Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 10, 1862 - The Women of St. Augustine chop down the flag staff

Castillo de San Marcos (Fort Marion)
St. Augustine, Florida
Having captured Fernandina and Amelia Island on March 4, 1862, the Union fleet next directed its attention to Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

The Confederacy already had decided to evacuate positions all along its southeastern coast in favor of strengthening key points and developing an interior system of defense. The concept was developed by General Robert E. Lee of Virginia. He had not yet ascended to the command of the Army of Northern Virginia and was then commanding in East Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Unfortunately for Florida, Lee considered the nation's oldest city of St. Augustine as not important enough expending resources for its defense. The troops there were ordered to load up their supplies and withdraw. And as had been the case at Fernandina, they did so just as the masts of the Union warships appeared on the horizon.

The departure of the Confederate troops from St. Augustine took place 150 years ago today (March 10, 1862). Behind they left a city filled with civilians, many of whom were highly displeased that their community was being abandoned to the Union Navy. This sentiment was particularly prominent among the women of St. Augustine:

St. Francis Barracks in St. Augustine, Florida
...There is much violent and pestilent feeling among the women. They seem to mistake treason for courage, and have a theatrical desire to figure as heroines. Their minds have doubtless been filled with falsehoods so industriously circulated in regard to the lust and hatred of our troops. - C.R.P. Rogers, U.S. Navy, March 13, 1862.

So angry were the women of St. Augustine that their city and the ancient ramparts of the Castillo de San Marcos (then called Fort Marion) were being left undefended that they gathered in front of the city's St. Francis Barracks on the night of March 10th:

...On the night before our arrival a party of women assembled in front of the barracks and cut down the flagstaff in order that it might not be used to support the old flag. The men seemed anxious to conciliate in every way. - C.R.P. Rogers, U.S. Navy, March 13, 1862.

The Union Navy would arrive in St. Augustine the next day. I will post on the 150th anniversary of that event tomorrow, so be sure to check back then. You can read more about the historic city of St. Augustine anytime at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/staugustine1.


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