Famous Figures in Florida’s Civil War Heritage


David Levy Yulee


The first Jewish member of the United States Senate, David Levy Yulee was a major political and economic figure in mid-nineteenth century Florida. Born David Levy in the Virgin Islands in 1810, his family eventually settled in Florida. He served in the Florida Territorial Legislative Council, was a delegate to the 1838 Constitutional Convention and served as territorial delegate to the U.S. Congress. In 1845, he became one of the new state’s first senators. His marriage in 1846 probably contributed to his conversion to Christianity and surname change to Yulee. In addition to politics, Yulee operated a sugar plantation, and became active in railroad development, particularly the building of the Florida Railroad. Yulee resigned from the Senate following Florida’s secession in 1861. His sugar mill at Homosassa supplied sugar, syrup and molasses to the Confederacy until May 1864, when Union forces burned his Margarita Plantation home and the mill ceased production. He held no political office in the Confederacy, and spent much time and effort fighting the state and Confederate governments over the impressment of his agricultural products and the seizure of iron from his rail line. Imprisoned by Union authorities at Fort Pulaski, Georgia for a time after the war, he returned to Florida and attempted to rebuild his economic interests. He died in 1886. To learn more, see: "David L. Yulee, Florida’s First Senator" by Leon Huhner, in Jews In the South, edited by Leonard Dinnerstein and Mary Dale Palsson, Louisiana State University Press, 1973. -- Florida State Archives

Edmund Kirby Smith


The highest-ranking Floridian in Confederate military service was Edmund Kirby Smith. Born in St. Augustine in 1824, he graduated from West Point and fought in the Mexican War. In 1861, Smith resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Army. Quickly rising to brigadier general, Smith was wounded at the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run). In the fall of 1861, he earned promotion to major general and the following spring was put in command of East Tennessee and took part in the invasion of Kentucky. Despite a relatively undistinguished career to this point, Smith was promoted to lieutenant general and placed in command of the vast Department of the Trans-Mississippi, the region west of the Mississippi River. He was criticized by some for inaction during the Vicksburg campaign, and for overemphasizing operations in Arkansas and Missouri at the expense of Louisiana. Nonetheless, President Davis promoted Smith to full general, and as the war progressed, he maintained such autonomy that the region became known as "Kirby Smithdom." He went into exile in Mexico at the war’s end before returning to the United States. When Smith died in 1893, he was the last surviving full general of the Confederacy. To Learn More, see: General Edmund Kirby Smith, C.S.A. by Joseph H. Parks, Louisiana State University Press, 1954, reprint 1982 Southern Biography Series. -- Library of Congress

John Jackson Dickison


The most prominent Confederate partisan leader in Florida, J.J. Dickison helped maintain Confederate control over north-central Florida during the war’s latter years. When the war began, Dickison served in the Marion Artillery before recruiting a mounted company that became part of the 2nd Florida Cavalry. From 1863 until the war’s end, Dickison defended Florida’s interior against attacks from the Union-occupied coast. To loyal Confederates, his exploits reached near mythic proportions. In the spring of 1864, Dickison captured the Union outposts at Welaka and Saunders and then ambushed and forced the surrender of the Union gunboat USS Columbine at Horse Landing. In August, he drove off a Union cavalry force that had briefly occupied Gainesville, inflicting nearly 200 casualties. Early in 1865, Dickison skirmished with Federal forces at Braddock’s Farm, where he shot and mortally wounded the commander of the Union detachment. He then moved his force to the Gulf coast to meet another Federal threat, skirmishing with the Federals at Station Number 4. While Dickison’s efforts ensured that the interior of Florida remained in Confederate hands, he could do nothing to delay the inexorable collapse of the Confederacy. He surrendered his command at Waldo on May 20, 1865. To Learn More, see: J.J. Dickison: Swamp Fox of the Confederacy by John J. Koblas, North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., 2000. -- Florida State Archives

Joseph Finegan


Joseph Finegan was one of six Irish-born generals in the Confederate Army. Little is known of his early life or when he arrived in America, though he eventually settled in Fernandina, partnering with David Yulee in the operation of the Florida Railroad, which linked Fernandina with Cedar Key. Finegan attended the Secession Convention, and when the war began he commanded the Fernandina Volunteers. In April 1862, Finegan was promoted to brigadier general and assumed command of the District of Middle and East Florida. Later the district was divided, with Finegan exercising authority over the area east of the Suwannee River. Early in February 1864, Federal forces mounted their largest invasion of Florida. To meet this threat, Finegan consolidated his scattered troops and, with reinforcements from Georgia, constructed entrenchments near Olustee, east of Lake City. The ensuing Battle of Olustee on Feb. 20 was a resounding Confederate victory. The Union force retreated to Jacksonville. In May 1864, Finegan took reinforcements to Virginia and assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia's Florida Brigade. In March 1865, suffering from exhaustion, he resigned and returned to Florida. After the war, Finegan spent one term in the Florida Legislature. He died in 1885. To Learn More, see: "Joseph Finegan: Fernandina’s Confederate General" by Charles Litrico, Amelia Now, Fall 1998. (Also available online at: http://www.amelianow.com/fall98finegan.htm) -- Florida State Archives

Mary Martha Reid


Mary Martha Reid was known during the Civil War for her work as matron of the Florida Hospital in Richmond. Soon after the outbreak of the war, Reid's son was serving in a Florida regiment in Virginia. The need for a hospital became evident as the large number of sick and wounded flooded the capital during the first year of the war. Floridians donated money and material to supply the hospital, and the state provided additional funding. During its first year, Florida Hospital treated more than 1,000 patients and maintained a remarkably low death rate. Confederate officials closed the Florida Hospital in December 1863. Reid subsequently worked at Howard's Grove Hospital. In 1864, her son was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness. The grieving mother supervised his burial, then continued her work until the end of the war, fleeing the capital on the same train that carried President Jefferson Davis from the city. In recognition of her work, the Florida Legislature passed an act in 1866 granting her $600 annually. She died in Fernandina in 1894. To Learn More, see: "Mary Martha Reid (1812-1894)" by David Coles, in Women in the American Civil War, edited by Lisa Tendrich Frank, ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2008. -- Florida State Archives

Stephen Mallory


Stephen Mallory of Key West served as Confederate Secretary of Navy from 1861 until 1865, one of only two men to serve in the same cabinet position throughout the war. A U.S. Senator before the war, Mallory promoted the establishment of a naval base at Key West, introduced bills to construct maritime hospitals at several Florida locations, and supported the construction of new warships. Mallory supported secession but hoped to avoid war. Before resigning his senate seat in January 1861, he helped negotiate a truce between U.S. and Southern forces at Pensacola. He returned to Florida, but the following month Confederate President Jefferson Davis selected him as Secretary of the Navy. Aware that the Confederacy could not match the Union navy ship for ship, Mallory promoted the use of commerce raiders and ironclad vessels, as well as submarines, underwater mines and heavy rifled cannon. At war’s end, Mallory evacuated Richmond with President Davis, remaining with the president’s party until early May, when he resigned to return to Florida. He was imprisoned by Federal authorities until March 1866. Subsequently he practiced law in Pensacola, never again holding public office. He died in 1873. To Learn More, see: Stephen Russell Mallory, A Biography of the Confederate Navy Secretary and United States Senator by Rodman L. Underwood, McFarland & amp; Company, 2005. -- Florida State Archives

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners


You are signed in as:null
No comments yet