The Confederate government instituted few policies that were more controversial than conscription. Initially passed on April 16, 1862, the first of three conscription acts required that all able bodied white males between the ages of 18 and 35 serve in the Confederate military forces for three years or until the end of the war. The unprecedented nature of conscription—there had never been a national draft in America before 1862—roused public debate about its necessity and constitutionality. Most Southerners hated conscription. They believed it demeaned patriotism by pressuring men to serve instead of relying on their willingness to volunteer. Even more demeaning were the exemptions to the act, which allowed the wealthy to avoid conscription by hiring substitutes and kept those employed in professions deemed essential for the operation of the economy and government out of military service.
Slave overseer’s house at El Destino Plantation, Jefferson County, 1924
One of the most resented of these exemptions was a provision in the second Conscription Act (October 1862) that exempted planters who owned twenty or more slaves from the draft. The exemption also applied to overseers employed in managing plantations with over twenty slaves. Soon known among the press and public as the “Twenty Negro Law,” the exemption provoked outrage among poor and middle class whites, most of whom owned no slaves or certainly fewer than the twenty slaves required by the law.
On May 28 and 29, 1586, Sir Francis Drake attacked St. Augustine.
Drake’s raid was part of a larger expedition led by the English privateer against Spanish settlements in the Caribbean. An Italian cartographer named Baptista Boazio created this map in order to illustrate Drake’s successful campaign. Boazio’s hand-colored map is the earliest known depiction of a European settlement in what is now the United States; it is also the oldest item in the collections of the State Archives of Florida.
Map of Drake’s raid on St. Augustine, by Baptista Boazio, published in 1589
Boazio, who never visited St. Augustine, included fine details in his map derived from first-hand accounts of English exploits. Join us as we take a look at Drake in detail.
Detail of a galleon, the largest of the 43 vessels portrayed by Boazio
Railroads opened Florida to new industry, expanded the tourist economy, and allowed for rapid residential and commercial development.
Tallahassee Rail Road Company banknote (Collection M77-155)
The first rail construction project authorized in Florida was the Tallahassee-St. Marks line, chartered in 1834. The first train to operate, however, was the Lake Wimico line that connected the boomtown of St. Joseph to the Apalachicola River in 1836. The Tallahassee-St. Marks train, which was initially mule-drawn, connected the highly productive cotton fields of Leon and Jefferson counties with the St. Marks River. These early efforts only hinted at the profound impact that railroads, passenger lines, and freight trains would have on Florida’s history.
First complete train from Bartow to Punta Gorda, late 1800s
On May 26, 1956, two female students from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson, sat down in the “whites only” section of a segregated bus in the city of Tallahassee. When they refused to move to the “colored” section at the rear of the bus, the driver pulled into a service station and called the police. Tallahassee police arrested Jakes and Patterson and charged them with “placing themselves in a position to incite a riot.”
In the days immediately following these arrests, students at FAMU organized a campus-wide boycott of city buses. Their collective stand against segregation set an example that propelled like-minded Tallahassee citizens into action. Soon, news of the boycott spread throughout the community.
Reverend C. K. Steele at the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Tallahassee, January 3, 1957
On May 21, 1722, Jesuit explorer and historian Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix visited Fuerte San Marcos de Apalache on Florida’s northern Gulf coast. Author of Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle France avec le journal historique d’un voyage fait par ordre du roi dans l’Amérique septentrionnale (1744) and many other works, Charlevoix was among the first French historians of New France.
Excerpt from “Carte de la Floride et de la Georgie” (1806)
Charlevoix described his approach to the remote Spanish outpost: “About ten o’clock we perceived a small stone-fort, of a square form, with regular bastions; we immediately hung out the white-flag, and immediately after were told in French to proceed no farther.” After a few tense moments, the soldiers allowed Charlevoix and his captain to “speak with the governor: we went, and were very well received.” The defenders of Fuerte San Marcos de Apalache had reason to worry, as French pirates were known to frequent the region in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Emancipation was proclaimed in Tallahassee on May 20, 1865, 11 days after the end of the Civil War and two years after the proclamation was first issued by President Abraham Lincoln. For this reason, Emancipation Day in Florida is traditionally celebrated on May 20th.
Henry White playing guitar at an Emancipation Day celebration (1930s)
Emancipation Day Parade: Lincolnville, Florida (1920s) Read more »
In the late 1950s, in order to keep pace with the Soviet Union, the U.S. government created a fictitious town named Apix (Air Products Incorporated, Experimental) to build and test rocket engines powered by liquid hydrogen.
Testing the XLR-115 hydrogen fueled rocket engine, Apix, 1958
On May 14, 1942, Congress approved an Act that allowed women to enlist for noncombat duties in the U.S. military. The Act led to the creation of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), the Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES), the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), and the Semper Paratus Always Ready Service (SPARS). Many Florida women were quick to sign up and serve their country.
Portrait of Sarah Kaplan during World War II Read more »
William A. Fishbaugh worked as a commercial photographer for more than 40 years. During his tenure as an employee of real estate developer George Merrick, Fishbaugh captured a remarkable visual history of the 1920s Florida Land Boom, particularly the development of Coral Gables, Miami, and Miami Beach. In addition to photographing homes, businesses, and attractions, Fishbaugh also documented area golf courses.
Florida Memory is funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services.