Welcome to Florida Historical Society Press™ initial volume in its newly created Gold Seal series. This is the first of what will eventually be a multi-volume series of specialized books that deal with narrowly focused issues in Florida history.
With the publication of her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe became the most famous writer in America. That book helped to fuel the raging debate over slavery in the United States. When Stowe met President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, he reportedly said, “So you are the little woman who started this great war.” Often overlooked is the fact that Harriet Beecher Stowe was also one of the first and greatest proponents of Florida as a popular tourist destination. In 1873, some of Stowe’s descriptive and colorful “tourist articles” were published in the book Palmetto-Leaves.
The American Civil War divided the country between the industrialized northern states and the agricultural southern states that depended upon slave labor to support their economy.
Disagreement over the issue of whether or not individual states had the right to decide if slavery should be legal within their borders led to the War Between the States.
Florida was the third state to secede from the Union, in January 1861, behind only South Carolina and Mississippi. As the largest supplier of beef and salt to the Confederate army, Florida played a vital role in the Civil War.
At 4:00 a.m. on April 1, 1864, an explosion disrupted the still waters of the St. Johns River as a Confederate mine ripped through the hull of the steamship Maple Leaf. The ship was transporting Union supplies during the Civil War.
“It was participating in the Southeast Atlantic Blockade as a troop transport,” says Keith Holland, founder of St. Johns Archaeological Expeditions, Inc.
The loud booming of cannon fire ripped through the north Florida pine forest fifteen miles east of Lake City as startled cavalry horses whinnied. Repeated rifle fire rang through the trees as more than 10,000 soldiers confronted each other on February 20, 1864, near Ocean Pond.
The Battle of Olustee was the largest conflict of the American Civil War fought on Florida soil.
Each side began with about 5,000 troops. When the three hour battle was over, 1,861 Union soldiers and 946 Confederate soldiers were dead.
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