Florida

By Charlie Miller ’25

Historical Context

The state of Florida played an interesting and unique role in the sectional crisis that was the American Civil War. Florida had only been a United States territory for 34 years, and a state for only 16 years by the time the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter. Most of the population of the state was concentrated in the northern regions and in the panhandle. Almost half the 1860 population of 140,000 was enslaved, residing primarily between the Apalachicola and Suwannee rivers in the north-central area of the state (1860 Census). Enslaved labor accounted for 85% of the cotton production in Florida, which was grown on large plantations in the north, and particularly around the state capital of Tallahassee. Key West also had a substantial population, with a few thousand whites and a few hundred slaves, as well as about 150 freed African Americans (Solomon). Black Cubans and Bahamians worked on the island in the maritime industries. The transportation infrastructure in the state during the antebellum period was minimal,  thus contributing to the slow growth and development in most regions outside the north. Travel was limited to steamboat travel on the rivers, and the newly constructed Florida railroad ultimately proved useless during the war due to constant damage from Union armies. The Confederacy ultimately pulled up the track from the original Florida Railroad to construct a new railway from North Florida into Georgia to help supply lines in the South.

Lincoln’s election in 1860 brought the secession movement in Florida to the forefront. Secessionist talk had flourished in the state for about a decade, ever since the Compromise of 1850, which was unpopular in the state. Governor Madison Perry called for a convention to discuss Florida’s secession from the Union. The convention met on January 3, 1861 in Tallahassee. The main debate was not about whether or not to leave the Union, but rather when to leave. South Carolina had already seceded in late December, and Mississippi was also about to secede. Some of the 69 delegates wanted to wait until neighboring states, Georgia and Alabama seceded, but a majority voted to leave the Union. 51 out of the 69 delegates owned slaves, and the president of the convention, John C. McGehee, cited the protection of slavery as one of the primary justifications for secession. He argued that if Florida did not secede, Floridians were tolerating governance by those who were “sectional, irresponsible to us, and driven on by an infuriated fanatical madness that defies all opposition” and that government would “destroy every vestige of right growing out of property in slaves” (“Florida Secession,” NPS). McGehee himself owned 100 slaves, and it was clear that the preservation of the “peculiar institution” within the state was one of the primary reasons why Floridians felt so enthusiastically about to leaving the Union. Each complaint in the official secession documents had to do with slavery, with particular emphasis on how abolitionist efforts by John Brown, William Lloyd Garrison, and Frederick Douglass had attempted to incite slave uprisings and violence against slaveholders. Those few who did oppose secession in the state were reluctant to secede out of a concern over Florida’s small population and minimal infrastructure which, they feared, could hardly support a major war effort. Nonetheless, Florida joined the ranks of the Confederate states of America.

However, Florida would also prove crucial to the Union war effort (“Florida Secession”). Despite Florida’s entrance into the Confederacy, the United States held possession of Fort Taylor and Key West, Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, and Fort Pickens in Pensacola (Zombek). These forts were key outposts for the Union, as they would go on to harbor prisoners of war, blockade runners, Union deserters, and secessionists. In fact, Unionists in Florida did not lose all hope over the secession vote as they knew that the state was widely uninhabited, offering places of safe refuge, and that the Union military presence in the state remained strong. The Union blockade stretched around the entire Florida coast, concentrating on ports such as St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Key West, Pensacola, and the Tampa Bay. While the blockade limited Confederate trade and re-supply, blockade runners did occasionally slip through the cracks. However, overall, Confederate military strategy largely focused on retaining control of the interior of the state so that the critically important supply line of cattle and salt up to other southern states could remain intact.

About 15,000 Confederate soldiers hailed from Florida, a significant proportion of the state’s white male population. Floridians fought with the Confederacy at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor. The latter was a major battle for Edward Perry’s famous Florida Brigade, who were involved in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. Both Gettysburg and Cold Harbor are known as two of the most brutal and bloody battles of the entire war. This brigade, which was later commanded by David Lang, was with Lee when the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox (Hawk). Despite their military contributions, Florida is often characterized more so as a mere “supplier” of the Confederacy. The population was not large enough to put forth a substantial number of troops, but Florida certainly provided what it had to offer. However, its contributions to the Army of Northern Virginia  left little manpower behind to help defend the state itself, as Florida was force to rely on a small militia force consisting of  fewer than 1,000 men.  That militia was ultimately abolished with the start of nation-wide Confederate conscription in 1862.

Florida also fielded approximately 1,200 white soldiers for the Union army as well, in addition to approximately 1,000 freed African Americans. The 2nd Florida Cavalry regiment was comprised of United States Colored Troops (USCT) and saw action on the west coast of the state. This Union presence in the state carried over to varying loyalties in Florida (Zombek). While the state contributed both Confederate and Union troops, the idea that Florida was “the supplier of the Confederacy” is largely true. The cattle industry in Florida was vital to the Confederate war effort.

Admittedly, the state ultimately contributed far more cattle than men to the war effort. In 1860, Florida had a little under 400,000 cattle. Just two years, later it had over 650,000. The massive eastern and western armies badly needed a reliable supply of food. The cattle supply line was so important that many men loyal to the Confederacy who did not want to go into battle ultimately joined the “cow cavalry,” which helped ensure the safety of the state’s cattle from Federal raisers as it was driven north to neighboring Confederate states. This contribution to the war effort cannot be overstated. As the need for meat in the Confederate armies grew throughout the war, both Union and Confederate politicians and generals referenced the importance of the Florida supply line. With the Union’s late-war strategy focused largely on suffocating the South from all directions, supplies became even more difficult to procure throughout the entire Confederacy, dampening morale and starving out Confederate troops and civilians who no longer had access to food stores such as beef. (Zombek). The Cow Cavalry continued to operate until the end of the war, although its actions were more subdued in 1865 due to restructuring of the army.

