Civil War Letters Home: Roderick Gospero Shaw

Of all the Civil War documents here at the State Archives, letters from soldiers to their loved ones are some of the most engaging. Many of the young men who signed up for military service at the beginning of the war were eager, confident, and impatient to get into the fray and make a name for themselves.

Roderick Gospero Shaw of Attapulgus, Georgia enlisted at Quincy in April 1861  in the “Young Guards,” a unit of the “old” First Florida Infantry. He served one year in this unit, and later re-enlisted in August 1862 in the 4th Florida Infantry at Chattanooga. The State Archives of Florida holds typewritten transcripts of nearly a dozen of Shaw’s letters to his sister, Mrs. Jesse Shaw Smith, who lived in Quincy for much of the war (Collection M87-6).

Lt. Roderick Gospero Shaw (circa 1861).

Roderick Gospero Shaw (circa 1861).

Shaw’s early letters betray his impatience as a young soldier ready for action. In May 1861, he wrote to his sister Jesse that members of his company were dismayed to be limited mostly to loading wagons with supplies and digging post holes for camp improvements. He was resolved not to share his displeasure with anyone else, however.

“I came for the purpose of making a soldier of myself as long as I was here,” Shaw explains, “and [to] lay off the ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Dandy.’ It is rather hard to do, but I think I act it as well as any of the boys.” Shaw held out hope that his unit would see action soon. “I would not be surprised,” he tells Jesse, “to hear the roaring of cannons any morning instead of the drum for reveille.”

Confederate camp behind Fort Barrancas near Pensacola (April 1861).

Confederate camp behind Fort Barrancas near Pensacola (April 1861).

As the war dragged on, Shaw began sharing sentiments so many soldiers on both sides felt – weariness with camp life and the desire to see loved ones back home. In a May 1863 letter to Jesse, Shaw describes the bland contents of the average soldier’s diet while campaigning.

“Meal after meal we sit to cornbread (once in a while a little flour), bacon and water,” he laments. “We consider ourselves fortunate if perchance we obtain a quart of buttermilk occasionally for 50 cents. I had the pleasure yesterday of partaking of a ham of mutton at dinner. Butter cannot be procured anywhere.”

Shaw’s letters often speak of his wanting to come home on furlough, but he resolves to do his duty as a loyal soldier and stay with the Army.

“I wish I could be at home with you,” he tells Jesse in December 1862, “but it is impossible. My country needs my services and, til peace is declared, I expect to remain with the Army.”

“On Picket,” an etching by “H.B. McLellan of Company A” (1860s).

Shaw was not only eager to remain with the Army, but also to move up in the ranks. In several letters, he explains to Jesse that he has been studying military tactics and taking on leadership roles in his company so as to support his application for an officer’s position. He asks often for cloth or ready-made clothing so as to improve his appearance and distinguish himself. After achieving the rank of sergeant major, Shaw muses to Jesse in one letter about having a horse and assistant to accompany him.

“Should I ever get home, I will expect to live more at ease on my return to camp. The first thing I will want is a boy to cook for me and attend to other little necessaries. As it is it costs more to live in camp than at home, and much more troublesome. [...] I wrote to Uncle Tom about buying a horse, but there is a question as to whether the promoted major is entitled to it or not…” (R.G. Shaw to Jesse Shaw Smith, Nov. 5, 1861).

Shaw received the promotion he had so earnestly hoped for in October 1863. He was transferred to Company E, 4th Florida Infantry, and made a 2nd Lieutenant.

“I do not feel very proud of it yet as I think I have no right to it for skill and valor,” he tells Jesse in January 1864, “but by Summer I will either deserve it or the brand of coward.”

Shaw’s words proved to be prophetic. General William Tecumseh Sherman took command of the Union’s western forces in March 1864, and began preparing to march southward toward Atlanta.

“This Spring will be the most important period of the war,” Shaw writes in one letter sent just before Sherman took command. “It will prove the point of culmination. The mighty hosts of the invader will be driven back or Rebellion will tremble.”

