January 10th, 1861

floridaOne of the original Thirteen Colonies, South Carolina had signed the Declaration of Independence and was the 8th State to ratify the Constitution on May 23rd, 1788. Mississippi had been a state for now over 40 years. It was reaching the point where only the older generation remembered when it was an open territory against the vast western frontier. Though not as young as Oregon or Minnesota or California, Florida, on the other hand, had only been a state for 15 years, only just over half a year older than Texas. It was entirely possible that there had been many in the state who remembered what it was like before the Florida Purchase Treaty ceded the Spanish territory to the US in 1822, combining East and West Florida into the Florida Territory.

Yet on January 10th, 1861, Florida would become the third state to secede from the Union. Once declared a “Free and Independent State” in its Constitution, it was now ready to declare itself an “Sovereign and Independent Nation” in an open convention that agreed by a vote of sixty-two to seven to leave the “the Confederacy of States existing under the name of the United States of America”.

Even before Florida seceded, Governor Madison Perry foresaw the possibility of withdrawal as a potential option, and even perhaps an inevitable necessity. A small state in terms of population, the economy was reliant on slavery as a cheap source of labor to ensure its prosperity. Though the issue of slavery, or, as the Mississippi Ordinance of Secession passed the day prior referred to it, property never arose in the third state’s own declaration, it had to be a prevalent thought in the minds of all voting Floridians. Of the just over 140,000 people who lived in the state, almost 62,000 of them were slaves.  If the system were to be challenged, or changed then the economy would collapse. Three wars with the Seminoles Indians had already been fought, at least in part, because they provided sanctuary and safety to runaway slaves. Perry encouraged the state to reinstate the militia even as it was being dissolved in 1858. Yet, prone to drunkenness, claiming to be on patrol when they were at home working their fields, the militia had lost the trust of the people. Still, Perry was right, and following the vote for secession, he demanded the complete evacuation of all Federal Government Troops from Florida soil.

When the Confederacy would be formed Florida would be one of the Original 6 founding states. Texas would be admitted before fighting would break out in the South, while the remaining 4 states would join after. Far to the South, it would not see much fighting nor many battles before the end of the War, and Tallahassee would be the only Southern Capital that had not been captured by the Union Army before the end of the War. Yet, even as the dreams of the Confederacy died, Governor John Milton, the successor to Governor Perry, would declare he would rather die than live under the flag of the Union and what he would call the odious character of the Yankee. With the end of the war just over a month away, and the weight of everything bearing down on him he would shoot himself in the head.

Regardless, the nation was lining up and the lines were being drawn as the nation prepared to answer, with force, the question they struggled and failed to answer with their pens over the course of the past 84 years. War was coming and it would be the bloodiest ever faced by America as brother quickly turned against brother in the great conflict.

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