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Volume 33, No. 3 – March 2020

The President’s Message:

I am asking members of the Round Table to read a book, Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War by Charles B. Dew.  It is 144 pages.  At one of the summer meetings we will have an open discussion about the book.  Everyone is encouraged to participate.  Start reading.  Every opinion is welcomed and important.

Gerridine LaRovere

March 11, 2020 Program:

Our March, speaker will be actor and historian, Patrick Falci.  He played Lieutenant General A.P. Hill in the movie “Gettysburg.”  He also served as historical advisor and worked on the movie five years before filming began.  Who can forget his vivid portrayal of the Lieutenant General at one of our past meetings?  Patrick created a living history of the man in the red shirt and for an hour A.P. Hill was in the room.

Patrick’s March presentation will be Lee’s Forgotten General at Gettysburg.  In addition, he will answer questions about the making of the movie Gettysburg.  Perhaps you would like to know how Patrick was cast in the role of A.P. Hill or where Jeff Daniels did his research for the role of Colonel Chamberlain.

February 12, 2020 Program:

Riley & LaRovere The February meeting featured Chuck Riley and Gerridine LaRovere who gave us the known facts about Florida in January of 1861 through a living history program.  After hearing the presentation where would you stand?  Where would your loyalties lie?  Florida was a hot bed of contention during the Civil War.  There seem to be more opinions than alligators in the state.  Should it be Florida during the Civil War or Florida’s Civil War?  The following is a brief and succinct overview of some of the war time events in the state.

In March, 1861, the Union Navy had 76 vessels 42 commissioned and 34 on foreign shores.  Plans were made to put a blockade into effect from Alexandria, VA to the Rio Grande by December of 1861.  Florida presented a big problem because of the extensive coastal areas.  The state’s coastline was divided into two sections the Atlantic Ocean area and Gulf Coast – all reporting to Key West.  The blockade ships were very important.  The crews were treated well.  Horatio Bridge, chief of the Bureau of Provisions, had fresh supplies including clothing, ice, munitions, coal, medicine, mail, and information brought to the Unions ships blockading the coast.  On land Fort Jefferson, Fort Taylor, and Fort Pickens remained in Union hands.

What was happening politically in Florida?  The Democrats won the state elections in October of 1860 but the question of leaving the Union did not necessarily fall along party lines.  In early January, 1861 a vote was taken to determine whether to secede or not.  On the first vote the Unionists prevailed.  On January 10, 1861, a great debate took place.  Another vote was taken and the Ordinance of Secession was adopted.  Even after the vote there were many Union supporters.  Secessionists were often harassed Unionists.  Some Unionists wanted protection from Confederates.  The definition of Unionist or “Union Man” could mean anything from people who did not want to see the Union torn apart to a hate-filled epithet to a traitor who supported the Southern cause.  One Unionist wrote to the New York Times that “secessionists of Florida, could not stay the voice of this Union-loving people.”

Remember in the 1870’s census, Florida had a density of less than 2 people per square mile.  The population was very sparse and the men available for serving in the War were limited.  The Confederacy needed Florida for the beef, crops, and a salt supply.  Salt was vitally important to the South.  The condiment made food palatable, preserved butter and meat, and was needed for livestock and ammunition.  They needed six million bushels of salt a year.  Florida provided amble sea water to make salt.  There were many active salt works along the shores.

There were few deep harbors, rivers, or bays in Florida.  Large ships could not easily navigate the shallow waters which only allowed small boats.  Blockade boats were usually three or four miles from shore.  Florida also provided many hiding places for those who wanted to disappear and were willing to use a small boat.  The swampy areas offered excellent protection and cover.  The locals knew exactly where these secluded places were.

The Confederacy Conscription Act of 1862 was passed and men now had to serve three years.  Previously, you only served one year if you enlisted.  Many soldiers in Florida served their time and went home to their families.  However, as the War progressed men were not discharged and were now committed to serve for the remainder of the War.  Some soldiers went home without permission.  They deserted or failed to return to their unit after recuperating from being wounded.  One soldier said, “just forgot to return.”  Confederate troops would go on raids looking for soldiers who were deserting, skulking, or laying out.

By late 1863, many Floridians were war-weary.  Some turned to the Union Navy for aid and comfort – Unionists and Secessionists.  Many soldiers came back to Florida AWOL and set up well-hidden camps often close to home.  Eking out a living in Florida was very difficult.  The blockade ships were off-shore and relatively easy to reach.  Why not sell what you have raised?  They would bring beef, produce, and information to the blockaders.  In return the men received munitions, clothing, money, medicine or newspapers.  A minister or Justice of the Peace could be hard to find so ship captains were known to marry couples.

Adding to the mix were contrabands.  Ben Butler used this term for runaway slaves.  The Confederacy wanted slaves returned to their owners.  Ben Butler would not return them.  In Florida contrabands were often taken to blockade ships.  Secretary Wells allowed contrabands to remain on ships and authorized their enlistment in the Navy.  Before the War, the Navy always had black sailors serving side by side with whites.  During the War, there were times when this policy was not adhered to.

The refugee movement was called “the quiet rebellion of the common people.”  However, many of these refugees were difficult to pigeon hole in a specific group.  Toward the end of the War many of these people started working together in order to defeat the South.  For example, Unionists, contrabands, refugees, and blockaders banded together to destroy Confederate salt works along the shoreline.

In our extensive research one person stood out in all this military, political, and economic strife and that was W.W. Strickland.  Was he a traitor, patriot, deserter, resistor, or partisan?  Did he make poor choices or was it bad luck?  Chuck Riley and Gerridine LaRovere will be writing more about him in future newsletters.



Last changed: 02/27/20