"Today in Florida History"

for March





1861      Construction of the first cross-peninsula railroad from Fernandina to Cedar Key was completed today.  David Levy Yulee, United States Senator from Florida, was the driving force behind this railroad.  Although used very little because of the outbreak of the War between the States in April, the railroad made Cedar Key a major urban site in the immediate postwar years.  (See Charles Fishburne, History of Cedar Key)


1864      The U.S.S. Roebuck  seized the blockade-running British steamer Lauretta off the Indian River Inlet today.  The Lauretta was carrying a cargo of salt.


1901      W. V. Knott assumed the office of Treasurer of the State of Florida today.


1920      The Independent Life and Accident Insurance Company was chartered today.  The home offices of the firm were located in Jacksonville.


1934      Primo Canera beat Tommy Loughran in a heavyweight title bout in Miami.





1840      The Presbyterian Congregation of Jacksonville was established today.


1841      Company K of the 2nd United States Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant William Alburtis, today fought two engagements with the Seminoles at Orange Creek bridge, near Fort Brooke.  The American causalities were 3 enlisted men killed, 1 enlisted man missing and presumed killed, and 6 enlisted men wounded.  The Seminole force number between 70 and 100, while the American force consisted of only about 20 men.


1861      John B. Galbraith assumed the office of Florida Attorney General today. 


1863      Forces from the Federal gunboat Sagamore attempted to capture the Confederate blockade-runner Florence Nightingale as it was loading a cargo of cotton in Mosquito Inlet near New Smyrna.  The Sagamore shelled the area from its position at sea and then sent men on barges to capture the ship.  The captain of the Nightingale set fire to the ship to prevent its capture.  Confederate forces on land repelled the Federal boarding crews.  The fire on the blockade runner were then extinguished, and the Nightingale successfully put to sea despite having lost its main mast and most of its provisions.


1864      Confederate General Pierre Beauregard arrived at Camp Milton on McGirt’s Creek.  He was seeking to organize three infantry brigades under General J. J. Finegan and Alfred H. Colquitt, a cavalry brigade under Colonel Robert H. Anderson, and an artillery brigade under Lieutenant Colonel Charles Colquitt Jones. 


1865      In an effort to avoid capture by the U.S.S. Fox, the crew of the blockade runner Rob Rey ran her ashore and set fire to her in Deadman’s Bay.  The cargo removed from the blazing ship by the crew of the Fox consisted of cavalry sabers and farm implements.


1900      The first organizational meeting of the Florida Audubon Society was held today in Maitland.  The Society’s immediate purpose was to stop the slaughter of the hundreds of thousands of Florida’s plume birds for the sole purpose of providing decorations to the latest hats worn by women. 


1936      Halsted L. Ritter of Miami, Judge of the U. S. Court for the Southern District of Florida, was impeached  today.  He was accused of a variety of judicial improprieties.  He was convicted by a vote of 56-28 in the United States Senate on the charge of bringing the court into disrepute.  He was found innocent of six additional charges.


1959      Today was the final day Florida orange growers were allowed to used a coal-tar-based orange dye to enhance the appearance of Florida oranges.  Traditionally, citrus growers had immersed oranges in vats of this dye to make them  uniformly bright orange.


1972      The United States today launched the Pioneer 10 spacecraft on its voyage to the planet Jupiter.  The Pioneer 10 will come with 100,000 miles of the planet for four days before traveling to the edge of the solar system.  The Pioneer 10 carries a record containing greetings from Earth and information about our planet directed toward any extraterrestrial beings that might intercept it in space.


1991      Disney World unveiled the world’s largest cylindrical sundial today in ceremonies in Orlando.





1783      British refugees from the newly established United States of America and British military officers in St. Augustine were treated to benefit performances of “The Beau Stratagem” and “Miss in Her Teens” by the local theatrical groups.  British officers were awaiting the final transfer of military and civil authority to the Spanish.


1821      East and West Florida were unified under the control of General Andrew Jackson today.


1836      Surrounded by Seminole warriors at camp Izard and unable to be re-supplied, General Edmund P. Gaines ordered his men to kill their horses and mules for food.


1841      The United States Congress appropriated $1,061,816 for the prosecution of the Second Seminole War and ordered a vigorous prosecution of hostilities. 


