Tuesday, March 11, 2008
The Union Soldiers of Jackson County, Florida
Although it is a fact that often seems to be forgotten, Florida was a very divided state on the eve of the Civil War.
The shadow of Andrew Jackson still moved across the landscape of Florida at the time and many residents of the state held the same commitment to the Union as their late hero. One modern historian has presented compelling evidence that the majority of Floridians might have opposed secession, but were effectively silenced by the turbulence of the times.
Either way, once the issue was decided, most of Florida's men served in the Confederate armies. A significant minority of Floridians, however, retained or returned to their allegiance to the old Union. Hundreds of men volunteered for service in the 1st and 2nd Florida U.S. Cavalries, the Union navy and other Federal units.
Some of these never came home, but others did. Over time they blended back into their communities and went on with life, despite much bitterness in the region from their neighbors who had served the Confederacy.
One such individual was Sgt. S.J. Byrd. A Confederate soldier early in the war, he deserted from Company K, 11th Florida Infantry on September 1, 1863, from a camp on the Choctawhatchee River in Washington County. He made his way to Pensacola and, on December 6, 1863, enlisted in Company A, 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry. He was promoted to corporal on April 4, 1864 and served with his company - on the Union side - during the Battle of Marianna. Promoted again, he remained with his unit until it was disbanded at Tallahassee on November 17, 1865.
He went back to live in Jackson County, where he died in 1899. He is one of several Union soldiers buried at Cowpen Pond Cemetery near the community of Dellwood.