Florida joined the Confederate States of America in advance of the Civil War, as the third of the original seven states to secede from the Union, following Lincoln’s 1860 election. With the smallest population, nearly half of them slaves, Florida only sent 15,000 troops to the Confederate States Army. Its chief importance was in food-supply to the south and support for blockade-runners along its long coastline full of inlets that were hard to patrol.
At the outbreak of war, the Confederates seized many United States facilities in the state, though the Union retained control of Key West, Fort Jefferson and Fort Pickens throughout the war. There was little fighting in Florida, the only major conflict being the Battle of Olustee near Lake City in February 1864. However, wartime conditions made it easier for slaves to escape, and many of them became useful informers to Union commanders. As southern morale suffered, deserters from both sides took refuge in Florida, often attacking Confederate units and looting farms. In May 1865, Federal control was re-established, slavery abolished, and the state governor John Milton committed suicide by gunshot.