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Volume 25, No. 6 – June 2012


Volume 25, No. 6
Editor: Stephen L. Seftenberg

President’s Message

The Round Table is in serious need of a Program Chairperson or persons.  Please call or see me at the meeting.  Any ideas or suggestions for programs would be greatly appreciated.  If any member would like to make a presentation, please let me know about the subject and scheduling.

Gerridine LaRovere, President

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 Program

One of our favorite speakers, Marsha Sonnenblick, will talk on "Jews and the Civil War."  We hope to have Howie Krizer give a short review of Jonathan Sarna’s latest book,  "When General Grant Expelled the Jews."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 Program

Judge Nelson E. Bailey did not disappoint a good crowd with stories of the civilian side of Florida’s participation in the Civil War.  Florida’s economy centered around cattle, horses and commodities.  Where did these horses and cattle come from?  Centuries earlier, they came, for example, in Columbus’ second voyage in 1494 to Hispaniola, swaying in slings below decks so their feet and hooves never touched the decks.  That explains why both cattle and horses were smaller than those you might have seen out West.  For the next decade, the King and Queen of Spain ordered the ships to bring breeding stock.  After then, bringing cattle and horses was prohibited and the men on the ships were required to buy stock and goods from the colonies.

In 1521, Ponce de Leon landed cattle and hogs near St. Augustine, and met up with the Calusa Indians, who were well organized politically and militarily, in addition to towering over the Spanish.  The Indians averaged six feet or more in height as compared to the Spaniards’ 5 foot 3 or 4 inches.  After determining that the newcomers were up to no good, the Calusa attacked and defeated the Spaniards.  Ponce de Leon was wounded and later died of his wounds.  Judge Bailey noted that the Spaniards, when they retreated to their ships, did not reload their cargoes.  These cattle and hogs, along with buffalo, ran free until 1949!  The Spanish horses had a recessive gene for gaiting, which produced a smoother, more comfortable ride.  JEB Stuart, the famed Confederate cavalry leader, favored Cherokee horses (descendants of Ponce de Leon’s horses) because they could ride rings around the bigger Union horses.

Judge Bailey then turned to saddles, saying that the McClellan saddle was comfortable if it fit you, but a disaster if the horse bucked.  He has the broken back to prove his point!  It was light, cool and good in hot, clammy weather.  After the Civil War, the horses and saddles were available for nominal sums.  The men who tended Florida’s cattle were "cowmen" or "cow hunters" not "cowboys."  The cattle were put into "cow pens" not "corrals."  An old drunk in Kissimmee made "saddle pockets" (not "saddle bags") which fit over the McClellan saddle, making it easy to climb off your horse and grab your saddle pockets.  Judge Bailey brought a saddle pocket along.  It resembled a modern leather brief case except for the leather band that joined the two sides.

Cattle ran free in Florida between 1521-1949!  This was not that much a problem until the tourists came after World War II – if your car hit a cow, the cow’s owner by law was not responsible for repairing your car or paying for your injuries or death.  When Florida paved its roads, the situation got worse, since the cows liked to lie on the asphalt because it retained the day’s heat!  Not until 1949 did the Florida legislature require fencing in the cattle!

Florida was "owned" by Spain for over 300 years and still has a rich Spanish heritage.  St. Augustine, founded in 1565, decades before Jamestown or Plymouth Rock.  East Florida became a U. S. territory in 1822.  However, Florida has mostly been left out of U. S. history taught in Florida schools!  For over 300 years, residents lived on the coast and sailed to get from one settlement to another.  At most, the whites went no more than one mile inland.  The chief industry (except during the Civil War) until the 1900s was raising cattle for export to Cuba.  Why Cuba?  Cattle tended to eat the sugar cane!  Florida has only three natural deep water ports, all on the Gulf Coast:  Tampa, Bradenton and Punta Rassa (between Ft. Myers and Sanibel).  At each port, you could sail up to a dock and load the cattle aboard.  Old timers called them "Cuban walkers."

