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Group Title: Military order of the loyal legion of the United States. Commandery of the District of Columbia. War papers ; 81
Title: A loyal man in Florida, 1858-1861
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00055642/00001
 Material Information
Title: A loyal man in Florida, 1858-1861
Series Title: Military order of the loyal legion of the United States. Commandery of the District of Columbia. War papers. 81
Physical Description: 12 p. : ; 23cm.
Language: English
Creator: Kinsman, Oliver Dorrance, 1835-
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Washington
Publication Date: 1910]
 Subjects
Subject: History -- Personal narratives -- United States -- Civil War, 1861-1865   ( lcsh )
History -- Florida -- Civil War, 1861-1865   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: Prepared by Companion Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver D. Kinsman ... and read at the stated meeting of May 4, 1910.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00055642
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000132795
oclc - 01689598
notis - AAP8828
lccn - 18003423

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front 1
    Title Page
        Front 2
    Front Matter
        Front 3
    Main
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
Full Text




Military Order -
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yal Teglol1
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COMMANDER OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.


WAR PAPER 81.


A o8l Uaq in plorid 1881881.

K 4IkX
SG f.k





i.


Military O@rder of tfle beoal betien

OF THE


United states.



*


CORMANDE Y OF THE DI$TkI~T OF COLUOBIA.





WAR PAPERS.

81


d^ eogal ayTeo n in Floricla, 1858.1861.

PREPARED BY COMPANION

Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel
OLIVER D. KINSMAN.
U. S. Volunteers,


READ AT THE STATED MEETING OF MAY 4, 1910.


S'4




o~oc
K!Ye










"A n1gal itan in torte, 1a5B-18i."

My story to-night is not of battles, but of the days not long
before the firing of the first shot; of the days, indeed, when the
Southern heart was being fired that it might at the proper mo-
ment respond to the touch of the leaders. I was a resident of
Florida from early in 1858 to early in 1861 and saw somethingof
the preliminary movements. From 1853 to 1858 I had been in
the practice of civil engineering and early in the latter year I
reported at Fernandina, Fla., as division engineer to the chief
engineer of the Florida Railroad, a line then partially completed,
running from Fernandina on the Atlantic coast to Cedar Keys
on the Gulf, a distance'of some 155 miles. Stationed at different
points till about the middle of 1859, I was from thence on in
charge of the Gulf Division, some 40 miles long, with station on
the Gulf coast.
I was well acquainted with many along the line--officials,
workmen, citizens-and my intercourse with all was uniformly
pleasant up to a certain time.
The President of the road during all my term of service was the
Hon. David L. Yulee, U. S. Senator, but the chief engineer was
changed thrice, the first two being Northerners. In 186o-6i
that position was held by Capt. Martin Luther Smith, Corps of
Engineers, U. S. A., on leave of absence from the Army for the
purpose of holding this civilian position. Captain Smith was
a native of, and appointed to the Military Academy from, New
York, but in April, i86i,he resigned from the Army and entered
the rebel service, becoming therein a major-general.
The principal contractors were-one, a firm of Southerners; the
other an Irishman strongly inhbued with Southern views. The
laborers were all negroes, hired from their masters by the year,
and were mostly from Virginia and North Carolina. The white








overseers were, with few exceptions, of the South. There were
three other division engineers, one a German of whom I shall
have occasion to speak again.
That part of the road over which trains were running was
manned in part by Northerners. So much for my personal sur-
roundings. The country through which the line passed was lit-
tle settled save by the planters. In fact there was in the whole
155 miles but one settlement on the line--Gainesville, Alachua
County. The Company established a waiting room with plat-
form and siding about every ten miles, to which the country side
might come. Sometimes these points served as a nucleus for
small settlements. The road was expected to be a connecting
link between New York, Havana and New Orleans with steamers
plying from the termini of the road.
There was already a line of steamers running from New Or-
leans to Havana and touching at Cedar Key, and on the Atlantic
side were lines from New York to Charleston and Savannah, and
from the two last named places to Fernandina. The whole line
of the road save in the center of the peninsula was heavily
wooded-oak with its pendant Spanish moss, mahogany, pal-
metto, pine, magnolia, cedar, cypress, etc. The plantations
were devoted almost entirely to cotton.
To one fresh from the North a visit to one of them was a
revelation indeed of a new form of life, the few whites, the
many blacks, the big house with its cluster of quarters for
servants, the quarters for the field-hands, each family to itself
to which was issued weekly its ration of hogmeat, meal, hominy
and molasses; the white overseers with their brief authority,
the mammies with their swarms of little ones, the cotton fields
in their various stages-all made a picture not soon forgotten.
Saving the house servants, of whom according to Northern
ideas there were too many, all, women (with skirt to knee only)
and men, worked in the field. Not too much time was allowed
the mothers for maternity and its cares. The blacks outnum-







