The 1864 Florida federal expedition

Material Information

The 1864 Florida federal expedition blundering into modern warfare
Alternate Title:
Florida federal expedition
Alternate Title:
The Eighteen sixty-four federal expedition
Nulty, William H. ( Dissertant )
Proctor, Samuel ( Thesis advisor )
McAlister, Lyle N. ( Reviewer )
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram ( Reviewer )
Paul, Harry W. ( Reviewer )
Longstreth, James W. ( Reviewer )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
Physical Description:
ix, 470 leaves : ill., maps ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Artillery ( jstor )
Civil wars ( jstor )
Confederation ( jstor )
Firearms ( jstor )
Governors ( jstor )
Rail lines ( jstor )
Savannas ( jstor )
Secession ( jstor )
Volunteerism ( jstor )
War ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- History -- UF ( lcsh )
History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- United States ( lcsh )
History thesis Ph. D ( lcsh )
City of Jacksonville ( local )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


The Civil War was the breakpoint in modern warfare. The advent of nationalism and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution changed warfare from being the exclusive province of a relative handful of professionals to one involving the total resources, human and material, of those engaged in the war. At the start of the war in the United States, few in leadership positions comprehended the nature of total war; fewer still understood the implications of a war fought for hearts and minds as well as for the military defeat of the enemy. Union General George B. McClellan realized that the new strategic targets were lines of communications. He envisioned utilizing the Federal naval advantage to project land units ashore by surprise to seize important "choke" points within the Confederacy. These points would then be fortified and the fragmented Confederate forces forced to attack these points at a disadvantage. Such tactics would soon bring defeat to the Confederacy with minimum disruption of the civilian environment. General McClellan's fall from grace postponed the use of this strategy. In 1864, Florida was militarily weak, abandoned by the Confederacy because of her geography and lack of strategic importance. The Federal Florida expedition in 1864 envisioned the use of the navy to land troops by surprise in Florida. The objectives were to cut off Confederate commissary supplies from Florida, recruit blacks for the new colored regiments, disrupt Florida rail transportation and prevent unused rail from being used in strategically more important areas of the Confederacy, open a Florida port to trade, and, if possible, restore Florida to the Union. The military, economic, political, and psychological objectives, warfare in the modern sense, had a strong probability of achievement at the start. The full potential of the expedition was not realized because of the limited abilities of its leadership and the Union defeat at the battle of Olustee, proportionately the third bloodiest battle of the war for the Union. In spite of Olustee, the Federal expedition was not a total failure. It achieved a number of successes that have been overlooked because of Olustee. These can be appreciated by an examination of the expedition within the larger contexts of the war and modern warfare.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1985.
Bibliography: leaves 447-469.
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by William H. Nulty.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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Full Text







Copyright 1985


William H. Nulty


I would like to thank my chairman, Dr. Samuel

Proctor, for his guidance, encouragement, patience,

tolerance, and generosity with his time. Without his

enthusiasm, incisive criticism, and many suggestions, this

project would have faltered.

I would also like to thank my graduate committee

members, Drs. Lyle McAlister, Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Harry W.

Paul of the History Department and Dr. J. W. Longstreth of

the College of Education. Their professional accomplishments

and attitudes have set standards I hope to emulate.

I wish to express my gratitude to Elizabeth Alexander,

Stephen Kerber, and the staff of the P.K. Yonge Library of

Florida History, University of Florida, the St. Augustine

Historical Society, the Florida Historical Society in Tampa,

the Florida State Library at Tallahassee, Charlotte Ray of

the Georgia State Archives, and Franklin M. Garrett of the

Atlanta Historical Society. All were of great assistance in

my research and consistently courteous and helpful.

I wish to thank the other graduate students for their

professional comraderie and assistance in so many ways. I

am indebted to Dr. Kermit Hall of the History Department

who was particularly inspirational in his instruction and

encouraging in his assistance.


There are numerous references within this work to

persons of African descent. Within the context of events

during the nineteenth century, the word "colored" appears

in several references to certain military units or personages

as was common usage during that period. Where the context is

more modern times, the word "black" is used. For clarity

and ease of reading, arabic numerals are used for all

military units except within quotes where the numbers were

spelled out.



PREFACE . . . . . . . .

LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . .

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . .


I INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . .

Notes. . .. . . . . . . . .


Notes . . . . . . . . . .


Notes . . . . . . . . . .

ECONOMY . . . . . . . . .

Notes . . . . . . . . . .

EARLY YEARS . . . . . . . .

Notes . . . . . . . . . .


Notes. . . . . . . . . . .


Notes . . . .. . . . . .


. . . iii

. . . iv

. . vii

. . viii



Notes . . . . . . . . . .. 286

IX THE BATTLE OF OLUSTEE. . . . . . ... 295

The First Stage. . . . . . . .. .295
The Second Stage . . . . . . .. .314
The Third Stage. . . . . . . .. .327
The Fourth Stage . . . . . . .. .340
Notes . . . . . . . ... .. .361

X AFTERMATH. . . . . . . . . ... 368

Notes . . . . . . . ... .. .430

XI CONCLUSION . . . . . . . ... 437

Notes . . . . . . . . ... .. .445

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . .. . 447

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. . . . . . . . ... 470










Railroad Map of the Confederacy ... . 29

McClellan's Strategic Plan. . . .. 49

Presidential Election 1860. . . .. 70

Population 1860 . . . . . ... 97

Distribution of Population 1860 ... . 98

Whites vs. Colored. . . . . ... 99

Railroad Map: Northeast Florida,
Southeast Georgia . . . . .. .105

Progressive Delimitation of the Area
Under Southern Control,1861-1864. . 205

Grant's Sketch of the Ocean Pond
Battlefield . . . . . .. 282

Jones's Modification of Grant's Sketch. 307

The First Stage of the Battle . . .. .308

The Second Stage of the Battle. ... .315

The Third Stage of the Battle . . .. .328

The Fourth Stage of the Battle. ... .341

Figure 7-1

Figure 8-1






Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate School of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



William H. Nulty

December, 1985

Chairman: Dr. Samuel Proctor
Major Department: History

The Civil War was the breakpoint in modern warfare.

The advent of nationalism and the arrival of the

Industrial Revolution changed warfare from being the

exclusive province of a relative handful of professionals

to one involving the total resources, human and material,

of those engaged in the war. At the start of the war in

the United States, few in leadership positions comprehended

the nature of total war; fewer still understood the

implications of a war fought for hearts and minds as well

as for the military defeat of the enemy.

Union General George B. McClellan realized that the

new strategic targets were lines of communications. He

envisioned utilizing the Federal naval advantage to project

land units ashore by surprise to seize important "choke"

points within the Confederacy. These points would then be

fortified and the fragmented Confederate forces forced to

attack these points at a disadvantage. Such tactics would


soon bring defeat to the Confederacy with minimum

disruption of the civilian environment. General

McClellan's fall from grace postponed the use of this


In 1864, Florida was militarily weak, abandoned by

the Confederacy because of her geography and lack of

strategic importance. The Federal Florida expedition in

1864 envisioned the use of the navy to land troops by

surprise in Florida. The objectives were to cut off

Confederate commissary supplies from Florida, recruit

blacks for the new colored regiments, disrupt Florida rail

transportation and prevent unused rail from being used in

strategically more important areas of the Confederacy, open

a Florida port to trade, and, if possible, restore Florida

to the Union. The military, economic, political, and

psychological objectives, warfare in the modern sense, had

a strong probability of achievement at the start. The full

potential of the expedition was not realized because of the

limited abilities of its leadership and the Union defeat at

the battle of Olustee, proportionately the third bloodiest

battle of the war for the Union.

In spite of Olustee, the Federal expedition was not a

total failure. It achieved a number of successes that have

been overlooked because of Olustee. These can be

appreciated by an examination of the expedition within the

larger contexts of the war and modern warfare.


The Civil War marks the breakpoint between early modern

and modern warfare.1 A number of developments had taken

place within a relatively short space of time that affected

the manner in which warfare was conducted. The beginning of

the nineteenth century had seen the introduction of the

citizen army and nationalistic spirit into what had once been

the private province of a comparatively small handful of

professionals. The major innovator was Napoleon, and the

legacy of his generalship leading to the characteristic

climatic, decisive battle provided the ideal model for

students of warfare. The primary interpreter of Napoleon to

English-speaking military students before the American Civil

War, to include those at West Point, was the Frenchman,

Antoine Henri, Baron de Jomini.2 Unfortunately for many of

those students who were to become the leaders and

participants in the first of the truly modern wars, the major

work of the Prussian interpreter of Napoleon, Carl von

Clausewitz, was not translated into English until 1873.3 It

was more relevant to modern war than the Jominian


The Jominian emphasis was on the offensive; the basic

tenet of strategy under this concept was to bring the maximum

possible force to bear against the decisive point in the

theater of operations while the enemy could muster only an

inferior part of his own strength at the same point.4

Clausewitz, on the other hand, saw war in a wider context,

one more in keeping with what we today characterize as modern

war. Probably the most remembered of any of the

Clausewitzian dictims is that "War is merely the continuation

of policy by other means."5 The pronouncement is simple but

has been misinterpreted. In his own words, what he meant

was, "the political object is the goal, war is the means of

reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation

from their purposes."6 Perhaps unconsciously, President

Abraham Lincoln sensed this. President Lincoln also sensed

another of Clausewitz's observations that, "even the ultimate

outcome of a war is not to be regarded always as the final

one."7 President Lincoln was one of the few to realize that

military defeat of the Confederacy would not be enough!

In the American Civil War the task of the federal

government was to restore the Union which meant, in

Clausewitzian terms, imposing its will upon a powerless

Confederacy to the point where those states that had seceded

would return to the Union and voluntarily stay there. The

implications of this task were that the primary goals would

be political rather than military ones; policy would

therefore permeate all military operations and have a

continuous influence on them.

Clausewitz had also pointed out that rather than sole

reliance on a Napoleonic style climatic battle, there were

"many roads to success, and . they do not all involve the

opponent's outright defeat." 8 He gave as examples

activities that covered the spectrum from "the destruction of

the enemy's forces, the conquest of his territory, to a

temporary occupation or invasion, to projects with an

immediate political purpose, and finally to passively

awaiting the enemy's attacks."9 Clausewitz was referring to

operations that had direct political reprecussions and were

designed to disrupt or paralyze an opposing alliance. The

Federal drive to gain control of the Mississippi with the

objectives of splitting and separating the Confederacy as

originally envisioned in General Winfield Scott's "Anaconda

Policy" would be an example of this type of an operation.

Clausewitz believed that in the absolute form of war,

everything was related. In a total war, everybody was a cog

in a national war effort. The moral, economic,

psychological, social, and political realms, as well as the

military, had importance. Until the one result that counted,

final victory, nothing was won and nothing was lost.10 Few

military leaders in the American Civil War had the ability to

take this larger view of the war, to consider grand strategy

and campaigns rather then individual battles. Many won or

lost battles and were confused as to what to do next.

General Ulysses S. Grant was an exception. He had the

ability to rise above the fortunes of a single battle and

"master the flow of a long series of events, almost to the

point of making any outcome of a single battle, victory,

draw, or even defeat, serve his eventual purpose equally

well."ll A characteristic of modern war was the

interdependence of all elements of war; the value of any of

the parts could be measured only in its relationship to the

whole. Men who could understand this were at a premium.

The early nineteenth century wars in the Western world

were generally restricted to the military environment.

Economic warfare, conducting war against the enemy's

resources, was almost unknown; if practiced, it was done

within very narrow limits such as through a naval blockade.

Economic warfare in early modern Europe would have had a

serious effect on the existing precarious financial and

economic stability. Further, in wars of this type, economic

strength was not decisive. The products and resources

required to sustain the military forces during this period

were still limited enough and simple enough that they could

be provided by a relatively limited economy.12 This

condition was starting to change by the time of the American

Civil War. Armies had become so huge and their logistic

requirements so large that economic warfare became a tempting

possibility; this was particularly so after a number of

experiences demonstrated failures to achieve decisive results

by other means. The extreme form of economic warfare was

the destruction of the Confederate resources carried out by

General William T. Sherman in his march through Georgia and

South Carolina. While General Grant conducted a war of

annihilation against the Confederate forces, General Sherman

conducted one against the Confederate resources and the minds

of the Confederacy's peoples. This was the new total war; it

was a contest between peoples beyond the scope of the contest

between armies.13

Clausewitz, in a discussion on theory, talked about

learning from the lessons of history.14 He cautioned,

however, that before drawing conclusions, those lessons

learned had to be qualified within the current contemporary

situation to be valid. This warning was ignored by many in

the American Civil War.

The Industrial Revolution had a major impact on the

conduct of war. The introduction of the conoidal bullet

for the rifled gun revolutionized infantry tactics. Whereas

in the seventeenth century the attacker was successful more

than three-fourths of the time, in the latter part of the

nineteenth century the attacker was successful less than half

of the time.15 This was demonstrated at such places as

Antietam, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor. The tactical

advantage in warfare had shifted to the defender and in too

many battles in the Civil War, the attacks were best

described as suicidal. Before 1850, artillery caused from 40

to 50 percent of battlefield casualties, infantry small arms

30 to 40 percent, and the saber and the bayonet 15 to 20

percent. After 1860, artillery caused only 8 to 10 percent

of battlefield casualties, infantry small arms 85 to 90

percent, and the saber and bayonet 4 to 6 percent.16

Although writing in 1832, well before the American

Civil War, Clausewitz had anticipated this shift in emphasis

from the offense to the defense, maintaining that "defense is

a stronger form of fighting than attack."17 Union General

George B. McClellan, on his own, came to the same conclusion

and advocated an offensive strategy combined with defensive

tactics. He believed that the most effective technique of

modern warfare was to place oneself on something critical to

one's opponent, such as his lines of communication, and force

him to attack you. While General McClellan was never able to

demonstrate fully this idea, others had great success with

it. In the Franco-Prussian War, Prussian General von Moltke

won both the battle of Metz and the decisive battle of Seden

by doing exactly that.18

The introduction of the rifled gun and the steam engine

gave ships an advantage over coastal defenses. The telegraph

and the railroad completely changed the Jominian concepts of

interior lines, exterior lines, lines of communication,

concentration, and mass at the same time they redefined the

concept of strategic targets. The nature of warfare was

changing drastically, and those who were tied to the past

found themselves severely handicapped by that tie. In a war

as total as the American Civil War was to be, the effective

leaders were those who could divorce themselves from the past

and envison the new parameters of warfare. These innovators

were men like Nathan Bedford Forest, George B. McClellan,

William T. Sherman, P.G.T. Beauregard, and Ulysses S. Grant.

