On January 10, 1861, delegates to the Florida Convention in Tallahassee voted to secede from the United States of America. The following month, Florida was one of six Deep South states to form the Confederate States of America.
The least populous state below the Mason-Dixon line, Florida played an active role in the Civil War. At least 17,000 Floridians fought in the conflict (the great majority on the Confederate side), and the state’s coastline provided safe harbor to blockade runners. Florida products—such as sugar, pork, molasses and salt—proved essential in feeding Southern soldiers.
Just a year into the conflict, Confederate forces abandoned Fort Marion in St. Augustine. On March 11, 1862, the Union gunboat USS Wabash took the fort without firing a shot. Local officials agreed to surrender the historic city, founded by the Spanish in 1565, in an attempt to save it from destruction. The garrison, built by the Spanish and initially completed in 1695, is preserved as the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
Compared to many other Southern states, Florida saw little military action. Strategically important coastal cities, such as Jacksonville and Saint Augustine, switched hands between the North and South but the interior of the state remained under Confederate control. When Lee surrendered in 1865, Tallahassee was the only Southern capital east of the Mississippi that was still held by rebel forces.
- Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints contains pictures of most states that saw action in the conflict. Search the collection on the names of Southern states.
- Learn a Civil War song. Search the collection America Singing: Nineteenth Century Song Sheets on Florida to access the text of songs including “Secession Wagon” and “The Veteran’s Song.”
- To find features on important Civil War events and figures, search Today in History on Civil War. Read, for example, about the surrender of Charleston or Stonewall Jackson.
- For information on the early history of Florida, see the Today in History feature on Juan Ponce de Leon.