Monday, April 13, 2009
The 1st and 2nd Cavalries: Union Soldiers from Florida
Over the next few days I will be devoting some time to exploring the activities of the 1st and 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalry Regiments. These regiments were heavily involved in different actions and raids in Florida, including most notably the 1864 raid on Marianna and the 1865 Natural Bridge expedition.
Several times through the years, I've encountered shock on the part of Florida families when they learned their ancestors fought for the Union instead of the Confederacy. It seems that today we like to look at things in clear cut ways. In the days of the War Between the States, however, things were not always so clear cut.
Florida in 1860 was very divided in its emotions. Many in the state favored independence and secession, while others were extremely loyal to the old flag and the Union. A large number of Floridians had fought for the United States during the War with Mexico or had fathers and grandfathers that had served in the War of 1812 and American Revolution. Loyalty to the flag of their fathers was hard for many to surrender. Some studies, in fact, indicate that a slight majority of Floridians opposed secession.
When the state left the Union in January of 1861, most of its Unionists remained quiet. Some went North, but others stayed home and remained good citizens. Like most Southern citizens of the day, Floridians - both pro-Union and pro-secession - believed that their loyalties lay first with their state.
Florida's Unionists in fact contributed heavily to the state's Confederate regiments. Rosters reveal numerous names of individuals known to have been Unionist in their sympathies, especially from the counties of Northwest Florida.
In fact, early in the war there was no great movement of pro-Union Floridians to join the forces of the U.S. Some men made their way to the Union bases at Pensacola Bay and Key West, but for the most part they went along with the war effort. It was during the winter of 1862-1863 that the situation began to change. I'll have more on that in the next post.