The men who planned and executed the 1864 Federal expedition

into Florida had an opportunity to become innovators in

establishing the foundations for a new form of warfare.

Florida was the third State to secede from the Union,

taking that action on January 10, 1861. She did so because

psychologically, economically, socially and politically,

Florida was closely attuned with the other Southern states

and the state's leadership believed it was in her best

interest to do so. A large segment of the population was

against secession but their voices and their votes were

overshadowed by the majority. Florida's seeming initial

enthusiasm for the southern cause was demonstrated by her

rush to secede and her efforts to support loyally that cause

with men and material. The amount of moral support,

enthusiasm, and loyalty that Florida contributed, however,

was not needed as much as more tangible assets such as

manpower, arms, and manufactured goods; unfortunately, these

were in short supply in Florida.

Having only recently become a state in 1845, Florida

was sparsely settled and largely an agricultural economy.

Geographically, she had an extended coastline with a few

good harbors and some waterways that provided access to the

interior. The southern part of the state was largely

uninhabited wilderness; the settled northern part spread so

far from east to west that in political reality, there

existed three states rather than one. The interests of East

Florida were focused on the Atlantic coast, Middle Florida on

the interior of western Georgia and Alabama, and West Florida

on the Gulf and Mississippi Valley. Limited transportation

facilities and extended distances created a provincialism

that saw the people of the various sections closer to

peoples in contiguous states than with other parts of their

own state. The economic reliance on agriculture and

extractive industries such as lumber and turpentine created a

situation in which antebellum Florida had become heavily

dependent upon imports for finished products and manufactured

goods. Her own limited manufactures contained little of

value to contribute to a joint military alliance.

Politically, at the time of secession, the state was

controlled by the radical Democrats whose base of power was

in the seven planting counties in Middle Florida. There was

opposition but the failure of the Whig Party caused the

existing opposition to be, for the most part, unorganized and

ineffective. One of the major issues of the 1856 election in

Florida was an attempt to split West Florida off and create a

new state. The movement towards secession which saw the

creation of vigilant and regulator type groups had a strong

effect on reducing the level of vocal opposition. The vote

for secession was done by an extra-legal body in spite of

opposition. As the war progressed, and the fortunes of

Florida faded, the group in power were more concerned with

the protection of their own Middle Florida region than with

other portions of the state. This abandonment contributed to

the rise of dissension in other regions, particularly East

Florida. Further dissension and disorganization leading to a

fragmentation of power and authority were caused by friction

and competition between duly constituted and elected

governmental bodies and officials and a number of parallel

level extra-legal ones created for the "emergency."

On a higher level, the Confederacy was created to

uphold the principle of states rights. The experience of

trying to mobilize and employ effectively a national war

effort under this principle was a highly frustrating one for

officials at all levels of government that led to bitter

feelings, omissions, duplication of effort, wastage of

scarce resources, and eventually to defeat. The political

environment within Florida during the Civil War years was one

that could be exploited by the Union.

Early in the Civil War, Florida found herself abandoned

militarily by the Confederacy. There was nothing of any

major strategic importance to the Confederacy within Florida

and her liabilities, particularly her long, vulnerable

coastline and limited transportation network, far outweighed

her assets. Her manpower resources were comparatively

limited in relation to other southern states and, after an

early period of recruiting competition between state and

Confederacy, most of what was even remotely available ended

up in the Confederate army and had departed the state by the

end of 1862. When this happened, Florida was left to defend

herself as best she could using her own resources. These

resources included a military force that was small in size,

poorly armed, lacking in training, more irregular than

regular, and widely spread over the state. By early 1862,

Federal forces occupied Fernandina, St. Augustine, Key West,

and Fort Pickens and controlled Pensacola, Apalachicola, and

the entrances to the St. Johns and Chattahoochee rivers. A

tightening Federal naval blockade strangled the state's

economic life, and a continuing series of small scale raids

by Federal forces caused destruction and created havoc and

terror in coastal communities. Many Floridians withdrew into

the interior of the state where the remaining hard corps of

loyal Confederate supporters were congregated. By the end of

1863, Florida's enthusiasm for secession had long since

withered; militarily, economically, psychologically, and

politically, she was vulnerable to Federal exploitation.

At the end of 1863, the Federal forces in the

Department of the South, which comprised the South Atlantic

coastal states, were stalemated. An abortive attack on

Charleston had resulted in a stand-off, and large numbers of

Federal land and naval forces were tied up in seige

operations against Charleston and Savannah that showed little

progress or promise. These forces were available for

employment elsewhere within the Department of the South. The

commander of that Department, Major General Quincy A.

Gillmore, requested permission of his superiors to use those

forces for an expedition into Florida. To support his

request, he listed his objectives. These included the

recruitment of blacks for his colored regiments, the cutting

off of commissary supplies that were going from Florida to

other parts of the Confederacy, the disruption of the

railroad system within Florida, and the prevention of

Confederate attempts to remove rails from that system for use

elsewhere. Later, General Gillmore added the objectives of-

opening a Florida port to trade and the restoration of

Florida to the Union. The requests for the expedition were

approved, and on February 7, 1864, Federal forces landed at

Jacksonville, Florida, with high hopes and a very strong

probability of success in achieving their objectives.

The 1864 Federal expedition into East Florida has been

examined before by a number of writers. In most cases, they

covered the expedition, generally and briefly, in order to

set the stage for a detailed coverage of the battle of

Olustee, the high (or low) point of the expedition. The

emphasis of these writers has primarily been on the political

motivation for the expedition, the mechanics of the battle of

Olustee, and the Federal failure to achieve its political

objectives that followed defeat at Olustee. A more

comprehensive view of the battle of Olustee can be obtained

if it is considered within the larger context of the 1864

Federal expedition into East Florida and, in turn, that

expedition placed within such larger contexts as Florida's

status within the Confederacy and the Civil War, Civil War

strategy, and the Civil War as the first of the modern wars.

Clausewitz defined the enemy's resources as inclusive

of his fighting forces proper, the country with its physical

features and population, and its allies.19 All things in

warfare were interdependent, and a gain for one side was a

corresponding directly proportional loss for the other side--

an idea currently termed the "zero-sum game." The 1864

Federal expedition into East Florida could be seen as an

early example of a military operation characteristic of

modern warfare if its objectives included ones other than

military and if it had the potential for influencing results

elsewhere and contributing to a final victory that was more

than a military victory. Further, a more accurate appriasal

of the expedition can be made if it is seen within its larger

and long term ramifications. In the course of the following

narrative, an effort is made to examine the 1864 Federal

expedition into East Florida within its proper historical

context. That the expedition was sound, although too limited

in both its concept and leadership, and had great potential

within the context of modern warfare is the major theme of

this work. Of equal importance is an examination of the

status of Florida, both within the Confederacy and within the

American Civil War.


1Trevor N. Dupuy and Arnold C.Dupuy, "Understanding
War From Historical Perspective," Marine Corps Gazette 69
(June, 1985): 55-56.
2 Russell F. Weigley, The American Way of War: A
History of United States Military Strategy and Policy
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973), p.82.

3 Weigley, American Way of War, p. 82.

4 Ibid., p. 82.

5Michael Howard and Peter Paret, eds., Carl von
Clausewitz, On War (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1976), pp. 644-45.

6 Ibid., p. 645.

7 Ibid., p. 644.

8 Ibid., p. 94.

9 Ibid., pp. 92-93.

10 Ibid, p. 582.

11 Weigley, American Way of War, p. 139.

12 Ibid., p. 146

13 Ibid., p. 151.

14 Howard and Paret, Carl von Clausewitz, p. 594.

15 Dupuy and Dupuy, "Understanding War," 54.

16 Ibid., p. 56.


17 Howard and Paret, Carl von Clausewitz, p. 84.

18 Dupuy and Dupuy, "Understanding War," 56.

19 Howard and Paret, Carl von Clausewitz, p. 78.


At the start of the Civil War the Union found itself

facing an extremely difficult undertaking. To meet President

Lincoln's objective of preserving the Union, it would be

necessary to conquer the South completely and reassert the

Union's authority over an area that was too large totally to

occupy or control. Further, the nature of the Confederacy

presented little in the way of objectives whose seizure by

the Union would present significant results in political,

economic, or moral terms. Complicating the task was the

dubious goal of gaining and retaining the loyalty of a people

conquered by force. To achieve the primary objective of

'restoring the Union meant that at some time the South must

yield to the Union with some degree of voluntary consent as

their allegiance could not be held forever by force. All of

this had to be accomplished in a short time because a long

war would make the task of winning the "hearts and minds" of

the rebelling Southerners more difficult. Accomplishment of

these tasks indicated the need for an offensive strategy

leading to rapid success with as little disruption of the

South's non-military related areas as possible.

The South, on the other hand, saw the outbreak of the

war as a legitimate rebellion against the existing authority

of the federal government. A new government, the Confederate

States of America, had been created and this new nation had

only to demonstrate that it could maintain its integrity as a

sovereign, independent nation by protecting its citizens and

their property. Since the Southerners began the war in what

amounted to substantial control of their own territory, they

needed only to protect what they had in order to achieve

victory. To accomplish this, a defensive strategy appeared to

be required. Anything short of being totally defeated and

physically dragged back into the Union would be a southern


The commanding general of the United States Army when

the war began on April 12, 1861, was seventy-five year old

Winfield Scott. His previous experience in grand strategy had

been as the commanding general of the American force that had

landed at Vera Cruz during the Mexican War. In a completely

unorthodox campaign, he had cut himself off from his base and

lines of supply from the sea and advanced inland.

Outnumbered three to one, he maneuvered through enemy-

controlled territory to overthrow the existing Mexican

government by seizing its capital, Mexico City. His

experience of defeating the Mexicans with a combination of

blockade, raiding operations, and a seaborne expedition that

culminated in the seizure of the enemy capital may have

influenced the strategy he designed for the Union.

Capitalizing on the superior Union naval power, he proposed

to subject the Confederacy to a huge seige aimed at

strangling the Confederate economy by preventing the export

of its major agricultural asset, cotton, and at the same time

preventing the import to the region of manufactured items.

Time would be bought during which superior armies could be

raised and trained. These forces, in conjunction with naval

support, would then be used in a series of regular approaches

along the many rivers that penetrated the South to dismember

the Confederacy. The contemporary press, seizing on the

metaphor of a huge snake putting lethal pressure on its

quarry, labled the plan the "Anaconda Policy."1

President Lincoln saw the strategic objectives as

broader than just military. In restoring the Union, he was

concerned with the task of retaining that Union permanently

without the necessity for continued use of force. He was

also concerned that the war not deteriorate into a vicious

guerilla war of resistance by the vanquished. President

Lincoln's choice of strategy was similar to that of General

Scott's. The president believed that the North should

capitalize on its superior strength by applying pressure

simultaneously on all southern frontiers on the theory that

the South would be forced to spread itself too thin somewhere

and develop weaknesses or gaps that could be exploited by the

northern forces. Military success by itself was

insufficient in this type of war. For President Lincoln,

total victory for the North meant success in the battle for

hearts and minds as well as in military affairs. The

president described his policy as follows:

In considering the policy to be adopted for suppressing
the insurrection, I have been anxious and careful that
the inevitable conflict for this purpose shall not
degenerate into a violent and remorseless revolutionary
struggle. . .The Union must be preserved and hence,
all indispensable means must be employed. We should
not be in haste to determine that radical and extreme
measures, which may reach the loyal as well as the
disloyal, are indispensable.2

The problem for the Union, therefore, was to defeat the

South totally, in as short a time as possible, and in such a

manner as to restore eventually the Union by voluntary

consent of the vanquished, without permitting the embittered

losers from shifting into a perpetual guerilla war. The

North had an extremely difficult task which, in 1861, must

have seemed impossible to many. While the North had many

advantages in manpower and industrial resources, it would

take time to mobilize these resources fully and bring them to

bear on the opponent. The North was further divided in

opinion concerning the war and the principal European powers

seemed more inclined to support a divided rather than a

unified United States. Time seemed to be very much on the

side of the Confederacy and the type of war General Scott and

President Lincoln envisioned, economic, moral, and political

as well as military, seemed to play into the hands of the

South. It was the type of war that required time and

patience, one that would grate on the nerves of those used to

short, decisive wars. Further, this strategy was not popular

with the leading military thinkers of the time who were

proponents of the Napoleonic style of warfare which seemed to

feature the decisive, climatic type of battle.

With the advent of Napoleon, warfare in the nineteenth

century had been revolutionized. Where once it had involved

only relatively small numbers of professionals, with the

introduction of citizen armies and nationalistic spirit,

war under these conditions involved the total resources of a

nation, human and material. It was no longer possible to

defeat the enemy by winning a few campaigns; breaking the

enemy's will to resist now involved much greater physical,

psychological, and monetary effort than had older styles of


The mass army, the nation in arms sustained by
nationalistic fervor, was the signal feature of the new
Revolutionary mode of war. A strategy of annihilation
employing the climatic Austerlitz kind of battle was
Napoleon's characteristic means of precipitating
decision out of the new mode of warfare.

The principal interpreter of Napoleonic strategy to

Americans by way of text books and instructors at West Point

was Jomini.4 As a product of the Enlightenment, Jomini

created what he felt were the natural, timeless, and

unchanging principles of warfare. Key among these principles

was the idea of bringing the maximum force to bear on the

decisive point in the theater of operations at the same time

one's opponent could only muster an inferior portion of his

strength at the same point. Central to this objective was

the consideration of lines of communication in which it was

decidedly advantageous to operate on interior lines in order

to be able to concentrate one's strength more rapidly than

one's opponent which would give one the desired superiority

of force. Jomini's emphasis on decisive points and lines of

communication seemed to make war more a contest for control

of geographic areas than for the destruction of the enemy's

armies which had been characteristic of eighteenth century

warfare rather than Napoleonic. 5 Nevertheless, there is no

mistaking Jomini's emphasis on offensive war and, in

particular, achieving the decisive result by destroying the

enemy's forces to the point that states or provinces with no

organized forces to defend them, would fall. 6

In the years before the Civil War, American strategic

thinking assumed an external opponent in a future war and,

therefore, a military role that would be largely a defensive

one of self-protection and self-preservation. As reflected

in the works of both Denis Hart Mahan and his student, Henry

Wager Halleck, two of the foremost exponents of the Jominian

interpretation, there was a strong emphasis on a well-

prepared defensive. As Weigley summed it up:

To the degree to which they endorsed offensive warfare
in spite of its risks, they envisioned mainly a limited
war for territorial objectives of the sort favored by
Jomini himself and conducted in Mexico by Winfield
Scott. If an offensive strategy was to be adopted, it
was by implication to be a strategy of attrition or a
political strategy, not a strategy of annihilation.
One ought to seek the greatest damage to the enemy with
the least exposure to himself, as Denis Mahan said; and

one ought to seek "political diversion .in favor
of the invading force," as Halleck said.

