Confederate Military History, Vol. 15: Florida.
This work spanning fifteen extensive volumes is the result of contributions by many Southern men to the literature of the United States that treats of the eventful years in which occurred the momentous struggle called by Mr. A. H. Stephens “the war between the States.” These contributions were made on a well-considered plan, to be wrought out by able writers of unquestionable Confederate record who were thoroughly united in general sentiment and whose generous labors upon separate topics would, when combined, constitute a library of Confederate military history and biography. According to the great principle in the government of the United States that one may result from and be composed of many – the doctrine of E pluribus unum–it was considered that intelligent men from all parts of the South would so write upon the subjects committed to them as to produce a harmonious work which would truly portray the times and issues of the Confederacy and by illustration in various forms describe the soldiery which fought its battles. Upon this plan two volumes – the first and the last-comprise such subjects as the justification of the Southern States in seceding from the Union and the honorable conduct of the war by the Confederate States government; the history of the actions and concessions of the South in the formation of the Union and its policy in securing the existing magnificent territorial dominion of the United States; the civil history of the Confederate States, supplemented with sketches of the President, Vice-President, cabinet officers and other officials of the government; Confederate naval history; the morale of the armies; the South since the war, and a connected outline of events from the beginning of the struggle to its close. The two volumes containing these general subjects are sustained by the other volumes of Confederate military history of the States of the South involved in the war. Each State being treated in separate history permits of details concerning its peculiar story, its own devotion, its heroes and its battlefields. The authors of the State histories, like those of the volumes of general topics, are men of unchallenged devotion to the Confederate cause and of recognized fitness to perform the task assigned them. It is just to say that this work has been done in hours taken from busy professional life, and it should be further commemorated that devotion to the South and its heroic memories has been their chief incentive. This volume fifteen out of fifteen, covering the Civil War in Florida.
Confederate Military History, Vol. 15: Florida.
Excerpt from the text:
We are told by the historian of an earlier age that whenever the renowned men of the Roman commonwealth looked upon the statues of their ancestry, they felt their minds vehemently excited to virtue. It could not have been the bronze or marble that possessed this power, but the recollection of great actions which kindled a generous flame in their souls, not to be quelled until they also, by virtue and heroic deeds, had acquired equal fame and glory. When a call to arms resounds throughout the land and a people relinquish the pleasant scenes of tranquil life and rally to their country’s call, such action is the result of an honest conviction that the act is commendable. In recalling such an epoch, the wish that a true record of the deeds done should be transmitted to posterity must dominate every patriot heart. Loyalty to brave men, who for four long years of desolating war—years of undimmed glory—stood by each other and fought to the bitter end with the indomitable heroism which characterized the Confederate soldier, demands from posterity a preservation of the memories of the great struggle. We cannot find in all the annals of history a grander record or prouder roll of honor, nor more just fame for bravery, patient endurance of hardships, and sacrifices.
The noble chieftain, Robert E. Lee, said: ‘Judge your enemy from his standpoint, if you would be just.’ Whatever may be said of the contention between the two great sections of the Union, whether by arbitration of council every issue might have been settled and a fratricidal war averted, there will be but one unalterable decree of history respecting the Confederate soldier. His deeds of heroism ‘are wreathed around with glory,’ and he will be ever honored, because he was not only brave and honorable, but true to his convictions. The sacrifices made by our loyal defenders and their glorious deeds shall not perish; but the pen of the historian shall hand them down through the ages—a proud heritage to our race and to all mankind. Now that the people who so grandly illustrated their loyalty to the Confederacy are passing away, the South claims from them a truthful, dispassionate history of the causes leading to their withdrawal from the Union, and the subsequent events when the tocsin of war sounded throughout the land.
Religion and patriotism should dominate every human life, and as love of country comes next to our love and allegiance to God, it must follow that a people panoplied with righteousness must be a highly patriotic people. The memories of the heroic sufferings and sacrifices of the noble men and women throughout the land make a history that will shine with imperishable luster, ‘idealizing principle, strengthening character and intensifying love of country,’ proving to the world that
Noble souls through dust and heat
Rise from disaster and defeat
The grandest vindication of the South will come when Truth, no longer crushed to earth through narrowmindedness and sectional prejudice, will write in golden characters a just tribute to every American soldier who fell on either side. Let the record be: ‘Here lies an American Hero, a Martyr to the Right as his Conscience conceived it.’
In 1860 the storm of political strife that had been steadily gathering for many years culminated with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican sectional candidate for the presidency of the United States on an avowed sectional policy. At the commencement of hostilities against the South, in Charleston harbor, and especially on the proclamation of President Lincoln calling for 75,000 troops to make an unconstitutional war on the seceded States, the war-cloud darkened all Florida and every heart burned with indignation. All former differences of opinion, all past party prejudices, yielded to the mastery of a just sense of impending danger; and, animated by the spirit that had inspired their fathers in 1776, the people of Florida resolved to unite in the patriotic effort to secure for the South an independent government, as the Constitution framed by their forefathers had been violated. With a patriotic and heroic sense of their great duty, our brave citizens throughout the State began to make preparations to be in readiness to respond to their country’s call, to resist the wicked design of sectional partisans to wage a cruel war of coercion against the seceded States. Companies of cavalry, artillery and infantry were rapidly and successfully organized. The formation of these splendid organizations was so rapid that Florida secured a proud place when the time came for her troops to be received into the service of the Confederate States army.
