The Indians of North Florida

Subtitle

Our History chapter 5

Chapter 5 “A Motley Crew of Half-Breed Indians”

  The Civil War

 

The beginning of the Civil War marked a turbulent time for the Cheraw-Catawba Indians in the Apalachicola River Valley. Obviously influenced by their ancestral warrior culture, they were little concerned with the political or racial aspects of the conflict. Though no immediate negative effects were apparent as the war raged, the after-effects would prove to be near disastrous. Some Catawba enlisting with the Confederate military did not return in as good shape as when they had left, and some did not return at all. The most devastating effect of the war was the legal and social problems the Catawba would face after they had abandoned the doomed Confederate cause.

 

Under the charismatic influence of John “Captain Jack” Ayers and Indian countryman John Chason, in December of 1861 Isham Scott and Francis “Frank” Hill enlisted with Captain McCallister’s Calhoun Rangers. This home guard company served no longer than three months, however many of the soldiers re-enlisted in other Confederate units.

In September of 1862, Ruben G. Blanchard (who had married Jane Scott Stone, the granddaughter of Olive Jones) enlisted with the Confederate Army in Company E, 10th Florida Infantry. Blanchard was soon reassigned to the Confederate Navy in 1864 and served on the ironclad gunboat “Palmetto State.” Ruben served on the gunboat until Charleston was evacuated, then was re-assigned to the Army. After being captured on April 6, 1865 during General Lee’s retreat from Richmond, Blanchard was held in prison at Point Lookout prison in Maryland for two months and released. Despite his unquestionable loyal service to the Confederacy, Ruben was initially denied a Florida Confederate Pension in 1908. This was due, in no small part, to the Chairman of the Calhoun County Commission, George L. Hansford. Hansford refused to approve the pension application of Blanchard, and took the further step to write personal letters to the pension board to accuse Blanchard of being “mixed blooded” and of having joined the Union Blockade Fleet.

Hansford’s brother, John D. Hansford, had earlier married Ruben Blanchard’s daughter, Mary Jane, and this obviously insulted the racial purity ideals held by George. Though it was clearly documented that Blanchard had served in the Confederate military, the pension board declined to approve Blanchard’s pension stating,

 “Negroes were not enlisted and are not entitled to pensions.”

It was only after Blanchard attained the services of Jackson County law firm Calhoun & Campbell, that he was approved for the meager pension. A support letter written by W.M. Ayers stated that Ayers had known Blanchard for over 45 years, and that they had served together during the late War. Blanchard’s attorneys chalked the whole affair between Hansford and Blanchard up to

 “some would be officer of Calhoun County who got a little mad with him about his politics.”

On September 27th, 1864 the Union Cavalry clashed with the Confederate Army at Marianna, Florida. This battle would produce two significant events, involving the Apalachicola Catawba. In the heat of battle, John Chason, benefactor of the Catawba and land agent for Absolom Scott, was seriously wounded and captured by Union soldiers. Chason was sent to Ship Island prison where he died of dysentery on December 19th, 1864. The support of the Florida Catawba towards the Confederate cause was destined to die with Chason. Another interesting occurring during this battle was a report of Union soldiers capturing a confederate soldier on horseback, which they first assumed was a “colored man”. The soldiers solved this mystery after the capture when they determined that Henry Stevens, the ‘colored man’ in question, was of Indian blood.

 

Confederate enlistment records of Catawba in Florida are a wealth of personal information on the origins and physical descriptions of these early community members:

 

Private James G. Stephens enlisted in the 2nd Florida Battalion Company E where he is described as born 1840, living in Marianna, captured in 1864 near Petersburg and released from Elmira Prison in 1865. He was 5 foot 4 inches, hazel eyes, dark skin, dark hair.

 

Private Isham Scott enlisted in the Calhoun Home guards where he is described as 5 foot 5 inches, brown eyes, dark hair and dark skin.

 

Private John Levy Emanuel enlisted in the 6th Florida Infantry Company D where he is described as born 1843, captured near Nashville in 1864 and sent to Camp Douglas Prison. Mustered into the 5th U.S. Volunteer Infantry in 1865.

 

Private Asa Emanuel enlisted in the 6th Florida Infantry Company D where he is described as born 1815 in Georgia, attempted to enlist in 1862 at Apalachicola but was rejected by the inspecting officer. He was a member of Watson’s Company of Florida Militia and was captured 1864 in Volusia County. He was 5 foot 8 inches, grey hair, grey eyes, dark skin and last appears on a roll at Hilton Head Prison in 1865.

 

Private Daniel Bunch enlisted in the 6th Florida Infantry Company D where he is described as born 1833, absent on every roll after April 1862 and AWOL since 1863.

 

Private William Perkins enlisted in the 6th Florida Infantry Company D where he is described as born 1845 in Bibb County, Georgia, discharged 1863 in Mossy Creek Tennessee. He was 5 foot 4 inches, dark skin, dark hair, black eyes.

 

Private John W. Hill enlisted in the 8th Florida Infantry Company E where he is described as born 1834 in Robeson County, North Carolina. He died of pneumonia in 1862 at Camp Winder Hospital, Richmond, Virginia.

 

After 1864 it appears that the Catawba abandoned the Confederate cause. Many Catawba who had been serving the Confederacy switched sides and enlisted with the Union. As with the CSA enlistments, the Union service records also contain worthy information about these warriors:

 

Private John T. Scott enlisted with the 2nd Florida Cavalry Company A where he is described as born 1843 in Early County, Georgia. He was 5 foot 11 inches, black eyes, black hair, dark skin. He did not return from the War.

 

Private Alexander H. Stephens enlisted with the 2nd Florida Cavalry Company A where he is described as born 1829 in Jackson County. He was 5 foot 10 inches, dark brown eyes, dark hair, dark skin. He died of disease during the War and did not return.

 

Private William Bunch enlisted in the 2nd Florida Cavalry Company A where he is described as born 1845 in Henry County, Alabama. He was 5 foot 6 inches, hazel eyes, dark brown hair, dark skin.

 

Private Francis M. Williams enlisted in the 2nd Florida Cavalry Company A where he is described as born 1842 in Calhoun County. He was 5 foot 9 inches, hazel eyes, dark brown hair, dark skin.

 

Private John Williams enlisted in the 2nd Florida Cavalry Company A where he is described as born 1845 in Calhoun County. He was 5 foot 8 inches, black eyes, black hair, dark skin.

 

Private John M. Scott enlisted in the Florida Ranger Regiment Company A where he is described as “born in Jackson County in the State of Florida, aged 21 years and by occupation a farmer. This soldier has black eyes, black hair, dark complexion, he is 5 feet 7 ½ inches tall.”

 

Private Samuel Scott enlisted in the Florida Ranger Regiment Company A where he is described as “born in Calhoun County in the State of Florida, aged 19 years and by occupation a farmer. This soldier has black eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, he is 5 feet 8 ½ inches tall.”

 

   During the final days of the War, Private Wade Richardson wrote of the Union’s Florida Cavalry soldiers:

 

 “As to the rank and file they were as motley crew of as dare-devil fellows as can be collected at any seaport town, I guess. Among them were Spaniards, French Creoles, half-breed Indians, Germans, a few Poles, and a host of crackers and Gophers – the western Floridians were derisively called gophers.