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 we return to the diary of Robert Watson, the young Key Wester aboard the C.S.S. Savannah on patrol in Savannah Harbor. In this diary entry, he recalls the return of a colleague who had been on furlough to visit his home in Florida. The returning soldier brought news and a letter describing conditions in wartime Tampa.
Transcript: Tuesday 4th: A dull day, not much to do. In afternoon Wm. O’Neil came on board. He has been home in Manatee, Fla. on furlough and is 16 days behind his time. He brought his wife and child with him. He brought me a letter and 2 neck hdkfs. [handkerchiefs] from my old friend Mr. Crusoe in Tampa. My poor friend sees pretty hard times of it, can’t buy anything for Confederate money and has to live on corn meal and water. His family has lately been increased by the birth of a son.
The “Mr. Crusoe” Watson refers to was experiencing two very common problems shared by citizens across Florida during the Civil War: an unreliable source of cash for exchange and a serious shortage of consumer goods. Florida’s economy was still reeling from the effects of the Seminole Wars and decades of unsound banking practices when the war began. Cash and credit were tight, and by 1862 bank notes were almost completely unavailable for purchasing even basic necessities. The state issued currency to pay its debts and keep some kind of money in circulation, but it was hardly enough. By 1864 when Watson composed this diary entry, virtually all that was left were Confederate dollars of dubious value.
Even if money had been more plentiful, there was very little for Floridians to buy. The Union encircled the state early on with a line of blockading ships that prevented most shipments to and from Florida’s ports. Blockade runners were able to get a few supplies in and out, but over time citizens were increasingly limited to what they could produce at home.
Check out the resources below for more information about Florida during the Civil War. Also, join us tomorrow on Civil War Voices from Florida as we return to the diary of Wilbur Wightman Gramling for more of his observations from a camp for prisoners of war in Elmira, New York.
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!)