Shaw would lose his life in the Confederate attempt to halt Sherman’s advance. On May 27, 1864, he began a letter to his Uncle Thomas Smith in Attapulgus, Georgia, which he never finished. His last written words were: “I leave now for a skirmish myself for 24 hours. Goodbye until tomorrow evening.”

Tomorrow evening did not come for Lt. Roderick Gospero Shaw. A letter to his uncle from one of his comrades reported that he had been killed in a skirmish near Dallas, Georgia. With the weather warm and no means available to transport the body quickly to any cemetery, he was laid to rest not far from the road between Dallas and Marietta. Shaw had just turned 21.

Confederate graves in the Old City Cemetery at Tallahassee (photo 1967).

Confederate graves in the Old City Cemetery at Tallahassee (photo 1967).

Stories such as Lieutenant Shaw’s abound in the many letters, diaries, reports, and other materials available at the State Archives of Florida. For more information, check out our Guide to Civil War Records, and visit us to see what materials may be available to help you research the Civil War soldiers in your family tree.

Also, don’t forget about our featured program for October, Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a letter or diary entry written exactly 150 years ago in October 1864.

 

Edmund Cottle Weeks

The nation’s existential crisis of civil war brought to the forefront many individuals who were mature, tested, and ready to act as leaders for both sides. After four years of trial by combat, many U.S. officers chose to remain and to make a life in the South. They brought to the former Confederacy a leavening of Union sentiment, Republican politics, and a strong desire to enforce the Reconstruction and Civil Rights Acts which followed their victory.

Edmund Cottle Weeks, a merchant seaman and officer, U.S. Navy and Army officer, and Republican politician, was among those tasked with wrestling Florida back into the Union. His life in Florida would be clouded by a charge of murder, but also by an ascent to the pinnacle of state politics during the era known as Reconstruction.

E.C. Weeks

Born in Massachusetts in 1829 and educated at private schools in Connecticut, Weeks was a world traveler prior to his enrollment at Yale College, where he spent less than a year. He then studied at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. After three years he failed to finish the course there as well.

Three years experience before the mast earned Weeks the billet of ship’s Master in the trading firm Wallace, Sherwood, and Company. In this endeavor Weeks now followed his father’s trade.

When the Civil War began Weeks enlisted and was assigned as an acting officer in the U.S. Navy. His conduct under fire earned positive mention in reports. In 1863, repairs idled his ship and brought orders to lead amphibious raiding parties in Louisiana. His transfer to the Army soon followed.

In the summer of 1864, Army officials at Key West raised a regiment of U.S. volunteer cavalry for service in Florida. Week was placed in command of the unit, however, a delay in his commissioning allowed for a period of dissent to arise in the regiment. The resulting problems culminated in a court martial for Weeks, who was charged with murdering a soldier under his command while encamped at Cedar Key. Even though the court martial brought to light charges of drunkenness against Weeks, he was eventually exonerated. The murder charge followed him for the rest of his days in Florida.

His cavalry unit, the 2nd Florida Cavalry, was brigaded with the Second Infantry Regt USCT during the events surrounding the Battle of Natural Bridge, which occurred south of Tallahassee in March 1865. This combined force attempted to take the bridge at Newport but was repulsed, which necessitated the movement to the “natural” bridge further upstream on the St. Mark’s River. The battle ended in a Confederate victory that ultimately prevented Union troops from capturing Tallahassee during the war.

After the war, Weeks returned to the vicinity of Tallahassee where his attempt to run a cotton plantation ended badly. The debt he acquired from this investment soon soured his reputation, with many locals claiming he was in default on his loans.

E.C. Weeks

Weeks operated as a Republican politician and garnered the attention of powerful Republican officials in the Reconstruction government. The struggles among and between Republicans and Democrats resulted in frequent changes in government as state officials jockeyed for position. In one battle, Governor Harrison Reed lost his Lieutenant Governor and appointed Weeks to that vacant post.

