150 years ago, on January 10, 1861, Florida’s Secession Convention, by a vote of 62 to 7, took this state out of the United States of America, and ten days later, Florida became a founding member of the Confederate States of America. However, in January 1861, more Unionist sentiment existed here than indicated by that overwhelming vote for secession. A large minority of Floridians remained loyal to the Union, a minority that would grow in size as the Civil War dragged on for four long years.
Following secession, Florida was faced with the daunting challenge of raising an adequate military force to defend the state and the Confederacy. With a vast land area of 65,755 square miles and a coastal shoreline of 2,276 miles, the longest of any state at that time, Florida also had the smallest population of any state from which to enlist soldiers, with only 79,000 free residents and 62,000 slaves.
In spite of its small free population, Florida raised approximately 15,000 troops for the Confederacy, organized into twelve infantry regiments, two cavalry regiments, a few artillery batteries, and a variety of smaller units. The percentage of Florida’s free population to enlist into military service during the Civil War was the highest of any state, North or South.
For most of the Civil War, Florida’s coastal cities and fortifications were occupied by Union forces. Confederate forces held the interior of the state, with its headquarters at Lake City throughout most of the war. Florida soldiers fought in most of the major battles of the Civil War. The Florida Brigade in the General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia earned a valiant reputation.
Over the next four years, this website will publish a series of articles about the Florida Irish in the Civil War, their personal stories, and the great and terrible events in which they participated.