Despite the state’s overall secessionist leanings, both wealthy, slaveholding Florida planters and those of more modest income alternately provided their financial and military support to both the Union and Confederate military, depending on who proved the “highest bidder” or which side appeared to provide more advantageous outcomes to them. Cattle drivers often sold to whichever side paid more, and during the blockades, many Union supporters fled the state altogether on the Union warships. Union military leaders understood the impactful presence they had in the state for helping to sway the populace and derive material benefit from the state, and they never ignored the importance of Florida as a major supplier to the Confederacy. Union military action in Florida consistently aimed to seize or interrupt Confederate supply lines (including the cattle), expand already existing Union footholds in the state, and even recruit soldiers, particularly African Americans. Such motivations led to the only major battle in Florida, at Olustee.

 In 1864, as part of a larger Union invasion of Florida intended to destroy railroads, seize Lake City, and thus take control of northern Florida, General John Seymour was ordered to concentrate his troops near Jacksonville.  However, the zealous general instead marched west towards Tallahassee. There, He met Confederate General Joseph Finegan, and the two sides clashed near Olustee Railroad station with around 5,000 men engaged. The Confederates broke Union lines, forcing Seymour to retreat. The only reason the Confederates did not completely destroy and capture the retreating Yankees was due to a stout defense put up by USCT troops, including the famed 54th Massachusetts. The actions of the USCTs allowed the main body of white Union troops to avoid utter destruction as they were retreating. Many USCT soldiers were taken prisoner by the Confederates, who feared the arming of free blacks, and subsequently were executed. Wounded black troops were bayonetted senselessly, as Confederate officers fiercely ordered that no black prisoners were to be taken. Union forces at Olustee lost around 1,800 men, while the Rebels lost around 900. Union troops did destroy some supply lines, but they suffered a tactical defeat. In addition, Union officials’ hopes to capitalize upon the demoralization of local Confederates in the wake of a much-hoped-for Union victory and establish a Union government in the state were dashed for the remainder of the war at Olustee. (Nulty).

The surrender of Confederate armies in April, 1865 marked the official end of the Confederate regime and began the restoration of those states to the Union. Governor John Milton committed suicide on April 1 rather than tolerate Union occupation of Florida, and several other prominent Confederate government officials were arrested, including ardent secessionist and former U.S. Senator, David Yulee, who hid part of the Confederate treasury and the personal baggage of the fleeing Jefferson Davis at his plantation. By the war’s end, around 5,000 Floridians had died in the field or from disease, not to mention the toll the war took on the home front from raids and other war-related damage. New President Andrew Johnson appointed Judge William Marvin as the provisional governor of Florida and began the process of bringing Florida back into the Union. Former Florida Confederate officials took oaths of allegiance to the United States, and former Confederate troops were paroled. General Edward McCook read the newly ratified 13th Amendment aloud in the capital, and the star spangled banner was raised over Tallahassee (Zombek).

Florida was part of the 3rd Military District of Union occupation, along with Alabama and Georgia, and Union troops occupied the state for many years, seeking to ensure the proper adherence to Federal law. Nonetheless, the Florida legislature passed some of the strictest Black Codes in the South during Reconstruction, including vagrancy and employment laws. People of color could not live with white women. A “person of color” was defined as anyone with at least one-eighth black ancestry. Even 20 years later, in the late 1880s, new statutes restricted the black vote as white Democrats remained in power after regaining their seats during the period of “Redemption” following the official end of Reconstruction and the withdrawal of military troops. During Reconstruction proper, President Johnson appointed a provisional governor of Florida until David S. Walker, a Democrat who was a Unionist prior to the war, was elected governor in late 1865. Walker supported his state’s contributions to the Confederacy during the war, and as governor he opposed northern “carpetbagger” influence. He resented Union military occupation, and attempted to set up a new state government that still defended slavery as an institution. He remained in office until 1868, when Massachusetts Republican, Harrison Reed became governor. Disliked by southerners, Reed preached equality and suffrage for African Americans, and appointed the state’s first African American Secretary of State. He endured multiple impeachment attempts, as many Floridians considered him just another carpetbagger who was intent on telling Floridians how to live, thus further ravaging the war-torn South. Floridians’ discontent and outright rage over the Governor’s support of black civil rights and continued Federal occupation ultimately erupted in violence and widespread intimidation efforts (Wasserman).

This violence targeted not only African Americans, but also Republican officials who looked to install new policies and reform the prior Confederate government. Tensions exploded between 1869-71, especially in the eastern panhandle county of Jackson.  The violence was so heavily concentrated in this particular region that this period of bloodshed is known as the Jackson County War. Jackson County was the leader in antebellum Florida’s cotton industry and plantation economy, and thus took massive economic hits following the industry’s downturn in the postbellum era. Whites in the county, crippled by poor economic conditions, bristled at having to work alongside freedmen, and they also resisted Federal occupation. The Ku Klux Klan began a reign of terror against blacks in the area, and the county refused to let authorities crack down and bring the Klansmen to justice. Eventually, this vigilantism enabled white Democrats to regain control of the County, and eventually the entire state (Weinfeld).

The new Florida Constitution of 1885 continued the state’s deviation from Republican desires to institute progressive policies that protected the civil rights of blacks, giving further power to southern Democrats who preached segregation and instituted discriminatory Jim Crow laws. Florida was one of the many Southern states with laws against interracial marriage, interracial cohabitation, as well as heavy restrictions on black voting. These laws, and the state’s new constitution, continued to govern much of Florida’s political and legal policies until the civil rights movements of the 1960s. Even in 1967, a city ordinance was passed in Sarasota forcing police to remove people of different races from gathering on the same beach (Chronology of Florida’s Constitutions).

