“Unionist” Hotspot in Northwest Florida

On October 8, 1863, Brigadier General Alexander Asboth was transferred to Pensacola to take command of the District of West Florida. Twenty-one days later he was instructed to take immediate steps to raise and enlist a regiment of men from the surrounding area; primarily Northwest Florida and South Alabama. He took the task up immediately, though he was never given the tools he requested to be as successful as he believed he could be. By May 1864, he had recruited enough local men to fill six companies (somewhere around 600 men). And by the end of the war, he had recruited about 100 more.

Unlike most of the other Union regiments of southern men (1st Alabama Cavalry), this regiment remained in the area where the men were recruited and then fought, recruited, and scouted for the Union for the last 16 months of the war. When I first started researching this regiment I was disappointed that finding any information on the regiment and the men’s service was nearly impossible. So, I started with the muster rolls. The result is a book on the history of the regiment and the men who fought with it.

What I would like to do for the next couple of posts is to present some of the more interesting aspects that won’t be in the book.

In addition to writing the book on the 1st Florida Union Cavalry, I’ve spent the last year scanning the early church records from Yellow River Baptist Church in Oak Grove to create a book of membership records from 1840-1950. It didn’t take me long to discover something astonishing: 14 men from the Church are also in the 1st Florida Cavalry Union Volunteers muster rolls and an additional 4 sons of members. I had always known that the area was settled by folks who tended to be intensely independent (some of my family do use other terms here) but it was surprising to find so many who made what had to be a very difficult decision located in a relatively small area of the Northwest Florida panhandle and all attending the same church. From this discovery I had to start wondering if the church somehow fostered a “Unionist” position on the war. That’s a question that probably won’t ever be answered because the church’s business records simply do not mention the war at all.  Which is also somewhat interesting given the turmoil in the area during the war.

Here are the names that appear in both the Yellow River Baptist Church records and in the 1st Florida Union Cavalry.  I would love to hear from any descendants of these men.

  1. Nicholas Baggett
  2. Seaborn Baggett
  3. Uriah Barton
  4. Allen Campbell
  5. Charles M. Campbell
  6. Jasper Chestnut
  7. James Millard Gaskin
  8. Seth Gaskin
  9. Moses Andrew George
  10. Zebedee Greenwood
  11. William L. Richbourg
  12. Archibald (Archy) Smith
  13. Henry W. Steele
  14. Celestine Josiah Ward
  15. William Lafayette Barrow, son of Richmond and Martha Barrow
  16. William P. Clary, son of James D. And Mary E. Clary
  17. Henry H. Dixon, son of A.B. and Ann Dixon
  18. David Allen Hart, son of John and Nancy Hart
Henry W. Steele & wife
William L. Barrow

17 thoughts on ““Unionist” Hotspot in Northwest Florida

  1. Pingback: Was the Northwest Florida panhandle a “Unionist” stronghold? – Part 1 – Northwest Florida History

  2. Pingback: Was the Northwest Florida panhandle a “Unionist” stronghold? – Part 2 – Northwest Florida History

  3. Pingback: Northwest Florida Early Pioneers: James Millard and Lydia Olive Gaskin(s) – Northwest Florida History

  4. Pingback: Approaching the Coming Crisis: 1840-1860 in the NW Florida community of Oak Grove – Northwest Florida History

  5. I’m the great-great grandson of Seaborn Baggett. He is buried at High Pine Cemetery in
    Bay Minette, Alabama. His son John Baggett was my mother’s paternal grandfather. I would love to see any information you have about his time in the 1st FL Cav. He originally joined the 33rd Alabama Infantry CSA, but he “left” and joined the Union Army. Not sure heather he deserted or was released for some reason. Knowing that side of the family, he probably got fed up with someone’s nonsense and just went home.


    • Hi Tim, great to meet you. Since posting the blog you commented on, I’ve published my book on the 1st FL Cavalry Union. It is both a history of the War in the panhandle, the regiment and a brief summary of each man’s journey based on available records. Seaborn and his brother Henry served with the 1st FL. I have a section in the book on families in the regiment and this Baggett family fits what was a common pattern, a younger brother nears 18 and both he and one or more older brothers that served with the CSA join the 1st FL. As far as I could tell from Seaborn’s CSA service he likely deserted. No record of discharge for any reason. Seaborn participated in a number of the engagements the 1st FL was in and was promoted to Sergeant. There were several Baggett families that I couldn’t link together who fought with the 1st FL and were all in the same general area before the war so I suspect like a lot of the men from northern Santa Rosa and Walton County in 1860, they had tendencies toward Unionism or at least a short fuse with the conduct of the War by the Confederate government. If you are interested you can purchase the book on the 1st FL at . I will be posting occasionally on aspects of the 1st FL and the area the Baggetts lived in prior to the War so you might want to follow. Take care, Sharon


  6. Pingback: Yellow River Baptist Church, Oak Grove, Okaloosa Co, FL – Northwest Florida History

  7. Celestine Josiah Ward was my great-great-great-great grandfather. Have you been able to find much information on him? Some in my family believe he ended up living in a Creek Indian community but we are unsure if this is true.


    • In researching the men, I found Celestine last in the 1880 census in Escambia Co, FL. I am not aware of any Creek Indian communities in Escambia Co, FL in the late 19th century. While there were some remaining Creeks in the southeast after the majority were moved to Indian Country well before the war, I am unaware of any in Escambia Co, FL. He did apply for a pension that wasn’t approved in 1890. You might order the application and see if it confirms any of that, though it would be a long shot. There is a good bit of Indian lore in this area of the country that is hard to document or prove. While a lot of us might carry a bit of DNA that can be linked to Native Americans, we need to remember that with the Creeks that stayed in the southeast, most had already adapted the white culture’s way of life and lifestyle and intermarried enough that there were not likely many Creek communities in the late 19th century in this area that were known as that at the time. The Poarch Creek destination for the community in Escambia Co, AL was a mid-20th century one.


  8. Pingback: Questions of Honor and Courage: Individual Decisions During the Civil War – Northwest Florida History

  9. Pingback: A Woman’s Work Is Never Done | Northwest Florida History & Genealogy

  10. Pingback: The 1870 Walton County Census: A Glimpse in Time | Northwest Florida History & Genealogy

  11. Pingback: Did Your Southern Ancestor Serve With the Union? An Exploration of the 1st Florida Union Cavalry Volunteers | Northwest Florida History & Genealogy

  12. My mother Mary Catherine Turner Lewis’s Uncle Jess Turner documented the Creek Indian relatives who lived in Walton County. My mom was born in DeFuniak Springs in 1917. I have been to the cemetery where many are buried off Highway 90. I have documents with many names.


  13. Pingback: Updates and Links to My Posts on the 1st Florida Union Cavalry Volunteers | Northwest Florida History & Genealogy

  14. Pingback: Updates and Links to My Posts on Yellow River Baptist Church | Northwest Florida History & Genealogy

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