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Atrocities in Florida


When Florida seceded from the Union on January 10, 1861, it possessed, by far, the smallest population of any of the Southern States - 140,000, and was the third smallest state in all the Union. Of the total population, 78,000 were white with about 16,000 of military age - almost all would serve in the war in one fashion or another. The governor at the time of secession was Madison Starke Perry, who, by the end of the year, would be in command of the 7th Florida Infantry Regiment. John Milton would succeed Perry as governor.

The first concern for Florida after secession was the occupation of Federal facilities, most importantly Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Navy Yard. Quick action by Lt. Adam Slemmer of the 1st U. S. Artillery prevented Fort Pickens from ever falling into Confederate hands. On January 10, he moved his small command (about 80 men), from Fort Barrancas to Fort Pickens, which commanded the entrance to Pensacola Bay. As long as the Federals controlled the pass, the Confederates could neither enter nor exit the bay. Two days after Slemmer moved across the bay, Commodore James Armstrong surrendered the Pensacola Navy Yard to state troops, for which he was later court-martialed.

Florida was divided into two military districts - the District of West Florida, and the District of Middle and East Florida. In March 1861, General Braxton Bragg assumed command of the Confederate forces in West Florida, mainly the troops around Pensacola. In October 1861, the Confederate Government assigned Brigadier General James H. Trapier to command Middle and East Florida, but soon fell ill and was replaced by Brigadier General Joseph Finegan.

The first major action in Florida occurred on October 9, 1861, when 1,000 Confederate troops, under the command of General R. H. Anderson, snuck ashore on Santa Rosa Island with the objective of surprising the Federal garrison at Fort Pickens, taking the fort, and opening the port. On the way to the fort, the Confederates ran into Union troops encamped outside the fort who sounded the alarm. After skirmishing much of the night, the Confederates withdrew from the island at daybreak. Federal troops suffered 43 casualties - 14 killed and 29 wounded. The Confederates lost 17 killed, 39 wounded, and 30 captured.

A month and a half later, the Union and Confederate forces would again square off at Pensacola, this time using only artillery. For two days, the cannon of Fort Pickens and the guns from the Federal ships Niagara and Richmond traded shots with Fort McRee and the Confederate batteries around Pensacola. The Confederates suffered 21 wounded, 1 mortally; Union losses were 5 killed and 12 wounded.

The largest battle in Florida occurred at Olustee on February 20, 1864. The Federals, believing Florida vulnerable both militarily and politically, mounted a campaign to drive into the heart of the state and possibly establish a new government sympathetic to the Union. The Union forces, under the command of Brigadier General Truman Seymour, landed at Jacksonville and marched west toward Tallahassee, the state capital. However, Confederate forces, commanded by General Finegan, stopped the Federal troops at Olustee Station near Ocean Pond. In the engagement, the Confederates lost 93 killed, 847 wounded, and 6 missing while the Union lost 203 killed, 1,152 wounded, and 506 missing. Union forces would not occupy Tallahassee until after the end of the war. In between battles, little happened in Florida. The Confederates used their Florida troops elsewhere, and the Union only raided the smaller ports.

In all, Florida contributed nearly 16,000 troops to the Confederate cause (10% of their population), or about 1.5 % of the entire Confederate Army. They would raise eleven infantry regiments, two cavalry regiments, several batteries of artillery, plus various smaller units of all branches; the Union raised two cavalry units from Florida.