Political suppression of black civil rights was matched by outright violence against blacks as Florida moved into the 20th century. For the first 30 years of the new century, Florida reported the highest number of lynchings per capita in the country (Brotemarkle). Violence continued in northern Florida, but as the population moved south towards the central part of the state, the violence followed suit. The Ku Klux Klan had a stronghold in the sunshine state, and even as the Klan declined nationwide, it prospered in Florida. With over 30,000 members, the Klan committed violence against minorities and labor organizers, including the murder of one such organizer in 1937. The Klan showed its supports for Dixiecrat, Strom Thurmond (whose party adopted the Confederate battle flag as its official symbol) in 1948, marching through black neighborhoods in the heart of the state to intimidate black and progressive voters (“Florida Terror”). The Klan remains to have a presence in the state today, as the Florida chapter continues to boast a significant membership, despite the nationwide shrinkage in the Klan’s overall size (“Florida Terror”).

The increase of racial violence across Florida during the early twentieth century was a biproduct of the population boom and the ensuing settlement of previously sparsely populated areas that brought blacks and whites into conflict with each other. Despite its recurrent social and political tensions, economically, Florida flourished in the 20th century. Tourism and the land boom of the 1920s made the population skyrocket. Previously, the state’s economy had been rooted primarily in the farming of citrus, berries, nuts, and the raising of cattle, but now Floridians (and both entrepreneurs and snowbirds from the North) began to realize that the state offered beautiful beaches, low costs, and a warm climate. The state’s population began to balance out geographically, as northerners began moving south, and cities like Miami began to prosper. However, despite the land boom of the 1920s, the Great Depression stifled the state’s overall economic prosperity in the 1930s, and Florida did not see another period of major financial success until after World War II.

While whites from the northeast and Rust Belt flocked to Florida, blacks left the state in droves. The Great Migration swept through the South, as blacks were fed up with discrimination, intimidation, and segregation. Florida boasted some of the strictest segregation laws in the nation, which ultimately led to myriad pro-civil rights activist events b in the state in the 1960s. The bus boycott in Tallahassee successfully integrated city buses, and the Monson Motor Lodge protests, led in part by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, drew nationwide attention. However, Florida’s strong white supremacist culture still had a firm hold on the state, and despite additional civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s, many areas within the state remained staunchly committed to segregation into the 1970s. These unsettling shadows of the past continue to manifest in parts of Florida even today.

This report intends to understand when, why, and how Confederate monuments were erected in the state of Florida against the backdrop of the state’s larger historical context. The data comes from the “Whose Heritage” master spreadsheet from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), as well as a variety of other historical sources. It seeks to provide insights into the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments, provoke questions, and inspire continued research and discussion.

Results

In total, Florida has thirty-six Confederate monuments. These monuments were erected spanning a large period of time, with a significant cluster going up in the early-and mid- 20th century, along with a few in both the late 19th and the early 21st centuries. Most were erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, but many of the earlier monuments were put up by the Ladies Memorial Association. The monuments are largely concentrated in the northern and central parts of the state, with none in the southwest or the Miami metropolitan area. A mere four monuments (11% of the total) stand south of Tampa, while fifteen (41%) are in the far north or in the panhandle.

Map 1: Florida Confederate Monuments, 1870-1899

Seven monuments were erected in the 19th century. The first Confederate monument in Florida was dedicated by the Ladies Memorial Association of Walton County on the County Courthouse Grounds in 1871. In fact, four of the first seven monuments were erected on courthouse grounds. All seven are in North Florida.

Map 2: Florida Confederate Monuments, 1900-1919

Another seven monuments were erected in the first two decades of the 20th century, with the geographical distribution eventually shifting to the center of the state. The two monuments erected in the first decade of the 1900s were still placed in the northern part of the state, while three of the five erected in the 1910s are in central Florida. Four of the total seven were erected on courthouse grounds.

Map 3: Florida Confederate Monuments, 1920-Present

Nineteen of the thirty-seven monuments were erected between 1920 and the present. Four were erected in the 2000s, which ties the 1920s’ number for the most erected in any decade. The monuments are widely distributed geographically, with more being erected in the central and southern parts of the state than previous decades. Northern monument erection remained steady throughout this period.

Map 4: Florida’s Confederate Monuments, Removed and Standing

A significant number of monuments have been removed or relocated, most of which formerly stood in central Florida. This may be due, in part, to a desire to “look” more like the heavily populated and visited southern Florida, which has no monuments, as well as the influence of the Tampa Bay region. This region is metropolitan, and leans to the left politically. It makes sense, therefore, for liberal-leaning politicians and large minority communities to be in favor of removing Confederate monuments. All of the removals have occurred between 2017 and the present, with the removed monuments bearing dedication dates spanning well over a century: Monuments erected in 1884 have been removed, as has one from 2007. Interestingly, a monument from 2002 remains.

Map 5: Specific vs Non-Specific Honorees

Most of the monuments in Florida do not honor a specific person, regiment, or group. The few that do honor famous Confederate heroes such as Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson, and two honor Florida-specific Civil War figures. Most of the monuments that have specific honorees are in the central area of the state. The farthest north monument to a specific honoree stands in Gainesville.

Map 6: Confederate Monument Sponsors

Seven different sponsors erected the thirty seven monuments, four of whom are unknown. The first sponsors were the various Ladies Memorial Associations, who sponsored four of the earliest monuments. The single largest sponsor are the United Daughters of the Confederacy, with fifteen monuments to their name. Only one monument each was sponsored by a government or individual person. The Crestview Lions Club also sponsored one, as did the United Confederate Veterans. Another veterans group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, sponsored five.

Analysis

The last Confederate veteran from Florida (George Washington Keith) died in 1951. He had attended the 75th anniversary celebration of Gettysburg with 45 of his fellow Sons of Confederate Veterans from Florida. Clearly, Confederate patriotism and pride remained strong in Florida well into the twentieth century, despite the state’s comparatively low contribution of soldiers to the war effort. Perhaps those who did fight wanted to ensure that their efforts would not be forgotten amidst the slew of celebrations emphasizing the more “central” Confederate states, such as Virginia and the Carolinas. Additionally, perhaps the large population of African Americans residing in the state in the first half of the 20th century, among the highest percentages in the nation, fueled white Floridians’ animosity against northerners and blacks, thus stoking their Confederate patriotism.  The long history of Florida’s Confederate monumentation efforts likely is intertwined with both theories.