This appointment created a fire storm in the Florida Senate, and Weeks left the position but continued to be politically active. Later, he served as a Leon County commissioner and sheriff, and as a Representative in the Florida House. During this period, he unsuccessfully campaigned for Governor and U.S. Senate.

After U.S. forces supporting Reconstruction withdrew from Florida, the Republican government, and its officials, fell to the Democratic Party. The Army had provided former slaves and federal officers with protection while they exercised or enforced their newly won civil rights. These people were now exposed to the backlash created by the loss of the war and the armed occupation that followed.

In 1890, the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Florida resigned in frustration, citing an inability to enforce the laws of the United States in Florida. Weeks accepted appointment to the position from President Benjamin Harrison. In that same year the widowed Weeks married a Tallahassee widow, Elisabeth Hunt Craft, and made his residence in the house now known as The Murphy House on Park Avenue in Tallahassee. This home became a refuge for freedmen and whites seeking sanctuary from gangs and mobs seeking to drive them back into subservience.

Murphy House, Tallahassee, 2006

Murphy House, Tallahassee, 2006

In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt appointed Weeks Surveyor General of Florida. Two years later ill health forced him to resign. He died in Tallahassee on April 12, 1907.

For an archivist, it was an engrossing opportunity to become familiar with such a character from our nation’s Passion play. We are all familiar with Lincoln, Davis, Lee, and Grant as the towering figures of those years. To be responsible for the archival preservation of one man’s history, slight as it may be in terms of the written record, as he enacted his part in that epoch has been rewarding.

Weeks resurfaced at the State Archives of Florida when his descendant brought to us several of Major Weeks’ commissions as a Florida or United States official. These recently donated materials have joined State Archives Manuscript Collection M74-22, which contain boxes and volumes of official and family correspondence, and operations records, that provide some small insight into the life of a sea rover, naval/army officer, “radical” politician, law enforcement officer, and family man.

Battle of Olustee (February 20, 1864)

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African-American history in Florida.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, also known as the Battle of Ocean Pond.

In February 1864, the Union launched what would be the war’s largest military campaign in Florida. Designed to interrupt the supply of cattle and goods from the state that were destined for Confederate armies outside of Florida, add more escaped and freed slaves to the ranks of the U.S. Army, and possibly bring Florida back into the Union as a reconstructed free state, the northeast Florida campaign of 1864 consisted of some 7,000 Union troops, including three black regiments: the 1st North Carolina Colored Infantry, the 8th U.S. Colored Infantry (USCT), and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

The 54th had already distinguished itself on the ramparts of South Carolina’s Fort Wagner during the unit’s now famous assault on that Confederate bastion in July 1863. Unlike the 54th, however, the two other regiments had never been in combat, and the 8th USCT had not even completed its training when it arrived in Florida along with the rest of the Union troops on February 7, 1864.

Soldiers of the 54th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers

Soldiers of the 54th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers

Leaving about 1,500 men to secure Jacksonville and conduct other missions, the main Union force of 5,500 troops under the command of Brigadier General Truman Seymour began marching on February 20 west towards Lake City and the Suwannee River beyond. East of Lake City the Federals ran into advanced elements of a Confederate force of 5,000 men that established defensive positions outside of Lake City at Olustee, a station along the Florida, Atlantic & Gulf Railroad. The battle, which lasted through the afternoon of February 20, was a particularly bloody encounter that ended in a Confederate victory and a humiliating Union retreat back to Jacksonville.

The more experienced 54th Massachusetts as well as the 1st North Carolina played an important role in the battle by holding back the Confederate advance as the rest of Seymour’s regiments withdrew. One of those regiments, the 8th USCT, experienced some of the day’s heaviest fighting. Its untested ranks were ordered forward and ran into a storm of Confederate fire.

At the end of the battle, the 8th USCT lost more men than any other Union unit: 49 killed, 188 wounded, and 73 missing. Of these missing, several became prisoners and were eventually transferred to the infamous Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Others may have faced an even worse fate. Several postwar accounts, mostly from Confederate sources, recalled that individual Confederate soldiers killed some of the wounded and captured black soldiers.