On a tactical level, "all of the official and unofficial

manuals available in the early 1860's advocated defensive

tactics."8 The American military tradition at the start of

the Civil War was an inherited one--combined strategic

defense with tactical offense. Few military leaders

appreciated the effect of time and changing technology on

tactics and strategy.

The American Civil War was not fought according to the

text books. Russell F. Weigley, in his study, The American

Way of War, observed:

It was less anyone's academic teaching about
strategy and war, Jomini's, Mahan's, or Halleck's, and
less even Winfield Scott's restrained practice of war
that dominated the imaginations of American military
men in the nineteenth century, than the arresting image
of Napoleon. American soldiers were generally not
scholars anyway, and the study of strategy was a small
part of the course at West Point. Without concerning
themselves much with the theory of strategy, but from
the kind of knowledge of Napoleon's campaigns possessed
by any reasonable well-educated man in the nineteenth
century, American soldiers knew that the climatic
battle was the central feature of the Napoleonic art of
war, with the destruction of the enemy army both
physically and morally the battle's aim. And for
soldiers, to emulate the great Napoleon was a much more
compelling motive than to master the study of strategic
theory. 9

The admirers of the Napoleonic methods of warfare also, for

the most part, failed to see on a grander scale how these

same methods contained the seeds of Napoleon's own

destruction by the very peoples he had conquered.

By the middle of that century, technology in warfare

had advanced to the point where methods that had proven so

successful for Napoleon would be prohibitive in cost by more

modern generals. For example, Napoleon had concentrated his

artillery close to the enemy's lines and used its combined

destructive power to blow open huge gaps in those lines which

were exploited by his infantry as they charged into the gaps.

The widespread introduction of the rifled weapon made that

practice highly costly as it increased greatly the range and

accuracy of the piece carried by the common infantryman who

could now easily pick off the gunners servicing any artillery

employed as close as Napoleon had employed his artillery.

The range of the standard U.S. Army .58 caliber rifle,

adopted in 1855, was from 400 600 yards as compared with

the older, smoothbore musket which was 200 yards or less. In

tactical terms, this meant that artillery would have to be

employed much further to the rear where it was less

vulnerable but also less effective in its shock value,

particularly if the opposing infantry had anything in the way

of cover. Even with the introduction of rifled artillery,

those guns were limited in their offensive effectiveness

against sheltered troops and, since the shrapnel shell was

not invented until later in the century, the advantage

militarily during the time period of the Civil War was with

the well-prepared defense. Troops in the open attacking

prepared defensive positions containing rifled weapons and

artillery were committing suicide. As Weigley put it:

So destructive did rifled muskets and cannons prove
themselves to be against attacking infantry in the
American Civil War that attackers could win battlefield
decisions if at all only through immense sacrifices of
their own manpower.10

Unfortunately, many military leaders were still so

captured by the Napoleonic concept of the climactic battle

won by massed artillery and the bayonet charge that they paid

a costly price for their ignorance. The first installment

was exacted at the First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run.

Major General (by then) Halleck, the leading American

proponent of the Jominian interpretation, had dismissed

President Lincoln's proposal of simultaneous pressure on the

entire southern frontier as "military amateurism" because it

failed to concentrate maximum strength on decisive points.

The proposal for a direct attack on Richmond from Washington,

on the other hand, presented the desired Jominian

characteristics of concentration and advantageous use of

interior lines that promised to lead to a climatic battle and

a war of short duration. Scott yielded to the "On to

Richmond" forces. The disastrous (for the North) First

Battle of Manassas should have been a learning experience; it

was not. It did demonstrate two important points: the war

would not be a short one and the value of rail

transportation. It also led the South to an overconfident

attitude that would hamper later southern efforts.

The North was committed to adopting an offensive

strategy in order to accomplish its primary aim of

reasserting the Federal government's authority over the

rebelling states. The implications were that the North would

have to operate in areas where the population was unfriendly,

occupying and garrisoning those areas that had been overrun.

Each advance would lengthen lines of supply and communication

requiring still further dispersion of forces to protect those

lines, and requiring large numbers of troops to be engaged in

essentially non-combat roles. The longer the war went on,

the chances were that frustrations would push the Union

leadership into harsher and more vindictive policies. In

turn, this would lead towards that type of violent,

remorseless guerilla warfare President Lincoln feared. A

solution might be found that would also solve a major

strategic problem the North had in trying to decide how to

utilize most effectively its almost total naval superiority

against its continental enemy.

General Scott's Anaconda policy had planned to use the

navy to penetrate the Confederacy by way of its numerous

rivers.11 That policy looked better after the failure of

First Manassas and looked even better after Flag Officer

Silas H. Stringham proved the superiority of the shell gun

over earthen coastal defenses at the Hatteras Inlet to

Pimlico Sound on August 27-28, 1861. Using the mobility of

steam power to keep his ships moving, Flag Officer Stringham

pounded the forts protecting the inlet into submission which

questioned the then accepted dictum of the advantage of

coastal forts over ships. One of the traditional military

policies that the South had inherited when it seceded was

that of coastal defense. It was a rude shock to discover the

vulnerabilities of that policy. This lesson was further

reinforced on November 7,1861, when Flag Officer Samuel F.

DuPont forced the evacuation of the Confederate forts

guarding Port Royal Sound after bombarding them for some five

hours. In demonstrating the advantages the shell gun and the

steam engine had given naval forces, Flag Officer DuPont

gained for the Union a sheltered harbor midway between

Charleston and Savannah to use as a base for the ships that

would blockade the entire south Atlantic coast. In addition,

the Union gained access to a system of inland waterways from

Charleston to the St. Johns River in Florida.

Union Major General George B. McClellan, who had a hand

in hastening Winfield Scott's retirement, was probably closer

to Scott's philosophy of trying to reach his objective by

maneuver rather than fighting than other contemporary Union

leaders. General McClellan, like his predecessor General

Scott had done in the Mexican War, chose a political

objective, the enemy's capital city of Richmond. In addition,

General McClellan appreciated President Lincoln's emphasis on

a policy of minimal disruption and destructiveness so as to

ease the problem of eventual reconciliation. He believed in

the carrot and stick approach whereby he would combine

military victories with the conservation of life and property

in order to occasion the least bitterness on both sides and

therefore aid in restoring the South to the Union. To

accomplish this, General McClellan believed that it was

possible to win by paralyzing the enemy through disruption of

his internal communications rather than by destroying his

entire army. A combination of the strategic offense and a

tactical defense was the strongest type of warfare that could

achieve such a victory. Since the defenders have the tactical

advantage if protected by strong works and using rifled

weapons, an aggressor that seized vital points by surprise

and fortified them quickly with heavy guns would force the

enemy to attack despite tactical disadvantage or lose the

war. Rowena Reed summed up General McClellan's grand plan to

defeat the Confederacy in these words:

That the object of war is to force the enemy to
give up, that this object is more easily and cheaply
obtained by strategy than combat, that more powerful
weapons required maneuvering the enemy into assuming
the tactical offensive, that railroads created new
objective points and increased the possibility for
maneuver for both sides but tied enemies to fragile
supply lines, and that combined operations afforded an
invading army the means to adopt the fsrategic
offensive without risk to its communications.

General McClellan also saw, more so than many other

contemporary military leaders, the interdependence of the

elements of war. Carl von Clausewitz wrote:

In the absolute form of war, where everything
results from necessary causes and one action rapidly
affects another, there is, if we may use the phrase, no

intervening neutral void. Since war contains a host of
interactions since the whole series of engagements is,
strictly speaking, linked together, since in every
victory there is a culminating point beyond which lies
the realm of losses and defeats--in view of all these
intrinsic characteristics of war, we say there is only
one result that counts: final victory. Until then,
nothing is decided, nothing won, and nothing lost. In
this form of war we must always keep in mind that it is
the end that crowns the work. Within the concept of
absolute war, then, war is indivisible, and its
component parts (the individual victories) are of value
only in relation to the whole.13

The telegraph and the railroad were technological

advances that appeared to tip the balance away from the

strategic offense in favor of the defense. An invading army

could find itself quickly opposed by defenders who were able

to concentrate rapidly and in greater strength at the point of

attack. Facility for transporting heavy guns and

fortification materials, ammunition, and supplies and the

use of the telegraph to coordinate movement of several

independent elements against widely scattered objectives

forced the enemy to disperse to meet various threats, thus

modifying the principle of strategic concentration and

allowing the use of larger forces than limited rail

facilities could have maintained on a single front. Rail

junctions and depots, therefore, became points of

concentration and the new strategic targets because of the

necessity of rail transportation in moving troops and

supplies over long distances. Seapower could be used to

project invading armies unexpectedly against these strategic

points and then support and maintain these invading armies,

freeing them from being tied to a vulnerable rail network.

Union naval superiority gave this option to the North and

denied it to the South. The key was not to seize one point or

destroy one army in the Napoleonic concept of the climatic

battle, but to use the waterways of the South as a means of

penetrating deep into its interior to seize key communication

junctions, fragmenting and paralyzing the South's supply,

reinforcement, and communications abilities. Southerners

would then be forced to attack strongly fortified positions

protected by Union gunships.

General McClellan had been a railroad executive and his

early war experiences in West Virginia had impressed upon him

both the advantages and vulnerabilities of railroads.14

Militarily, the South had to depend on two major rail

networks to move its armies and keep them supplied. (See

Figure 2-1.)15 One network consisted of the lines running

from the Mississippi Valley eastward and the other network

was made up of the lines that ran along the eastern seaboard.

George Edgar Turner pointed out:

A vital weakness was a lack of north-south
connections in the eastern and seaboard regions to a
number of short lines in the Deep South to Virginia.
Further, the lines were not supplemented by waterways,
natural or artificial. In the eastern area, the rivers
ran the wrong way for the Confederacy.

The nature of the southern railroad system presented a

relatively few strategic choke points whose seizure by the

North could have a disastrous effect on the South. These

included Goldsborough, Charleston, Selma or Montgomery, and







Jackson. Significantly, all of these strategic points except

Knoxville were accessible by water.17

There is little evidence to show that at the outbreak

of the war, the importance of railroads was fully

appreciated. However, after it became apparent that the war

would not be a short one, there was a growing realization

that important railroad junction points were major military

objectives. As Turner described it:

As time passed, many of the bloodiest battles of the
war were fought in defense of them [railroad
junctions]. Now famous campaigns were planned and
conducted for the primary purpose of capturing or
destroying railroad lines of particular value to the
enemy. As each succesive year ended, it became
increasingly apparent that the side which controlled
the railroads had a tremendous advantage, and in the
end it was the Confederate loss of two railroads which
led to the surrender at Appomattox.

General McClellan's type of a strategy, the use of

combined operations to seize key points within the South, was

designed to take advantage of the North's greater

industrial capacity, manpower, and control of the sea and to

minimize the South's advantages of more skillful battlefield

leadership, troop discipline, troop marching ability and

endurance. It also had the potential of contributing more

directly to the northern war aims of restoring Federal

authority as soon as possible with the least cost in terms of

disruption of social and commercial life.19 The concept of

combined operations was put into operation by its chief

exponent General McClellan in the Peninsular Campaign in

which he used seapower and maneuver to get closer to his

objective by June 25, 1862, than any other Union commander

would for another two years. Unfortunately for the North, his

execution of the concept when opposed by Confederate General

Robert E. Lee ended in failure. Eventually, with General

McClellan's departure from leadership, the Union commanders

dropped the idea of the use of maneuver through combined

operations to seize strategic objectives and went back to the

search for the Napoleonic type of climatic battle that saw

the destruction of the enemy's armies.

In the Revolutionary War, George Washington had

successfully demonstrated that the new nation could maintain

its integrity as an independent nation by protecting its

citizens and property. This was done by keeping the American

troops concentrated and sacrificing portions of the new

nation to the British. The South could not do this. The

members of the new Confederacy had become accustomed to the

central government performing certain functions because of

having more resources than the individual states. One of

those was national defense. It was incumbent upon the new

government to assume this function and to provide visible

evidence of having done so by stationing forces in widely

scattered areas. There were few areas that were so sparsely

settled or lacking in political influence that they could be

ignored as General Washington had been able to do in his

time. This was reflected in the activities of the first year

of the war on the southern side which saw a primary concern

by the members of the confederation with local, as opposed to

national, defense. Some southern states were better able to

raise, equip, and train troops than others. Few were

considering the situation beyond their own borders. No

central authority conducted effective strategic thinking,

planning, decision-making, or assignment of priorities.

While the general opinion seemed to be that the southern

position required a defense, there was no unity of agreement

on where or how to defend. Few, if any, appreciated or

comprehended the type of war it was to be. As Frank Everson

Van Diver wrote:

The new Federal "Anaconda" policy, exerting
pressure all along the Confederate line, brought out
a new concept of war for which the South found itself
wholly unprepared. Such total war, in which everybody
was a cog in a national war effort, was a surprise.
Civilian morale was now as important as soldier morale;
civilian resistance as important as military
resistance. The need for all types of supplies could
only be met by full-scale civilian production. The
dream of a Walter Scott South did not die at Appomattox
--it died in the furnaces and clothing mills of a
maximum war effort. It died when Southern women copied
the "wage slaves" of Lowell and made bullets, arms and
uniforms, as well as bandages.
The transition was too much. It came too fast.
Jefferson Davis began to see the need of a centralized
government to fight the war, but even he was unaware of
how far this might have to go. Struggling to fight a
national war amid state rights ideas was an iTrossible
task. Total war could not be waged piecemeal.