The ablest jurists and statesmen of the country having firmly asserted, clearly elucidated and bravely vindicated the legal right of a State to secede from the general government, an intelligent, chivalrous people, proudly assured of the justice of their convictions, could not forswear the great principles of a lifetime. On the 3rd of January, 186, the people of Florida, through their delegates chosen in pursuance of the act of the general assembly, approved November 30, 1860, assembled in convention in the hall of the house of representatives in the capitol of the State, at the city of Tallahassee. This honorable body, composed of the best talent in the State, was temporarily organized with John C. Pelot, of Alachua, as chairman, and B. G. Pringle, of Gadsden, as secretary. After an address by Mr. Pelot, the proceedings were opened with prayer by Bishop Rutledge.
The names of the members of the convention, and the counties and districts they represented, are here preserved: John Morrison, A. L. McCaskill, of Walton; Freeman B. Irwin, of Washington; Richard D. Jordan, R. R. Golden, of Holmes; S. S. Alderman, Joseph A. Collier, of Jackson; Adam McNealy, James L. G. Baker, of Jackson; Simmons I. Baker, of Calhoun; McQueen McIntosh, of Fifth senatorial district; Thomas F. Henry, E. C. Love, of Gadsden; Abraham K. Allison, of Gadsden; John Beard, James Kirksey, of Leon; G. W. Parkhill, G. T. Ward, Wm. C. M. Davis, of Leon; Daniel Ladd, David Lewis, of Wakulla; Thompson B. Lamar, Thomas M. Palmer, of Jefferson; J. Patton Anderson, Wm. S. Dilsworth, of Jefferson; John C. McGehee, A. I. Lea, of Madison; W. H. Lever, of Taylor; E. P. Barrington, of Lafayette; Lewis A. Folsom, Joseph Thomas, of Hamilton; Green H. Hunter, James A. Newmans, of Columbia; A. J. T. Wright, unseated by John W. Jones, of Suwannee; Isaac C. Coon, of New River; John J. Lamb, of Thirteenth senatorial district; Joseph Finegan, Jas. G. Cooper, of Nassau; I. M. Daniel, of Duval; John P. Sanderson, of Sixteenth senatorial district; Matthew Solana, of St. John’s; James O. Devall, of Putnam; Rhydon G. Mays, of Seventeenth senatorial district; John C. Pelot, J. B. Dawkins, of Alachua; James B. Owens, S. M. G. Gary, of Marion; W. McGahagin, of Marion; James H. Chandler, of Volusia; William W. Woodruff, of Orange; William B. Yates, of Brevard; David G. Leigh, of Sumter; Q. N. Rutland, of Nineteenth senatorial district; James Gettis, of Twentieth senatorial district; George Helvenston, of Levy; Benjamin W. Saxon, of Hernando; Simon Turman, of Hillsboro; Ezekiel Glazier, of Manatee; Wm. Pinckney, Winer Bethel, of Monroe; Asa F. Tift, of Dade; Jackson Morton, Wm. Simpson, of Santa Rosa; Wm. Wright, Wm. Nicholson, of Escambia; T. J. Hendricks, of Clay; Daniel D. McLean, of Fourth senatorial district; Samuel B. Stephens, of Seventh senatorial district; S. W. Spencer, of Franklin; W. S. Gregory, of Liberty.
The permanent president then selected, Hon. John C. McGehee, of Madison County, was sworn by Judge J. J. Finley. His address, so clear and dispassionate on this momentous occasion, is worthy of a record in these pages, that the youth of our land may better understand the lofty spirit that characterized the men who were there assembled.
Mr. McGehee said:
Gentlemen, I feel very sensibly the honor you have done me in calling me to preside over your deliberations. Such a manifestation of confidence and respect by the assembled sovereignty of my State, called together in such a crisis to consult together for the general safety, deeply affects my feelings, and in return I offer all that is in my power to give—the homage of a grateful heart. The occasion on which we are called together is one of the most solemn and important that ever assembled a people. Our government, the inheritance from a noble ancestry—the greatest achievement of human wisdom, made to secure to their posterity the rights and liberties purchased with their blood, is crumbling into ruins. Every day and almost every hour brings intelligence confirming the opinion that its dissolution is at hand.
One State, one of the time-honored thirteen, has withdrawn the powers granted in the Constitution which constituted her a member of the Union, under the political power of the government. All our sister States immediately adjacent to us are at this moment moving in the same direction, under circumstances that render their action as certain as anything in the future. And as we look farther and beyond we see the same swell of public sentiment that a sense of wrong always inspires, agitating the great heart of the more distant States. And no reasonable doubt can be entertained by the most hopeful and sanguine that this excitement in public sentiment will extend and increase and intensify until all the States that are now known as the slaveholding States will withdraw their political connection from the non-slaveholding States, unite themselves in a common destiny and establish another constitution.
Why all this? The story is soon told. In the formation of the government of our fathers, the Constitution of 1787, the institution of domestic slavery is recognized and the right of property in slaves is expressly guaranteed. The people of a portion of the States who were parties in the government were early opposed to the institution. The feeling of opposition to it has been cherished and fostered and inflamed until it has taken possession of the public mind at the North to such an extent that it overwhelms every other influence. It has seized the political power, and now threatens annihilation to slavery throughout the Union. At the South and with our people, of course, slavery is the element of all value, and a destruction of that destroys all that is property. This party, now soon to take possession of the powers of government, is sectional, irresponsible to us, and, driven on by an infuriated, fanatical madness that defies all opposition, must inevitably destroy every vestige of right growing out of property in slaves. The State of Florida is now a member of the Union, under the power of the government soon to go into the hands of this party. As we stand, our doom is decreed; and realizing an imperative necessity thus forced upon them to take measures for their safety, the people of Florida have clothed you with supreme power and sent you here with the high and solemn duty to devise the best possible means to insure their safety and have given you the charge to see that their commonwealth suffers no detriment.