Friday, June 12, 2009

The Old Capitol - A Confederate Headquarters


It is a little known fact that Florida's historic Old Capitol in Tallahassee was also an important military headquarters and armory during the Civil War.

Built between 1839 and 1845 using a $20,000 appropriation from the U.S. Congress, the central part of the Old Capitol was completed in the days when Florida was still a U.S. Territory. It became a state in 1845, the same year that the capitol was completed.

It was here that the state Secession Convention met in January of 1861 and it was from the front steps of the historic structure that the state's declaration of independence from the Union was announced on January 10, 1861.

Throughout the war, the Old Capitol served both political and military purposes. Governors Madison S. Perry, John Milton and A.K. Allison maintained their offices there and the state legislature continued to meet through the war years. In addition, the Old Capitol became the military headquarters for the state and the basement or "lower" floor was used to store arms and ammunition belonging to the state.

In March of 1865, the Old Capitol served as a rallying point for troops arriving in Tallahassee to meet Union General John Newton's advance from the St. Marks Lighthouse. Artillery on the grounds was fired to alarm the citizens and the Leon County Home Guards met there to receive arms and ammunition for the coming fighting.

Major General Samuel Jones and Brigadier General William Miller met here in the early stages of the campaign to discuss strategy. These meetings led to the Confederate victory at the Battle of Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865.

After the battle, Governor John Milton addressed the victorious troops inside the old capitol and it was here that the Cadets of the West Florida Seminary were presented a flag by the ladies of the community.

The Old Capitol is today a beautiful museum facility, with exhibits interpreting the political history of Florida. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/oldcapitol.

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