The specific distribution of Florida’s Confederate monuments proves to be an interesting case study about the history of the state and its connection to the Confederacy. Florida is often one of the last states mentioned when discussing the Confederacy, but several organizations, individuals, and institutions have put up a great fight to try and ensure that the state’s contributions to the Confederate war effort receive adequate remembrance alongside those of the rest of the Old South.

As is true of most other former Confederate states, the overwhelming majority of Florida’s monuments have no specific honoree (29 out of 36, or 81% of the total).  However, it is curious to note that the northernmost monument with an honoree (the aforementioned Cow Cavalry) stands in Hillsborough County, in central Florida—not in the hotbed of mass secessionist fervor once located in northern Florida. Most of the specific honorees are either local Civil War figures, or the usual mainstream figures of Stonewall Jackson or Robert E. Lee. Interestingly, neither man fought in Florida, therefore one may wonder why Florida erected monuments to leaders who never fought in their state. The UDC and other sponsoring groups likely wished to tightly connect Florida to the rest of the Confederacy in popular memory by   honoring those Florida troops who fought in the most famous armies of the Confederacy, such as the Army of Northern Virginia. Floridians looked to erase the perception that it was largely disconnected and separate from the rest of the more populated Southern states. Considering these concerns, it makes sense that Floridians chose to erect several monuments honoring the Confederacy’s most famous leaders whom common Floridian soldiers served under.

The other specific-honoree monuments fit squarely within the state’s unique contributions to the Confederate war effort. One of the Key West monuments is a bust of Jeptha Vining Harris, which resides in a sculpture garden. Harris had once spoken at the erection of another monument in Key West. Harris was a noted Confederate doctor who later became involved in the development of Key West schools. One of the most interesting monuments with a specific honoree is the monument to the Cow Cavalry, in Hillsborough County. It is also the most recent monument, erected in 2007 (although it was removed in 2020). This monument commemorates the cow cavalries of Florida who focused on driving the cattle from Manatee and Hernando county (the two largest cattle counties, near Hillsborough County) north to rail lines where they could be taken through Georgia and dispersed throughout the Confederacy. Men of the cow cavalry had to endure muddy swamps, difficult terrain, a nearly unbearable climate, and unknown wilderness while also fending off Union raiders (often the USCT 2nd Florida cavalry). The monument was placed in Plant City because of the recruitment efforts for the cavalry that occurred there in 1863. The monument notes the city’s importance to the support of the cow cavalry and how the cavalry helped escort precious cattle to the starving Confederacy. It is interesting to note that such an integral part of Florida’s war effort (cattle) and the somewhat romantic, rough-and-tumble identity of the Cow Cavalry soldiers, was not memorialized until 2007. Perhaps it is because the cow cavalry fought in no “glorious” battles and featured no mainstream Confederate heroes. Additionally, perhaps Floridians viewed the public commemoration of a cow cavalry as not as stoic or “martial” as the commemoration of more traditional soldiers. In these ways, the monument is thus somewhat representative of Florida’s role in the Confederacy as a whole and its often ambivalent place in historical memory.

The only other specific honoree for a monument in Florida, besides Harris, Lee, Jackson, and the Cow Cavalry, is General William Loring. Loring had an impressive career, fighting with the Florida Militia as a young man in the Seminole wars, and then serving as an officer in the Confederacy during the Civil War. He was involved in several important campaigns in Virginia and later Georgia, and butted heads with Stonewall Jackson when he was assigned to occupy Romney, West Virginia. After the war, Loring served in the Egyptian army and eventually returned to his home in St. Augustine. The UDC erected a monument to him in the heart of the nation’s oldest settlement in 1920. They wanted to honor one of the highest ranking and illustrious officers from their state, and indeed his remains were contained beneath the monument, until it was removed in 2020.

Since the state had little connection to famous heroes and figures of the heart of the Confederacy, it contains fewer monuments to icons such as Lee, Jackson, Stuart, Davis, or other famous Confederates than other southern states. The monuments dedicated to these figures are concentrated on the west coast, primarily in the central and southern areas. Interestingly, these areas did not send nearly as many troops to the war as North Florida did, which is perhaps why their monuments are more to the mainstream “heroes” of the Confederacy rather than to local, “common” Floridian soldiers; by erecting monuments to the more famous Confederate leaders, they still ensure their place within the state’s larger Confederate memory.

North Florida has the largest number of monuments, which is understandable in light of the clustering of the state’s war-time population and military actions. No North Florida monuments have specific honorees. The monuments instead focus on honoring the common soldier, woman, or as they deemed them, “martyrs.” The monuments intend to portray Florida as a state wholeheartedly focused on upholding and fighting for the principles that the Confederacy stood for, with little acknowledgment of the state’s Unionist population and USCT contributions, or the ways in which Floridian planters and businessmen often played Union and Confederate troops off each other in financial exchanges while on the hunt for the best monetary outcome in the moment.

Confederate memorialization in Florida began just six years after the conclusion of the war, in 1871—slightly earlier than many other southern states. The first Confederate monument went up in Walton County, sponsored by the Ladies Memorial Association of Walton County. This association was specifically created to commission a marble monument that honored the dead from Walton County—a common purpose throughout the South during what has often been called the “mourning period” of memorialization. The Ladies were able to raise $250.00.  In addition to mourning their newly dead, by erecting a monument so close to the end of the war, perhaps Florida was anxious to showcase their contributions to the Confederacy so that they would not be overshadowed by more northern Confederate states. Women in particular took up the task of publicly spotlighting their respective state’s Confederate pride, as they were considered non-political, and thus “non-threatening” actors. Ladies Memorial Associations like the one in Walton County sprang up everywhere immediately after the demise of the Confederacy. These associations were often made up of widows and mothers of deceased Confederate soldiers, intent on preserving the memory of loved ones and other fallen soldiers of the South. Ladies Memorial Associations were involved in establishing five of the first seven Confederate Monuments in Florida. Their goal was not only to preserve the memory of and honor their dead, but to instill “a residual Confederate nationalism” in the South through Memorial Day celebrations and highly public monuments (Janney). They also helped to plant the early seeds of the Lost Cause and spread Confederate nationalism amongst youths and communities—a task undertaken more zealously by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the late 19th-and-early-20th-centuries. Despite the emergence of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the South in the 1890s, the Ladies Memorial Association remained the dominant organization in erecting monuments in 19th- century Florida.