Kurz and Allison lithographic print of the Battle at Olustee

Kurz and Allison lithographic print of the Battle at Olustee

After Olustee, black troops continued to play an important role in Union operations in Florida. In September 1864, they made up part of the force that attacked Marianna, Florida, and on March 6, 1865, black soldiers formed the mass of the Union troops that engaged the Confederates south of Tallahassee at Natural Bridge. The Union lost the battle and was denied the opportunity to capture Tallahassee during the war. A little over two months later, however, black troops marched into Florida’s capital as part of the Union occupying force that received the formal surrender of Confederate Florida on May 20, 1865.

Today, while the operations of black troops are better known in theaters of the war such as South Carolina (the assault on Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863) and Virginia (the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864), the actions of black troops in Florida, although less famous, were just as crucial to establishing the importance of black units in the Union war effort. Although the direct path to Union victory and black freedom pointed to Atlanta and Richmond, the route included many detours, like Florida, which ultimately led to emancipation.

Secession (January 10, 1861)

On January 10, 1861, Florida seceded from the Union.

In the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency on November 6, 1860, Governor Madison Starke Perry called for Florida to prepare for secession and to join with other southern states in organizing an independent confederacy.

The state legislature voted to hold a statewide election on December 22 for the selection of delegates to a convention that would meet in Tallahassee beginning on January 3, 1861, to decide whether Florida should secede. Of the sixty-nine delegates eligible to vote on January 10, 1861 for the adoption of an ordinance of secession, sixty-two voted yea and seven nay.

Florida Ordinance of Secession, signed January 10, 1861

Florida Ordinance of Secession, signed January 10, 1861

The State Archives of Florida holds the only known copy of the Florida Ordinance of Secession.

Florida and the Civil War (December 1863)

A Stickney Situation

The war in Florida changed little in 1863. Despite a third, brief Union occupation of Jacksonville in March most military activity in the state consisted of Federal raids on the coastal salt making industry and the continuing Union blockade of Florida ports, many of which had been occupied by Federal troops since 1862.

Illustration of Federal troops marching down Second Street, Fernandina, 1862

Illustration of Federal troops marching down Second Street, Fernandina, 1862

By December 1863, while the military situation remained calm, politics in Union occupied areas of Florida were anything but peaceful. As 1864 approached, so too did the Union presidential election. Although Florida was far from being a Union military priority, for the first couple months of 1864 it would briefly be the focus of high power politics.

President Abraham Lincoln and his most prominent potential presidential rival within the Republican Party, Salmon P. Chase, considered the possibility of bringing a portion of the state back into the Union in time for its Republican delegates to support their respective candidacies. During this political drama, the most important player on the ground in Florida was Lyman D. Stickney, a Florida Unionist whose politics began and ended with self-interest.

Stickney’s prospects in Florida began in 1860, when he arrived in the state promoting a colonization scheme to bring agricultural development to largely untamed south Florida. After Florida’s secession and the failure of his colonial venture, Stickney, a Vermont native, made his way to the Federal enclave of Key West, where he quickly proclaimed his loyalty to the Union. Leaving Key West with “an unpaid hotel bill of $144.00” in June 1861, Stickney moved to Washington, D.C., and insinuated himself into government circles as an “expert” on all things Florida.

A talented lobbyist, whose cause was his own fortune, Stickney acquired a potentially powerful and lucrative position in July 1862, when President Lincoln, on the recommendation of Secretary of the Treasury Salon P. Chase, appointed him one of three direct tax commissioners for Florida.

The federal Direct Tax Law was a weapon of economic warfare. Passed in June 1862, the law called for the confiscation of any real property in Rebel held territory whose owners failed to pay the tax. The Direct Tax Law created three tax commissioners for each Rebel state where Union forces occupied a portion of the state. The commissioners would access the value of the real property within Federal control and impose a tax. Given that pro-Confederate citizens within these areas had usually fled or were unwilling to pay the tax, the tax commissioners ended up seizing their property and either selling or leasing it to Unionist Floridians or recently arrived Northern immigrants.