1845      Florida was admitted into the United States as the twenty-seventh state today.  President John Tyler signed the act of admission.


1862      United States naval forces, under the command of Flag Officer Samuel DuPont, today reported that they had control of Cumberland Island and Sound, Fernandina and Amelia Island, and the river and town of St. Mary’s.”  Fort Clinch on Amelia Island was occupied by forces from the U.S.S. Ottawa and became the first Confederate fort to be re-taken by Union forces.  The Federal navy also captured the Confederate steamer Darlington with a cargo of military supplies.  Confederate forces retreated inland, carrying their heavy guns. 


1865      The U.S.S. Honeysuckle captured the blockade runner Phantom as she attempted to enter the Suwannee River.  The Phantom was carrying a cargo of liquors and bar iron.


1865      A Federal naval squadron of twelve steamers and four sloops, commanded by Commander R. W. Shufeldt, today joined Federal army troops commanded by Brigadier General John Newton in an  assault on St. Marks Fort below Tallahassee.  Although the attack on the fort was unsuccessful, Federal ship succeeded in blockading the mouth of the St. Mark’s River.  Confederate officials anticipate that this was the opening gambit in a campaign to capture Tallahassee.


1905      The Tallahassee “Democrat” was founded today.


1926      The International Greyhound Racing Association was formed today in Miami.  The purpose of the Association was to establish standards for the sport.


1969      At Cape Canaveral, NASA launched Apollo 9 in its first test of the lunar module.





1823      Richard Keith Call assumed the position of Florida Territorial Representative in the United States House of Representatives today.


1824      On this date, Tallahassee officially became the capital of Florida.  Governor William Pope Duval, the first Territorial Governor, issued the proclamation.


1841      Company D of the 2nd United States Infantry, under the command of Captain E. K. Barnum, engaged in battle with a group of Seminoles today on the Ocklawaha River.  Two American enlisted men were wounded.  Seminole casualties were unknown.


1857      Units of the United State 4th Artillery and 5th Infantry were attacked today by Seminoles near Big Cypress Swamp.  The American casualties were 12 enlisted men killed, six enlisted men wounded, and one officer, a Lieutenant Freeman, wounded.  Seminole casualties were not determined. 


1861      Floridian Stephen R. Mallory was confirmed by the Confederate Congress as the Secretary of the Navy.  Tow of Florida’s Representatives, Jackson Morton and James B. Owens, vehemently oppose his confirmation.


1862      The Federal ship, U.S.S. Santiago de Cuba captured the sloop, O.K., of the coast near Cedar Keys today.  While being taken to St. Mark’s, the O.K. floundered.


1863      The U.S.S. James S. Chambers seized the blockade-running Spanish sloop Relampago and schooner Ida today.  The Ida, beached at Sanibel Island, could not escape and was destroyed by a crew from the Chambers.


1865      The Federal flotilla recently assembled and which assaulted St. Mark’s yesterday landed 1,000 Union troops near St. Mark’s lighthouse.  The troops prepared to move inland.  In Tallahassee, Confederate authorities were hastily assembling whatever forces they can muster to stave off the anticipated attack on the capital city. 


1871      Josiah T. Walls, a Virginia-born African-American, was sworn into office today to begin his five-year tenure as a member of the United States House of representatives from Florida.


1886      S. W. Prichard of Haines City was elected the first president of the Florida State Teachers’s Association at its meeting in DeFuniak Springs.  The FSTA was later re-named the Florida Education Association.


1929      Ruth Bryan Owen began the first of her two terms in the United States House of Representatives from Florida’s Fourth Congressional District.


1972      Although the Florida House of Representatives approved the Equal Rights Amendment by a vote of 84-3, it was not considered in the Florida Senate.





1823      Four companies of United States troops from Pensacola landed in Tampa Bay today to establish Fort Brooke.  The City of Tampa grew up around this fort.


1856      Collection and exchange operations at Florida’s oldest bank--the Lewis State Bank--were started today in Tallahassee.  The bank was formed by Tallahassee resident B. C. Lewis.


