October 3, 1864: Albert W. Peck’s letter from Picolata

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.

 

Florida, unlike some of the Confederate states, was never fully without a Union presence. The United States Navy retained its base at Key West after Florida seceded, and the Confederate government never saw fit to attempt to take it back. The Federals occupied Cedar Key from early 1864 through the end of the war. Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and the St. Johns region were also occupied to varying degrees throughout the conflict.

An artist's sketch of the St. Augustine Cathedral and surrounding buildings during the Union occupation of the city (1862).

An artist’s sketch of the St. Augustine Cathedral and surrounding buildings during the Union occupation of the city (1862).

Today’s document comes from Albert W. Peck, one of the many Northern soldiers involved in occupying Union-controlled Florida. He was a member of Company D, 17th Connecticut Infantry, posted at the time near Picolata. Here we have a letter from Peck to his father, discussing the importance of keeping up the war and choosing wisely in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

Albert W. Peck to his father, Oct. 3, 1864

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Alfred W. Peck to his father, Oct. 3, 1864

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Alfred W. Peck to his father, Oct. 3, 1864 (page 3)

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Picolata Fla.
Oct. 3rd 1864

My Dear Father,

I don’t know but you are beginning to think I have forgotten you, as tis so long since I have written to you, but I have been pretty full of business of late and have not had as much time to write as usual – although I endeavor to write to Mother or you as often as once in a week.

My new business will keep me pretty busy for a while, until I get a little better posted in it. Then I shall have easier times. We are living pretty well here now – kill fresh beef seven days in ten for the men – have plenty of onions and potatoes to issue in place of other articles of the

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ration that are not needed by the men. The subsistence business is very complicated, and there is a great deal of responsibility attached to it, but I think I will make it go first rate after a while.

What do you think of the war now a days? And who is going to be next President? And to speak plain, who are you going to vote for – dont vote for McClellan or Fremont if you want the war to end, and want to have me and all the rest of the soldier boys come home, after having done our share in restroing the Stripes and Stars to their former position of honor.

Don’t be blinded by the peace men – they would recognise the

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Confederacy – and bring shame and dishonor to our flag. We must fight it out. Traitors must make way for the good old “Ship of State” or be annihilated.

Think of our starving prisoners – make peace with such barbarians? Never – while six hundred thousand bayonets in the hands of stalwart and true men stand ready to enforce submission to the government our forefathers shed their precious blood to maintain.

I want to see you all very much – but we must wait patiently. Love to all – write soon to your loving Son,

A.W. Peck

 

 

 

 

Peck’s suggestions to his parents about how to vote in the 1864 presidential election recall an aspect of the political history of the Civil War we often forget. As much as we revere Abraham Lincoln today for his leadership during one of the United States’ toughest trials, support for his administration was not uniform in the North.

Lincoln had removed his general-in-chief, George B. McClellan, from command in late 1862, for which he sustained much criticism. The Democratic Party chose to run McClellan as their candidate for President two years later. McClellan and his backers charged Lincoln, a Republican, with mismanaging the war effort and prolonging it unnecessarily. The Democratic platform called for a negotiated settlement with the Confederate states, a point McClellan felt obliged to repudiate. This made his party’s campaign seem indecisive to many observers. Peck’s characterization of McClellan shows that at least some citizens still saw McClellan and the Democrats as the party of capitulation rather than a party concentrated on winning the war.

Check out the helpful resources below to learn more about Florida in the Civil War. Also, join us tomorrow on Civil War Voices from Florida as we return to Key Wester Robert Watson’s diary to learn more about his life aboard the C.S.S. Savannah.

 

Related Resources on Florida Memory:

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