After his appointment, Commissioner Stickney wrote a number of letters to President Lincoln supporting the appointment of various men to federal positions in Union held areas of Florida and proclaiming his loyalty and “deep interest in the future destiny of Florida, of which I am a citizen…” Stickney was an enthusiastic supporter of the Union expedition to Jacksonville in March 1863 (see “Detour to Liberty: Black Troops in Florida during the Civil War” and “Florida and the Civil War: March 1863”).

Shipping rosin, cotton, and turpentine from Fernandina to New York, 1862

Shipping rosin, cotton, and turpentine from Fernandina to New York, 1862

By the time the expedition set sail, he had established himself as a silent partner in a general store in Fernandina and shipped goods to the store at government expense under the cover of the Direct Tax Commission. He hoped the expedition would lead to the permanent Union occupation of Jacksonville and northeast Florida. In such an eventuality, he saw endless opportunities for profit, including trade in cotton and turpentine. Even though the expedition proved short-lived, Stickney did not relent.

On December 2, 1863, as he was about to board a ship for another trip to Fernandina, Stickney urged Lincoln “to authorize the loyal people of Florida to organize a state government in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” He guaranteed that “the work of restoration will be speedy and permanent” if the president would allow “every person of lawful age, and not disqualified by crime, whose fidelity to your administration and your proclamation of freedom is unquestioned be a voter…”

If feasible, the early restoration of Florida to the Union, even if it was only a small portion of the state, could serve the Union cause as a magnet for discontented and Unionist Southerners living in Florida and Georgia as well as for escaped slaves, many of whom were now filling the ranks of the Union’s increasingly numerous black regiments.

Front page of The Peninsula, March 3, 1864, list indicates property sold for failing to pay the Federal direct tax

Front page of The Peninsula, March 3, 1864, list indicates property sold for failing to pay the Federal direct tax

At the same time, a restored Florida could make a difference in the 1864 presidential election by throwing its Republican Party delegates to either Lincoln or Stickney’s benefactor, Secretary of the Treasury Chase, whose presidential ambition was one of the worst kept secrets in Washington. Finally, and most importantly for Stickney, a Florida returned to the Union held endless possibilities for his own advancement, either financially or politically, as he would doubtless be one of the key leaders in a new, loyal Florida.

The pursuit of a reconstructed Florida was one of the motivating factors in the Union decision to mount yet another expedition to Jacksonville in February 1864. This expedition resulted in the Federal defeat at Olustee on February 20th. The Battle of Olustee, or Ocean Pond as it was known in the North, ended Stickney’s dream of a Florida restored to the Union. Florida would not play a role in the presidential election of 1864, which saw Lincoln’s easy capture of the Republican nomination over Chase.

Stickney’s summer of 1864 was considerably less fortunate than Lincoln’s. In July, a treasury department report criticized Stickney for being almost constantly absent from his duties in Florida and implicated him in financial and political corruption schemes. Indicted in 1865, Stickney, slippery as ever, managed to escape punishment and restart his professional life in the postwar economy.

The quote about Stickney’s Key West hotel bill comes from David J. Coles, “Far from Fields of Glory: Military Operations in Florida, 1864-1865,” (Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State University, 1996). The Stickney quotes are found in two of his letters to Lincoln dated October 27, 1863 and December 2, 1863; the original letters are located in the Robert Todd Lincoln Collection, Library of Congress.

For Sitckney’s role during Union military operations in Florida see Stephen V. Ash, Firebrand of Liberty: the Story of Two Black Regiments that Changed the Course of the Civil War (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008). A copy of the Florida Direct Tax Commission records are located in Record Group 101, Series 161, United States Direct Tax Refund Records, 1891-1901, State Archives of Florida.

