Images of Union Jacksonville

Emancipated enslaved of Jacksonville in front of the Provost Marshal’s office. Union officers can be seen on the steps and front porch.

During the Civil War Jacksonville produced a small but interesting number of photographs dating to the last of the four Union occupations of the city, from February 1864 to the end of the war. According to Partners with the Sun: South Carolina Photographers 1840-1940 by Harvey S. Teal, these photographs were taken by either Samuel Abbott Cooley, the official photographer of the United States Army’s Department of the South, or by his employees. Cooley advertised himself as “U.S. Photographer, Dept. of the South” even though he employed other photographers to work with him.

On May 21, 1864 E.W. Sinclair & Co. bought out Cooley. Subsequently, many stereoscopic photographs say “Photographed by E.W. Sinclair for Sam A. Cooley”. In September 1864 Sinclair was operating studios in Hilton Head, Beaufort, and Jacksonville. Regardless of who took these photographs it is clear that they all have a connection to Sam A. Cooley in some aspect.

The photographs are from the Library of Congress and the State Archives of Florida. Most of these photographs from the two institutions have either a vague date, no author given or short captions which barely described what is happening in each photograph. This article is my attempt to determine where exactly each photograph was taken and to add more to their short captions.

The photographs

Sam A. Cooley, far-right at the end, with his photography crew. You can see the type of cameras used during this time period. The photograph was taken either in Jacksonville or Beaufort, South Carolina. Cooley was first based in Beaufort.

An extracted map of Jacksonville from 1864. Bay Street is highlighted in black and shows that it was the closest street running parallel to the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. Not included in the map is present-day Water Street, Independent Drive and Coastline Drive because they did not exist in 1864.

The three-story building in the photograph is at the corner of Bay Street and Ocean Street which was photographed in February 1864. The Union forces have just occupied the city and you can see many of them going up Ocean Street. On top of the three-story building is a Union sentry. The building, in my opinion, was most likely at where the present-day parking lot is next to the Cowford Chophouse. Colonel John Pease Sanderson’s house can be seen in the back on the right.

Another photograph of that same building taken on December 11, 1864. The streets are not as busy as in February 1864 when the Union forces had arrived to occupy the city. Notice the signal tower on the far left.

Photograph of a Union soldier guarding a boathouse taken on December 11, 1864 at the foot of Ocean Street. On the right in the back is the building that is next to the three-story building in the previous photograph.

The front of the boathouse is seen in the center of the photograph. The sign on the boathouse says John Clark. Behind the boathouse is the USS Cosmopolitan which was a United States Navy hospital steamer and soldier transport. Another ship is docked next to the USS Cosmopolitan.

Next page: More images of Jacksonville in the Civil War