1862      The U.S.S. Water Witch today captured the schooner William Malley off St. Andrew’s Bay.


1864      Confederate cavalry hero Captain J. J. Dickinson was today ordered to proceed with his men to Palatka and to place himself under the command of the commanding officer of the 4th Florida Cavalry Regiment. 


1865      Federal forces have occupied the left bank of the St. Mark’s River as far inland as Newport.  Federal commander General John Newton was expected to move his forces toward Natural Bridge.  Federal success here will mean that Tallahassee will fall.  Confederate forces were moving to prevent the successful passage of the Union force.


1889      The Pensacola “News,” the forerunner of the Pensacola “News-Journal,” was founded today.


1966      The Dallas Cowboys’ receiver Michael Irvin was born today in Fort Lauderdale.





1836      As Osceola and a band of his followers were negotiating with General Edmund P. Gaines at Fort Izard, General Duncan Clinch approached with troops and, unaware that a parley was going on, fired on the Seminoles, dispersing their numbers.


1837      Peace treaty signed by Jumper, Holalatoochee (Davy), Yaholoochee (Cloud), Hoeth-lee-mat-tee and John Ca-wy-ya, Seminole chieftains, at Fort Drane.  Terms specified that all hostilities would cease immediately and that the followers of these individuals would be send to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma).  Within a few days, some 700 Seminoles were gathered near Fort Brooke (Tampa) in preparation for departure.


1861      The Palatka Guards, a volunteer detachment of about 300 men, leaves for Fernandina as ordered by Governor Madison Starke Perry.


1861      Braxton E. Bragg, a Mississippi planter, West Point graduate, and Mexican War Veteran, was named to command the Confederate forces in Pensacola.  He was a Brigadier general.


1862      The U.S.S. Pursuit today captured the schooner Anna Belle off Apalachicola.


1865      The Federal attempt to capture Tallahassee was thwarted today by a motley collection of Confederate troops, soldiers on leave or recuperating from medical problems, and cadets from the West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University), at Natural Bridge, about twenty miles south of the city.  Despite a considerable numerical advantage, the Federal troops could not overcome the Confederates’ use of natural defenses to reach the city.  Following the failure of this Union attempt, Federal troops withdrew to St. Marks.  Tallahassee remained the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi to escape capture and occupation by Union forces during the Civil War. 

      Two Federal efforts to cross natural Bridge were repelled this morning.  When Confederate reinforcement arrived, Union commander ordered their troops to retreat to the safety of the naval vessels at anchor near St. Mark’s lighthouse.  Federal losses in the Battle of natural Bridge were put at 21 killed, 89 wounded, and 38 missing.  Confederate authorities reported 3 killed, 22 wounded, and none missing.

      (For more information on the Battle of Natural Bridge, see the Winter 1999 issue of  “The Florida Historical Quarterly. 


1933      Chicago mayor Anton Cermak died of wounds inflicted when an assassin attempted to kill President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on February 15 in Miami. 


1947      Dick Pope, Jr., became the first known person to water ski barefoot on Lake Eloise at Cypress Gardens.





1935      Sir Malcolm Campbell set a world speed record of 276 mph today on the sand at Daytona Beach.  Campbell’s car, the “Bluebird,” produced 2,500 horsepower and cost an estimated $200,000.  More than 50,000 spectators watched as Campbell established the record.


1862      The mayor of Jacksonville today issued a proclamation urging citizens of that city to stay in their homes and to pursue their normal vocations in the face of an anticipated Federal assault on the city.  Confederate authorities have informed the mayor that they will make no effort to defend Jacksonville. 


1865      The Federal flotilla at anchor off St. Mark’s lighthouse today weighed anchor and sailed away.  The Union attempt to seize Tallahassee was an abject failure.  The expedition lost a total of 148 men killed, wounded or missing.


1982      The Salvador Dali Museum opened in St. Petersburg today.





1861      The “Charleston Mercury” reported that Confederate Representatives in Congress James B. Owens and Jackson Morton continued their attack on Florida’s Stephen Mallory, the new Confederate Secretary of the Navy, for being a self-seeker and of having shown “bad faith toward Florida, his native state.”  Mallory was still officially a member of the United States Senate, a position that he would continue to occupy until the Senate officially accepted his resignation, which it did on March 11.


