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This is for people who think Florida is nothing but fakeness and newness

Here before we were.

Florida State Archives

Here before we were.

19

December

Klink just passed this along:

The fall of Vicksburg in July 1863, which gave the Union control of the Mississippi River, not only cut the Confederacy in half, but it cut off the supply of Texas cattle from reaching hungry troops to the east (and federal blockaders patrolling the Gulf of Mexico prevented delivery by ship). Consequently, the Confederacy increasingly looked to a seemingly unlikely source, Florida, as a source of beef for its armies.

Florida’s cattle were the first in North America. Since beef livestock were not native to the Western Hemisphere, it is believed they were brought over as early as 1521 by expeditions of Ponce de Leon. Ranching began before the 17th century around St. Augustine, which is the oldest city in the United States. When Florida became a territory in 1821, it was a frontier plentifully stocked with wild cattle. By the eve of the Civil War, the state was second only to Texas in the per capita value of livestock in the South. The central and southern parts of the peninsula were open range. Exports of live cattle to Cuba became an important business in the 1850s, but were curtailed during the early part of the Civil War by the Union blockade and official — but sometimes violated — Confederate export prohibitions.

Indeed, with a semi-wild herd approaching 700,000, Florida had almost five times as many cattle as people. South Florida was cow country: Except for Key West and Tampa, only about 3,500 of the state’s 140,000 residents lived south of present day Disney World. By the end of 1863 the region accounted for 75 percent of the beef cattle leaving the state.

Still, getting cattle from Florida’s peninsula to Confederate armies outside the state was impossible without experienced drovers. The area was a honeycomb of seacoast and swamp. Entire herds could wander aimlessly or vanish within an hour in the trackless region. Even where the ground was firm, abundant saw grass could cut man and beast to ribbons, while the heat and humidity promoted malaria and yellow fever. Snakes, hurricanes, feral hogs and panthers could decimate a herd. The state’s few railroads were mostly near its northern border and none connected to lines in Georgia.

[Last modified: Thursday, December 19, 2013 9:46pm]

    

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