Perhaps the reason that this particular chapter of the Ladies Memorial Association was raised in Walton County was due to Walton’s close proximity to Jackson County, site of the famed “Jackson County War.” A strong Confederate veteran presence existed in Jackson County and the surrounding regions during the time of the monument’s erection, including Walton County. The Ku Klux Klan sprouted there, intimidating freedmen and northern sympathizers. The violence peaked in 1869 when Klansmen murdered around 150 Republican and African American leaders in an attempt to regain Democrat control in the county. They used guerrilla tactics, and their brutality led the incidents to be called the Jackson County War. While the men terrorized blacks and strove to preserve remnants of the Confederate socio-political order, the women contributed to the resuscitation of the “old Confederate order” through the inculcation of Confederate nationalism, veneration, and memorialization.

At the turn of the 20th century, the United Daughters of the Confederacy rose in prominence in Florida. This organization has been and continues to be synonymous with Confederate monumentation throughout Southern history. Out of the thirty-six total monuments erected in Florida, the UDC sponsored fifteen (41%), almost half. The first chapter of the UDC in Florida was founded in 1896, headlined by Martha Reid of Jacksonville (where the chapter was located), a former Confederate nurse. Similar to the Ladies Memorial Association, the early focus of the UDC was rooted in public memorialization of the Confederate war effort and helping to provide care for former Confederate soldiers through the establishment of homes for Confederate veterans who could not care for themselves. In 1892, a call came from Nashville that the voice of Confederate women must be synchronized, and thus the UDC was born. The establishment of monuments across the South, including Florida, was part of the UDC’s mission to install a romanticized view of the Confederacy and the roots of the Lost Cause. Eventually, many of the Ladies Memorial Associations united into chapters of the UDC.

Despite (or perhaps, in retributive response to) Union occupation and influence for much of the war, Jacksonville, became an early springboard for the celebration of Confederate heritage. The 1898 dedication ceremony of Jacksonville’s monument to Florida’s Confederate soldiers was largely a celebration of the Lost Cause. In Hemming Park (named after the Confederate veteran, Charles Hemming who donated the funds to erect the monument), locals, Confederate veterans, as well as current U.S. soldiers (commanded by Robert E. Lee’s nephew, Fitzhugh Lee) waiting to engage in the brewing Spanish-American War were in attendance. The looming conflict was significant, as many monuments were often erected around the time of the Spanish-American war, with their dedications specifically aimed at trying to stoke national unity and patriotism by reconciliationist appeals to both Northern and Southern martial prowess on the battlefields of the Civil War.

Former governor and Confederate veteran, Francis P. Fleming gave a passionate speech about the merits of the Confederate cause. He helped to lay the groundwork for Lost Cause beliefs that were brewing in Florida already, and would gain further traction in the early 20th century. He began his speech by stating that “no intelligent and well-informed person of the present day, whose mind is not imbued with fanatical teachings, believes that the Confederates were traitors.” He then went off on tirades about reconciliation, and urged that Union soldiers should recognize the heroism and valiant effort of the Confederacy, a statement which also complimented Union martial prowess, considering their ultimate victory over “Florida’s finest” in the war. A few other officials gave speeches, all with similar Lost Cause or reconciliationist ideals at the heart of their words. In many ways, the monument dedication foreshadowed much of what was to come in Florida and throughout the South in the early 20th century as additional Confederate monuments with similar rhetoric behind them sprang up in bunches. The case of the Confederate Soldiers monument in Jacksonville is interesting, however, because of its individual sponsorship by one man. The UDC or Sons of Confederate Veterans were not involved in the erection of this monument, and yet it was still a major event. This monument goes to show that, while the UDC and SCV were the cornerstones in upholding Confederate memory in Florida, other entities and particularly passionate individuals were also very much involved.

Most of the Confederate monuments in Florida are concentrated in the northern and north-central parts of the state, which again.makes sense when examining the distribution of the state’s wartime population. Most of Florida’s plantations and slave-holding politicians were centered in this fertile region, a region which also supplied most of the Confederacy’s soldiers from Florida. A majority of Florida regiments raised troops from counties in the north, such as Alachua, Jackson, and Franklin. The central and southern parts of the state were essentially wilderness and therefore sparsely populated for a much longer time than central and northern Florida. The barrenness of these regions during the Civil War gave them little connection to the Confederate war effort. However, there is a cluster of monuments in the central region, mainly towards the west coast, near Tampa Bay. These monuments were mostly erected in the mid-20th century when this region experienced a boom in population. While central Florida did become more diversified and urban during this time period, its few cultural ties to the Old South remained curiously strong. Perhaps those pockets of central Floridians who did have ties to Confederate ancestry in the region wanted to ensure that the Confederacy was still remembered in their region, even with all the Northern newcomers and more diverse population.

The areas of the state that experienced the most rapid growth during this time were located in southern Florida, particularly in the Miami area. Advertisements in New York boasted of a warm, sunny climate in the midst of frozen New York winters. Many northerners, and later, Cuban and Latino immigrants, flocked to South Florida, whose ties to the Confederacy were never tremendously strong due both to sparse 19th-century population and early Union occupation.  The heavy, mixed-population migrations to South Florida, combined with this region’s far looser ties to the Confederacy, likely explain why there are virtually no monuments in the southern part of the state.