Central direction of a unified effort in a nation that

had been formed in rebellion to centralization and conformity

to national objectives was an enigma southern leaders would

try to solve throughout the war. In total war, everything is

related and nothing is isolated. Mass armies and their

supply involve the whole of society and the whole of the

economy. As others have pointed out, the political nature of

the Confederate States of America contained the seeds of its

own destruction. With all of the divisive cross-currents and

conflicting interests contained within first the provisional,

and later the formal Confederate States of America, there was

little general agreement on both the political or operational

purposes of the new government and this was a large handicap

for the Confederacy to carry.

Van Diver singled out six other factors that

complicated matters for the prosecution of the war by the

Confederacy: (1) the geographic pattern of the Confederate

States, (2) manpower, (3) leadership, (4) economy, (5)

southern attitude towards the war, and (6) communications.21

Geographically, the South had advantages and disadvantages.

Advantageously, the South had the benefit of interior lines,

a long coastline that would be difficult to blockade and

through which could be brought war supplies from abroad, and

mountainous areas that could screen movements and operations.

Disadvantageously, the interior lines of communication

required a transportation network that could sustain

operations across great distances, loss of control of the

Mississippi which was the most obvious route for bisecting

the South would open up other rivers to the invader to

further splinter the South, and the mountains could also

shield northern movements. Manpower to fight a short,

military war seemed adequate initially, but was inadequate in

terms of fighting the lengthy, total war this was to be.

Further, what was available was squandered and misused.

Leadership was a mixed blessing as some were more able than

others to adapt to the new type of war.

Economically, the South was simply unable to sustain a

long war. The absence of adequate industrial areas in the

South and its inadequate transportation system were severe

handicaps. What few industrial areas the South did have

became so important that they forced Confederate leadership

to become increasingly defensive in outlook to protect them

and thus limited movements of armies. The southern outlook

on the nature of the war envisioned a short war for

separation, based largely on defense, which would keep the

troops close to home. No thought was given to an aggressive

offensive war to gain or hold territory. As Van Diver wrote:

Such thinking helped create a defensive attitude
in the Confederate mind. A defensive war would also be
a war of position, which would lighten the supply
problem. Certain vital centers like Richmond would be
held at all costs. Once geographical determinism was
firmly planted in the minds of the Confederates, they
cast off all pretense at the correct strategy of
eliminating enemy armies. Wedded irrevocably to
ground, they buried themselves in it.22

Communications, the final factor, was enhanced by the

invention of the telegraph. The North made more extensive

use of this new development than did the South which less

effectively controlled and coordinated the separate

Confederate armies. In a total war, the longer that war

lasted, the more obvious would be the South's weaknesses in

these six factors.

Dating from the secession of the original seven states,

it took about a year before the central government of the

Confederate States of America evolved into a functioning

governmental entity. During that initial year a temporary

provisional government existed in some degree, becoming more

effective as its members were selected or elected and arrived

to take their positions. This organization of a government

from literally nothing complicated both political and

military mobilization in the South. In the spring of 1861,

at Montgomery, Alabama, this provisional government created a

war department and requisitioned troops by quota from the

states that had seceded. The various Confederate states had

already organized their own militias, seized or tried to

seize whatever Federal installations were located within

their boundaries, and had taken steps to provide for their

own defense. Friction developed between a number of states

and the central government over the idea of pooling resources

for a common effort. In particular, Jefferson Davis

experienced problems with Georgia's governor, Joseph E.

Brown, and North Carolina's governor, Zebulon B. Vance, who

were more concerned with the interests of their own states

and the doctrine of state's rights than with the problems of

the central government. This situation was not helped by the

president of the Confederacy:

Convinced of the need for full co-operation by all the
states with the Confederate government, Davis went too
far in telling state governors to forget their states
for the sake of the cause. To many he began to sound
like a full-blown dictator, and the hostile press
effectively used this against him. Not knowing how to
turn the point of these attacks, Davis could only write
more vitriolic and bitter letters telling his critics
what they ought to do. The governors, fearful of a
growing despotism, tightened control on their own state
administrations to thwart Davis' centralism. To
prevent strong government, they resorted to it.23

While the reaction of the governors to the creation of a

central Confederate army varied, to many it looked like a

concentration of power as great as that which the seceding

states had left. Governor John Milton of Florida, who was

much more supportive of the efforts of the Confederate

government than Governors Vance or Brown, wrote President

Davis in December 1861, "The tendency of the assumption and

exercise of such power by the Confederate Government is to

sap the very foundation of the rights of States and is to

consolidation."24 A national army deprived the state

governors of the ability to raise strong state armies which

could be used to defend their own states; it also deprived

the governors of the glory of being heads of their own


Friction also developed between seceded states because

of the disparity in their resources, the independently

perceived threats and vulnerabilities, the steps taken or

desired to be taken by those states to meet those threats or

counter those vulnerabilities, and the support to be given to

their state by the central government. No central direction

or priority of effort had been mutually agreed upon, and

there was much disagreement about the types of military units

to be raised and armed and the location, type, size, and

armament of military installations to be built or improved.

The result was a great deal of effort inefficiently expended

in independent effort by a nation at war who could not afford

such extravagance. On the necessity of central planning and

common direction, the great military and political theorist,

Carl von Clausewitz wrote:

War plans cover every aspect of a war, and weave
them into a single operation that must have a single,
ultimate objective in which all particular aims are
reconciled. No one starts a war--or rather, no one in
his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in
his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how
he intends to conduct it. The former is the political
purpose; the latter its operational objective. This is
the governing principle which will set its course,
prescribe the scale of means and effort which is
required, and make its influence felt throughout down
to the smallest operational detail.26

The southern states never came close to that ideal. An

example of the lack of central direction was a major conflict

over the importance of various areas of the Confederacy that

plagued the Confederacy throughout the war. In allocating

resources, it was generally agreed by the Confederate

leadership that Virginia was of primary importance; what was

not generally agreedupon was the degree to which itwas

threatened by Federal action.27 Besides Virginia, two

southern areas competing for resources were the Mississippi

and the Middle Tennessee line. Each area had its partisans

and their efforts to promote support for their operational

theater detracted from the overall national effort. The

losers in the competition for resources were the Trans-

Mississippi and the Atlantic seaboard. The Atlantic seaboard

was viewed as a place from which to draw troops rather than

one to reinforce. The result was that at a relatively early

stage in the war, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida

assumed a secondary importance to the Confederacy in relation

to other areas.

The nature of the manner in which secession was carried

out compounded the difficulties caused by lack of central

direction. All of the states that seceded did so through

extraordinary political bodies and not through their

established state legislatures. These special bodies assumed

various degrees of executive, legislative, and judicial

powers in the separate states and developed other special

organizations to handle such matters as defense.28 In a

number of cases these extraordinary bodies were in conflict

with the state governor and duly constituted state

legislatures who were also working in the same areas. The

result was a multiplicity of overlapping and competing

organizations dealing with the same resources and going in

different directions. Central direction was not only lacking

between the central government and the various states but was

also lacking within the individual states themselves.

Initially committed to a general, although undefined,

strategy of defense, there seemed to be very good reasons for

adhering to this strategy. The North had greater resources

and a three to two advantage in manpower. The South would be

exhausted quicker through offensive operations than the Union

because invasions and tactical offenses caused more

casualties than defensive operations, which made defense the

most economical form of warfare. And finally, technology

favored the defense, while tactics lagged behind. It is

estimated that the rifled muzzleloader gave the defense at

least three times the strength of the offense.29 The

attitudes of Southern leaders were also affected by a firmly

established mythology of defense. This mythology included

beliefs in the invincibility of limited numbers of short-term

volunteer soldiers, the limitation of efforts by an aggressor

accustomed to the cooler winter months rather than the warm,

disease-ridden summers, and the idea that earthen

fortifications could withstand the heaviest artillery

bombardments. History, both American and European, seemed to

have demonstrated the capabilities of the short-term

volunteer and the battle of First Manassas reinforced

southern belief in a short war. Too, many Confederate

volunteers who had responded to the first call had to be

turned away because of lack of weapons and the assumption was

that they would always be available if needed. Few

considered the possibility that it would be both a long and a

total war, and the ramifications of these two

characteristics. Manpower was calculated in terms of

military forces with small consideration given for the

requirements necessary for support of that military or the

drain on resources and the economy caused by the enlistment

and conscription of so many men into the army. Slaves were

both an asset and liability. They could be used as a labor

force but they also required certain security requirements

because of fear of slave uprisings. The belief that northern

aggressive activities in the South would be restricted to the

cooler months created a false impression that the South had

more time available for defensive preparations then was

actually true. The Hatteras and Port Royal Union victories

demonstrated that "exposed sand forts, armed with smoothbore

cannon and manned by inexperienced farm boys, could not

withstand the pounding of naval guns and attack by well

armed, disciplined troops."30 Those operations also

demonstrated the potential of combined operations and had not

General Robert E. Lee instituted a change in southern coastal

defense policy when he did, the war might have ended a lot

sooner than it did.

Union General Winfield Scott, in creating what came to

be known as the Anaconda Plan, did not initially envision

invading and conquering the South. Heavy reliance would be

placed on the strangling effect of a naval blockade to cut

off external trade which would be indirect and inexpensive,

cost few casualties, and be relatively limited in disruption

of the South's economic resources. Investment on the land

side involved holding the line of the Ohio River and gaining

control of the Mississippi. The coastal blockade was the

responsibility of the naval department and to initate

planning on this phase of northern strategy, a group,

variously known as the Blockade Board, the Strategy Board,

and the Committee on Conference, was formed and had its first

meeting about the end of May 1861. The members of this group

were Captain Samuel Francis DuPont, U.S. Navy, chairman;

Major John G. Barnard of the United States Engineer Corps;

Professor Alexander Dallas Bache, superintendent of the

United States Coast Survey; and Commander Charles Henry

Davis. Over a period of two months, this group met and

produced a series of five reports.

In response to instructions from Secretary of the Navy

Gideon Welles to select two points on the south Atlantic

coast to be used for coaling stations, storage depots, and

harbors of refuge, the Blockade Board recommended two

separate expeditions, each with a different purpose. One was

to seize Fernandina, Florida, as a base for the blockading

forces; the other was to be a purely military expedition

aimed at some location that had "greater strategic

importance."31 By the end of August, a decision had been

made and forces assigned for two expeditions, one against

Bull's Bay (just north of Charleston harbor) and one to seize

Fernandina, Florida. In the meantime, First Manassas and

the reduction of the Cape Hatteras forts had taken place, and

the expeditions were postponed.

The army found itself with its hands full, and the navy

found itself in a dilemma over the requirements to provide

ships for both a blockade and to hold bases it had seized off

the Confederate coast. President Lincoln knew well that it

was important that the blockade be enforced by direct naval

action or it would be ignored by foreign countries. He made

it clear to the secretary of the navy that enforcing and

strengthening the blockade was the navy's number one

priority.32 By September 18, however, President Lincoln gave

approval for the south Atlantic coastal operations proposed

by the Blockade Board and Captain DuPont was given command

of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and General Thomas

W. Sherman command of the land forces. Secretary of the Navy

Welles left the final choice of the destination of the

expedition to its commanders.33 Their choice was to attack

Port Royal first, and then Fernandina.

Rowena Reed summarized the effect of the successful

Port Royal attack:

A large fleet and a fair-sized army had secured a
permanent foothold at a vital spot on the enemy's
coast. This waterborne force pointed straight at the
soul--if not the heart--of the Confederacy, Charleston,
and to another place of only slightly less value,
Savannah. How skillfully the Federals would use the
mobility and power conferred by command of the sea, and
to what end, remained to be defined.4

Union General George B. McClellan was one who

appreciated the asset the North had in its superior navy and

the potential of its use in combined operations. Captain

Charles Henry Davis, a member of the Blockade Board, was

impressed with McClellan's strategic concepts and at a

private dinner with McClellan discussed the whole question of

combined operations. Between the two, a third operation (in

addition to DuPont's and Sherman's) was planned which would

be aimed against Beaufort and Goldsborough from the Federal

base at Hatteras Inlet.35

The attack against the Wilmington and Weldon

Railroad did not succeed. Had it been able to seize

Goldsborough and Raleigh early in the war, the Army of

Northern Virginia would have been hamstrung in conducting

large scale operations for lack of supplies.36 The Union

also lost a golden opportunity by not following up their

victory at Port Royal. In attacking Port Royal, the fleet

had expended three-fourths of its ammunition and, since

Fernandina was also expected to be well fortified, had to

replenish before taking on its second objective. A land

attack with a high probability of success was feasible at

this time against Savannah, Charleston, or the railroad.

However, through a comedy of errors, the army had lost its

guns and ordnance stores at sea, had no cavalry because it

had not anticipated mainland raids against railroads, and

lacked enough shallow draft-boats to negotiate the marshy

waters between the sea islands and the mainland. At a time

when the Federal forces should have been in a prime position

to take advantage of the enemy's weakness in a brilliant

operation, they were their own worst enemy. Rowena Reed

described the situation:

Time was all important. In November, having
cracked the thin shell of the enemy's coast defense
system, the whole of South Carolina and Georgia lay
open to Federal invasion. Except for Fort Pulaski,
Savannah had no real defenses. Charleston's harbor
forts were inadequately armed and manned, and its "back
door" via the Stono River, James Island, and the North
Edisto River, was unguarded. Augusta, Georgia, vital
for Confederate arms production and a key rail
junction, was unfortified and was readily approachable
via the Savannah River; the river itself was
unobstructed and there were no batteries to to impede a
Federal advance. The small Confederate force of four
thousand men was strung out along the coast from
Georgetown, South Carolina to Brunswick, Georgia. On
paper there were less than 14,000 soldiers to defend
the entire state of South Carolina, and most of these
actually present for duty were untrained militiamen
carrying obsolete weapons. The vital railroad
connecting Savannah and Charleston was irregularly
patrolled by five hundred state cavalry.37

This situation changed by mid-December 1861.

