Segui-Kirby Smith House: 1895, St. Augustine
This Aviles Street home, built around 1783 by Bernardo Segui, is the birthplace of Edmund Kirby Smith, the only Confederate full general to hail from Florida. Kirby Smith distinguished himself as a U.S. Army officer before the Civil War; during that war he served at the First Battle of Bull Run and commanded Confederate troops in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. His mother, Frances Kirby Smith, also became a noteworthy Civil War figure after the Union occupied St. Augustine; she spied on Union officers and smuggled mail to the Confederates, causing so much trouble for the authorities that they exiled her to Confederate territory. Also born at the house was slave Alexander Darnes. Darnes served as Kirby Smith’s personal attendant from 1855 through the end of the Civil War. Afterward, the Smith family helped Darnes pay his way through college and medical school, and he became Jacksonville’s first African American doctor.
The Smiths sold the house in 1887, and in 1895 it was put into trust for use as a public library. In 1987, the St. Augustine Historical Society assumed control of the building and subsequently moved their research library there.
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park: 1909-1912, Baker County
On February 18, 1864, General Truman Seymour, commander of the Union forces in Jacksonville, marched his 5,500 troops westward in a poorly advised foray into Confederate-held territory. The Confederates under General Joseph Finegan amassed 5,200 troops from Florida and Georgia at a strong position near Olustee Station, east of Lake City. When Seymour’s men marched in on February 20, there commenced the largest, bloodiest battle that Florida experienced during the Civil War. After more than four hours of fighting in the pines, the Union made a hectic retreat back to Jacksonville, fending off a patchy Confederate pursuit and leaving behind hundreds of dead and wounded. In an underreported atrocity, some Confederate soldiers massacred black U.S. troops lying wounded on the battlefield. Total casualties were more than 1,800 for the Union and more than 900 for the Confederates, making Olustee proportionally one of the war’s bloodiest battles. The Union never again launched a major offensive in the Florida interior.
In 1897, the United Daughters of the Confederacy began a campaign to preserve the site and erect a Confederate monument. In 1909, the UDC started acquiring land, obtaining three acres for the monument, which was dedicated in 1912. The state took ownership of the historic site, but the UDC continued to administer it until 1949, when it became a state park. The state acquired additional acreage and added features such as an interpretive center, trails, and reenactment fields. The park has hosted a battle reenactment and festival each February since 1977.
The Olustee Battlefield has not done a particularly balanced job conveying the site’s important history. Romanticized Confederate memorials dominate the space and the interpretive center’s exhibits are small and dated. The only Union memorial is a granite cross in a graveyard outside park property; in 2013, pro-Confederate interests shot down an attempt to create a Union monument. However, the park is planning a new center and museum that will hopefully offer a less one-sided, more up-to-date view of the battle.
Olustee Monument: 1912, Baker County
The United Daughters of the Confederacy began fundraising for a monument at Florida’s bloodiest battle site in 1899, ultimately raising $5,000 in state allocations and private donations. The monument was erected in 1912 at a ceremony attended by over 4,000 people from across Florida; the railroad ran a special train between Lake City and the battlefield for the occasion. The monument was designed to celebrate the Confederacy, praising “the men who fought and triumphed here in defence of their homes and firesides.” The inscriptions downplay the Union forces and entirely elide slavery’s fundamental role in the Civil War, instead treating the conflict as a matter of “liberty and state sovereignty.” The site quickly became something of a Confederate shrine. The UDC maintained the site, adding additional monuments and improvements, until it became a state park in 1949.
