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 Civil War Voices post takes us back to Tallahassee, where Governor John Milton was busy juggling being both a civilian governor and a military leader. In this letter to Brigadier General Dabney H. Maury, who commanded the Confederate military’s Department of the Gulf, Milton asks for help securing an exchange of prisoners of war:
Tallahassee Oct 17th 1864
Maj Genl D.H. Maury
On the 13th inst. by mail, I requested you to do me the favor to confer by flag of truce with the officer in Command near Pensacola, relative to the exchange of the persons recently made prisoners of war in and near Marianna. Many were taken prisoners in Walton, Holmes, , Jackson & Washington counties, and if it be possible to have them exchanged and thus prevent their being sent north, it is very desirable that it should be done, and at all events that arrangements be made to supply them with clothing & other necessaries.
I am informed that Mr. Carroll is at Mobile in the capacity of Commissioner of Exchange. I will be very much obliged to you if you will invite his attention to those who were recently captured in W. Florida, and urge him immediately to make an effort for their exchange if possible, and if not, at least to make arrangements by which their wants may be supplied and to notify me what he may have accomplished in the premises.
Most if not all of the persons captured belonged to the local State forces; at the time were under command of Col Montgomery, and for the time being were in Confederate Service.
Governor of Florida
In the early years of the Civil War, the Union and Confederacy did not exchange many prisoners of war. The Lincoln administration wanted to avoid doing anything that might be construed as official recognition of the Confederacy. A formal prisoner exchange might give this impression. Battlefield commanders conducted their own prisoner exchanges at times as humanitarian gestures. Public pressure mounted over time for a prisoner exchange arrangement, and in 1862 representatives of both sides met to agree on a system to formalize the process.
Prisoner exchanges were haphazard later in the war, owing to Union outrage over the treatment of black soldiers in Confederate prisoner of war camps. Milton’s letter reveals that he had reason to hope that he could get the Marianna prisoners exchanged either formally or informally and prevent them from ending up in northern prison camps. At the very least, he hoped to be able to get supplies to them, as camp conditions could be tough.
For more information on Florida in the Civil War, check out the related resources below. Also, come back tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices. We’ll be heading up to Elmira, New York for a diary entry from Floridian prisoner of war Wilbur Wightman Gramling.
Related Resources on Florida Memory:
- John Milton Letterbook, 1861-1863
- 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!)
- Florida in the Civil War, by Nicholas Wynne and Robert Taylor (find in a library near you!)