Florida’s membership in the United States was a distant memory for Floridians at the fighting fronts in Virginia and Tennessee. Even though Florida could field relatively few troops, the state provided more than its share. Most white men of service age joined the Confederate army (some joined the navy): 15,000 served in the war, and 5,000 died. Only a few Floridians fought in Florida, however. Most men served in Florida regiments that fought in Virginia and Tennessee: six regiments in Virginia and six in the West (Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia).
The Second Florida Infantry Regiment was the first Florida regiment to serve in Virginia. Made up of volunteer companies from counties across North Florida, the Second Florida arrived in Richmond on July 21, 1861, the same day as the First Battle of Manassas. The Floridians missed the battle and spent nine months waiting to fight. That day finally arrived on May 3, 1862, when the Second Florida charged Union troops in a skirmish near Yorktown, Virginia. The brief encounter was only the first of dozens of engagements that the Second Florida fought over the next three years.
Edmond Powell, a soldier in the Second Florida, promised to return home to his family in Florida bearing a “Yankee’s head.” In March 1862, during the Second Florida’s long months of waiting, Powell writes his mother about his desire to see some action. Amidst his boredom, Powell reports on the recent naval battle (March 8) that saw the Confederate ironclad Virginia engage the Union fleet off Hampton Roads. The Confederates constructed the Virginia on the hull of the former steam frigate U.S.S. Merrimack, which is the name Powell uses for the Virginia.
Camp Wymes Mill, March 14th
My dear Mother,
Although I have written to you since you have written to me, I will not wait any longer for you to write but will write to you, hoping that you will answer this as soon as you get it. We have been on the Peninsula five or six months and have not got into a fight yet, but I expect we will get into one before long, in less time than three two weeks our Regt. have been in these marshes. Col. Ward received orders this evening to march towards New Port News. The Regt. were ready to march in fifteen minutes, they carried three or four days provisions with them. I do not know whether they will have any fighting to do or not, for our steamer the Merrimac used up war boats so bad I think they are afraid to show their faces. The Merrimac
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sank one of the Yankees’ first class Frigates and burnt another besides injuring one or two more. The Merrimac was slightly injured. The Patrick Henry, Jamestown, and one or two more of our boats where [sp] engaged in the fight. The Patrick Henry had one ball shot through one of her boilers. There were one or two men killed on her. Our loss was small. I don’t know what the enemy’s was. I have been unhealthy for a good while, from being exposed to the weather which has been very bad. We commenced building winter quarters in december, but, I did not get into a house before February. It has snowed several times lately, and we have rain two two or three, a week. So you can judge for yourself what kind of weather we have in Virginia.
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As it is getting late, I will write a few more lines and close. Give my love to Aunt Amanda, and tell her I often think about her. Tell her to write to me as soon as possible. I want to hear from her very bad. I did want to come home in the early part of the year, but as our time is so near out I would rather stay until July. Tell bro Mose he must write to me as soon as possible. I am doing very well. I get a plenty to eat and drink (I do not mean whiskey). I wish I was near enough to send flour to you for sometimes we have it to throw away. Give my respect to all of my family. And to Uncle Handoves and all the people at the home house. Tell Isaac and Miles that they have neglected me. They promised to write to me, but I have not received a letter from either since I left home.
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Give I my respects to all the people on both Plantations. Tell Aunt Peggy I have not yet forgot that Yankee’s head yet. The first battle I get into I am going to try and crack one over with my rifle. I will not take the trouble of to bringing his head home, but I will bring a lock of hair. With much love to you I remain your affectionate son.
P.S. March 15th
Tell Master howdye for me. Tell him I hope he will have a fine crop.
For Cloe, Edmond’s mother