1862      This afternoon a Federal force of several ships and a transport with the 4th New Hampshire Infantry aboard left Fernandina for the St. Johns River.  They were joined by forces from Port Royal, South Carolina, under the command of Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson.


1862      The U.S.S. Sagamore today captured the sloop Enterprise, which had left the Mosquito Inlet for Nassau with a cargo of cotton. 


1864      Union General Truman Seymour asks for artillery reinforcements for Jacksonville to ensure that the city will not be taken.  He reported that Confederate forces have moved to King’s Road and were also in the Six-Mile/cedar Creek area.


1865      Union forces left Jacksonville yesterday for an expedition into Marion County.  Their progress westward continued today and has largely been unimpeded by Florida Confederate troops.


1894      First annual camp meeting held in Tampa by the Seventh Day Adventists.





1836      General Duncan Clinch took command of U.S. troops in Florida from General Edmund P. Gaines.  Gaines then proceeds to Tallahassee and to the western frontier from that city. 


1844      Miami was designated by the Florida Legislature as the seat of Dade County.


1861      Governor Madison Starke Perry received the first Confederate requisition of Florida troops from Secretary of the Army L. Pope Walker.


1922      Florida State Board of Health concludes a rat “proofing” campaign in Pensacola that confined an outbreak of bubonic plague to that city. 


1936      Sidney Johnston Catts, 22nd governor of Florida (1917-1921) died today at his home in DeFuniak Springs.  [For more information, see entries for July 31 and January 2]


1955      Ballet dancer and choreographer Bujones Fernando was born today in Miami.


1966      The Florida Legislature approved a plan for reapportionment of the Legislature with a 117-member House of representatives and a 48-member Senate.  The plan was rejected by the United States Supreme Court after the November 1966 state elections.


1986      U.S. Navy divers find the crew compartment of the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle, which exploded immediately after take-off on January 28, 1986.  The compartment contains the remains of the dead astronauts.


1999      Joe DiMaggio, the famous “Yankee Clipper,” died today at his home in Hollywood, Florida.  DiMaggio, whose 56 game hitting streak in 1941 was a major league record, played thirteen years for the New York Yankees.  He was a three-time MVP of the American League and played in 9 World Series.  Of these, the Yankees won seven.  DiMaggio’s career was cut short somewhat by a three-year stint in the military during World War II.  He was “the most complete baseball player that ever played the game,” according to former Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger Tommy LaSorda.



MARCH 10  


1836      As General Duncan Clinch leads U. S. Troops to Fort Drane, his column comes under sustained attacks by Seminole warriors today and tomorrow.


1845      Levy County, Florida’s 26th county, was created today by the Florida legislature.  The county was named in honor of David Levy Yulee, prominent politician, statesman, and railroad entrepreneur.  Levy owned a 5,000 acre plantation on the Homosassa River, where he grew sugar cane and produced sugar.  Levy was the first United States Senator to represent the new state of Florida.  County Seat:  Bronson


1862      Federal naval forces under Lieutenant T. H. Stevens temporarily occupied Jacksonville today. 


1862       St. Augustine has been evacuated by two companies of Confederate troops that had been stationed there.  A Federal invasion was considered likely to happen within the next twenty-four hours.


1863      A Federal force, made up primarily of African-American troops, reoccupied Jacksonville today.  It was opposed unsuccessfully by the Florida 2nd Cavalry and the Florida 2nd Infantry Battalion, which retreated in the face of a bombardment from Federal gunboats.


1863      The U.S.S. Gem of the Sea today captured the sloop Petee, which was attempting to run the blockade at Indian River Inlet with a cargo of salt.


1864      Union forces occupied Palatka this morning without opposition.  Although they did not oppose the occupation of the city, Confederate forces were reported on the outskirts of the town.  Federal forces were concerned about the location of small river steamers used to transport troops and supplies along the St. Johns River.


1909      LeRoy Collins, the 33rd governor of Florida (1955-1961), was born today in Tallahassee.  [For more information, see entry for January 4.]


1984      The streets of Miami erupted in riots today when the news came that a Hispanic policeman had been acquitted in the slaying of an African-American.