After learning that Federal forces would attempt to

repeat the Hatteras Inlet experience against Port Royal,

President Davis formed the states of South Carolina, Georgia,

and Florida into a new department and assigned General Robert

E. Lee as its commander. General Lee was authorized "to use

the entire resources of South Carolina and Georgia that are

under control of the Confederate Government for your defense,

whether troops, munitions of war, or supplies of every


General Lee arrived in Charleston on November 7, 1861,

while the battle was in progress. He quickly realized that

the old system of coastal defense was no longer adequate and

ordered the evacuation of Hilton Head and Bay Point islands,

and shortly after, all of the sea islands. Lee was faced

with defending some 300 miles of Atlantic coast broken by a

series of bays and sounds with inland waterways cut off from

the mainland by a multitude of islands of all different

sizes. The Federals had complete control of the waterways

and could move at will while Lee had some 14,000 troops, by

liberal estimate, who were widely scattered.39 The Federal

fleet, taking advantage of speed and surprise, could land

troops wherever it chose, evading the Confederate batteries

which were relatively fixed, and reach targets that were

crucial to the Confederacy. General Lee therefore made a

critical, far-reaching decision that involved three steps.

First, all guns and forces were to be withdrawn from

lesser positions. Second, if possible, an attempt would be

made to hold the entrance to Cumberland Sound and the

approaches to Brunswick, Savannah, and Charleston. Third,

there would be constructed in front of Savannah and the lower

end of the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, a deep interior

line built so it would be out of the range of the heaviest

guns of the Union warships and could be defended by the

troops General Lee had available.40

In order to protect the railroad, which was accessible

at a number of points from the water, and utilize more

effectively the scarce troops at his disposal, General Lee

created a mobile defense. Capitalizing on his advantage of

interior lines, he concentrated troops in several places that

wereall within two or three hours by rail from either

Charleston or Savannah. Additionally he used his infantry,

light units of cavalry, mounted infantry, and horse batteries

to guard against raids on the rail line. With these

innovations he could concentrate his forces quicker by use of

rail than the Federals could do so by use of water.

Throughout his new Department of South Carolina,

Georgia, and Florida, Lee ordered the abandonment of coastal

defenses and the withdrawal inland to more defensible

positions where the rivers that emptied into the sounds were

narrow and shallow enough to be obstructed and covered by

artillery. These positions could be reinforced by reserves

moving by rail inside of the general line of the defended

positions. The success of this change in strategy is

evidenced by the fact that the South Carolina-Georgia coast

was not penetrated by Federal forces until the end of the war

when Union General Sherman uncovered its defenses from the

rear in his march from Atlanta to the sea. When the Federal

forces in Port Royal finally got around to attempting a land

operation, the possibilities of seizing Savannah, Charleston,

or the railroad, quickly and with minimum cost had all

slipped away. Anti-climatically, the delayed attack on

Fernandina was a hollow victory as the Confederacy had

already stripped away its defenders in accordance with

General Lee's instructions and sent them to aid General

Johnston with the Army of the Tennessee. The Federals got

only the two objectives the Blockade Board had originally

targeted, which, as far as the navy and the war department

were concerned, was satisfactory.

The success of the Port Royal attack was not exploited,

partly due to failures on the part of the Federal forces

adequately to plan and prepare for such exploitation, and

partly because of the timely and energetic defensive measures

taken by the Confederate forces. The partial success of

seizing the bases for the blockading forces obscured the

opportunity which had slipped away. The Federal forces had

not anticipated the possibilities that existed with the

reduction of the coastal defenses at Port Royal and were not

prepared to follow up that victory because of thinking too

narrowly in strategic terms. However, as Rowena Reed assessed

the results of the expedition, "The real failure of combined

operations on the South Atlantic coast was not determined in

November 1861, but five months later when McClellan, the

driving force behind Federal amphibious strategy was


One other combined operation that was planned and

executed early in the war deserves mention. This one,

conceived by Union General Benjamin Butler, had an economic

twist to it. Butler believed that the blockade was the wrong

strategy because it enhanced the value of southern

commodities and allowed the South to obtain foreign credits.

His solution was to seize southern ports and flood the market

with northern goods which would hurt the southern economy

while helping the North finance the war. While this radical

proposal was never adopted, the secretary of the treasury was

agreeable to issuing licenses to northern merchants to ship

goods to southern ports and allowing these merchants to buy

southern commodities such as cotton or tobacco in Federally

controlled areas as long as it did not profit Southern

sympathizers.42 Under this arrangement, an energetic Union

commander might contribute militarily to the war effort

while making a little profit for himself and the Union.

In terms of grand strategy, the penetrations of the

South from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and the

exploitations of those penetrations, combined with the drive

down the Mississippi by the western armies would paralyze the

South and force it to capitulate. This, in essence, was

General McClellan's grand strategy (Figure 2-2).43 The

failure of General McClellan in the West and his removal from

command marked the beginning of the end for the combined

operations strategy.44

General Robert E. Lee, based on his experience at Port

Royal, was bothered by the necessity of tying up some 25,000

men in relative idleness manning the coastal defenses of

Georgia and South Carolina. It served to confirm his opinion

that no merely defensive strategy would be sufficient to




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preserve the Confederacy's independence. Rather than concede

the initiative to the Union, the Confederacy must concentrate

its forces and attack at some point or points of its own

choosing in order to keep the enemy from having the choice of

the battlefield. President Jefferson Davis termed this type

of strategy a defensive-offensive, but, as actually carried

out, it was more like an offensive-defensive strategy.

Designed to prevent the Federals from attacking anywhere or

everywhere, it involved taking the initiative and even

carrying the war into the enemy's country. It also hoped to

destroy or capture one or more major Union armies. Their

attempts to prosecute this type of strategy eventually ruined

the Confederate army. Grady McWhiney and Perry Jamieson

described the results of this strategy:

Confederate forces attacked in eight of the first
twelve big battles of the war, and in these eight
assaults 97,000 Confederates fell--20,000 more men
than the Federals lost in these same battles. The
first twelve major campaigns of the war, those in which
the total casualties exceeded 6,000 men were Shiloh,
Fair Oaks or Seven Pines, Seven Days, Second Manassas,
Sharpsburg, Perryville, Fredericksburg, Murfreesboro,
Chancellorsville, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and
Chickamauga. The Confederates clearly assumed the
tactical offensive in all of these battles except
Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, and Vicksburg. .. The
South simply bled itself to death.45

The conclusion by the same authors was that, ". .by

attacking instead of defending, the Confederates had murdered

themselves."46 In the final years of the war, the South

faced critical manpower shortages. This fact, combined with

the low priority assigned to the defense of the Atlantic and

Gulf coasts by the Confederate leadership, suggested that a

combined operations strategy might again be profitable in

terms of speeding final victory in those areas where the

defensive forces were thinly spread. In addition to the

military goal of causing the South to spread itself further

defensively or lose territory, there were political,

economic, and psychological goals to be achieved that, in

terms of modern warfare, might be profitable to the

aggressor. All that was lacking was leaders with the vision

to see things on a larger scale.


1 Weigley, American Way of War, p. 93.

2 Ibid., p. 132.

3 Ibid., p. 80.

4 Ibid., p. 82.

5 Ibid., p. 83.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid., p. 88.

8 Grady McWhiney and Perry D. Jamieson, Attack and Die:
Civil War Tactics and the Southern Heritage (University:
University of Alabama Press, 1982) p. 144.

9 Weigley, American Way of War, p. 89.

10 Ibid., 91.

11 Ibid., 93.

12 Rowena Reed, Combined Operations (Annapolis: Naval
Institute Press, 1978), p. 36.

13 Howard and Paret, Carl von Clausewitz, p. 582.

14 Reed, Combined Operations, p. 35.

15 Ibid., p. xvii.

16George Edgar Turner, Victory Rode the Rails: The
Strategic Place of Railroads in The Civil War (Indianapolis:
Bobbs-Merrill, 1953), pp. 32-33.

17 Reed, Combined Operations, pp.37-38,

18 Turner, Victory Rode The Rails, p.ix.

19 Reed, Combined Operations, pp. xviii-xix.

20 Frank Everson Vandiver, Rebel Brass: The Confederate
Command System (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Press, 1956), p. 19.

21 Ibid., p. 8.

22 Ibid., p. 17.

23 Ibid., p. 39.

24 U. S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A
Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and
Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington: 1880-1901), Series
I: Volume 5, p. 342. Hereinafter cited as ORA (Official
Records Army).

25Ellis Morton Coulter, The Confederate States of
America Vol. VII of A History of the South, eds. Wendell
Holmes Stephenson and Ellis Morton Coulter. (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1952), pp. 310-311.

26 Howard and Paret, Carl von Clausewitz, p. 579.

27Thomas Lawrence Connally and Archer Jones, The
Politics of Command, Factions, and Ideas in Confederate
Strategy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
1973), p. 172.

28 Gilbert Sumter Guinn, "Coastal Defenses of the
Confederate Atlantic Seaboard States 1861-1862: A Study In
Political and Military Mobilization" (Ph.D. diss., University
of South Carolina, 1972), p. 4.

29 McWhiney and Jamieson, Attack and Die, p. 7.

30 Guinn, "Coastal Defenses," p. 8.

31 Reed, Combined Operations, p. 8.

32 Ibid., p. 18.

33 Ibid, p. 23.

34 Ibid., pp. 31-32.

35 Ibid., p. 39.

36 Reed, Combined Operations, p. 43.

37 Ibid., p. 46.

38 ORA, IV:1, p. 309.

39 Douglas Southall Freeman, R. E. Lee: A Biography,
4 vols. (New York: 1934), II, pp. 609-610.

40 Ibid., p. 613.

41 Reed, Combined Operations, p. 57.

42 Ibid., pp. 58-59.

43 Ibid., p. 37.

44 Ibid., p. 63.

45 McWhiney and Jamieson, Attack And Die, p. 7.

46 Ibid., p. 24.


On January 10, 1861, by a vote of sixty-two to seven,

the state of Florida adopted an ordinance of secession. The

following day, the assembly members gathered at the capital

building and in the presence of the governor-elect, the

general assembly, the state supreme court, the governor's

cabinet, and a large crowd, sixty-four of the sixty-nine

delegates who had voted on the ordinance, signed it. Florida

thus became the third state to secede from the Union. The

formal act of secession,however, was but the anti-climactic

culminating step in a series of events that had led to

Florida's withdrawal from a Union she only recently joined as

a state. Florida's secession came as no surprise. The state

was linked to the rest of the South geographically,

economically, socially, and politically. While the popular

verdict in Florida in the 1850 election had been for Union,

the trend in the next ten years that led towards the feeling

of the majority of the people of the necessity for secession

can be traced to state politics that mirrored the reaction of

other southern states to state or national events.1 In

fact, by the elections of 1856 in which the radical wing of

the Democratic Party triumphed, the trend leading towards

secession had been firmly established. Lincoln's election

merely made the mechanics of secession quicker and easier by

destroying the position of the moderates.2 While the trend

towards secession, on the surface, appeared to reflect

popular opinion, the strength and unanimity of that opinion

needs to be examined more closely in order to determine

exactly how prepared Florida was to be involved in the type

of total war the American Civil War was to become. Further,

it would be informative to examine Florida's position as a

partner within the Confederacy in terms of her relative

contributions, requirements, assets, and liabilities with the

goal of clarifying Florida's status within the Confederacy

and the war.

Prior to 1850, the government of Florida came to be

dominated by the landed interests made up of a lawyer-

planter-speculator class whose strength was based primarily

in Middle Florida, an administrative district located between

the Apalachicola River on the west and the Suwannee River on

the east. This region was the early black belt, cotton-

planting area, and its political monopoly of state politics

by a group known as "The Nucleus" was resented by the

settlers of East and West Florida who expressed a strong

feeling for separation from Middle Florida and delay of

statehood.3 Regardless of political party membership,

Floridians were in agreement on certain basic principles

common to Southerners to include the right to carry such

property as slaves into the nation's territories and the

maintenance of the institution of slavery where it currently

existed. The difference between members of the Whig and

Democratic parties was the degree to which these rights

should be insisted upon.4 These differences would be

highlighted in the early days of statehood.

The question of the disposition of the territory

obtained from Mexico in 1848 focused attention on the issue

of the spread or prohibition of slavery into the new

territories. The main issue of the congressional election of

1850 in Florida was the Compromise of 1850. People who

favored the Compromise were considered Union men and those

who opposed it, disunionists or secessionists. A Union man,

the Whig candidate Edward C. Cabell, won, but the election

revealed the existence of a strong group, especially in the

middle counties, favoring disunion. The leading Whigs in

Florida considered themselves as the defenders of southern

rights and the theory of states' rights. They were Union men

but believers in the rights of states within the Union.5

While the Whigs in Florida won the election, their margin of

victory was smaller than it had been in the previous

election, and they lost control of the General Assembly.

The election showed a loss of confidence by the people

in the Whig party, and a long range effect of the Compromise

of 1850 on the party structure in Florida caused a split

between the Florida Whigs and the northern wing of the party

whose strong Free Soil element had opposed the Compromise.