bered the whites on these plantations 25 or more to i, yet there
was no disturbance. The blacks were in too much awe of the
whites, they could not assemble for any purpose without white
supervision, they could not go anywhere without a pass-they
were 500 miles from the free States concerning which they had
but vague knowledge-the Gulf and the Atlantic were on three
sides of them and, besides, they seemed to be contented. They
were well worked but also well cared for. They had their little
privileges under white guidance-they even had some little
money of their own gained by labor beyond what the master
claimed. If any punishments were inflicted it was not for the
stranger to see. It was a patriarchal system, the merits and
demerits of which could not be discussed with or even before
an outsider. The railroad negroes had their rights also. Hired
from the master for a year they could not be taken from their
homes till January 2 or after, and they had to be restored to their
homes on or before December 24. All the blacks counted on
the big holiday and much license was allowed them then.
Our railroad negroes were allowed to work on the job for
themselves and to be paid therefore after they had done the
work allotted for the day and some of them used to work at
night by the light of pine knot fires. They were for the most
part a jovial set and used often to sing at their work. Clothing
for the blacks (provided by the owners) and shelter provided
by contractors, were easy matters in that climate even in
winter. During my service I was part of the time in tents,
but the winter did not drive me from them. The climate
on either coast was then delightful. On the Gulf side, which I
preferred, there was always an afternoon westerly breeze and the
temperature, save in the center of the peninsula, was never
excessive. Along that backbone of the peninsula (called
Trail Ridge) where all vegetation seemed to get its life from
pure sand, it was so hot in summer that instrumental work
could only be done before 8 A. M., or after 5 P. M. While I








saw no punishments inflicted on the plantations, I did see
some, though not much, on the railroad work. It was generally
done for neglect to complete allotted work. It was in the
discretion of the chief overseers, sometimes with a long raw-
hide whip, with shirt on or off according to severity desired,
and I have seen a more terrible weapon used-the paddle-
made of hard wood with a foot handle-a foot blade 4 inches
wide pierced with augur holes. Half a dozen strokes of this
on the naked rump, with the man bent over a log, was plenty
and he carried the effects for a long time. There was no
question of the cruelty of this punishment. To prevent per-
manent injury to the slaves it was stipulated in the hiring
contract that the men were to be returned to their owners
as sound as when taken away, barring unavoidable accidents
and sickness. The poor whites or "crackers" as they were called
from the whip which they carried to manage their small herds
of cattle, which whip had a short handle and long lash, whose
snapper they made to sound like the crack of a pistol, were
owners or renters of small patches, where the women and
children raised a little corn, sweet potatoes, etc., while the men
hunted, fished and loafed-all chewed clay. With their razor-
backed hogs which ran wild in the woods, being like the cattle
duly marked, they had enough to eat and to trade at the stores.
They were poor and ignorant, but not bad men when you got
to know them, and they seemed as contented as the slaves.
They fought bravely in the rebel ranks for what?
My life in Florida was pleasant, having congenial work, etc.,
but there was one slight drawback-the mosquito. In the
rainy season especially he was much in evidence in the interior
though on the coast itself there were but few. If in a house
with muslin screens at doors and windows and a canopy of
net to your bed, you could defy them, but in a tent they
had you and often the only way to get sleep was to build in
your closed tent a small fire of fat pine knots, giving out a








dense black smoke, wait till the tent was filled, open bottom
flaps of tent and pull out fire, throw in your blankets on the
ground, pile in yourself, tie up your tent and sleep as best
you might, with a canopy of dense smoke but a few inches
above your face. At Cedar Key, where my duty took me from
time to time, I had a few friends. On this Key was an old
hostelry called Willard's, whose exterior and interior would
not have reminded you of the New Willard, but where you
could get sea turtle served in many ways to a toothsomeness
that the New Willard could not excel. There could also be
had venison, fish and birds, together with oranges and other
fruits direct from Havana and sweet potatoes and palmetto
cabbage from the mainland put up in great shape. The rail-
road hands had a bit of cookery of their own which I liked.
It might be called a shovel cake, instead of the hoe cake of
tradition. The men made a thin batter of cornmeal, salt and
water and cooked the cake on their steel shovels. It was thin,
brown, crisp, fine.
The Florida of that day was not like that of to-day. There
was an indifferent tavern at Jacksonville, where a few.invalids
used to go, and St. Augustine, now that other noted health
resort, had not then awakened from its slumber of say 200
years in the midst of its ancient houses of cokena.
But my pleasant sojourn in Florida was drawing to a close.
In October, I859, when the news came of the John Brown
raid at Harpers Ferry, the Floridians began to look askance at
each Northerner, unless he was one who had by word or deed
or both, unmistakably cast in his lot with the South and its
way of thinking. Then came the exciting year--x86o-with
its conventions at Charleston, Richmond, Baltimore and
Chicago, and when Lincoln was put forth as the choice of the
Republicans the southern leaders at once proclaimed that such
a nomination was a challenge and that in the event of his election
the South would be forced to leave the Union, in order to save
its peculiar institution.








