Thursday, April 2, 2015

Eliot Kleinberg: more on the secessionist Florida Governor John Milton

Photo from the Florida Department of State.
John Kennedy at the Post On Politics blog had this odd but true story yesterday (4/1) about the 5th Governor of Florida, John Milton. One hundred and fifty years ago, on April 1st (April Fool's Day), John Milton took his own life rather than surrender to the Union forces fighting the Civil War. Eliot Kleinberg at the Post has more information on the secessionist Governor John Milton:
     Florida is now the most “northern” of the southern states. But at the start of the Civil War it was fiercely southern, and its big business power brokers were owners of large plantations who couldn’t afford to start paying their workers. Florida, shockingly, was the third state to leave the union, behind South Carolina and Mississippi. It seceded on Jan. 10, 1861. That fall, the new Confederate state elected Milton governor.
     But wartime Florida was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Rebels. Described by one northern newspaper as the “smallest tadpole in the dirty pool of secession,” it was too remote and sparsely populated to be worth seriously defending. About 15,000 Floridians fought, the largest percentage of any southern state, and a third died, but most of them had been sent to the fronts in Virginia and other states.
     When the Union seized Vicksburg, Miss., cutting off Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas from the rest of the Confederacy, Milton stressed Florida’s ability to serve as an important source for the war effort. But the crumbling would-be nation soon sucked Florida dry.
     On April 1, 1865, his cause was in tatters and the state he led was broke. Milton gave one last message to the state Legislature. “Death,” he declared, “would be preferable to reunion.”
Wonder if Governor John Milton understood the significance of April 1st when he chose to take his life?