This was reflected in the rise of Constitutional Union Clubs

and the infiltration into the Democatic party of some Whigs

who feared for southern rights. The losing "radical"

Democrats were opposed to the Compromise through most of 1851

and in reaction to its support by the northern wing of the

party, they formed States' Rights Associations in Gadsen,

Jefferson, Madison, and other Florida counties.6 Both the

Southern Rights Associations and Constitutional Union Clubs

were movements aimed at rallying Southerners of both parties

to their banners.7 The two years after 1850 revealed the

damage that had been done to political parties. There were

divisions between northern and southern wings of both major

parties and divisions within those wings.8

Between 1850 and 1860, the most important developments

in Florida were the steady development of a militant pro-

slavery sentiment, the spread of cotton fields, and the

construction of railroads. Those who owned the cotton

fields, promoted the railroads, and controlled the government

were slaveholders.9 During this time period, the patterns of

immigration into the state showed that the number of South-

Carolina-born inhabitants had almost doubled, growing from

4,470 in 1850 to 8,284 in 1860, and the number of settlers

who had come from Georgia increased by 50 percent,

increasing from 11,316 to 17,550 in the same period.10 Most

were Democrats who brought with them their traditions to

include the strong support of states' rights that had been

championed by the South Carolinian, John C. Calhoun. A

number of South Carolinians had originally moved to Florida

in the 1830s when their native state had experienced economic

hard times. As a group, those from South Carolina and

Georgia composedone third of the total population by 1860,

and were the largest group of non-native Floridians.11 While

a number of those coming into the state most probably moved

to the frontier areas of East and South Florida, it may be

assumed that some settled in Middle Florida and may have

influenced the shift of some of the counties in this section,

which had been early Whig strongholds, into the Democratic

party fold.12

Florida's rapid economic and social development in the

years before 1860 had been typical of other southern states

based on the traditional lines of a staple-crop economy and

its accompanying social structure. The basis for this

economic and social system was slavery, and "slavery underlay

in some fashion every question of public moment taken up for

discussion."13 Slavery was the foundation for the southern

social system and the moral, social, and economic questions

raised by slavery and its spread would be the rock upon which

the national parties and, consequently, the Union would


Within Florida, as within the other southern states, a

basic question was the condemnation or approval of slavery by

the Constitution. The growth of the strength in the North of

opposition to the spread of slavery into territories common

to all of the states was seen as a challenge to the legal

protection of southern property rights. This was reflected

in the crystallization of southern public opinion against

first "free soil," then "abolition ideas," and finally

against "the North" without distinction. This narrowing and

crystallization of public opinion indicated a stage where

"either a very dangerous or very safe condition has been

reached by the body politic."14

The election of 1852 was a significant stage in the

decline of the Whig party in Florida. The conservatives

favored the nomination of Millard Fillmore but his rejection

by the national party in favor of Winfield Scott who was the

choice of the Free Soil element of the party confused and

divided the Florida Whigs. George T. Ward, the Whig candidate

for governor, at first refused to run on the same ticket as

Edward C. Cabell, up for re-election as representative to

Congress, who had attacked Scott for his silence on the

Compromise. The result was a pro-Scott and an anti-Scott man

on the same ticket.15 In contrast to the Whigs, the

Democrats showed a much more united front due to their

efforts at reorganization during the winter of 1851-1852.

Under pressure to do so from popular opinion, the Democrats

had accepted the "finality" of the Compromise and moved to a

more moderate, conciliatory attitude.16 James E. Broome,

the leader of the "South Carolina" wing of the Democratic

party, defeated George T. Ward for governor, and Agustus E.

Maxwell, a moderate Democrat, narrowly defeated Cabell, who

had attacked the Compromise, for congressman. The Whig party

was never again strong enough to be a factor in a national

election, and within the state of Florida many former Whigs

switched to the Democratic party or aligned themselves with

either the Know-Nothing or Constitutional Union parties.17

The election also marked the rise to dominance of state

politics in Florida by the radical Democrats.18

The Kansas-Nebraska Act reopened the question of

slavery in the U.S. Congress, inflaming anew sectional

issues. The Florida delegation was unanimous in support of

the act and for the idea of congressional intervention, and

avidly believed that it was unconstitutional for the people

of the territories to exclude slavery under popular

sovereignty.19 In the 1854 congressional election, the

Whigs were divided on the question of the Kansas-Nebraska Act

and did not hold a state convention. Former Governor Thomas

Brown, however, was nominated by the Whigs at county meetings

to oppose the re-election efforts of Congressman Augustus E.

Maxwell. Brown opposed the idea of the repeal of the Missouri

Compromise because it was a compromise, and he took the

position that the northern Whigs were more concerned over the

nature of a compromise than the issue of the protection of

southern rights.20 Many Whigs did not buy this reasoning

and shifted to the opposition parties although still claiming

to be Whigs. In a campaign based on land-grant aid to a

railroad construction bill he had introduced into Congress

and his party's support of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the

Democrat Maxwell won in a landslide. This would mark the last

election in which the Whig party would function in Florida

on a state-wide basis.

In preparation for the 1856 elections in Florida, the

Democrats nominated two radical Democrats. Their choice for

governor was former South Carolinian Madison Starke Perry, an

Alachua County planter, and for congressman, Judge George S.

Hawkins of Franklin County. The national political situation

favored the Democrats because of the fear that if the

Southerners did not act together, Fremont might be elected.

Additionally, the formation and growth of the recently

organized Republican party in the North greatly aided the

Democratic party in Florida. Governor Broome, as early as

1854 in his message to the legislature, attacked the

"fanatical organizations" that had elected a House of

Representatives "purely and wickedly sectional in its

character" on a platform of restoration of the Missouri

Compromise line, repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act, and

admission of no more slave states into the Union.21 The

possibility of Fremont's election had been occasion for

threats of secession.22 The American (Know-Nothing) Party

made its major effort during this campaign, both on a local

and national level. The local situation seemed to favor the

American party because its candidates, David S. Walker of

Leon County for governor and James M. Baker of Columbia

County for Congress, advocated cheap land which attracted

many small farmers. The branch of the American party in

Florida was more influenced by local issues and personalities

than national issues, nominating sound conservative men who

were Union supporters and opposed to the disruptive

tendencies of secessionists and abolitionists.23 The

result of the election was a victory for Perry, 6,214 to

5,844, with a greater margin for James Buchanan,6,358 to

4,833.24 An analysis of the Florida election shows that the

success of the Democratic party was due to a strong union

between the growing entrepreneurial element in the state with

the increasingly influential planter group to withstand a

challenge from the small farmers.25 In this election, the

Democrats carried nineteen of thirty counties, the Whigs no

counties, and the American party carried the remaining eleven

with a strong minority in four of the Democratic counties.26

Of significance was the radical Democrats controlled some

sixteen newspapers and their opposition, only three: the

Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, the Jacksonville Florida

Republican, and the Pensacola Gazette.27 At that time,

newspapers were more political party platforms for propaganda

than records of events. The 1856 election was the highwater

mark of the American party in Florida and also marked a

temporary trend of increasing Democratic party strength.28

The Democratic party, after the election, concerned itself

with strengthening its position within the state, which was

accomplished in 1858 when it won control of the General


In the national congressional elections of 1858, the

Democratic party lost control of Congress. The South was

suddenly confronted with the situation it had feared would

happen. The balance of power within the nation in terms of

area, population, wealth, and power had been tipped heavily

in favor of the North. The results of this election were

reflected in a strong surge of the disunionist movement.30

In Florida, in his 1858 message to the legislature, Governor

Perry called for a reorganization of the militia because of

the threat posed by the growth of the abolition movement. In

1859, the governor blamed the Republican party for John

Brown's raid and used the incident to request a rearming and

reorganization of the state militia. The General Assembly

responded by authorizing the requested reorganization along

with the installation of the patrol system.31 The governor,

in his 1859 message to the legislature also recommended that,

should there be a victory by the Republican party in the 1860

elections, Florida declare itself in favor of withdrawal from

the Union.32 The legislature responded with resolutions that

authorized the governor in case of such a Republican victory

taking place, to join with other slave-holding states in

actions to protect their rights. Further, the governor was

empowered to call the legislature into special session in the

event such action was necessary.33

The pending 1860 election and its possible results were

a major topic of interest, and the press in Florida began to

discuss the method of secession before the election was even

held. It was generally held that withdrawal from the Union

would not be peaceful, and there were many examples of

preparations being made for the expected war. The law

reorganizing the militia was being acted upon as many

localities formed companies, elected officers, and drilled,

displaying unit flags made by the local ladies. In 1859, the

Jacksonville Light Infantry and the Pensacola Guards were

established. In 1860, the Fernandina Rifles, Gainesville

Southern Guards, Tampa Perry Guards, along with companies at

Quincy, Tallahassee, Micanopy, and Ocala were organized.

Along with these more "formal" organizations were groups less

formal, and, in many cases, extra-legal, which took upon

themselves the promotion of the southern cause, as they saw

it. As William Watson Davis described them:

The methods of radical Southern politicians were
often dictatorial and bulldozing--causing here and
there lawless outbreaks when regulators attempted to
coerce opponents. Following the John Brown incident at
Harper's Ferry and the organization in the North of the
"Wide Awakes" and similar organizations, "vigilant
committees" and companies of "Minute Men" were formed
in Florida. The idea probably came from South
Carolina. The professed object of these extra-legal
bands was to keep an eye on slaves and those suspected
of being Abolitionists. Some did more than this. They
attempted to drive out of the country those persons
suspected of bein4 not in sympathy with the extreme
Southern position.4

Calvin Robinson, a Jacksonville merchant originally from

Vermont, wrote about things getting uncomfortable for

northern men in the South after John Brown's raid. On his

return from a buying trip to the North, he found that rumors

had circulated that he was an Abolitionist, a charge that his

friends, with difficulty, refuted.35 Another Northerner, a

civil engineer who had been working on the railroad from

1858-1861, wrote:

But my pleasant sojourn in Florida was drawing to
a close. In October, 1859, when news came of the
John Brown raid at Harper's Ferry, the Floridians began
to look askance at each Northerner, unless he was one
who had by word or deed or both, unmistakenly cast in
his lot with the South and its way of thinking.3

Strong feeling was evident in the period prior to the

election as evidenced by the following notice:

These associations [vigilant committees] should be
composed of firm, respectable, and prudent men. The
election of Lincoln now so imminent will doubtless
embolden many of his followers to visit the South for
the purpose of spreading his damn doctrine. Let
Florida be prepared to give all such a meet and proper
reception. If any individual is convicted of tampering
with our slaves let him die the death of a felon. If
they yrnish necks, hemp is cheap and oak limbs

Calvin Robinson, theJacksonville merchant, described the

local vigilant committee:

The excitement waxed on and the feeling became
more and more bitter:--many of the people no doubt
actuated by sincere motives, and sentiments of what
they believed to be pure patriotism: but there was
always, all over the South, a large element of
ruffianism, the necessary outcome of the dominating
spirit of slavery, and the idleness of the young men.
A large portion of these were profligate and drunken in
their habits and had wasted their means, and were in a
fit condition to engage in any exciting adventure as

they "had nothing to lose, and everything to gain."
This hard and brutal element as is usual in all civil
wars soon came to the surface and became prominent.
The South had many of these characters in every
community and they formed the most prominent element,
if not the majority of all the vigilant committees.
And of their outrages and extreme cruelties committed
by these gangs, upon the Unionists, and their families
all over the South, the tenth part has never been told.
Jacksonville had her vigilant committee and their
history for the time they were permitted to operate,
before the town fell into the hands of the Union forces
was not different from other places in the South. It
was formed of the aforesaid drunken, idle, and brutal,
many of them scions of pretentious families now become
pecunious from indolence and dissipation. . .
The operations of the Vigilant committee, and
indeed its very existence was not known to many of
the citizens of the town up to the arrival of the Union
forces in the St. Johns River. An organization of that
character would not have been approved by a large
number of our best citizens, especially those of them
who had something of the old Union spirit left in them.
There were more of these than I dared to hope during
the reign of terror that preceded the arrival of the
Union gunboats. As the political sky had become darker
people had become more and more silent Wd careful
about unbosoming themselves to each other.

Robinson described the harassment he was subjected to by

members of this group, the money he "contributed" to the

Confederate cause, his attempts to ship secretly his stock of

merchandise North, and finally, his fortification of his

house in Jacksonville and the night of armed attack on this

house that he fought off. An interesting thing he pointed

out was the transition that took place from being able to

speak out for the Union, to where such action became suicide,

and finally to a point where even silence became a crime

because, "if you aren't for us, then you must be against us."

The only way he and a close, pro-Union friend could talk

without fear was under the subterfuge of squirrel hunting.39

Robinson's memoirs reveal that there was divided opinion in

Florida over the question of secession and the role that the

extra-legal vigilant groups, among others, had in suppressing

pro-Union sentiment. William Watson Davis seized on this

issue when he wrote:

The real character of these lawless conflicts
immediately preceding the war has never been
historically established. Did the Democrats in these
localities resort to such means in order to crush the
obstruction of minorities? Or were the Democratic
majorities made and held by systematic terror and
coercion? Or was there no connection at all between
Democratic politics and violence? Certainly in these
sections of the state where most trouble existed in
1860 were found during the war most deserters and
"Union Men" or anti-Confederates.40

There is no question of the many demonstrations of

support for the secession of Florida from the Union that

took place before the election of 1860; what is in doubt is

the size of the opposition to secession that existed within

the state at that time. The answer to the latter question

would have a bearing on how committed to secession the people

of Florida really were. Additionally, should secession take

place, and the opportunity present itself, how strong would

sentiment be among the people of Florida to return to the


At the Democratic party's nominating convention in

Charleston, the major issue was Douglas's Freeport Doctrine.

After the minority platform of the fifteen Northern states

was adopted, the southern delegates, including those from

Florida, withdrew to another convention in Richmond. The

Richmond meeting that followed was unsuccessful and all

delegates, except South Carolina's, reassembled in Baltimore.

Another walkout took place and another reassembly, this time

with the delegates from South Carolina. The southern

platform was adopted and John Cabell Breckinridge of Kentucky

and Joseph Lane of Oregon were nominated for president and

vice president, respectively. With this action, the final

split of the Democratic party was completed.41 With the

threat to Union implicit in the 1860 election, a group of

old-line Florida Whigs and conservatives banded together

under the Constitutional party banner. At a state convention

at Quincy, they endorsed the nomination of John Bell of

Tennessee for president and Edward Hopkins of Duval County

for governor. The Constitutional Unionists were prepared to

wage an intensive campaign in an effort to gain power from

the Radical Democrats.

The cards were stacked in favor of the Democrats. They

controlled sixteen newspapers, among which were some of the

most influential in the state; the Constitutional Union party

had the support of only five: the Pensacola Gazette,

Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, Milton Courier, Marianna

Enterprise, and the Lake City Independent Press.42 All had

formerly been supporters of the Whigs, and four of the five

were in West Florida.43 Democrats were the party in power

and they conducted a very emotional campaign, aided and

abetted by the extremists. The various groups of

"regulators" were particular active in seeking out and

destroying Union sentiment. In Bradford County, a Unionist,

Dr. William Hollingworth, was attacked at night for his

"anti-Southern" views and seriously injured.44 Former

Governor Richard Keith Call was one of the best known

Floridians who came out publically for the Union. He and

other leading citizens who took such a stand were subjected

to abuse, and a number of pro-Union citizens were beaten and

driven out of the state.45

The results of the national election in Florida were

8,543 votes for Breckinridge and Lane, 5,437 for Bell, 367

for Douglas, and none for Lincoln. The distribution of the

vote showed definite pockets of Bell supporters (See Figure

3-1.)46 For governor, Milton defeated Hopkins 6,994 to

5,248. The Democrats won other races with greater majorities

and kept their safe majority in both houses of the

legislature. Milton's 1,742 vote edge over Hopkins was four

times the margin by which Perry had won in the previous

election for governor, and Perry interpreted this as evidence

of the willingness of Florida to secede if Lincoln was

elected.47 Reiger, however, sees this margin as a narrow

one and indicative of the fact that "a very large minority of

people in the state favored the idea of Union."48 Further,

Reiger wrote:

What is significant about the elections is that of
a total of 14,347 votes cast, the Breckinridge and Lane
majority was only 1,369. When one considers the
emotional campaign waged by the radical Democrats and

Figure 3-1. Presidential Election, 1860. Source: Meredith, p. 70.

the fact that their cause was aided by the state's
political leaders, by the most influential of Florida's
newspapers, and by the demoralizing effects on the
conservatives by the defeat of the Constitutional
Unionists in recent state elections, the result of the
national election may be interpreted as a manifestation
of continuing, strong pro-Union sentiment in the
Peninsula state.