Interestingly, the county with the largest number of monuments in the entire state is central Florida’s Polk County, with three monuments, while a few other central counties (Hillsborough, Alachua) have two. The only other counties with multiple monuments are Duval (where Jacksonville is) and Marianna (a northern county). As noted earlier, the monumentation in the central part of the state may have been a reactionary response to the incoming northern influence upon the central and nearby south-central regions around the turn of the twentieth century, but other factors also are at play. Polk County has long had a sizable African-American population, including those who settled the Moorehead neighborhood, a longtime black neighborhood and community.  Interestingly, over 400 Confederate veterans also settled in the county following the war. Naturally, tensions built. In the early 20th century, the county saw repeated violence and lynchings against this black community. Such racial tensions may have contributed to the establishment of the monument there, in Lakeland, in 1910, as a symbol of white power and intimidation. This monument was later (controversially) relocated to Veterans Memorial Park (the location of the Moorehead community), where many blacks still reside today.

The Union monuments throughout the state also prove interesting. Key West has multiple monuments, including a few Union monuments. One honors two New York regiments who were stationed in Union-occupied Key West. It recognizes soldiers who died there from various diseases, including yellow fever. Another honors African American soldiers who enlisted in the Union army in Key West, inspired by Union recruitment efforts on the island. A few other Union monuments exist across the state, including one in once Union-occupied Jacksonville.  A large Union monument also stands in a park in Lynn Haven. It memorializes all Union soldiers who fought in the war, and was erected in 1920. In fact, Union veterans founded the town of Lynn Haven, in 1911. Nine years later, they raised money to honor their fellow brothers in blue. The Union occupied much of the state throughout the war, including but not limited to the Keys and the coastline, and Union sympathizers were sprinkled across the state, which perhaps explains the desire for a monument to their cause.  

One of the more interesting Confederate monuments stands on the courtyard grounds of Alachua County, in Gainesville. It is a memorial to all those with connections to the county who passed away in all previous wars. The list of those who perished in “the War Between the States” is vague and unclear. It does not clarify whether these men served the Confederacy or the Union. Many Alachua County men enlisted in the Confederate army and fought in multiple, different Florida regiments. Gainesville itself was the site of a small battle in 1864, where a Union force who attempted to occupy the town was driven back to Jacksonville. A Confederate monument referred to as merely “Old Joe,” a Confederate soldier, stood in Gainesville until its removal in 2017. The county’s vague listing of veterans’ names without differentiation between Union and Confederate is intriguing. At first glance, one may think that the lack of clarification about what side these men fought and died for is to dance around the fact that they may have fought against the United States. However, this is not the case with the overwhelming majority of Confederate monuments around the South and in Florida that proudly flaunt their heritage and boast of Confederate patriotism. Perhaps the monument was erected more so as a reconciliationst monument, eliding the bravery of Confederate soldiers with that of Union soldiers, thus separating the causes of the war from the pure celebration of a shared martial valor and devotion to perceived patriotic ideals.

The language on Florida’s Confederate monuments is typically similar to that on other Confederate monuments in the South. The Confederate Soldiers monument at the Hernando County Courthouse, in west-central Brooksville in 1916, gushes about “ the memory of our fallen heroes–We care not whence they came; whether unknown or known to fame; their cause and country still the same; they died and were the gray–leaving to posterity, a glorious heritage.” This kind of sentimental language is common, especially with monuments erected in the early 20th century. Many monuments were placed in front of county and city courthouses, an important fact to note. Courthouses, especially during periods of increased monumentations, were important city, county, and regional landmarks. The UDC and other sponsoring parties wanted to make sure that Confederate memory was permanently ingrained into the official identity of a local community. The consciously conspicuous placement of these monuments also perhaps served as a statement of the power and authority of the “old (Confederate) regime” upon future generations. Thus, the monuments perhaps were intended to serve as reminders of the wealthy, white-dominated societal structure of the Old South and its preservation through more modern Jim Crow laws: Even though the Confederacy was dead in principle, it was alive in the minds of the governed and those doing the governing.

Five Confederate monuments were erected from 1910-1919, more than in any other previous decade. A large reason for this flurry was the aging and dying-out of Confederate veterans, reunion celebrations focused around the 50th anniversary of the war, renewed interest in American martial prowess and nationalism during World War I, and the explosion in UDC membership. In turn, the UDC grew from around 15,000 members at the end of the 19th century to 100,000 strong at the onset of World War I. D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation inspired the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the mid-1910s, and several UDC chapters worked in cohesion with the new Klan. As veterans began to die off, the UDC became more and more committed to preserving the memory of the Southern fallen and the well-being of its aging veterans. The UDC-backed Florida Old Soldiers and Sailors home opened in 1893 near Jacksonville, and served as a sanctuary for Confederate veterans until the final resident of the home passed away in 1938. Government aid assisted the home’s function, and increases in funding persisted through the first two decades of the 20th century. Unsurprisingly, throughout its 45 year run, the United Daughters of the Confederacy were heavily involved in its upkeep, and helped maintain its records. In 1930, President Macie Calhoun proclaimed that UDC members were ensuring that the home be “as comfortable as possible, there are sixteen living there now” (Florida Memory). The level of commitment from the Daughters is evident, as the preservation of their ancestors’ memory became the central focus of their life’s work.

While some UDC members cared for old veterans, others were focused on installing monuments across the state. Of the 5 monuments erected in Florida in the 1920s and 30s, all five were sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. They were erected in all corners of Florida, from the panhandle, to the upper east coast, to the gulf coast and the Keys. Four were erected in the 1920s, including one in Key West. The dedication speaker, Jeptha Vining Harris used typical language celebrating the valiant cause and efforts of the Confederate armies in his speech, and also lavishly praised the UDC. Importantly, Harris was a noted member of the “Klan of the Keys,” which highlights the common trend of the Ku Klux Klan and UDC working in cahoots. In fact, many of the members of the UDC often joined the new Women of the Ku Klux Klan, including in Florida. However, Florida chapters of the WKKK were not among the strongest in the nation, and few records exist linking them with any monumentation. Regardless, the fact that the UDC would have KKK members speak at the dedication of monuments certainly is relevant; clearly, some of their monuments were specifically erected with the purpose of promoting white supremacy through a celebration of Confederate heritage

The diversity in the geography of the monuments erected during this time speaks to the prominence of the UDC throughout Florida. The proliferation of Lost Cause sentiment during this era also manifests in much of the language associated with these monuments. However, the proliferation of monuments across the state during this period also is likely linked to the concurrent land boom. The invention of air conditioning, as well as easier access to transportation and improved infrastructure, brought many individuals south to Florida.  While significant portions of this migrating populace had no ties to or interest in preserving Confederate heritage, others from portions of the upper South—and even those migrating from northern Florida to newly accessible parts of central and south Florida—did, and brought their proud commitment to public Confederate memory with them.

