Florida in the Civil War (1861-1865)

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Women of Florida in the Civil War

Women of Florida (1861-1865)

While thousands of Florida men served on battlefields across the South, Florida’s women performed a variety of roles on the home front. At the beginning of the conflict, they sewed uniforms and flags, prepared farewell suppers, and gave parties for departing troops. The state's female population also performed various activities to raise money for the war effort, and worked as nurses and matrons in hospitals established both in and outside the state. They dealt with shortages of most civilian products, both essential and luxury. The price of available items rose dramatically and the use of substitutes became commonplace. With so many men serving in the Confederate armies, women played a greater role in the operation and administration of farms and plantations, undertaking many activities formerly considered the responsibility of men. Many female Floridians also endured the occupation of their towns and farms by Union soldiers. While some women served as spies for the Confederacy, others corresponded with their loved ones in military service, and faced the possibility that their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers might never return. "Bereavement", writes historian Tracy Revels, "stripped away the illusions of rapid, heroic triumphs. . . . Unidentified remains and unknown graves tormented many grieving families. Mourning clothes were increasingly in short supply, [and] women comforted each other, urging widows and orphans to accept death as the will of God." The war's end brought sadness and despair for many white Florida women, but undoubtedly for some a sense of relief.

Mary Martha Reid

Mary Martha Reid became known during the Civil War for her work as matron of the Florida Hospital in Richmond. Soon after the outbreak of the war, Reid’s son was serving in a Florida regiment in Virginia. While his presence undoubtedly contributed to Reid’s decision to assist in the establishment of a hospital for the Florida troops in Virginia, the need for such a facility had become evident as the large number of sick and wounded flooded the Confederate capital during the first year of the war. Floridians donated money and material to supply the hospital, and the state provided additional funding. During its first year, it treated more than 1,000 patients and maintained a remarkably low death rate. Confederate officials closed the Florida Hospital in December 1863. Reid subsequently worked at Howard’s Grove Hospital near Richmond. In 1864, her son fell mortally wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, and the grieving mother supervised his burial. Reid continued her work until the end of the war, fleeing the capital on the same train that carried President Jefferson Davis from the city. In recognition of her work, the Florida legislature passed an act in 1866 granting her $600 annually. She died in Fernandina in 1894.
The Three Sánchez Sisters: Las Tres Hermanas
Maria Delores (Lola) Sánchez was one of three sisters who became spies for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Sánchez became upset when their father was falsely accused of being a Confederate spy by the members of the Union Army and imprisoned. Officers of the Union Army then occupied the Sánchez residence in Palatka, Florida. On one occasion Sánchez overheard various officers’ planning a raid and decided to alert the Confederates forces. She informed Captain John Jackson Dickison (aka The Swamp Fox), commander of the local Confederates forces, of the plan. The result of her actions was that the Confederate forces surprised the Union troops in an ambush and captured the USS Columbine, a Union warship, on the day of the supposed raid in the "Battle of Horse Landing". This was one of the few instances in which a Union warship was captured by land-based Confederate forces during the Civil War.

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