Friday, January 21, 2011

January 21, 1861 - Yulee, Mallory and Hawkins Resign from Congress

David Levy Yulee
Part of a month-long series on the Secession of Florida which took place 150 years ago this month.

January 21, 1861

The secession of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi took on stark meaning to the rest of the United States on this date in 1861.

Unofficially led by Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, a group of U.S. Senators and Representatives from the seceded states resigned from their posts in the U.S. Congress. Among the men in the group were Senators David Levy Yulee and Stephen R. Mallory and Representative George S. Hawkins, all of Florida. It was reported that Mallory had tears in his eyes as he delivered his farewell address from the floor of the Senate Chamber.

The three men were among the most distinguished Floridians ever to serve the state in Washington D.C.

David Levy Yulee, for example, was a leading Florida planter, businessman and industrialist. He built the first railroad to link the Atlantic Coast of the state with the Gulf. Cars had just begun rolling the full length of the railroad from Fernandina on the Atlantic to Cedar Key on the Gulf when the secession crisis erupted. Before the war ended he would see one of his houses burned to the ground and great damage done to his commercial interests. His name is memorialized today by Levy County.

Stephen R. Mallory
Stephen R. Mallory, who had not been in favor of the immediate secession of Florida, would serve as Secretary of the Navy for the Confederacy. It was under his direction that one of the most ambitious times of research, development and ship construction in American history would take place. The ironclad C.S.S. Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimac) was a clear sign of Mallory's innovative mindset. His belief in the value of ironclads ignited an arms race between North and South to build more and better ironclad ships and, in turn, cannon that could penetrate the iron plating of the vessels. And the success of such commerce raiders as the C.S.S. Alabama and C.S.S. Florida speaks for itself.

George S. Hawkins
George S. Hawkins, the lesser known of the three, actually had great influence on the development of the state of Florida as we know it today. A lawyer by trade, he served on the first Florida State Supreme Court. When his home city of Apalachicola was evacuated by Confederate troops in 1862, Hawkins' sent his law books to Marianna where his former home still stands. An eyewitness account of the Battle of Marianna (September 27, 1864) describes how the books were saved from destruction at the hands of Federal raiders by a young girl who sat atop them and protected them. Many of Judge Hawkins' opinions helped shape the laws of Florida.


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