… I hope that ere next April we will have what is wished for a thousand times every moment. That is peace…
These words were penned October 12, 1864 by Albert Symington Chalker, a young private from Clay County stationed near present-day Baldwin during the Civil War. He was writing to Martha Ann Bardin, his sweetheart and future wife. The full letter reflects Chalker’s realization of the hardships of war, in terms of both what the young soldier observed around him, and what he was feeling within. Written “voices” like Chalker’s are invaluable for understanding historical phenomena like the Civil War, which is why the State Archives of Florida is eager to collect and preserve letters, diaries, and other documents from everyday citizens in addition to government records.
Florida Memory is pleased to announce a special program for the month of October called Civil War Voices from Florida. The program will feature letters, diary entries, and other documents from a variety of historical “voices” like Chalker’s. By combining these perspectives, we get a better picture of the war as it was experienced by Floridians and others who were stationed in Florida at the time. All of the documents date from October 1864, and each will be released on the exact 150th anniversary of its original creation.
The documents include entries from the diary of William Wightman Gramling, a Florida native who spent much of 1864 in a northern prisoner of war camp. Robert Watson, a member of the Confederate Coast Guard who hailed from Key West, also features in the collection. Letters from high officials such as Governor John Milton and General William Miller shed light on the struggle to prosecute the war effort and cooperate with the Confederate government in Richmond while still protecting Florida and maintaining morale. Several items come not from Floridians, but from United States soldiers who helped occupy parts of the state where Union control had been reestablished.
To view the documents as they are added each day, visit floridamemory.com/blog/tag/civilwarvoices. A new document will be posted each day in October, and will remain on the site permanently. We will also post about each document on the State Archives’ Facebook page. You’ll notice that some of the documents, such as the McLeod Diary entries and the Albert Chalker letter, are already part of established collections on our site.
These letters and diaries are only a fraction of what the State Library and Archives of Florida have to offer on this topic. If you’re interested in learning more about the Civil War in Florida, you should check out our Civil War learning unit, our exhibit entitled “Distant Storm: Florida’s Role in the Civil War,” and our guide to Civil War records at the Archives.
Finally, don’t forget to share your favorite documents from Civil War Voices from Florida on Facebook!