Florida and the Civil War (November 1863)

Mission Impossible

The Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863, was one of the most spectacular and daunting Union victories of the Civil War.

Running north to south for approximately six miles, Missionary Ridge dominates the skyline to the east of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The ridge was the key to the defense of Chattanooga, a city that served as one of the principal railroad hubs of the war. Since September 1863, the Confederate Army of Tennessee, under the command of General Braxton Bragg, held the ridge as part of its line of operations to the south and east of Chattanooga, a line that included Lookout Mountain, the area’s most prominent point. Bragg hoped his positions would allow him to starve out the Union Army of the Cumberland, which had retreated to Chattanooga following its defeat at Chickamauga on September 20. The Union counteroffensive to relieve the siege of Chattanooga culminated in a battle for control of Missionary Ridge, a battle in which Florida regiments played an important role.

Following a reorganization of the Union command in Tennessee, General Ulysses S. Grant took over Federal operations at Chattanooga. Grant replaced the Army of the Cumberland’s Major General William S. Rosecrans, the losing commander at Chickamauga, with Major General George H. Thomas, whose determined leadership in that earlier battle earned him the nickname “The Rock of Chickamauga.” Under Grant’s command, the Union forces at Missionary Ridge consisted of Thomas’s army, two detached corps from the Army of the Potomac under Major General Joseph Hooker, and the Army of the Tennessee under Grant’s favorite general, William Tecumseh Sherman. The combined Union forces totaled more than 56,000 men.

Bragg’s Army of Tennessee totaled some 44,000 men at Missionary Ridge. Organized on the ridge from left to right, the Confederate forces consisted of two corps under the command of Major General John C. Breckenridge and Lieutenant General William G. Hardee. Each corps consisted of four divisions; however, one of Hardee’s divisions had been dispatched to Knoxville, Tennessee, and was not present on the day of the battle. Two of Breckenridge’s divisions made up the left and a portion of the center of the Confederate line on Missionary Ridge, while his two other divisions fought the battle on the extreme right of the Confederate line under Hardee’s corps. Floridian James Patton Anderson commanded one of Hardee’s divisions at the center of the ridge.

Congressman Jesse Johnson Finley, ca. 1880

Congressman Jesse Johnson Finley, ca. 1880

On the left of Anderson, Brigadier General William P. Bate commanded one of Breckenridge’s divisions. Bate’s division included the regiments of the Florida Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Jesse Johnson Finley, former commander of the 6th Florida Infantry Regiment. Finley’s brave leadership of the 6th at Chickamauga earned him Florida Governor John Milton’s highest recommendation for command of the Florida Brigade and promotion to general: “I know of no gentleman whose patriotism, integrity, courage and intelligence, commend him more favorably to my consideration . . . .” The Florida Brigade at Missionary Ridge consisted of the 6th, 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 4th infantry regiments, as well as the 1st Florida Cavalry, Dismounted. Half of the Florida regiments formed a line of rifle pits at the bottom of the ridge, and the other half held positions at the ridge’s crest. Finley’s men just happened to be positioned at the center of the Confederate line, which bore the brunt of the Union assault.

After securing control of Lookout Mountain on November 24, Grant’s corps began their attacks on Missionary Ridge the next morning. The Union attack that broke the Confederate line was not supposed to happen. Grant ordered Hooker and Sherman to attack the southern and northern flanks of the ridge, respectively. When their attacks failed, General Thomas, whose Army of the Cumberland was only supposed to make a faint attack on the Confederate center, launched an all-out assault on his own initiative. His troops quickly overran the Confederate entrenchments at the bottom of the ridge and then charged six hundred feet to the crest to secure the center of the ridge and victory for the Union.

Thomas’s attack ripped into Finley’s Floridians. Due to the Union attacks on the flanks of the ridge, General Bragg ordered some Confederate units from the center to reinforce the flanks, forcing Finley to thin out his lines to cover more ground. As Thomas’s men advanced towards the foot of the ridge, one Florida soldier recollected, “[O]h, what a purity [sic] sight it was to see them charge in 3 solide [sic] columns across the old field as blue as indigo mud and their arms glittered like new.” The three Florida regiments dug in along the bottom of the ridge held their fire until the Federals were almost on top of them. The Floridians fired their volleys but had to retreat in the face of overwhelming numbers.