No monuments were erected in the 1940s, which is interesting, considering the rise in patriotism and martial pride throughout the nation during and after World War II.  During and around both the time of the Spanish-American war and America’s entry into World War I, Confederate monumentation often increased in part because of feelings of reconciliationist nationalism and patriotism, and a renewed sense of duty to  honor of previous American warriors and their bravery. Both modern soldiers and the country at large could promote the “heroics” of their respective ancestors, and use their actions as inspiration and unification against a common enemy. Therefore, ironically, the memorialization of soldiers who fought against the United States often occurred as part of those reunification efforts. It is odd that there were no Confederate monuments erected during the largest conflict of the 20th century. Perhaps Floridians were too busy with the war effort to memorialize Confederates. After all, the “Sunshine State” was transformed into the “Steel State,” as defense contracts boosted Florida’s economy, and the workforce was plunged into industrial efforts and even to training troops. Additionally, the financial toll of the Great Depression upon the state may have slowed down any such memorialization efforts as the state—and the nation—focused its efforts on more pragmatic efforts of survival and economic rejuvenation.

The 1950s saw the erection of five Confederate monuments. This flurry may be due in part to the recovery of the state’s economy following the Great Depression and the post-World War II boom, and it is possible that war-time desires to erect additional monuments were finally able to come to fruition in the 1950s with the end of the conflict.  The 1950s also saw the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the South, which produced significant racial tension, violence, and political strife across the region, and which drove many white supremacists back to their Confederate roots and the usage of Confederate symbolism to reinstate white power and intimidate blacks; Florida was no exception. Following the famed Montgomery bus boycotts, black students from Florida A&M University sat in the “whites only” section of a Tallahassee bus, sparking a bus boycott in Tallahassee. The nationwide discussion of civil rights was opposed by “Dixiecrats,” such as Strom Thurmond and George Wallace. The Civil Rights movement and increased attention on the long shadow of the unresolved issues stemming from the Civil War increased Confederate monumentation across the South, and the sponsorship became more diverse. The Crestview Lions Club sponsored a monument in Okalooska County in 1958. This Lions Club dedicated the memorial to the supposed last Confederate veteran alive in Florida, William Lundy.  At the time, he was considered the last veteran from Florida, which has been disputed and now debunked, as he was not a veteran at all! Nonetheless, the fact that a service organization erected a monument in order to honor the last veterans passing away shows how Confederate memory and the thirst to make sure that the Confederacy would be permanently enshrined in stone, if not in flesh, was still alive and well, especially in the midst of battles over segregation: A service club was even inspired to get involved, and one of the largest service organizations in the world, at that.

The UDC erected a few additional monuments during this time, and in Putnam County, in northeast Florida, the government sponsored the erection of another. As a result, to this day, passers-by can observe a twenty-foot-tall marble statue of a Confederate soldier standing proudly in front of the County Courthouse for blocks, while other monuments to American wars are not nearly as prominent. Interestingly, the monument was erected just one year after the death of famed civil rights activist, Mary McLeod Bethune in adjacent Daytona Beach. Bethune was an influential figure in black America in the early 20th century, and established what is now Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. The school was a hotbed for civil rights activities in the 1950s and 1960s, and perhaps Putnam County wanted to send a message. In fact, just five years later, another monument was erected in the city by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Monumentation slowed down after the early to mid-1960s, with no monuments in the 1970s and just one in 1966. Monumentation was concentrated in the middle and coastal areas of the state. No monuments were erected in the 1970s, while two went up in the 1980s. The 1960s saw the centennial of the Civil War, which often produced a flurry of Confederate monuments in southern states seeking to find some way to mark the occasion appropriately and once more reflect on the actions of their forefathers.  This decade also saw the Civil Rights Act and the official desegregation of the south, although many Florida institutions did not truly desegregate until the 1970s. Often, flurries of Confederate monumentation appeared during these two decades in response to—and refutation of—legally protected civil rights.  Thus, it is odd that more Confederate monuments were not erected in Florida during this period.

In the 1980s, the only two monuments erected were in Polk County, where the Ku Klux Klan had been active in the previous two decades. The next monument was not erected until the mid-2000s, when a spurt of monuments went up. Four were erected during this time, three of which were sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The first, erected in 2002 in White Springs, near the border of Georgia and the Olustee battlefield, contains typical, though now largely archaic language about Confederate patriots defending their families and states during the “War for Southern Independence, 1861-65.” It is curious that such a flurry of monumentation would occur during such a recent (and non-major Civil War anniversary) time period, which perhaps suggests that contemporary politics were harnessed to Confederate identity or that internal changes within heritage organizations during this period may have contributed to such a flurry.  Interestingly, White Springs has a majority black population to this day, which was even higher at the time of the 2000 census, at 62%. Perhaps local racial tensions are behind at least some of these more recent monuments. The White Springs monument is accompanied by a giant Confederate flag, which can be seen by travelers on popular highway I-75. The flag was raised along with the monument in 2002, around the time of the popular reenactment of the Battle of Olustee. This major event was not met without protest and an arrest.