In 1989, Judge Bailey read an article in the Palm Beach Post about a group that followed the old cattle trail from the East coast to Punta Rassa.  On horseback it took 6 days.  Mrs. Bailey rode her horse for 18 straight years until her horse died at age 29!  Judge and Mrs. Bailey befriended a man who told them stories of Civil War times around each evening’s camp fire.  Another rider was Judge Platt who was still riding at age 82.  Judge Bailey said, "I felt I was riding my horse back into history."  The trail ride is still being conducted by the Florida Cracker Trail Association.  Since then, Judge Bailey has ridden his horse over the Lynchburg, Sharpsburg and Gettysburg battlefields.  He noted that parts of the Gettysburg battlefield are accessible only on horseback.

Florida’s main contributions to the Civil War were its small, tough cattle and its small, tough horses!  If you were in the Florida "Cow Cavalry," you were exempt from the Confederate draft!  Instead, you were expected to protect the cattle ranches and the cattle drives to the rail head at the Georgia border from Federal raiders.  A prime example of Floridian cussedness was the reaction of a member of the Carlton family when he received a Confederate draft notice.  Saying, "No one is going to tell me what to do!" he enlisted in the Federal army!  The Carlton family has been ostracized by some of its neighbors ever since!  Today, Florida ranks in the top 5 in cattle.  Now, however, Florida cattle are shipped by rail to Kansas and Texas feed lots.  Judge Bailey’s advice: buy and eat Florida grass fed beef!

There was no slavery in Spanish Florida.  An escaped slave who made it to Florida became a free citizen, provided only that he converted to Catholicism and served in the Spanish militia.  Blacks established a community 3 miles south of St. Augustine called "black town."  This was the first free black town in North America.  As for slaves who escaped to the Seminoles, they remained "slaves" in name but in reality were treated as equal members of the tribe.  Seminoles were tough fighters: the U. S. Army lost 1500 casualties in the Seminole Wars, many more than were casualties in the "Indian Wars" out West.  After the Civil War, many black Seminoles moved to Oklahoma and were recruited as "Buffalo Soldiers."  Again, this story is largely ignored in the history books (but not the movies).

CrackerCow men used "Florida curs" (stock dogs) to locate the free range cattle.  In the North, "cur" means "mongrel."  The curs had to be trained not to go into water except on command.  Why? Smart to check for alligators first!  Curs were genetically geared to be "headers" (that is, they get in front of the cattle and stop them).  Australian and Western dogs are "heelers" and work the cattle from behind.  On the command, "Get ‘em!" the curs go off into the woods.  They hunt silently.  Since they work better if they never meet, they are trained to circle in opposite direction. Once the cattle are located, the curs will "bay" until you locate them.  The dogs will also instinctively bring back strays or other people’s cattle in the woods.  You then call the curs off and drive the cattle by horseback, using your "cow whip."  The design of a cow whip is completely different from a western bull whip.  It has a "popper" on the end, usually a shoe string!  The amazing sound comes from the fact that the tip breaks the sound barrier.  Judge Bailey then demonstrated how a cow whip works.  You can use the sound to drive a single cow or a herd.  You can gather 300 to 400 cattle in 3 or 4 days.  In the Civil War, ammunition was scarce so cow men learned to catch rabbits, turkeys, etc. for their meals.

Judge Bailey then turned to the Seminoles.  The "original" Indians shown on the map were mainly agriculturists, living on squash, beans, corn, fish and shell food.  In 1513, over 200,000 natives lived in Florida.  The Spanish heavily intermarried with the native Americans (at least those they did not carry off to Cuba).  The Calusa "invented" the catamaran by putting a platform between two canoes and conducted trade with Central and South America.  The County Library in Belle Glade has a good display of metal working.