For myself, through all that fall of 1860 and winter of 860-6
I went about my business without talk on political affairs, since
there was no one with whom it was safe to talk, yet black looks
met me at times and remarks were made in my presence with
the evident intent of making me retort. That fall of 1860,
I had a disagreement with a planter, whose lands we ran
through, he claiming that my ditches injured him. After the
election of Lincoln, I was in conversation with him one day,
when he drew from me the statement that if a conflict was
had, I should not fight against the Union. A small enough
admission, but enough handle to use against me. When the
election took place I had been in Florida nearly three years and
over a year in one locality, so I suppose I was entitled to a vote,
which right, however, I did not claim, for while in God's country
a voter could cast his ballot for any one of the four candidates,
in Florida one could vote for Breckinridge or let it "alone.
There was of course much braggart talk-of how soon the United
States would bend the knee to the valiant South and boasts
of the individual deeds of heroism that would be performed.
The latter part of January, 1861, arrived. Between that
time and the preceding November, much had occurred. On
the 2oth of December, South Carolina had declared herself
out of the Union. I was at Fernandina whei a steamer
arrived from Charleston, flying the palmetto flag and conveying
to Florida the news that South Carolina, the mother, had
seceded-would Florida, the daughter, follow? South Carolina
always did claim all things for itself, but in fact Georgia contrib-
uted more to the settlement of Florida than any other State.
The next State to declare itself out was Mississippi, January 9,
followed by Florida on the ioth, Alabama on the i ith, Georgia
on the 19th and Louisiana on the 26th. Perhaps you are
thinking that I should have taken the hint and gone North.
I can only say that, taken up with my work, although I had,
but few hands employed I did not perhaps appreciate the gravity









of the situation and in that respect I was much like others all
over the Union. Besides the paper declarations of secession,
there were many other signs of trouble. The little town of
Fernandina with its 1,5oo people had 200 men under arms.
Men, in bodies and singly, with all sorts of firearms, were to be
seen wherever one went. If there were any Union men they
did not dare to show their colors and the talk was all one way
simply because no one dared to talk otherwise.
At Fernandina I saw case after case of rifles and ammunition
received from New York City, said to be sent by or with the
cognizance of Fernando Wood, Mayor of New York. There was
one unfinished fortification at Fernandina (Fort Clinch)which was
seized-also the old fort at St. Augustine to which the United
States had added other works. It did not take much bravery
to seize most of the Southern forts, garrisoned as they were by
one or two men only (caretakers). The Southerners did not
wait for secession before seizing the property of the United
States. The State entered on the possession of such property
before having declared itself out.- About the last of January,
I had my construction engine back me down (we had as yet
no turn-table at the west end) to Bronson, a new settlement
some 30 miles east of the Gulf. On approaching the station I
saw that there were an unusual number of men there, mostly
armed. As I jumped off the cab I was seized by two or three
armed men, who said "Come, you have got to give an account of
yourself." I asked what they meant but got no reply, and my
captors hurried me to the one store, which was well filled with
men. The most prominent object as I entered the door was
a rope, slung over one of the roof beams and swinging with a
suggestive loop. Near this I was placed, in a chair mounted
on a box, so that all could see me. I knew but one or two of
those present. I was first asked what negroes I had tampered
with and hired to get to run away. I replied that I had never
talked with any one on such a subject. The question was an








