Report on the Dismantling of Florida Lighthouses Upon the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1861

From: Florida Governor, State Governors' Incoming Correspondence, 1857-1888, Series S 577


His Excellency M.S.
Perry Governor of Florida

We the undersigned residents of Indian River, believing it a Solmen duty of every Citizen, to try and serve his State and Country in whatever capacity he may be most able, would in accordance to such feelings, report to your Excellency, that we have taken the responsibility of putting out the Lights at both Jupiter Inlet and Cape Florida, believing them to be of no use or benefit to our Government, but on the contrary of great importance to our enemies.

We had felt the importance of such a measure for some time, thinking some authorized Agent of our Government would be sent to perform it, but finding no effort was made by either the Government of the Keeper of the Light, we resolved to assume the responsibility ourselves, and report the result to your Excellency, hoping that it may meet your approval-- At Jupiter we destroyed no property whatever, the Light being a revolving one and of very costly make, we took away only enough of the machinery to make it unserviceable-- There is a quantity of property belonging to the Light consisting of Tools, machinery, Paints, oil &c which we have secured under lock and key-

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at Cape Florida the Light being within the immediate protection of Key West and almost indispensable at this time to the enemys fleet, as well as knowing it to be useless for us to try and hold it, we determined to damage it so that it will be of no possible use to our enemies--

The Keepers at Cape Florida were armed, and instructed not to surrender the Light, only with their lives, the possession was gained however without any resistance, owing to the complete manner in which our plans were executed, we brought away the Lamps and Burners, and broke the Lens Glasses--

The seisure and surrender was made at midnight of the 21st August, while the two keepers were in the Tower, and the Iron door below bolted and locked on the inside-- one of the party being aquainted with the Keeper and knowing that he expected supplies from Key West daily, devised the plan to get them down by telling them he had news for them from Key West, which brought them both down, and as soon as the door was opened, we secured them as prisoners-- The party being Small, and having only a small Boat to return in, we concluded not to take them as prisoners, they professing to be strongly in favor of the South, although they had repeatedly before boasted that they would defend the Light to the last--

The Keeper at Jupiter Light although professing to be with the South, yet by his acts he falcified his profession's-- he was repreatedly urged by his Assistant Mr Lang to put out the Light, but refused to do so, and was quite satisfied to receive pay and provisions from the U.S. Government--

We thought that he was not the proper person to be in such a responsible position, and consequently turned him away-- We brought away from the Cape a Sail Boat, two muskets complete two Colts Revolvers, and three Lamps and burners belonging to the Light, all of which is at Jupiter waiting your decision-- the arms captured will be much needed at Jupiter in case of an attack--

Mr A. Oswald Lang the Asst, Keeper resigned his possition when he found the Keeper Mr Papy was intent on keeping the Light burning, and is now in charge of the light and property, and will be glad to receive instructions from your Excellency in relation to his duty in this matter-- As it is most likely that the enemy will undertake to retalliate, by destroying the Light and property-- we would suggest that a Guard be Sent to protect it, or if not, instruct us to have the property removed to some safe place--

We have addressed this report to your Excellency, thinking you the proper person to give the information, and hoping our action will be (over)

approved, as our only desire was to serve our Country having performed a journey of about 140 miles. 90 of it on foot, being exposed to a burning Sun and drenching rains, and with a very scant allowance of food--

We are very Respectfully
Your Excellencies Most obt. Servants

James Paine
A. Oswald Lang
Francis A. Ivey