With a small population, Florida would contribute more goods to the Confederate cause than manpower. It produced large amounts of sustenance and its large coastline made it difficult for Union Navy efforts to curb blockade runners bringing in supplies and material from foreign markets to support the Confederate war effort.
As Florida was an important supply route for the Confederate Army, Union forces operated a blockade around the entire state. Union troops occupied major ports such as Cedar Key, Jacksonville, Key West, and Pensacola early in the war. Confederate forces moved quickly to seize control of many of Florida's U.S. Army forts, succeeding in most cases, with the significant exceptions of Fort Jefferson, Fort Pickens and Fort Zachary Taylor, which stayed firmly in Federal control throughout the war.
Governor John Milton, an ardent secessionist, throughout the war stressed the importance of Florida as a supplier of goods. Florida was a large provider of food (particularly beef cattle) and salt for the Confederate Army. The 8,436-mile coastline and 11,000 miles of rivers, streams, and waterways proved a haven for blockade runners and a daunting task for patrols by Federal warships.
The state's small population (140,000 residents making it last in size in the Confederacy) and relatively remote location, proved both a blessing and a curse to both sides throughout the war.
Overall, the state raised some 15,000 troops (more than 10% of its population) for the Confederacy, which were organized into twelve regiments of infantry and two of cavalry, as well as several artillery batteries and supporting units. Most of these troops were sent to serve in the Army of Northern Virginia under Brig. Gen. Edward A. Perry and Col. David Lang. The "Florida Brigade" fought in many of Robert E. Lee's campaigns, and twice charged Cemetery Ridge during the Battle of Gettysburg, including supporting Pickett's Charge.
In early 1862, the Confederate government pulled General Braxton Bragg's small army from Pensacola following successive Confederate defeats in Tennessee at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry and the fall of New Orleans. It sent them to the Western Theater for the remainder of the war. The only Confederate forces remaining in Florida at that time were a variety of independent companies, several infantry battalions, and the 2nd Florida Cavalry. They were reinforced in 1864 by troops from neighboring Georgia.
Numerous small skirmishes occurred in Florida -- including the battles of Natural Bridge, Gainesville, Marianna, Vernon and Fort Brooke. The major engagement was at Olustee near Lake City. Union forces under General Truman Seymour were repulsed by Florida and Georgia troops and retreated to their fortifications around Jacksonville. Seymour's relatively high losses caused Northern lawmakers and citizens to question the necessity of any further Union actions in Florida. Many of the Federal troops were withdrawn and sent elsewhere. Throughout the balance of 1864 and into the following spring, the 2nd Florida Cavalry repeatedly thwarted Federal raiding parties into the Confederate-held northern and central portions of the state.
In early May 1865, Edward M. McCook's Union division was assigned to re-establish Federal control and authority in Florida. Governor Milton committed suicide rather than submit to Union occupation. On May 13, Col. George Washington Scott surrendered the last active Confederate troops in the state to McCook. On May 20, Tallahassee was the next to last Confederate state capital to fall to the Union army. Austin, Texas fell the next month.
Florida would not "rejoin" the Union or be "readmitted" to the United States until July 25, 1868.
Several years ago, when Texas issued its first SCV specialty license plate, I never envisioned the day that those plates would be rescinded. But presently, three Southern states - Maryland, Virginia, and Texas - have moved to ban the sale of "specialty" license plates emblazoned with the Confederate flag.
The bans follow a June US Supreme Court ruling that Confederate-flag plates are a form of government speech, and as a result can be rejected by states that choose to do so.
In that 5-to-4 decision, which focused on whether or not Texas had a right to refuse to issue such specialty plates, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority that "The fact that private parties take part in the design and propagation of a message does not extinguish the governmental nature of the message or transform the government's role into that of a mere forum-provider."
Maryland attempted to recall license plates that featured small images of the flag beginning in the 1990s, but at the time a federal judge ruled that those plates were protected by the First Amendment.
On Thursday, District Judge Marvin J. Garbis issued an order permitting Attorney General Brian Fosh to lift that ruling, with the order going into full effect mid-November.
Virginia has told the owners of Confederate-flag plates to obtain new ones without that symbol, but it has received considerable pushback from owners of those plates who say that the Confederate flag is a symbol of their heritage, not racism.
"I have a great-great-great grandfather who fought and died with the 5th Georgia Infantry. And his four brothers all died with him in the name of that flag," Kevin Collier, a man from Suffolk, Virginia, told local Virginia news outlet 13NewsNow. Mr. Collier is refusing to turn in his plates.
In September, the Virginia DMV sent out 1600 new plates, asking owners of Confederate-flag plates to turn in their old license plates within 30 days. However, only 163 people have complied. According to the Virginia DMV, it is a Class 2 misdemeanor to drive with inactive plates.
Georgia, on the other hand, has recently begun selling license plates that bear the Confederate flag logo again. The state issued a temporary halt on sales after the June attack on a black church in Charleston, in which nine churchgoers were killed. Georgia's newly redesigned plates feature a smaller image of the Confederate flag, and the flag is no longer used as a background image on the plates.
"The changes reflect an agreement [we] reached with the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which sponsors the specialty plate," William Gaston, a spokesman for Georgia's Department of Revenue, told Reuters.
"We were just as mortified as anyone over the events in South Carolina but that doesn't have anything to do with the Confederate flag," Ray McBerry, spokesman for the state's Sons of Confederate Veterans group, added.
Even scarier, is the possibility that white southerners may be their own worst enemy. According to a Winthrop Poll released Wednesday, a little over half of white South Carolina residents supported the removal of the flag. Either the poll was skewed? Or the wind no longer blows southward in South Carolina?
The GOP presidential hopeful just nabbed the support of retired NASCAR driver Richard Petty.
RANDLEMAN, N.C. (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Monday said NASCAR fans should continue flying the Confederate Flag, so long as it's on private property, as he received the informal endorsement of racing legend Richard Petty.
Petty's support marks a significant step for Carson, the only African-American in the crowded 2016 Republican field, as he navigates delicate political issues in a region that could play prominently in the selection of the next Republican presidential nominee.
Carson has toured the country extensively in recent years, but in some ways, the Detroit native is still learning about the South.
He was cautious when asked to weigh in on Petty's recent comments on the Confederate Flag, a symbol of slavery for many African-Americans and southern pride for whites. The flag is often flown prominently by NASCAR fans before and after races around the country. Petty this summer called the flag debate "a passing fancy."
Carson told the AP that NASCAR fans should continue flying the flag "if it's private property and that's what they want to do."
He also acknowledged the flag remains "a symbol of hate" for many black people and compared it to the Nazi swastika.
"Swastikas are a symbol of hate for some people, too. And yet they still exist in museums and places like that," Carson said, describing the decision about flying the flag "a local issue." ''If it's a majority of people in that area who want it to fly, I certainly wouldn't take it down."
Meanwhile, his lack of experience in the South was apparent over lunch.
"What are these?" he asked his wife, pointing to a small fried morsel as they began to eat. "Hush puppies," she responded.
A spokesman later confirmed that Monday was Carson's first time eating hush puppies, a popular southern side dish.
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