Most of the Civil War battles happened in states other than Florida. Of the 16,000 Floridians who fought, all but about 2,000 joined the Confederate ranks. Those who didn’t want to fight for either side, hid out in the woods and swamps to avoid being drafted. Nearly 5,000 Floridian soldiers were killed during the war.
But the state’s role was no less important because of the smaller number of battles. In fact, Florida’s role was of great importance because it provided a vital food and supply source to many Confederate soldiers. And the men of “Cow Cavalry” were there to make it happen.
People on farms and plantations raised crops and cattle to send to the soldiers. They also provided pork, fish, fruit, and salt for meat preservation. Citizens collected clothing and iron for making swords, guns, and other weapons.
Small militia groups of ranchers and cowhands banded together to make up the famous ““Cow Cavalry.” Their mission was to protect the cattle ranches, salt works, and small towns of south Florida, and deliver cattle to feed the troops.
Union cavalry soldiers were raiding ranches to steal cattle while their navy was trying to destroy salt work plants. The “Cow Cavalry” helped keep Florida”s inland roads and rivers protected so supplies would get to the Confederate army to the north. Numerous small battles occurred as the groups met, and most battles were never documented.
But there is no doubt that the heroes of the “Cow Cavalry” were quick to answer the call of the CSA to provide and protect. They rounded up cattle from all around Florida and took them to Georgia and South Carolina to feed the fighting Confederate troops. By doing so, these men forever forged their unique place in history.