1865)

Despite Davis’ initial support, Milton again ran into difficulties with the Confederate War Department. They did, however, split the Department of Middle and East Florida into two districts: the District of Middle Florida, covering the area between the Choctawhatchee and Suwannee rivers; and the District of East Florida, which consisted of the rest of Florida east of the Suwannee River. Milton also failed to get Richmond’s approval to incorporate the Alabama counties into the new defensive arrangement. The Confederate army’s adjutant and inspector general, General Samuel Cooper, informed Milton that since the Alabama counties fell outside the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, those counties could not be part of the new Florida district. Fortunately for Milton, Cooper agreed that the Georgia counties could be under the new District of Middle Florida. Milton had finally gotten Richmond to take notice of the Apalachicola region, even though Florida would remain at the bottom of the Confederate government’s defensive priorities.

For information on relations between Florida and its neighboring states during the war see Ridgeway Boyd Murphree, “Rebel Sovereigns: The Civil War Leadership of Governors John Milton of Florida and Joseph E. Brown of Georgia, 1861-1865,” Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State University, 2006.

The Bethel Baptist Institutional and First Baptist Churches of Jacksonville

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) undertook a survey of church and synagogue archives as part of the Historical Records Survey (HRS). In Florida, the WPA surveyed 5,500 churches and synagogues, and generated 20,000 pages of documentation on archival records held by these institutions. The entire WPA Church Records Collection is digitized and available on the Florida Memory website. This post highlights two Jacksonville churches included in the WPA’s Church Archives Inventory (CAI).

First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, located on Church and Hogan streets (ca. 1920s)

First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, located on Church and Hogan streets (ca. 1920s)

Bethel Baptist Institutional Church of Jacksonville, located on Hogan and Caroline streets (ca. 1900s)

Bethel Baptist Institutional Church of Jacksonville, located on Hogan and Caroline streets (ca. 1900s)

The surveys for the First Baptist and Bethel Baptist Institutional  churches in Jacksonville serve as examples that illustrate the value of the Church Archives Inventory (CAI) for researchers. One of the oldest churches in the Jacksonville area, First Baptist was founded in 1838 as Bethel Baptist Church. The six charter members included Reverend James McDonald, Elias Jaudon, their wives, and two African-American slaves, referred to in an interview accompanying the survey as Peggy and Bacchus. In the beginning, Bethel Baptist had a biracial congregation, relatively common for antebellum Baptist churches. By the time of the Civil War in 1861, Bethel Baptist counted “forty white members and two hundred fifty colored members.” During the war, the church, at that time located on West Street, served as a military hospital. Following the battle of Olustee in February 1864, federal troops brought the wounded to the church for treatment.

The Civil War left the church in a “deplorable condition.” According to Church Secretary Mrs. J. M. Aldridge, “the window panes [were] broken out, the plaster off the walls, and filth and dirt everywhere.” The Civil War also divided the congregation. African-Americans formed the Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, while white members established Tabernacle Baptist Church. The 1901 fire in downtown Jacksonville destroyed much of First Baptist Church (changed from Tabernacle Baptist in 1892). Church members quickly raised $16,000 to rebuild and completed construction on a new building in 1904. The church still occupied the rebuilt structure when survey workers arrived in the late 1930s. Property owned by the church at the time of the CAI survey included a pipe organ valued at $35,000.

Excerpt from page 2 of the survey for First Baptist Church

Excerpt from page 2 of the survey for First Baptist Church

The African-American Bethel Baptist Institutional Church of Jacksonville held equally impressive property. The field worker who completed the survey of Bethel Baptist Institutional noted that the church building was “[e]laborately constructed…of Renaissance and Mission type,” containing “70 art glass windows.” “The Deacons,” the survey explained, “receive their communion from individual silver glasses especially reserved for them.” The file for Bethel Baptist Institutional in Jacksonville also contains a church flier of the building and the pastor at the time, Reverend J. E. Ford. Despite being torn apart by segregation and the racial tensions that characterized the Jim Crow South, both First Baptist and Bethel Baptist Institutional attained landmark status as historic churches in the Jacksonville community.

Excerpt from page 2 of the survey for Bethel Baptist Institutional Church

Excerpt from page 2 of the survey for Bethel Baptist Institutional Church

The surveys for the First Baptist and Bethel Baptist Institutional churches in Jacksonville are just two of thousands of similar documents included in the WPA’s Church Archives Inventory (CAI) files for Florida. Emerging from these seemingly mundane surveys, intended by the WPA to be collected in an assembly line fashion, are rich glimpses into the history of Florida communities and their places of worship. By digitizing the Florida CAI, the State Library and Archives of Florida hopes to facilitate public access to these valuable historical resources and further the study of Florida history.