At the time of the celebration, local NAACP leader, Glenel Bowden put up flyers on telephone poles as part of a movement to remove Confederate symbols from public property. He was arrested under the grounds that he violated an obscure local law that prohibits flyers or signs on telephone poles. Bowden, from jail noted that “If (he was) putting up other fliers.. I wouldn’t be in jail today. I’m offended personally as a citizen. If a person has ever been arrested for this, I’ll stand corrected” (Mussenden). There was, in fact, few records of arrests for this offense, and Bowden believed that he was singled out for his race and for protesting an event that would boost the local economy. The raising of the flag and monument went on as planned, as hundreds attended. The last Confederate monument erected to date was to the Cow Cavalry in Perry, Florida, in 2007.

Conclusion

Florida’s Confederate monuments provide an intriguing case study of a state that is often forgotten for its efforts in the Civil War, but one which has enthusiastically striven to be remembered ever since the guns fell silent. It is interesting that specific monuments related to contributions that are uniquely Floridian have largely not been erected until recently. Out of the monuments specifically honoring Floridians, only the William Loring monument was erected before the year 2000. One would think that the UDC or SCV would be proud of Florida’s unique mantra as one of the most important suppliers of the Confederacy, and thus would have wanted to memorialize that fact earlier than 2007. Instead, they appear to have wished to instead focus their efforts on staking Florida’s Confederate claims clearly to more mainstream Confederate icons and stress the linkage between Florida’s soldiers with the famous Confederate armies that fought and died on some of the most iconic battlefields further north.

Given the scope of this project, it is not realistic to deeply analyze every monument’s origin store, inscription, and iconography. Additionally, most of the data for this report comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center, and locations may not be exact nor the listing complete. That being said, it does appear that most of Florida’s monuments generally use similar reconciliationist or Lost Cause language about heroism, patriotism, and a “righteous cause.”

The disparity between geographic location and numbers of monuments within the state is apparent, and the ties between booms in infrastructure (and the ensuing land accessibility within the state) and new ripples of Confederate monumentation are strong. The bulk of the monuments are concentrated in northern Florida, which was the most heavily settled portion of the state during the war, contributed the largest number of soldiers to the Confederate war effort, saw a major battle, and boasted a hotbed of secessionist sentiment. Numerous monuments do exist within the once sparsely settled sector of central Florida, whose cultural ties to the Old South and the adjoining pro-Confederate northern regions, combined with its early turn-of-the-century settlement likely account for its Confederate statuary. 

There are virtually no monuments in the previously unsettled southwest region of the state, and very few in all of southern Florida. Obviously, those regions were not populated during the war, and thus contributed very few soldiers to the Confederate cause. Additionally, the people who did eventually settle the region much later perhaps had few ties to the old Confederacy. The primary demographic of people that have occupied this region throughout time are Hispanics, Americans from outside Florida, and also Florida natives. In fact, even today, roughly the same percentage of non-native Floridians and immigrants live in the region as residents originally from Florida.  The vast diversity in the region, in which many of the resident groups have few connections to the Confederacy (and, in fact, many of these groups have reason to oppose the Confederate monumentation), explains the lack of monumentation.

Another unique facet of Florida’s Civil War history is its surprisingly strong connection to pockets of Union soldiers and sympathizers. Key West and parts of northwest Florida were hotspots for Unionists, and a contingent of formerly enslaved Floridians also fought in USCT units. Thus, boasts several Union monuments in addition to its Confederate statues.

Interestingly, the state boasts no monuments dedicated to specific regiments from Florida. Most of the monuments memorialize common Confederate soldiers or the Confederate cause. As was true of other Southern states, At the beginning of the memorialization period, monumentation honored those recent dead and dying Confederate soldiers and veterans, and planted the seeds of the romantic Old South that would eventually bloom into the Lost Cause narrative. At its height, monumentation in Florida followed many of the patterns of the rest of the South, intent on alternately celebrating the martial valor and bravery of southern soldiers, upholding the legacy of the Lost Cause, opposing the civil rights movement, celebrating reconciliationist narratives of shared martial valor, and inculcating within Floridians sentiments of pride and a unique sense of Confederate patriotism, largely through the assistance of the UDC. However, another particularly unique aspect of Florida’s monumentation pattern is just how many “modern” monuments were put up between the 1980s and 2007.  Perhaps the influence of modern-day politics, localized racial tensions, or even a possible rift between memorial groups is responsible for this more contemporary flurry.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, debates within the Sons of Confederate Veterans about the conduct and mission of the organization arose. Controversy erupted over the organization’s intentions to display Confederate symbols in particularly inflammatory places. Some argued in support of these actions, while others believed that the purpose of the organization should remain focused on erecting monuments to soldiers, protecting graves, and promoting awareness of general Civil War history. This latter group accused those who wanted to display inflammatory symbols such as the battle flag in inappropriate public areas of being influenced by The League of the South, a white nationalist organization. Some SCV members may have intended to erect monuments in this period to spite those who wanted to focus on the display of intimidating or inflammatory symbols.  However, one of the aforementioned monuments erected near the I-75 highway includes a giant Confederate flag, one of the Confederate symbols that some wanted to display. Perhaps the flag accompanying the monument is something of a compromise within the organization.

Many of Florida’s monuments were removed in the last few years (especially 2020) after the Black Lives Matter protests and the murder of George Floyd. For some, it was a time of mourning and fear that their heritage and ancestors were being dishonored or misrepresented, and might be forgotten.  For many, it was a time to rejoice, as the symbols they believed to be un-American and hateful were finally coming down after decades of public prominence.  Hopefully, this report will help to shed light on these controversies and the enormous complexities of the myriad issues that inform them. It intends to provide context for the debates that continue to the present day regarding Confederate monuments, and ensure that each side is adequately informed.

Table 1: Data Sources

NameCreatorDate Valid For DescriptionHyperlink
Florida Counties Data.gov2021Shapefile representing Florida counties. Link
Whose Heritage Master SheetSouthern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)2022Google Sheets dataset containing name, location, date of dedication, and other available information of all Confederate monuments across the United States. Link

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