absurd one and was not pressed, being asked only to help
inflame the people against me; then they wanted to know.
on which side I would be when the war came on. I replied,
" On the Union side." At that two men seized my arms and the
rope noose was put round my neck and pulled up a little, till
I could feel the tension. Then I was asked if I had anything
more to say, to which I said "No." Argument would have
been idle; brevity was best for me. After a few minutes of
whispered discussion, the rope was taken off and I was taken to a
small room in the building and left to myself. It is proper to
remark here that as I was being hurried to the store, my locomo-
tive driver, to whom I had had no time to give orders, reversed
his engine and ran back toward Cedar Keys; why, I did not then
know. I was left in the little room for, it appeared to me, a long
time, but as I was in the dark I could not tell. I could hear
confused noise from the store. I was finally brought out to
the light again and was told I had been found guilty though not
advised what the charge was; but as I was brought out I
recognized a face or two here and there of friends. Their
arrival was due to the common sense and quickness of my
engine driver who, running back at once, fortunately met some
of my friends on the mainland who were at once brought to
my rescue. This party was but three in number, but they knew
all the people of that section and had some influence. They.
were headed by the doctor of Cedar Keys, who was also master
of the Lodge there. They agreed with my captors that I should
be deported from the State (they could not of course have done
otherwise), but that no violence should be done me. The
Bronson men, however, persisted that I must be marked and
with scissors cut off the hair, then jet black, on one side of my
head and my beard. The next morning a guard of a few men
accompanied me on the train to Fernandina. No insult was
offered me on the train. Reaching Fernandina we were met
by a great crowd who had been apprised of my arrival and as I








left the train I was saluted with cries of derision, but not
otherwise annoyed.
In the front of the crowd as I came out of the car was the
German engineer (P. W. Oscar Koerner) of whom I have already
spoken. He stepped forward at once, seized my hand, put
it within his arm and turning faced the crowd, which gave a
shout or yell, though I can't say what feeling actuated them.
Koerner asked the jailer who was there to receive me, to go
on at once, which he did and we walked the half mile to the jail,
Koerner holding me close to his side and talking quietly as if the
occasion was an ordinary one. He had nothing to gain by such
an act and perhaps much to lose, and he did not hold with my
supposed Northern views. It was enough for him that we were
friends and that I was in trouble. It was simply clean-cut
courage and I shall never forget it. I wrote him after reaching
New York, but mails did not go very straight in those days
and I never heard from him, though, did hear that he joined
the cause of the South. At the jail I was, though placed
in a cell, treated kindly, though denied the loan of a pkir of
scissors. I was allowed, under guard, to go to railroad head-
quarters and get some money.
The road was much in debt to me and I got only a part of that
which was due, and it may be remarked in passing that my
debt has not been collected. The railroad officials received me
without manifesting feeling of any kind. What they thought
they kept to themselves
One of them-a Director of the Company-was afterwards a
General in the rebel service, and it is said distinguished himself
therein.
I was placed on the first steamer leaving for Savannah and,
when the steamer left the wharf, was without guard, but with
the statement that the authorities at Savannah would receive
me and pass me on to New York. After the steamer left the
wharf, I applied for and got a stateroom and, for consideration









left in the hands of a chambermaid, I found a pair of scissors
which I so used that, with my hat on, I no longer presented so
remarkable an appearance. Reaching Savannah I disembarked
without molestation (notwithstanding the threat of the Flori-
dians), ate in a restaurant with my hat on and left next day by
steamer for New York. I next saw Savannah in December, '64,
when I entered it in company with W. T. Sherman and
other boys in blue. Thanks to Cedar Keys friends my
baggage and transit, packed by friendly hands, was placed on
the steamer with me. As we passed up and down the Savannah
River I saw Fort Pulaski in possession of the State troops with
the State flag flying where had been the Stars and Stripes.
En route from Savannah to New York I conversed with no one,
and in fact had I wished to do so it would have been difficult,
for all seemed to keep largely to themselves, as if talk, unless
on very safe subjects, was not healthy. Left to my own thoughts
on the steamer, I sometimes wondered why it was deemed
necessary to call out the whole of the "Bronson Guards,"
said to be 75 strong, to effect the capture of my unarmed
self, and came to the conclusion that the lure of the whiskey in
Cobb's store had something to do with it.
Reaching New York, I went at once to a hotel, registered,
and then to the barber shop where I invited the barber to do
his best for me. He respectfully asked a few questions and I
frankly replied. The story spread and before I left the chair
a New York Times reporter was at my elbow thirsting for
news. I tarried in New York a few days and found in con-
versation with various persons that the city at least was not a
unit on loyalty. Copperheadism seemed to have a strong
showing there. I returned to my native city, Portland, Me.,
where I stayed a few days and then went to Iowa, in whose
volunteers I soon enlisted as a high private.




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