Sunday, January 2, 2011

January 2, 1861 - Yulee and Mallory take the first step...

Sen. David Levy Yulee
Note: This is the first of a series of daily posts on the military aspects of the secession of Florida, which took place 150 years ago this month.

January 2, 1861

The Florida Secession Convention, approved by the voters of in December, had not yet convened on January 2, 1861, when Florida's two U.S. Senators, Stephen Mallory and David L. Yulee, took the first military step in the chain of events leading to the state's departure from the Union.

It is a little known fact that on the eve of the War Between the States, Florida was the location of one of the largest collections of military property and artillery in North America. The U.S. Army then held, by either regular garrisons or caretakers, the following posts in the state: Fort Clinch on Amelia Island, Fort Marion (Castillo de San Marcos) and St. Francis Barracks in St. Augustine, Fort Taylor and Key West Barracks in Key West, Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, the Apalachicola Arsenal at Chattahoochee, and Fort Pickens, Fort McRee, Fort Barrancas and Barrancas Barracks, all at Pensacola. The U.S. Navy held facilities at Key West and the major Pensacola Navy Yard at Pensacola.

Sen. Stephen Mallory
These various installations housed more than 500 pieces of artillery with suitable ammunition, tens of thousands of pounds of gunpowder, thousands of prepared cartridges, rifles, muskets and enough other military supplies to literally equip an army.

In an effort to better understand the true condition of the posts in Florida and the quantities of military hardware and supplies to be found there, on January 2, 1861, the state's U.S. Senators David Levy Yulee and Stephen Mallory requested specific information from the Secretary of War. The communique was written from the U.S. Capitol itself and represented, so far as is known, the first attempt by Florida's leaders to learn the amount of material state troops might find if they seized U.S. military posts in the state:

Senate Chamber, January 2, 1861*

Sir: We respectfully request you to inform us what is the numerical force of the troops now in garrison at the various posts in the State of Florida, and the amount of arms, heavy and small, and ammunition, fixed and loose, at the various forts and arsenals in that State.
Respectfully, your obedient servants,

The request was delivered 150 years ago today and set into motion a chain of events, the magnitude of which neither of the senators could possibly imagined.

*From the Official Records set, Series I, Volume I, p. 349.

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