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A period of conflict


John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams

Slavery was one of the most divisive political issues in the Congress of the United States in the early 19th century. Many Congress members from the Northern states pressed to end slavery, both because it was considered immoral and because white labor could not compete with unpaid black labor. Members from Florida and the other Deep South states believed that slavery was essential to their cotton-based agricultural system and that the North was trying to dominate the national economy.

By the 1850s, Southerners saw their power slipping in Congress, the clamor by Northern abolitionists—those who wanted an immediate and total end to slavery—was at a high pitch, and many white Floridians came to believe that secession from the Union was the only way to protect “Southern rights,” including the right to own slaves.

After South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860, Florida’s proslavery Democratic Party demanded the state’s immediate secession from the Union, and in January 1861 Florida officially seceded. The next month, after seven states had seceded, they organized as the Confederate States of America and began mobilizing for war. The American Civil War began officially on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery bombarded a federal fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. During the Civil War, Union troops captured Jacksonville, Saint Augustine, Fernandina, Pensacola, and other coastal towns. Repeated Union attempts to gain control of the interior of the state failed, and Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi to escape Union occupation during the war. Inland routes were used to transport large quantities of beef, bacon, and salt supplied by Florida to the Confederate armies farther north.

Confederate ships, operating out of sheltered inlets along the Florida coast, carried cotton, tobacco, and turpentine to the West Indies, where these commodities were traded for arms, ammunition, and medical supplies. Only one major battle was fought on Florida soil, on February 20, 1864, when Confederate troops defeated Union forces at Olustee. "Florida" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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