MARCH 11  


1843      Wakulla County, Florida’s 23rd county, was created today by the Florida Territorial Legislature. The county took its name from the famous Wakulla Springs, which are nearby.  The exact meaning of the word “Wakulla” was unknown, although it was thought to be of Timucuan origin and probably refers to “springs of water.”  County Seat:  Crawfordville


1861      General Braxton E. Bragg arrives in Pensacola and relieves Major General William H. Chase of his command of all Confederate troops in or near the city. 


1862      The U.S.S. Wabash landed today in St. Augustine.  The ship’s commander, C. R. P. Rodgers, negotiates with city leaders and occupies Fort Marion and the city.  There was no opposition.


1862      Two Confederate gunboats under construction in Pensacola Bay have been burned to prevent their capture by Federal naval forces.


1863      Confederate forces attacked Union positions in Jacksonville today and forced the Federal soldiers to retreat to their gunboats.  Confederate forces penetrated the city as far as the Judson House Square before retreating.  Confederate losses were placed at one man, lost or killed.


1864      Federal naval forces report a great deal of activity today and the capture of several blockade runner.  The U.S.S. San Jacinto reported the capture of a schooner with a cargo of turpentine and 132 bales of cotton in the Gulf of Mexico, while the U.S.S. Beauregard reported the capture of the British sloop Hannah off the coast of Mosquito Inlet.  The commander of the Beauregard, acting in concert with the Federal schooner, Norfolk Packet, pursued the British schooner, Linda, up the Indian River Inlet.  Although Union forces were forced to take to the shore when they boat was grounded, the Linda, lowered its sails and surrendered after shots were fired.  The British vessel was destined for new Smyrna with a cargo of salt, liquors, coffee, and dry goods.


1869      Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was imprisoned in Fort Jefferson in Florida’s Dry Tortuguas, was released today after being pardoned by President Andrew Johnson.  Mudd had been convicted of being part of the conspiracy to kill Federal President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.  Mudd set the broken leg of actor John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Lincoln.  There were serious doubts about his participation in the conspiracy in 1865 and practically no one today believes that Mudd was in any way connected to the conspiracy.  Dr. Mudd was a distant relative of noted television correspondent, Roger Mudd.


1870      The Catholic diocese of St. Augustine was formally established today.  The Very Reverend Jean-Pierre Augustin Marcellin Verot was installed as the first bishop.


1873      St. Luke’s Hospital, the oldest continuously operating hospital in Florida, opened today in Jacksonville with two rooms and four beds.


1882      The City of DeLand was incorporated today.


1921      The Florida Branch of the national Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teacher Association met today in Jacksonville.  Mrs. Arthur G. Cummer was elected president.


1929      Major Seagraves established a new automobile speed record today at Daytona Beach.  He reached an average speed of 223.2 miles-per-hour in a 450 horse powered Golden Arrow.



MARCH 12  


1812      The Territory of East Florida was declared to be in existence today on Amelia Island.


1849      Colonel Robert E. Lee completed and filed the “Report of the Board of Engineers Upon Their Examination of the West and East Coast of Florida, from Pensacola Harbor to Amelia Island” with the Chief of Engineers, United States Army.  The “Report” made recommendations for the establishment of military reservations along the coast.  Lee, who was the Recorder for the Board, filed his final report on March 14, 1849.


1863      According to Confederate pickets outside Jacksonville, Federal forces occupying the city were reinforced by the arrival of two Union gunboats today.


1968      In Miami, gunmen hijack a National Airlines DC-8 and force the crew to fly it to Havana.



MARCH 13  


1863      The U.S.S. Huntsville today seized the British blockade runner Surprise off the mouth of Charlotte Harbor.  The Surprise was bound for Havana with a cargo of cotton.


1864      The U.S.S. Columbine, operating in support of Union troops moving up the St. Johns River, today captured the Confederate steamer General Sumter on Lake George.  The Sumter was carrying passengers to the Ocklawaha.


1864      Union forces reported a combined Confederate force of cavalry, infantry, and artillery was moving about six miles inland from the town of Palatka.


1974      Death penalty advocates in Florida joined other advocates around the United States as the U.S. Senate prepared to vote today on the restoration of the death penalty.  When the vote came, it was 54-33 in favor of restoration.


1992      Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker were divorced in Tallahassee today following Jim’s conviction and imprisonment for defrauding contributors to his “Praise the Lord” television ministry.