Report on the Dismantling of Florida Lighthouses Upon the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1861

From: Florida Governor, State Governors' Incoming Correspondence, 1857-1888, Series S 577

Report on the Dismantling of Florida Lighthouses Upon the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1861

About This Document

When the Civil War began, Union officials viewed the numerous lighthouses along Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts as particularly vulnerable to Confederate attack. They reported that the loss of the lights "for a single night would be disastrous." These fears proved justified when in August 1861 a small group of southern sympathizers from Indian River rendered inoperable the lighthouses at Jupiter Inlet and Cape Florida. They removed the lenses from the Jupiter light and destroyed those of the latter lighthouse. Federal officials branded the men "a gang of pirates" and recommended "that early measures be adopted for the security of the lights on the reef."

Reproduced here is a report from the Confederate sympathizers who dismantled the lights to Florida Governor Madison Starke Perry. The governor or a member of his staff endorsed the document with the statement: "a Report of an Interesting personal service."

Transcript

To:
His Excellency M.S.
Perry Governor of Florida
Sir-

We the undersigned residents of Indian River, believing it a Solmen duty of every Citizen, to try and serve his State and Country in whatever capacity he may be most able, would in accordance to such feelings, report to your Excellency, that we have taken the responsibility of putting out the Lights at both Jupiter Inlet and Cape Florida, believing them to be of no use or benefit to our Government, but on the contrary of great importance to our enemies.

We had felt the importance of such a measure for some time, thinking some authorized Agent of our Government would be sent to perform it, but finding no effort was made by either the Government of the Keeper of the Light, we resolved to assume the responsibility ourselves, and report the result to your Excellency, hoping that it may meet your approval-- At Jupiter we destroyed no property whatever, the Light being a revolving one and of very costly make, we took away only enough of the machinery to make it unserviceable-- There is a quantity of property belonging to the Light consisting of Tools, machinery, Paints, oil &c which we have secured under lock and key-

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