Dorothy Dodd, in her analysis of the election, states,

"It cannot be asserted, however, that every vote for

Breckinridge was a vote for secession, though it seems safe

to assume that a vote for Bell or Douglas was a vote for

Union under the Constitution."50 The main issue of this

election was sectional, and the Democrats had pushed the idea

that anyone who worked for the election of either Bell or

Douglas was working against the South because neither could

be elected and therefore a vote for them would only benefit

Lincoln. With this in mind, the surprisingly large vote the

Constitutional Unionists received shows that there was strong

pro-Union sentiment in the state in spite of efforts to

suppress that sentiment. The secret ballot had not yet been

introduced, and voting meant publically committing oneself. A

railroad engineer from the North described what this


When the election took place I had been in Florida
nearly three years and over one 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.51

The election of Lincoln set off the crisis. There was

a radicalization of public opinion in Florida in the period

immediately after the election. Mass public meetings were

held all over the state protesting the election, burning

Lincoln in effigy, pledging aid to each and every Cotton

State that seceded, and calling for a convention to take

Florida out of the Union. Radical speeches were made before

mass meetings, and secession seemed to be the main topic of

conversation at work, home, or on the street.52 There was

increased activity in militia recruiting. In Fernandina, two

companies of volunteers were formed and announced that their

uniforms were of "Southern manufacture."53 At a citizens

meeting in Alachua County, a resolution was written to the

state legislature calling for a convention of the people. A

meeting at the county courthouse in Marion County saw the

citizens present voting for secession while a flag with a

single blue star and the inscription "Let Us Alone" flew in

the public square.54 In St. Augustine, a "secession flag"

was raised, and blue cockades were worn by many citizens.55

In the same city, the St. Augustine Examiner ran on its

editorial page for four days a platform headed "The Secession

of the State of Florida, The Dissolution of the Union, the

Formation of a Southern Confederacy."56 Although there was

no evidence it was printed, a letter dated November 6,1861,

to the editor of the Jacksonville Standard and signed by

"The Ladies of Broward's Neck" has survived and may be

indicative of contemporary opinion. Aimed at the

"Politicians of Florida" it stated concerns about such topics

as the unsympathetic majority in the United States Congress,

the restriction of slavery in the new territories, the

refusal to admit Kansas as a slave state, the threat to slave

property, the threat to the social system with equality of

the races, and the loss of manufactured goods from the North

if secession took place. The letter concluded by calling for

more aggressive action by the politicians in not knuckling

under to the Northerners.57

Governor Perry believed he properly interpreted the

prevailing opinion in Florida when he wrote to Governor

William H. Gist of South Carolina on November 8th 1860:

I have industriously sought to learn the public
mind in this State in the event of the election of
Lincoln, and am proud to say Florida is ready to wheel
into line with the gallant Palmetto State, or any other
Cotton State or States in any course which she or they
may . adopt . . Florida may be unwilling to
subject herself to the charge of temerity or immodesty
by leading off, but will most assuredly co-operate with
or follow the lead of any single Cotton State which may

This opinion was not unanimous. The issue of secession

divided families. Susan Bradford Eppes wrote that her father

was a rabid secessionist who believed that this could be

accomplished peacefully. Her brother Junius, a strong Union

man who was convinced of the inevitability of war, and her

mother held a belief in gradual emancipation with

compensation.59 Pro-Union feelings were generally

concealed and restricted to private conversations or

correspondence with very close and trusted friends. A rare

exception was the continued efforts of former Governor

Richard Keith Call to rally pro-Union support. For most

others, "To express in public pronounced Union sentiments

meant probably a fight unless you quickly ate your words."60

Governor Perry did not have to call the special session

the legislature had previously given him the authority to

assemble because it convened in regular session November 26,

1860. On the following day, in his annual message to the

legislature, he stated the crisis was at hand:

The only hopes that the Southern states have for
domestic peace or for future respect or prosperity is
dependent on their action now, and that action is
secession from faithless, purjured confederates. But
some Southern men object to secession until some overt
act of unconstitutional power shall have been
committed. If we wait for such an overt act our fate
will be that of the whites of Santo Domingo. I
recommend that a convention of people be called at an
early date to take such action as necessary. I further
recommend that the militia laws be revised and that
$100,000 be appropriated as a military fund for the
ensuing year, to be expended as the public necessity
may require.6

Former Governor Richard Keith Call desperately made a number

of attempts to rally opposition,

but faction leaders would not let the people hear him.
Counter-meetings and closed doors excluded him.
Pleadingly he argued and wrote and published, and in
the name of God and his country he declared the
contemplated act treason. Few would listen and some
noisy, brainless fellows called him a
"submissionist. "62

On December 1, 1860, Call issued a pamphlet containing his


My fellow citizens, on Monday last your legislature
met. Secession was the watchword, and reply, and on
Thursday before the hour of 12 was consumated an act
amid rapt applause which may produce the most fatal
consequences. This act provides for a convention of

the people to be chosen with the same rushing haste to
assemble in your capitol on January 3rd next. And for
what purpose? Secession of the State of Florida from
the Union. I proclaim that when that deed shall be done
it will be treason, high treason against our
constitutional government. Is the election of a
sectional president by a sectional party consisting of
one-third of the political strength of the nation
sufficient cause for justifying rebellion and
revolution against your government? Is it not a fact
that the present disunion movement in Florida is not
because of the election of Mr. Lincoln but from a long-
cherished hatred of the Union by the leading
politicians of the State? Wait then I pray you, wait.

Despite Call's desperate appeal, a bill calling for a

constitutional convention to meet on January 3, 1861, in

Tallahassee was rushed through both houses and signed by

Governor Perry on December 3. There had been motions

introduced in both houses of the legislature to defer this

action, indicating that the idea of immediate secession was

not unanimous. Also, there had been a motion made to table

the bill and a resolution made to submit the convention's

results to a popular vote for ratification, but both of these

failed. "If the vote opposing precipitate action can be taken

as a measure of anti-secession sentiment, conservatives

constituted one-third of the legislature."64 December 22 was

picked as the day for election of delegates to the convention

under the same rules as a general assembly election. Each

senatorial district was to elect one delegate, and each

county was to elect as many delegates as it had in the lower

house of the legislature.65 Additionally, as the governor

had requested, the legislature appropriated $100,000 forthe

purchase of guns and munitions.66

On election day, December 22, the Tallahassee Florida

Sentinel printed a letter by former Governor Call in which he

"hoped that reason may not be dethroned by passion, that no

attempt will be made rashly to strike the American flag--

that no attempt will be made to declare Florida a Nation

alien and foreign to the American people."67 The fairness of

the election is questionable. The New York Tribune later


Undoubtedly, a large segment of the population was
intimidated to the point of not voting at all. A Union
refugee later remembered that pro-secessionist leaders
of the state had "used the most shameless and
unconcealed intimidation, declaring boldly that no
Union candidate should ever be nominated."

John Francis Tenney, a northerner who operated a hotel where

two railroads crossed at Baldwin and who later left Florida

on the eve of the Civil War, noted:

Florida voted itself out of the Union along with the
other states, but would not have done so if a fair
election could have been held. There was an undoubted
majority of the people who desired to remain in the
Union. The secession craze carried everything before
it. The election machinery was all in the hands of the
secessionists who manipulated the election to suit
their end. As a sample, I will relate an incident of
the election that came near getting the writer into
serious trouble. There were five voters at work in a
"shingle swamp" five miles down the railroad track that
an enthusiastic secessionist desired to bring to the
polls. He took a hand car and brought them up. As
there were no printed tickets for "The Union" to be
obtained, they came to me for written tickets which I
wrote out and gave them at their request. Four of these
men voted their Union tickets At the final count,
these tickets were found and my hand writing
recognized. Suffice to say there were pistols drawn but
not fired.69

Another northerner, the Jacksonville merchant Calvin Robinson

found no fault with the election itself but rather with the

atmosphere in which the Convention was held:

Most of the delegates to that convention were elected
as Union men. In our County [Duval] we elected two men
to represent us in that convention who pledged
themselves to go for the Union to the last. They had
been in Tallahassee but a short time, however, before
the rumor came to us that they were both going for
disunion with their whole influence. When this news
was confirmed, a number of the merchants of
Jacksonville met, and, in consternation at the crisis
to which we were being precipitated; --questioned among
ourselves, what should be done to avert it. It was
finally decided to send three of our number to
Tallahassee to expostulate with our delegates, and if
possible, induce them to change their course before the
final act of secession should be passed. I was one of
the three thus appointed. We found it useless to talk
to our delegates as it would have been to plead with
the lamp-posts in the street.70

With whatever opposition to disunion effectively cowed

or at least neutralized and the election machinery in the

hands of the secessionists, it appeared that the major issue

from the beginning was not to determine whether, but how, the

state would leave the Union. Those favoring immediate

secession were opposed by others labled "cooperationists"

who, because of economic and geographic ties with Georgia and

Alabama, wanted Florida to secede only after those two states

had seceded. South Carolina seceded on December 20, two days

before the planned election of delegates. Dorothy Dodd

believes that this may have helped the immediate

secessionists although she estimated that the co-

operationists made up from 36 to 43 percent of the


The reaction to the news of South Carolina's secession

was recorded by two witnesses. Mary Boykin Chestnut, wife of

a prominent South Carolinian, observed the reaction in

Fernandina with the arrival of the news. She observed people

"running up a Palmetto flag and shouting . .. I was

overjoyed to find Florida so sympathetic."72 Also at

Fernandina, was the northern railroad engineer, who


On the 20th of December, South Carolina declared
herself out of the Union. I was at Fernandina when a
steamer came in from Charleston, flying the Palmetto
flag and conveying 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 contributed more to the
settlement of Florida than any other State.73

The convention convened on January 3 at Tallahassee

with a large number of politicians present from other states.

As Dorothy Dodd described it:

Out-of-state politicians, including E. C. Bullock
and L.W. Spratt, official commissioners from Alabama and
South Carolina respectively to Florida, constituted a
strong secession lobby. The churches seemed to have
favored secession, and the state administration was in
the hands of the immediate secessionists. Organization
of the convention also showed that they controlled its

John C. McGehee of Madison County was elected president

on the first ballot with only ten dissenting votes. McGehee

had originally come from South Carolina and had been a leader

in the Florida Southern Rights Movement in 1851.75 He had

previously come out for the right of secession as not only a

right but an absolute and unavoidable duty.76 There was no

meeting on January 4 in compliance with President Buchanan's

call for a day of fasting and humiliation. Edward Ruffin

took this as "a rebuke & censure of the seceding states & of

their cause & of the very action which this convention is

assembled to consumate."77

The organization of the convention took place on

January 5 with the appointment of such officials as

secretaries, sergeant-at-arms, and committees to consider

various constitutional changes. President McGeHee, in his

presidential address, called for immediate secession. Two

resolutions relating to plans for secession were then

introduced. George W. Parkhill, a prominent Leon County

planter, introduced a resolution to refer any action by the

convention regarding secession to the people in a popular

referendum and that this action be taken only after Georgia

and Alabama had committed themselves on secession.

Obviously, the intention of the resolution was to seek delay,

but it was tabled by the convention.

McQueen McIntosh, a former federal judge who had

resigned on Lincoln's election, introduced a resolution to

have the convention declare secession a constitutional right

and that the situation was such as to force Florida to

exercise that right through the convention which had the

power to act for the people of Florida.78 This resolution

was also tabled, although the Convention ordered that 100

copies be printed so that it could be discussed the following

Monday. On Monday, January 7, the crowded convention was

addressed by the commissioners from Alabama and Georgia and by

Edmund Ruffin of Virginia before voting on the proposals.

The speakers were introduced by Governor Perry who had

recently returned from a trip to South Carolina and possibly

Georgia. As William Watson Davis described it:

The words of the commissioners, advance agents of
the Confederacy--constituted a part of the radical
appeal from abroad. They came on the wings of
revolution. They counseled radical action. They found
in Tallahassee a radical body to counsel.79

The next day nearly every convention member wore a rosette of

palmetto as an indication of his determination to stand by

South Carolina.80 On January 7, McQueen McIntosh's

resolution, which eliminated the requirement of a popular

vote to ratify the convention's action, was adopted by a vote

of sixty-two to five. An effort to amend it by delaying

action was defeated forty-three to twenty-four. By this

action, the convention empowered itself to act for the

people. A thirteen-man committee composed of eight

immediate secessionists and five co-operationists was then

to draft an ordinance of secession. On January 9, the select

committee on secession submitted its prepared Ordinance of

Secession, which was not signed by the five cooperationists.

It was considered too vague and given to the committee on the

judiciary with instructions to redo the wording and report

back within an hour. At such time, the following ordinance

was reported:

We the people of the State of Florida in Convention
assembled, do solemnly ordain, publish, and declare,
That the State of Florida hereby withdraws from
the Confederacy of States existing under the name of
the United States of America, and from the existing
government of said states; and that all political
connections between her and the government of the said
States ought to be, and the same is hereby totally
annulled, and said Union of states dissolved; and the
State of Florida is hereby declared a Sovereign and
Independent Nation; and that all ordinances heretofore
adopted, in so far as they create or recognize said
Union, are rescinded; and all laws or parts of laws in
force in this State, in so far as they recognized or
assented to said Union, be and they are hereby

Five amendments for delay were offered. Number one

offered by George T. Ward of Leon County stated that the

ordinance should not go into effect until the convention had

been advised of the actions of the Georgia and Alabama

conventions. A. K. Allison of Gadsen introduced the second

amendment which only amended the first. It stated that if

Georgia and Alabama did refuse to secede, the ordinance would

be submitted to the people for ratification. Number three,

introduced by George T. Ward, stated that the ordinance would

not become effective until it had been submitted to the

people. Number four was offered by former Senator Jackson

Morton of Santa Rosa County and stated that the ordinance

should not be passed until Alabama declared her intentions to

secede. Number five, the third one submitted by George T.