Engraved portrait of Colonel William T. Stockton, ca. 1863

Engraved portrait of Colonel William T. Stockton, ca. 1863

Some of the wounded and most exhausted men could not leave their positions and were taken prisoner, including Lieutenant Colonel William T. Stockton of the 1st Florida Cavalry, Dismounted, who while in Union captivity wrote his wife an account of the fighting and his capture: “Our three little regiments behaved well, but we were left alone- Two of my men, were killed at my side, while successively attempting to assist me.” As they withdrew up the ridge, the Floridians climbed under a rain of Federal bullets into the Confederate line on the crest.

Letter from W.T. Stockton to his wife, December 11, 1863

Letter from W.T. Stockton to his wife, December 11, 1863

Instead of positioning his men on the ridge along the “military crest,” a position just below the top of the crest, Bragg had mistakenly placed his units on the summit of the ridge, from which it was difficult to see and fire upon the enemy. When the retreating Florida regiments joined their compatriot regiments at the crest, they realized they could not provide effective fire against the oncoming Federals. The six Florida regiments did their best to defend the summit, but had to retreat down the opposite side of the ridge as the Federals overwhelmed their positions. Robert Watson, a soldier in the 7th Florida, related how the Floridians “retreated down the hill under a shower of lead leaving many a noble son of the South dead and wounded on the ground and many more shared the same fate on the retreat.”

Confederate Pension Application for Robert Watson, 1904

Confederate Pension Application for Robert Watson, 1904

At battle’s end on the evening of November 25, Bate’s division began a withdrawal from Tennessee along with the rest of Bragg’s army to Dalton, Georgia, where Bate reported the Battle of Missionary Ridge had cost his unit 857 casualties. Only 33 of the 200 Floridians who had begun the battle at the bottom of the ridge survived to fight another day. The best estimate of the Florida Brigade’s overall casualties places the unit’s losses at 471 men, over half of Bate’s division’s total casualties.

The Floridians had put up a brave fight, but they and the Army of Tennessee could not prevent one of the most impressive Union victories of the war. The Battle of Missionary Ridge left the Union in control of Chattanooga and made possible Sherman’s offensive into Georgia in the spring of 1864. During that campaign, the Florida Brigade of the West would continue its service as the Army of Tennessee fought the Federals all along their advance towards Atlanta.

With the exception of the Milton and Stockton quotes, all quotes come from Jonathan C. Sheppard, By the Noble Daring of Her Sons: The Florida Brigade in the Army of Tennessee (University Press of Alabama, 2012). Sheppard’s book is available at the State Library and Archives of Florida, as are the papers of Governor John Milton and William T. Stockton.

Florida and the Civil War (October 1863)

Solons in Gray: Floridians in the Confederate Congress

As late as the 1960s, the Tallahassee Democrat and other Florida newspapers regularly used the term “Solons” to refer to members of the Florida legislature. There were undoubtedly many times when political reporters probably used the term lightheartedly, however. “Solon,” named for Solon, the ancient Athenian statesman, means a wise and skillful law giver or simply a member of a legislative body.

Augustus E. Maxwell

Augustus E. Maxwell

The term was certainly in use during the 1860s, when the original seven seceding Southern states created the Confederate States of America in February 1861. Largely a replica of the United States government, the Confederate Constitution called for a government of three branches. The Confederate Congress, which until February 1862 was known as the Provisional Congress, was divided into a House and Senate and eventually represented all eleven seceded states plus, even though these areas were hardly under Confederate control, Kentucky, Missouri, and the western Territories.