MapThe “Seminoles” were not originally a single tribe.  They were an alliance of Northern Florida and Southern Georgia natives that banded together in the 1700's to fight the European invaders, including people from the Maskoki (Creek), Miccosukee, Hitchiti and Oconee tribes.  Later the alliance became even closer, and today the Seminoles are a united sovereign nation, even though their people speak two languages and have different cultural backgrounds.  The original homelands of Florida's Creek and Miccosukee Indians were in the northern part of the state, but since the tribes of southern Florida had been conquered and killed off or shipped to Cuba by the Spanish, the Seminoles retreated into the Everglades, where those Seminoles not forcibly “removed” to Oklahoma, still live today.

The Creek bands moved south and traded deer hides and deer antlers to the white traders for shipment to Europe.  When an antler is sliced thin, it becomes an “ivory” button much prized in Europe and the upper classes in the United States.  Judge Bailey said the Creeks were given that name by the Europeans because they used creeks for trade.  How did the Seminoles get their name?  The Spanish word “cimarrons” means “runaways.”  Because the Creek and Miccosukee alphabets did not the letter “r,” this became “Seminolé, which the Europeans mispronounced as “Seminole” with a silent “e” at the end.  How did the Seminoles become famous for their costumes?  A Shakespeare troupe was ambushed near St. Augustine and “liberated” its costumes, with which they delighted in wearing and imitating.  The U. S. Army simply named captured or killed anonymous Seminoles as “King” or “Prince.”  The clothes worn by Osceola, the famed war leader, were vastly different from the clothing worn by the Plains Indians because of the Spanish and Shakespearian influence!  In both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the Seminoles fought on the English side.  In 1814-15, Andrew Jackson invaded Florida, ostensibly to stop the Indians from raiding into Georgia, but really to see if Spain would fight to keep Florida.  Spain, of course, was too feeble to defend its title and Jackson became the first Governor of Florida.  He admired the horses ridden by the Florida cow men because they had a “walking” gait unlike Western horses and could be ridden for long periods.  He took a herd with him when he went back to Tennessee: hence the famed "Tennessee Walkers."

In 1836 Samuel Colt invented the revolver and obtained a patent.  However, when he offered a 6-shot revolving rifle to the U. S. Army, the hidebound brass decided not to purchase it because it "wasted" ammunition!  Instead, Colt sailed to Fort Jupiter and privately sold his rifles to the U. S. Army commander there.  During the Seminole War, the Seminoles captured these rifles and killed many more soldiers this way.  This created a problem: the Seminole culture specified that if you killed an enemy, you had to bury the weapon you used to kill him with him.  Ever resourceful, the Seminoles "amended" the rules so that they did not have to bury their rifles until they had killed 3 or 4 soldiers and then buried them in a unknown safe place in the Everglades!  When Seminoles were forcibly "removed" to Oklahoma, some fought for the Union as the "U. S. Indian Home Guards" and some for the Confederacy.

SettlersIn conclusion, Judge Bailey made a personal request to his audience (and to the reader):  When you were young, many of you lived up North.  So long as you live, you will think of yourselves as a citizen of "Illinois" or "Wisconsin" or "New York."  If and when you have children or grandchildren born in Florida, they will always think of themselves as "Floridians."  Please do not cheat your children or grandchildren of the fantastic multicolored quilt that is Florida.  He recommended that everyone read "A Land Remembered," by Patrick Smith. 

[Editor’s note: Prof. James V. Holton, of Lakeland, Florida, in a 2005 review of this book, said, "Patrick Smith compellingly recreates an aspect of Florida history that predates Disney, NASCAR racing, tourism and ‘God's waiting room.’  He takes the reader on a three-generation journey through Florida history from the Civil War to the 1960s.  Told through the experiences of the MacIvey family, it recounts the family’s rise from hardscrabble poverty to wealth and influence.  At the same time, we see the evolution of Florida to the state it is today, and lament over its change, a "land remembered."  Along the way the reader will encounter the formative events of Florida history from the Civil War onward. Smith’s portrayal of Florida’s cattle raising history should enlighten many readers of a little known and often neglected past of Florida’s history."]

Judge Bailey finished by responding to many questions from his entranced audience.

Last changed: 06/01/12

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