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150th Anniversary of Civil War

Today is the 150th (five generations ago) anniversary of the Civil War a/k/a The War Between the States a/k/a The War of Northern Aggression a/k/a The War of Southern Rebellion - the bloodiest war in United States history.

Oldest City goes to war - Bells rang, guns fired, flags raised upon secession

St. Augustine Record

Talk of war had been in the air for months, but on April 12, 1861, it became a reality with the bombardment and subsequent surrender the next day of Fort Sumter by the United States to the Confederacy.

The War Between the States was official.

In St. Augustine the news was greeted with loud cheers and bell ringing by most, but not all, of the city's free residents.
St. Augustine housed not only native-born residents, but also heavy numbers of Northerners, including many from Connecticut.

After years of hard times, the North Florida town was beginning to enjoy a reputation as a winter tourist town, and boarding houses and small hotels catered to the visitor.

But the city as a whole was siding with the South and had been for some time.

Visitors were warned not to voice pro-Union opinions. As in the rest of Florida, no votes in St. Augustine had been cast for Republican Abraham Lincoln during the election of 1860.

In spring of 1860 the town had reorganized its militia, raising a local unit, the Florida Independent Blues, known more widely as the St. Augustine Blues. Later the Milton Guards, a group of younger boys, and the Marion Artillery units were raised.

St. Augustine sent two representatives to
Florida's Secession Convention in Tallahassee in January 1861.

The St. Augustine Examiner's Matthias Andreu reported how church bells rang, guns fired and flags were raised at news on Jan. 10 that Florida was now independent of the Union. A torchlight parade and bonfires lit the town that night.
Even before the state's secession was official the city had fought its first "battle" although a quiet one. On Jan. 7, 1861, Confederates took over Fort Marion, as the Castillo de San Marcos was then known. Renamed for Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, South Carolina's Swamp Fox, the fort was a strategic target not to be ignored.

The takeover was quick, with a U.S. Army sergeant, Henry Douglas, handing over the keys. Being a wise Army man, however, he did insist on a receipt. Reportedly, the receipt is still in the U.S. Army Archives.

The Marion Artillery was put in charge of the battery along the seawall. Some of the cannons captured at the fort were sent to Fernandina's fort and other locations around the state.

St. Augustine expected reprisals from the federal government, with Col. G.C. Gibbs announcing preparations for defense of the city on Jan. 19. On Jan. 26 the Artillery announced it had several 32-pounders and 8-inch howitzers in place.

On Jan. 23 the Confederates removed the lenses at the St. Augustine Lighthouse, shutting off safe passage into the city by water.

No assault came, but the Confederate command was well aware of the vulnerability and difficulty of defending the coast. The decision would be to concentrate defense efforts on the larger ports of Charleston, Savannah and Brunswick.

Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote in late 1861 that the small garrison at the fort was an "invitation to attack."

But on April 13, 1861, St. Augustine and the South were celebrating the surrender of Fort Sumter.

"This morning the booming of Cannon and ringing of Bells in our City, proclaimed the joyful news that Fort Sumter has surrendered, no thanks it seems to the Lincoln Government; all such favors we are to win by the valor of our arms. We rejoice that this long agony is over, right nobly have the South Carolinians done their duty; they are no degenerate sons of noble sires," wrote Andreu of the news.
--- end St. Augustine Record article published April 11, 2011 ---

"Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote in late 1861 that the small garrison at the fort was an 'invitation to attack.'"  

And Lee was prophetic, as a few months later on March 11, 1962 the USS Wabash and the USS Mohican sailed into the harbor and the Confederate troops abandoned Fort Marion and the City of St. Augustine - both of which remained under Union occupation throughout the remainder of the war, and was not subsequently attacked by Confederates. Thus St. Augustine was under the Confederate flag for less than a year.  

Actually all of Florida was never occupied by Confederates after secession, as both Fort Taylor and Fort Jefferson in south Florida remained under Union control.  Florida had only been a state for 15 years in 1860.

Many Union and Confederate veterans (and their family members) are buried at the St. Augustine National Cemetery on Marine Street in St. Augustine.  

Union headstones have a shield, with the arched name of the vet, military unit abbrev, DoB, and DoD.  
Confederate headstones have the Confederate Southern Cross of Valor in lieu of the Union shield, plus the name, unit, and dates.  

Black veterans have the inscription USCT, to indicate United States Colored Troops.

A more inclusive article, not concentrated on St. Augustine and Florida:

During the centennial years of the Civil War I subscribed to the facsimile reprints of the major U.S. newspaper, Harper's Weekly.
[ see ]

Reading the contemporary accounts during those centennial years - and comparing them to later-published diaries, auto-biographies and interviews of the soldiers, citizens and residents - precipitated my current love of original sources and radical research when reviewing history.

A sample from October 12, 1861, including confederate cartoons: Forum Index -> In the News Local (St Augustine)
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