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Civil War Days

Civil War Days

When the Union Army invaded Florida during the Civil War, some citizens welcomed it, but many more were supporters of the Confederate cause and opposed the invaders by any means they could. The stories of three St. Augustine people illustrate the work of the Southern partisans.

Anna Huribert Hanford, the wife of George Willets Hanford, lived on St. George Street, near Cuna. When the war broke out, her husband joined the Confederate Army and left her behind, like so many other Southern women to fend for his family. In addition to their own three children, Anna had taken four little sisters into her home when her mother died and her father remarried, so there was a brood of seven to care for.

Anna wanted to do her best to help the South, so she took in a deserter from the Union Army, and when she was found out, the military authorities ordered her to leave St. Augustine, allowing her to take with her only what she could get into a single wagon. Of course the seven children had to go along too, so there wasn't much room in that wagon, and Anna was able to bring along from her home only a few household necessities and some treasured keepsakes.

They made their way to the St. Johns River and crossed on a barge over to Green Cove Springs. There, with the aid of friends they found a small house to live in and somehow, Anna managed to keep her

children decently clothed and fed. Later they were joined by Miss Isabel Benet, a dear friend who was also asked to leave town by the Yankees. She was godmother (madrina) to one of Anna's children, Clara Isabel, and the two women, by helping each other, managed to live through the desperately hard war years.

Another lady was also ordered out of town. She was Mrs. Joseph J. Smith, wife of Judge Smith and mother of the noted Confederate General, Edmund Kirby Smith, which alone was enough to make her unpopular with the Yankees.

It was also rumored that she was reporting Union troop movements in and around St. Augustine to the Confederate Army, and that she served as a sort of unofficial post-office relaying messages and letters. So she was ordered escorted beyond the Union lines, but a carriage, sent by the famous General Beauregard, picked her up and she made her way to Madison, a rallying point for the Confederacy, where she lived in her sister's house.

Here she observed the efforts to organize opposition to the Union Forces, and was thrilled on the day the Stars and Bars were paraded around the public square. She begged an officer to take the Bonnie Blue Flag to her sister's house, so that she could see it also (she was ill in bed), and he gallantly replied that he would do any service for the mother of General Kirby-Smith.

Still another refugee was John Drysdale, who wrote a letter to the Governor of Florida, describing the operations of the Union gunboats on the St. Johns River and deploring the behavior of the defenders of Fernandina of whom he wrote: "Their conduct, which has sealed forever the fate of poor Florida, and broken and subdued the spirits of men who were heretofore called brave and were willing to die for their country's sake."

Drysdale was trying to find safe place for his family, and told the Governor that when this was done "I will bare my breast to the storm which is about to burst upon us, nail my flag to the mast, and never surrender except to death." He told the governor that he was astonished that some Floridians had so tamely surrendered, and worst of all, others had actually welcomed the enemy. Mr. Drysdale closed his letter on a more mundane note. "I would thank your Excellency if you would get Major Eppes to send me a draft for $186, the amount of my pay for February 1."


 
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