Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Book News: Storm Over Key West

Yesterday's news entry talked about a book covering an important cog in the blockade running trade, so today we'll look at the other side of the equation. From the description, Mike Pride's Storm Over Key West: The Civil War and the Call of Freedom (Pineapple Pr, December 2020) appears to follow two main narrative threads. The first involves the military importance of U.S. forces maintaining control of the Key West forts. "Key West’s harbor and two major federal forts (Jefferson and Taylor) were often referred to as “America’s Gibraltar.” This Gibraltar guarded the Florida Straits between Key West and Cuba and thus access to the Gulf of Mexico. When Union forces seized it before the war, the southernmost point of the Confederacy slipped out of Confederate hands. This led to a naval blockade based in Key West that devastated commerce in Florida and beyond." Many readers will also recall the practice of banishing military prisoners to the Dry Tortugas. Presumably that part of Key West Civil War history will also be discussed in the book.

The "main theme," however "is the denial to black people of the equality central to the American ideal. After the island’s slaves flocked to freedom during the summer of 1862, the white majority began a century-long campaign to deny black residents civil rights, education, literacy, respect, and the vote." When the Union Army was actively forming black fighting units from their sea island bases in South Carolina, recruitment expeditions ranged up and down the South Atlantic coast. One the places visited was Key West. More from the description: "A few weeks after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, James Montgomery sailed into Key West Harbor looking for black men to draft into the Union army. Eager to oblige him, the military commander in town ordered every black man from fifteen to fifty to report to the courthouse, “there to undergo a medical examination, preparatory to embarking for Hilton Head, S.C.” Montgomery swept away 126 men."

Certainly standalone fort studies exist in numbers (especially for Fort Jefferson), but as far as I know this will be the first study of Civil War Key West that aspires to anything like a comprehensive treatment of the larger subject.

1 comment:

  1. Two fer two over two days... With the Bahamas book yesterday and now this one, there's two books I can cross off my "may want to write about" list. Instead, they'll go on my "must buy" list. :-) Paul T.

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