Joseph Finegan was one of Florida's most prominent Civil War leaders. Born in Clones, Ireland, Finegan moved to the United States as a young man. He served in the U.S. Army before eventually locating in northeast Florida. In the antebellum years Finegan became wealthy as a planter, lumberman, and railroad builder. He was also active in politics, serving in the 1861 Secession Convention. In 1862 he received an appointment as brigadier general. Finegan commanded Confederate forces in the 1864 battle of Olustee and during 1864-1865 he commanded the Florida Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Finegan's first military service during the Civil War period, however, began in December 1860, when he organized and was elected captain of a volunteer militia company known as the Fernandina Volunteers. A Fernandina newspaper described the unit's organization, stating that it "embraces among its members many of our oldest and most influential citizens . . . . We learn that their services have been tendered unconditionally to the Governor. They are ready and await the word."
In January 1861 the Fernandina Volunteers were formally enrolled into state service. The company garrisoned Fort Clinch during parts of 1861. Surviving records document that Finegan served as commander of the post of Fernandina from January 21. Little other documentation exists as to the company's activities, although after Finegan's promotion to lieutenant colonel in May 1861, Henry C. Dozier was elected captain. The company most likely disbanded sometime in late 1861 with the men joining other units such as the Second, Third, and Ninth Infantry Regiments, and the Second Florida Cavalry.
The muster roll reproduced here is the only such document relating to the Fernandina Volunteers that is known to exist. It almost certainly dates from December 1860 or January 1861. Unfortunately the roll is difficult to read, and a few names are completely or nearly illegible.
List of Enrolment [sic] of Fernandina Volunteers
We, the undersigned residents of Nassau County, in the State of Florida, do solemnly promise and agree, that we will, on five days notice, or in less time, if practicable, repair to any place of rendezvous which may be lawfully designated, and there be mustered into the service of the State, subject to the Articles of War of the State of Florida, and so continue for a period not exceeding six months.
1. Joseph R. Finegan
2. T.B. Livingston
3. L. Dozier, Jr. [Later promoted to Second Lieutenant]
4. Geo. K. Broome
5. P. Henry Young [Served as Orderly]
6. W.H. Babcock [Served as Quartermaster and Secretary of the Company]
7. R.W. Broome
8. Adolphus Rosenthal [Later promoted to Second Lieutenant]
9. G.W. Galloway
10. J. Cohen
11. Wm. Letford
12. A.G. Cavedo [?]
13. Thos. H. Broome
14. E.A. Jeffords
15. A.I. Acosta
16. F.J. Clark
17. Thos. D. Hawkins
18. Geo. Savage
19. J.S. Snow [Later promoted to Second Lieutenant]
20. J.E. Conant [?]
21. H. Made [?]
22. L.F. Roux
23. Jacob Gardner
24. E.J. Robinson
25. D.P. Beatty
26. [name illegible - partially lined through]
28. H.[?] D. Vaughan