Florida in the Civil War (1861-1865)

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African-American Military Units in Florida during the Civil War

African-American Military Units in Florida (1861-1865)

During the Union occupations of Jacksonville, Florida, slaves and free blacks flocked to the protection of the Northern military. Many were sent to Beaufort, South Carolina, where three black regiments were eventually organized, with more than 1,000 recruits coming from Florida. Abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson led the 1st South Carolina Colored Infantry Regiment on a raid up the St. Mary's River in January 1863, the first use of black troops in Florida. Two months later, the 1st and 2nd South Carolina Colored Infantry Regiments landed at Jacksonville, occupying the town for several weeks. In the 1864 Olustee campaign, black regiments, including the 8th and the 35th U.S. Colored Infantry, and the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry, comprised a large percentage of the Union force, with the latter two units protecting the defeated Union army as it retreated to Jacksonville. Black units participated in subsequent military operations in Florida, including the expedition to Marianna, the skirmish at Station No. 4, and the defense of Fort Myers. The last operation of significance was the St. Marks expedition of March 1865, in which the 2nd and the 99th U.S. Colored Infantry played a major role in the engagement at Natural Bridge.
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