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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