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 entry takes us back to the chilly confines of the Union prisoner of war camp at Elmira, New York. Wilbur Wightman Gramling of Leon County, Florida had only a short entry in his diary this day, but he brings up a critical political aspect of the Civil War that bears mentioning:
Transcript: Friday, Oct. 21, 1864. Papers state that England and France have recognized the independence of the Confederacy. Nothing else new. Weather remains the same. My health is still very good.
The newspaper reports Gramling speaks of would have caused quite a stir among the Confederate prisoners, but ultimately they were incorrect. Britain and France never recognized the Confederacy as an independent country. They strongly considered it, however. In fact, the Southern states were counting on these European countries for support. The South provided a vital supply of cotton for Western European textile mills, which led many Confederate leaders to believe Britain and France would be compelled to side with the South.
But there were other factors to consider. The British desire not to get involved in an American war was paramount, as was France’s determination not to take any action without British cooperation. Moreover, Union officials in Washington had warned the Europeans that aiding the Confederacy would constitute war against the United States. The Confederates’ own policies also militated against British or French intervention. The Europeans viewed the South’s method of “King Cotton diplomacy” as a kind of economic blackmail. They decided eventually to focus their energies on judiciously using the cotton they already had in storehouses and developing sources elsewhere.
Check out the related resources below for more information about Florida in the Civil War, and check back with us tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices. We’ll be hearing from General William Miller, commander of the Confederate Reserves in Florida.
Related Resources on 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!)
- Florida in the Civil War, by Nicholas Wynne and Robert Taylor (find in a library near you!)