Re: 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry
Excellent points, Alan. I agree that a number of the larger property owners in the area were initially opposed to secession, both in south Alabama and northwest Florida. But that was true overall in this area. Folks in the area were much more likely to be cooperationists or unionists. However, once seceded, the states did make promises to men going off to battle to see that their families were fed and although there was vaying efforts at the county levels to do that, most efforts were far short of what was needed, especially in the Florida panhandle. And many planters continued planting cotton and not food making the problem worse. When they and their sons also didn't serve through one loophole or another, or served as an officer for a year or so then resigned, it didn't sit well with a lot of the men who didn't have the option to resign other than to desert. The issue of isolation of an area being a factor in unionist sentiments I believe stems from the more isolated areas not having as strong a stake in the economic system in the south at the time. While these folks may not have wanted blacks freed and living in their neighborhoods (which is also what most northeners felt and what motivated those midwestern boys) they didn't have money in the system for it to be something to feel strongly about maintaining. The arguments at the time to "motivate" southern folks from the yeoman farmers and non-property owners dealt with the racial issues of no longer having slavery not the economic issues.
I think one thing is certain, for every point that can be made and supported with data it can likely be countered with different supporting data. Humans were as complex then as they are now and folks don't fit well into large categories. The nearly 700 men who served with the 1st Florida Cavalry Union Volunteers each had a slightly different story and a slightly different combination of factors that got him to the point of going over to the Union. Quite a number of the men in the 1st did not serve at all in the Confederacy. Reaching draft age during 1864 (at both the upper and lower end), they simply joined the Union before being drafted. Barbara Tuchman in her book on the Revolutionary War was discussing the initial reaction in the south to the RW. She pointed out that most were indifferent until angered by events in or near their homes, then the enemy became whoever was making them angry and side switching did occur. That would seem to apply during the WBTS/CW as well.