Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Booknotes: Hidden History of Civil War Florida

New Arrival:
Hidden History of Civil War Florida by Robert Redd (Arcadia Pub and The Hist Press, 2022).

Generally speaking, the Hidden History series explores little-known people, places, and events or lesser-known elements of more commonly recognized local and state history. Several Civil War-themed installments have been published, and the latest one is Robert Redd's Hidden History of Civil War Florida.

Often thought of in the past as a backwater front of rather little significance to the conduct of the Civil War on either side, scholarship published in recent decades has instead revealed a state that, in addition to its military contributions to both sides, came to be regarded as the breadbasket of the Confederacy. Florida was also an important supplier of salt.

From the description: "At the outset of the Civil War, Florida's entire population was only a bit larger than present-day Gainesville. Still, the state played an outsized role in the conflict. Floridians fought for the Union and Confederate armies. Sunshine State farmers provided beef and other foodstuffs for the Confederacy, rations that proved increasingly consequential as the years wore on. The battles of Olustee and Natural Bridge, where boys from the West Florida Seminary entered the fray, helped keep Tallahassee as the only Confederate-held capital east of the Mississippi River. Even the conspirators involved in Lincoln's assassination wove a trail that led to Florida."

The volume's introduction provides a solid selective rundown of the current state of the Civil War Florida historiography. The eight main chapters that follow it examine a broad range of topics. Addressed in them are Florida's secession, wartime St. Augustine, those involved in commissary department cattle drives, key figures in Volusia County Civil War history, the 1864 Battle of Marianna, the military service of the West Florida Seminary cadets, Florida's association with two individuals (Lewis Powell and Dr. Mudd) closely linked to the Lincoln assassination story, and finally a compilation of author-recommended Civil War sites to visit.

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