The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.
Today’s document comes from Robert Watson, a resident of Key West who left shortly after the Civil War began to join a Confederate coast guard unit. In April 1862 Watson’s company was mustered into service as Company K, Seventh Florida Infantry. The unit remained on Florida’s Gulf coast for only a short time; their services were more urgently needed elsewhere. In the early summer of 1862, Watson and his comrades traveled north to join the Confederate Army in Tennessee.
After participating in battles at Chickamauga (Georgia), Chattanooga (Tennessee), and the attempted Confederate invasion of Kentucky, Watson and a number of his fellow infantrymen were transferred to the Confederate Navy. Watson served most of 1864 aboard the Confederate ship Savannah, an ironclad vessel assigned to Savannah harbor. That’s where he was on October 2nd, 1864, 150 years ago today, when he penned the document below.
This is an entry Watson wrote in his personal diary. The State Archives of Florida obtained photocopies of a transcript of the diary in the 1970s; the whereabouts of the original are unknown. In this entry, Watson gives a description of a routine monthly mustering of the troops, along with other commentary.
Transcript: Sunday [October] 2nd: General muster in morning. This takes place on the 1st Sunday of each month. All hands muster on the [spar] deck and the Articles of War [read]. everyone has his cap off and after the reading is over the purser calls the roll. At 7 1/2 PM 32 conscripts came on board. I can’t imagine why they sent sent them to the navy when the army was so much in need of men. I went on shore in the afternoon, called in at the naval hospital and saw my sick shipmates. There are many of them very sick. Went out to camp and found that many of my shipmates were sick there also, my chum Alf. Lowe among them.
In this passage, the term conscripts refers to men who had been drafted into the Confederate military. The Confederacy and Union both instituted conscription laws to secure an adequate number of personnel to fight the war. Watson’s surprise that the 32 conscripts were received aboard his ship and not in an army unit likely stemmed in part from his own battlefield experience in Georgia and Tennessee, where the need for additional manpower would have been great.
We’ll hear again from Robert Watson in a few days. In the meantime, check out our list of helpful related resources below, and join us tomorrow on Civil War Voices from Florida for a letter written by Union soldier Albert W. Peck to his father about his experiences in Union-occupied Picolata.
Related Resources on Florida Memory:
- Robert Watson’s Confederate Pension Application (State Archives of Florida / Florida Memory)
- Florida Memory Learning Unit: Florida in the Civil War
- Florida Memory Exhibit: Distant Storm: Florida’s Role in the Civil War
Related Resources at the State Archives of Florida:
Related Resources in Print:
- Biographical Rosters of Florida’s Confederate and Union Soldiers, 1861-1865 (find in a library near you!)