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"Yankee Soldiers Rewrite the Jacksonville Southern Rights in 1862"
The Civil War had been under way for almost a year when the first Federal
occupation of the Jacksonville area occurred in March, 1862. The town, occupied to
establish Federal domination and perhaps to give aid to Union snypathizers, was
evacuated in less than a month* No adequate explanation for the departure of the
Union troops was ever given, but a Federal blockade of the St. Johns River was
maintained by gunboats of the South Atlantic Squadron from a station at Mayport.
The Federal gunboats patrolled the river to Jacksonville and beyond at will.
To prevent the Federal patrols from reconnoitering up the St. Johns River General
Joseph Finegan, commander of the Confederate forces in East Florida, fortified St.
Johns Bluff some four miles above Mayport. Through the month of September the
Federal gunboats bombarded the Confederate position on the bluff but without success*
This successful effrontery of the Confederates in blocking the passage of the river
caused the Union command in the Southeast to patchh a task force in late Se~bbmber
from the headquarters at Port Royal, South Carolina, to the Ste Johns River with
orders to wipe out the opposition of the Confederates in Duval County.
When the Confederates at the bluff learned of the forthcoming attack the position
was abandoned on October second. The Federal forces landed at the bluff on the
following day and razed the installation. On October 5, 1862, the Union soldiers
reached the town of Jacksonville and occupied the community a second time*
Concerning the second Federal occupation by United States troops, Captain Valentine
Chamberlain, of Company A, 7th Connecticut Volunteers, wrote a long letter to
friends in the North describing the whole operation and giving his impressions of
the events that transpired in Jacksonville* With the cessation of military activity
on the fifth the invading troops were engaged in more peaceful (?) activity the
next day. In his letter Captain Chamberlain wrote that:
"Monday morning was a gala time with the boys before the General (Brigadier
General J. M. Brannan] found out what was going on, almost every store and shop on
the street was broken into* Most of them had been closed for a long time, buat there
were goods in a few. A drug store was the best place. The boys pulled everything
open and such a medley as they brought away. You can imagine, perhaps, a drug store,
with most of the articles packed, opened and overhauled by soldiers and then imagine
them on their way back to their bivouac with their plunder. I leave, at any rate to
your imagination. The general soon put a stop to most of this indiscriminate
plundering. In the P. M. he gave me instructions to fire the printing office of
the Secesh paper and to gut it I did both and more too. I found some of the
type up Ethe name of the paper was Southern Rights and this was Volume 1, number
11, dated Jacksonville, Florida, October i4, 1862. The stock on hand for use was
brown paper] and so I added some to the matter, having printers in my company, and
printed a few copies. It proved quite a sell. The General thought it was genuinely
the last paper printed by the retiring editor. After we got home the printers of
the New South [a Union paper printed at Port Royal, South Carolina] got hold of
a copy and they supposed it was real secesh, so they went to work and set it up
anew and are making, I suppose, quite a (speck) as they sell the paper for five
cents. After printing, as I have said, I had my company take down the press and carry
it to the boat. We staid here until Tuesday afternoon [October 7, 18623 when our
regiment was ordered to go aboard the Boston to start fob Port Royal."2
When Chamberlain and his soldiers found the type of the October fourth issue
of the Southern Rights ready for the press, they made a number of amusing changes
in the type. As can be noted in the accompanying plate these changes were made in
the first and last paragraphs in the "Announcements" in the first column and in the
first three items under "Notices" in the same column.
1. T. Frederick Davis, "Engagements at St. Johns Bluff, St. Johns River, Florida,
September-October, 1862," Florida Historical Quarterly, XV(October, 1936), 77-84.
2. "A Letter of Captain V. Chamberlain, 7th Connecticut Volunteers," ibid., 92. An
original copy of the October 4th issue of the Southern Rights, as atered by
Chamberlain is in the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, University of
Florida, -i villa A photostatic copy of the reprinted edition by the New
South [printed at Port Royal, South Carolina] is also in the Yonge Library.