Loring Memorial: 1920, St. Augustine
This memorial obelisk marks the final resting place of General William Wing Loring, who died in 1887. The Florida-raised Loring distinguished himself as an officer in the U.S. Army, and was commissioned a general when he joined the Confederate Army early in the Civil War. Nicknamed “Old Blizzards”, he commanded troops in several notable campaigns. After the war, Ismail Pasha, khedive of Egypt, hired Loring as a general in the Egyptian Army, where he served from 1869 to 1879. His book A Confederate Soldier in Egypt made him a celebrity. Loring died in New York City, but was reinterred in St. Augustine’s Woodland Cemetery in a ceremony attended by 10,000 people, including comrades from the Union, Confederate, and Egyptian armies. In 1920, the obelisk was erected behind the Government House, and his ashes were reinterred once more. Somewhat unusually for a Confederate monument, it also commemorates his time in the U.S. army, as well as Egypt’s.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument: 1924, St. Augustine
Like the city it defended, the Castillo had a long history before the Civil War. Construction started in 1672 during Florida’s first Spanish period. It underwent many renovations and saw service during the British (1763–1783), second Spanish (1783–1821), and American periods (1821-); during the latter, it was renamed Fort Marion. After secession in January 1861, Confederate forces took the fort from the few Union soldiers stationed there without a shot. On March 10, 1862, the Confederates fled in advance of a Union force which arrived the next day, and held both the fort and St. Augustine for the remainder of the war. Thereafter, Fort Marion served as an important Union stronghold in East Florida. After the war it saw service as a military prison until being deactivated in 1900. It was named a National Monument in 1924, and it was transferred to the National Parks Service in 1933; its Spanish name was restored in 1942. Today it is one of the First Coast’s top attractions and contains displays and reenactments detailing its long history.
Palatka Confederate Monument: 1924, Palatka
In 1924, Confederate veteran William Ivers and the local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter donated this monument for display at the Putnam County Courthouse. Unlike soldiers’ monuments of earlier generations, such as St. Augustine’s Confederate column and Jacksonville’s Confederate and Union monuments, it is not dedicated to soldiers from Putnam County specifically. Rather, it commemorates Confederate soldiers and their cause more generally, praising “the heroism, fortitude and glory of the men who wore the gray in the sixties with the hope that their love of country, devotion to principle, and fidelity to the cause they believed was right, may be an inspiration to people of every age.” The inscription expresses the hope that “the principles for which they fought will live eternally”.
Fort Clinch State Park: 1935, Fernandina Beach
Construction began on Fort Clinch, part of the nation’s coastal defense network, in 1847. It replaced a series of fortifications at this strategic site dating back to 1736. Named for Seminole Wars veteran General Duncan Lamont Clinch, it protected Amelia Island and the St. Mary’s River mouth. Fort Clinch was incomplete when Florida declared secession in 1861, and Confederate forces took it without a shot in April 1861. The Confederates withdrew from Fernandina and other coastal towns ahead of a major Union offensive, departing just before Union forces arrived to retake Fort Clinch on March 4, 1862. The Union held Fort Clinch and Fernandina for the remainder of the war, and the town became an important Union base. The Union garrison continued construction, but the fort was never completed as originally designed. After the Civil War, it saw sporadic use through the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps restored the old fort to its Civil War state, and the State of Florida converted the area into a state park, first opened three years later. The site includes restored ramparts, barracks, and other buildings. Volunteers dress in period attire and on many weekends, Civil War reenactors garrison the grounds. A Union garrison is most commonly seen today, but Confederates take over periodically.
General Colquitt Monument, 1936, Olustee Battlefield, Baker County
A United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter erected this monument to General Alfred Holt Colquitt of Georgia. Colquitt led a battalion from his state to support the Florida Confederates against General Seymour’s Union advance, and he commanded a brigade in the Battle of Olustee. Calling Colquitt the “Hero of Olustee”, the dedication states that “this decisive engagement prevented a Sherman-like invasion of Georgia from the south” (invading Georgia was not actually part of the Union force’s objectives). The monument flanks the larger Confederate monument.
General Finegan Monument, 1951, Olustee Battlefield, Baker County
Nearby the main Confederate monument and the General Colquitt monument is another dedicated to Brigadier General Joseph Finegan, the Irish-born Confederate general who commanded the troops of the Middle and East Florida districts. Finegan headed the Confederate forces at the Battle of Olustee, although historians have tended to give Alfred Holt Colquitt more credit for the victory, perhaps explaining why Finegan’s memorial came 15 years later.
Camp at Sanderson marker, 1961, Sanderson, Baker County This marker commemorates a Confederate camp used at the time of the Olustee Campaign in February 1864. The Union captured the camp on February 9, but abandoned it during the retreat from Olustee, and it was again occupied by the Confederates.