Ward, urged that further consideration of the ordinance be

postponed until January 18.82 All amendments were defeated.

Although the votes were not the same in total numbers, an

analysis of the people voting shows that the same thirty-

seven delegates voted against all five amendments and the

same twenty-one delegates voted in favor of all five."83

Johns feels that the votes show that:

The convention did not show any division as to
sectionalism in the state or factionalism within the
ranks of the planters, artisans, or small farmers. But
opinion in the state, as expressed by the vote, shows
that Florida east of the Suwannee River was more
radical than Florida west of that river. It is
significant that radicalism was strongest in the more
newly developed and frontier areas of the state where
the number of slaves was not large. The radical feared
abolition as much for its effect upon hi social system
as he feared the loss of slave property.

William Watson Davis attributed the fact that Florida

west of the Suwannee seemed less radical to property

holdings. He pointed out that 70,000 of the 77,000 "acre or

more" plantations were west of the river as well as 165 of

the 211 planters operating 500 to 1,000 acres. Using

information from the 1860 census, Davis concluded that the

larger property-holders were conservative when on their

actions hung the probability of contest with the federal

government.85 Donald R. Hadd believes that the basic

motivation that guided most of the delegates was the desire

to protect their property against threats to what they

believed to be constitutional guarantees of the right of

property in slaves.86 To support his case, he cites the

numerous references of this threat made by convention

president John. C. McGeHee in his acceptance speech.

Additionally, statistics show that 84 percent of the

delegates either owned slaves outright or in trust for

others. Further, 71 percent had land holdings valued in

excess of $10,000, and of that group, thirty-one owned

property valued in excess of $30,000. Since the majority of

delegates were also over forty, he feels that the

characteristics of this group would indicate conservatism.

But, since their actions were radical, the difference, he

concludes, was their willingness to back a principle that was

important to them, the sanctity of property. By doing so,

they allowed this to "color or distort their judgement."87

This line of reasoning would support William Watson Davis'


The segregation of slaves, slave-holders, and estimated
wealth is worthy of some notice .. . In the seven
great planting counties of Alachua, Marion, Madison,
Jefferson, Leon, Gadsen, and Jackson, the valuation of
property--real and personal--was $48,000,000. The
total valuation of all property in the State was but
$73,101,500. In these seven planting counties were
about 40,000 of the 61,000 slave population and about
26,000 of the 78,000 whites (Census, 1860). These
counties contained the majority of Florida's wealthier
and more enlightened citizens, hence a majority of
those who led in the crisis of 1861.8

Meredith examined the fluctuation in the voting over each of

the five amendments and felt that the delegates were concerned

that either the ordinance might be rejected by the people or

over the delay such a procedure was likely to bring.89

The refusal to submit the ordinance to the people for

ratification can thus be seen in two ways. The first had to

do with speed of secession being more important than

democratic form. There was a certain element in Florida who

wanted the state to be among the first, if not the second

state, to secede.90 The other had to do with the fear that

if the ordinance was submitted to the people, it might be

rejected. Reiger felt that the number of amendments

submitted to the ordinance indicated that a large majority of

the delegates were consistently against submitting secession

to a referendum.91 In a study of a number of such

conventions, Ralph A. Wooster came to the conclusion that

"The Florida secession convention, like those of South

Carolina and Mississippi were controlled and dominated by the

immediate secessionists."92 He felt that a key to analyzing

the vote and separating the co-operationists and the

secessionists was the Allison Amendment. His assessment was:

More than any other single factor, the geographic and
economic dependence of the state on Georgia and Alabama
dictated the division over the method of secession. .
It wasn't age, density of slave population, extent or
size of slaveholding, not a contest between rich
planter and poor white, or wholly on past political
The co-operationists in Florida were genuine
secessionists differing from the separate state
actionists not in aim but merely in tactic. There was
very little unionism in the state in 1860. The co-
operationist believed in secession as strongly as did
the separate state actionist, but felt it more
expedient to delay action until Alabama and Georgia had
made a decision; should they remain in the Union,
secession by Florida would be an empty gesture. For
that reason, more than any other, the co-operationist
sought to delay secession. Once the majority of the
secession convention made delay impossible, all except
five of the co-operaionists voted for passage of the
secession ordinance.

Dorothy Dodd's analysis was, "Though it cannot be said that a

majority of the people was for cooperation, it is equally

open to question to assume that a majority was for immediate


On January 10, the vote on the ordinance of secession

was to be taken. Richard Keith Call held a meeting of some

300 to 400 people at the Lake Jackson Church in an attempt to

rally allegiance to the United States but it was too late.

Word arrived just before the start of the church meeting that

the ordinance had been passed by a vote of sixty-two to

seven. The ordinance was adopted shortly after noon on

January 10. The seven who had voted against it were James

L. G. Baker of Jackson County, W. S. Gregory of Liberty

County, Thomas J. Hendriks of Clay County, A. L. McCaskill

and John Morrison of Walton County, Isaac N. Rutland of

Sumter County, and William Woodruff of Orange County.95 All

of the opposition votes were from white or almost non-cotton

planting counties.96 George T. Ward, upon signing the

ordinance declared, "When I die, I want it inscribed on my

tombstone that I was the last man to give up the ship."97

The Reverend James B. Owens commented upon his signing,

"Unlike my friend Colonel Ward, I want it inscribed on my

tombstone that I was the first man to quit the rotten

hulk."98 Colonel Ward was later a delegate to the

Confederate provisional government. He subsequently resigned

that position to command one of the first Confederate

regiments raised in Florida at whose head he fought and died

in the service of the Confederacy.

"As the vote was taken the applause was deafening. Men

whooped and women clapped their hands."99 When the signing

was finished fifteen cannons were fired and shouting broke

forth.100 Governor-elect Milton presented to the members of

the Convention a white silk flag made by women from East

Florida bearing three blue stars to represent the three

states that had seceded, South Carolina, Mississippi, and

Florida.101 In Tallahassee, a torch-light parade was held

headed by local musicians, and the news was celebrated in

other towns and villages all over the state with parades and

speeches.102 A feeling of euphoria prevaded the state, but

underneath this feeling ran another, held by such as Richard

Keith Call, that the gates of hell had been opened.103 Swept

up in enthusiasm, few paused to consider the full

implications of secession. Florida had taken the fatal step

because she shared similar concerns with other southern

states. The planter class opposed destruction of a economic

system upon which their prosperity depended. The poor white

was opposed to a change in the social system. There was

dissatisfaction with the way the Fugitive Slave Law had been

enforced and fear of a slave insurrection of the type that

had taken place in Santo Domingo. There was fear of

congressional interference with slavery in the territories

and the threat this posed to southern concepts of property

and its protection under the Constitution. And, tying it all

together, the knowledge that the Republican party received

its support from the North and was hostile to slavery.

Secession seemed to be a solution to many Southern fears and

problems and the people of Florida were "moving with the

Southern current."104 Few, if any, fully comprehended the

uncharted depths they were entering.

The pattern of secession in Florida deserves a close

examination. Although a duly constituted and elected

government, to include an executive and a legislature,

existed, the question of secession was to be decided by a

specially elected group of people. This election was

conducted at a highly emotional time highlighted by the

election of Lincoln followed by the secession of South

Carolina. The state leadership, election machinery, and

propaganda organs were controlled by the radical Democrats.

Pro-Unionist sentiment or support was all but squelched

because of prevailing feeling backed up, at the extreme, by

the use of force and intimidation by extra-legal groups of

"regulators." The convention was held in a highly charged

atmosphere that was further inflamed by the presence of

firebrands from other states. The convention empowered

itself to speak for the people and consistently resisted any

efforts to put its results to a popular vote for

ratification. Further, it appointed its own committees that,

as shall be seen, in effect usurped the authority of the duly

elected officials of the State.

Florida was not united over secession. There was

present an element that was decidedly pro-Union and which

could, and would, later be exploited by Federal forces,

particularly after the direction of the course of the war

became clearer. Had the work of the convention been submitted

to a referendum, the size of that dissident opposition could

have been isolated. Florida was committed to an action from

which there was no turning back by a radical element in

sympathy with southern problems and with little consideration

of how prepared, psychologically and materially, Florida was

to take that action. Using figures from the 1860 census,

William Watson Davis summed up this preparation in these

words, "The state's rural citizenry swung out in a flood of a

new national experience with no cities, no factory system,

few railroads, sparse population, and less than 1,000 skilled

workers within the length and breadth of the land."105


1Dorothy Dodd, "The Secession Movement In Florida,
1850-1861,"Florida Historical Quarterly 12 (July, 1933): 3.

2John Edwin Johns, Florida During the Civil War
(Gainesville: 1963), p. 22.

3 Herbert J. Doherty, Jr., "The Florida Whigs" (Master's
Thesis University of Florida, 1949), pp. 2-4.
Ibid., p. 22.

5 Herbert J. Doherty, Jr., "Florida and the Crisis of
1850," Florida Historical Quarterly 19 (July, 1953): 35.

6 Dodd, "The Secession Movement in Florida," 12.

7 Doherty, "The Florida Whigs", p. 51.

8 Ibid.

William Watson Davis, The Civil War and
Reconstruction in Florida (New York: 1913), p. 32.

10Seventh Census of the United States: 1850,
(Washington: 1853-1855); Eighth Census of the United States:
1860, 4 vols. (Washington: 1866).

11 Doherty, "The Florida Whigs", pp 56-57.

12 Ibid.

13 William Watson Davis, Civil War, p. 36.

14 Ibid.

15 John Meador, "Florida Political Parties 1865-1877,"
(Ph.D diss., University of Florida, 1964), pp. 26-27.
16 Doherty, "The Florida Whigs", p. 56.

17Edwin L. Williams, "Florida in the Union, 1845-
1861" (Ph.D diss., University of North Carolina, 1951), p. 524.

18Ralph A. Wooster, "The Florida Secession
Convention," Florida Historical Quarterly 36 (April, 1958):

19 Dodd, "The Secession Movement in Florida," 19.

20 Ibid., 20.

21Journal of the Proceedings of the House of
Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Florida,
1855-1865, 54 (Tallahassee: 1855-1866), pp. 29-30.

22 Dodd, "The Secession Movement In Florida," 45.

23 Herbert J. Doherty, Jr., "Florida in 1856," Florida
Historical Quarterly 35 (July, 1956): 67; Arthur W. Thompson,
"Political Nativism in Florida, 1848-1860: A Phase of Anti-
Secessionism," Journal of Southern History 15 (February,
1949): 42.

24 Dodd, "The Secession Movement in Florida," 45.

25 Johns, Florida During The Civil War, pp. 4-5.

26 Arthur Thompson, "Political Nativism in Florida," 49.

27 Johns, Florida During the Civil War, p. 5.

28 Arthur Thompson, "Political Nativism in Florida," 48.

29 Johns, Florida During the Civil War, p. 5.

30Samuel Proctor, ed. "The Call to Arms: Secession
from a Feminine Point of View," Florida Historical Quarterly
35 (January, 1957): 266-267.

31 Johns, Florida During the Civil War, pp. 5-6.

32 Dodd, "The Secession Movement in Florida," 46.

33 Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the
State of Florida, 1850-1865,II (Tallahasee:1859), pp. 9-15.

34 William Watson Davis, Civil War, p. 43.

35Calvin Robinson, "An Account of Some of My
Experiences In Florida During the Rise and Progress of the
Rebellion," MS. P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History,
University of Florida, Gainesville, pp. 4-5

36 Oliver D. Kinsman, A Loyal Man In Florida, 1858-
1861 (Washington: 1910), p. 7.

37 William Watson Davis, Civil War, p.45

38 Robinson, "An Account", pp. 10, 18-19.

39 Ibid., pp. 8-10.

40 William Watson Davis, Civil War, p. 45.

41 Johns, Florida During The Civil War. p. 8.

42John F. Reiger, "Secession of Florida From the
Union--A Minority Decision?" Florida Historical Quarterly 46
(April, 1968): 358.

4Johns, Florida During The Civil War. p. 10.

44 William Watson Davis, Civil War, p. 43.

45 Reiger, "Secession of Florida From The Union," 360.

46 Evelyn T. Meredith, "The Secession Movement in
Florida" (Master's Thesis, Duke University, 1940), p. 70.

47 Dodd, "The Secession Movement in Florida," 51.

48 Reiger, "Secession of Florida From the Union," 360.

49 Ibid., 361.

50 Dodd, "The Secession Movement in Florida," 51.

51 Kinsman, A Loyal Man, p. 8.

52 William Watson Davis, Civil War, p. 55.

53 East Floridian [Fernandina] December 19, 1860 cited
in William Watson Davis, Civil War, pp. 54-55.

54 William Watson Davis, Civil War, pp. 54-55.

56 St Augustine Examiner, November 24, 1860, cited in
William Watson Davis, Civil War, pp. 54-55.

57 Proctor, "A Call To Arms . .," 266-270.

58 Madison Starke_Perry_Papers, quoted in Johns,
Florida During The Civil war, p. 14.

59 Johns, Florida During The Civil War, p. 14.

60 William Watson Davis, Civil War, p. 54.

61A Journal of the Proceedings of the Senate of the
General Assembly of the State of Florida, 10th Session
(1860) (Tallahassee: 1860), pp. 10-14.

62 Ellen Call Long, Florida Breezes or Florida, new and
old 1882; facsimile ed. (Gainesville: 1962), p. 283.

63Richard Keith Call, "An Address to the People of
Florida, From Gen. R.K. Call, December 1, 1860" (1860).

64 Dodd, "The Secession Movement in Florida," 54.

65The Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the General
Assembly of the State of Florida 10th Session. (Tallahassee:
1861), pp. 15-16.

66 Ibid.

67 Tallahassee Sentinel, December 22, 1860.

68 New York Tribune, February 20, 1864.