Major General James Patton Anderson

Major General James Patton Anderson

Florida was one of the founding states of the Confederacy, sending five men to serve in the Provisional Congress and six in the First (1862-1864) and Second (1864-1865) regular congresses. The Provisional Congress was unicameral, but the Confederate Constitution called for the creation of a bicameral legislature, which began with the First Congress in February 1862. Each state had two senators and a number of representatives apportioned according to population. As the least populous state in the Confederacy, Florida only had two representatives.

Colonel John M. Martin

Colonel John M. Martin

The following list provides the names, congresses, and selected information for Florida’s Confederate congressmen:

Senators

James M. Baker (First and Second Congress)

Augustus E. Maxwell (First and Second Congress; a former Florida Attorney General and U.S. Congressman, he served on the Florida Supreme Court after the Civil War)

Representatives

James P. Anderson (Provisional Congress, resigned in April 1861 to command Florida troops and eventually became a Major General in the Confederate Army)

George T. Ward (Provisional Congress, elected to fill Anderson’s seat; Ward resigned in February 1862 and took command of the 2nd Florida Regiment; he was killed in the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862)

John P. Sanderson (Provisional Congress, appointed to fill Ward’s seat)

Jackson Morton (Provisional Congress)

James B. Owens (Provisional Congress)

James B. Dawkins (First Congress, resigned December 8, 1862)

James M. Martin (First Congress, elected to fill Dawkins’ seat; he also served as a colonel in the 9th Florida Regiment)

Robert B. Hilton (First and Second Congress)

Samuel St. George Rogers (Second Congress; before entering the Second Congress he was a colonel and in charge of conscription in Florida)

The best source for information on the Confederate Congress and the Floridians who served in it is Ezra J. Warner and W. Buck Yearns, Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress (Louisiana State University Press, 1975). The register and a copy of the journal of the Confederate Congress are available in the holdings of the State Library and Archives of Florida.

Old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Home

One of the newest collections on Florida Memory is the Old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Home. This collection consists of applications for admission to the Home as well as a small amount of documentation attesting to the veracity of the applicant’s claim.

Confederate veterans reunion, Crawfordville, 1904

Confederate veterans reunion, Crawfordville, 1904

The Home opened in Jacksonville in April 1893 and operated until 1938. In its final years of operation, organizations such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy played a significant role in caring for the veterans.

These documents provide a wealth of information about Confederate veterans and the health problems they incurred as a result of their service. These records complement the Confederate Pension Applications, which provide more comprehensive information about Confederate veterans and widows living in Florida after the Civil War.

Florida and the Civil War (September 1863)

Lost Victory: The Battle of Chickamauga and the Floridians Who Fought There

The Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863) was the last major Confederate victory of the Civil War. It was also one of the bloodiest: the Confederates suffered 18,000 casualties and the Federals 16,000. The battle was the second largest battle of the war, only Gettysburg was larger.

Chickamauga was also important for Florida. All six of Florida’s regiments in the war’s western theater (the territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River) were engaged in the battle. As a result of their fighting at Chickamauga, General Braxton Bragg, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, created the “Florida Brigade of the West” by combining the Florida regiments into one formation.

Corporal Seaborn Tiller of the 6th Florida Infantry Regiment, 1862

Corporal Seaborn Tiller of the 6th Florida Infantry Regiment, 1862

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McLeod Diary

One of the newest collections on Florida Memory is William McLeod’s Civil War diary. The diary describes McLeod’s experiences as a Confederate soldier from June 1864 through January 1865.

Pages 71-72 from William McLeod's Civil War diary

McLeod’s account begins during the Atlanta Campaign and describes day-to-day siege warfare and the various engagements in which he was involved, including the Battles of Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, and Jonesboro. The diary also mentions the Battle of Dalton, Georgia in October 1864 and the subsequent advance northward into Alabama and Tennessee. McLeod provides details on the actions of the Seventh Florida Regiment at Franklin, Murfreesboro (Second Battle), and Nashville.

The diary concludes in the aftermath of the Confederate defeat at Nashville and documents the retreat into Mississippi in late 1864 and early 1865.