By Patsy Green
Guest Writer 

People held different view points for the U.S.

 

April 16, 2020



I am subscribed to “Northwest Florida History and Genealogy” (https://nwfloridahistory.com/) The latest email I received from them was concerning “The Hidden History of the Florida Panhandle During the Civil War.” This was mainly the story of the 1st Florida Cavalry Union Volunteers, but also gave a lot of information about life in Northwest Florida and South Alabama during the 1850's and 1860's. If I don't do this justice or if you want more information you can check the above website. If it interests you enough to spend a little money, I also got information from the book The 1st Florida Cavalry Union Volunteers in the Civil War: The Men and Regimental History and What It Tells Us About Northwest Florida and South Alabama During the War by Sharon D. Marsh. (I paid $9.95 for a kindle edition.)

Our first understanding of the Civil War era and people's loyalties and actions comes from understanding the difference in perspective between us today and the people in the 1800's. We think of the USA as a nation that is divided into states. They thought of the United States of America as a union of independent states that had decided to band together for the common good. Beyond that, a man's first loyalty was to his family, then to his community, then to county, state and nation.


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There is also a difference in our perspectives regarding military service. We are familiar with an enlistment length being from two to six years or more. They were first members of their local community's home guard or militia. The militia would enlist as a unit for a period of time (usually measured in months, not years). There were some men in the country with long term military enlistments, but the militia system was often the mode of service in this area during the Civil War.

In March of 1861 the Confederate States of America began to ask for volunteers to capture and occupy Union forts in Confederate states. Many of the volunteers followed the practice of signing on for a few months, then considered it time to return home. Many were farmers and knew that if they didn't plant and harvest crops their families would starve. When commanders expected a longer period of service than they were willing to give, they simply deserted.

The numbers of desertions increased after the CSA began drafting soldiers in 1862 and increased even more during 1863. One of the causes of this was the Confederate practice of destroying things that might be of help to the Union Army as they abandoned an area to the Union. This hampered the Union Army, but also put a hardship on the families of the CSA soldiers who lived in areas that become Union territory. (note: The Union Army also followed this practice.) When family members wrote to tell about their hardships, some men would desert to go home to help their families.


About 700 men from Northwest Florida and South Alabama joined the 1st Florida Cavalry Union Volunteers during 1864 and 1865. Some of these were CSA deserters; some were draft dodgers; and some had just come of the age to join the military and chose to join the Union Army rather than the Confederate.

Were they traitors or were they just looking out for their own and their family’s interests. Some were opposed to secession from the beginning. Some may have felt that their families were safer living in Union held territory if they were in the Union Army. Some may have believed that their chances of being paid promised bounties were better with the Union Army. Whatever the case, some men from our area chose to cast their lot with the Union Army and played a part in the last year of the war.

I would also like to write about the local battles that the 1st FCUV had a part in and about some of the men who probably have a connection to some of us living in this area today. I see that I will require one of two additional columns to deal with those topics.

ASHS is not meeting at this time. We wish you health and safety during these trying times.

 
 

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