Item #010233 1863-1864 – An archive of documents and letters regarding Florida’s importance during the Civil War as the food “Supplier of the Confederacy” and the activation of the famous 1st Florida Special “Cow Cavalry” Battalion by a Tampa cattle broker. Captain James McKay Major Pleasant W. White.
1863-1864 – An archive of documents and letters regarding Florida’s importance during the Civil War as the food “Supplier of the Confederacy” and the activation of the famous 1st Florida Special “Cow Cavalry” Battalion by a Tampa cattle broker
1863-1864 – An archive of documents and letters regarding Florida’s importance during the Civil War as the food “Supplier of the Confederacy” and the activation of the famous 1st Florida Special “Cow Cavalry” Battalion by a Tampa cattle broker

1863-1864 – An archive of documents and letters regarding Florida’s importance during the Civil War as the food “Supplier of the Confederacy” and the activation of the famous 1st Florida Special “Cow Cavalry” Battalion by a Tampa cattle broker

Various: 1863-1864. Various. This group of eight documents and letters is associated with Major Pleasant W. White, the Confederacy’s Chief Commissary for Florida, and Captain James McKay, of the Fifth Confederate Commissary District. A good case could be made that they were the two most important officers in the Confederacy as it was their effort providing the food, especially beef, that kept the Confederate Army in the field.

The archive contains:

3 August 1863 – Special Order from the Secretary of War’s Office in Richmond directing Captain Bryant to “report to Major P. W. White Chief Commissary State of Florida for assignment to duty.”

27 October 1863 – Letter from the Assistant Quartermaster General’s Office in Richmond to White , a native of Quincy, authorizing him, as well his officers and agents, to receive a “’tax in kind’ in east and south Florida.” The letter is docketed and endorsed by “P. W. White.”

30 October 1863 – Special Orders No. 258 from the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office in Richmond detaching McKay, a pre-war Tampa cattle broker who exported cattle to Cuba, from the 4th Florida Volunteer Infantry Regiment for “special service” under White.

3 December 1863 – Letter to White from the Office of Engineer and Superintendent Florida Railroad regarding the seizure of hogs.

21 January 1864 – Letter to White from the Confederate Subsistence Department in Richmond regarding the appointment of a fisheries agent. The letter is endorsed by White.

15 April 1864 – Letter to White from the Confederate Bureau of Conscription in Richmond announcing the personnel “detailed for Bureau Service in accordance with special instructions from the War Department should not be disturbed by the Officers of Conscription.”

26 May 1864 – Letter to White from the Confederate Subsistence Department in Richmond regarding the use of conscripts and “the organization of companies of cattle drivers” (the famous 1st Florida Special “Cow Cavalry” Battalion).

26 June 1864 – Special Orders No. 1021 from Head-Quarters, Military District of Florida, suspending “S.O. No. 92.”

. Very good. Item #010233

Initially, the Confederacy was able to provide considerable quantities of Texas beef to feed its forces in the field, however in the fall of 1863, the Union’s Mississippi River campaign had severely crimped that supply, and after the fall of Vicksburg, the flow completely stopped. Thereafter, the Confederate Army, especially the Army of the Tennessee, and city garrisons became almost entirely dependent upon Florida beef, pork, and fish to continue operations. To that end, Major Pleasant W. White was appointed to serve as the Chief Commissary of Florida and directed to keep the state’s foodstuffs moving northward. He acquired Captain James McKay, formerly a Tampa-based beef exporter, to manage his most important district which included Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Polk, Brevard, Dade, and Monroe counties. Although White and McKay never reached Richmond’s goal of supplying 3,000 head per week, they were usually able to provide at least 1,000.

Recognizing the importance of the Florida food supply, its operation was under constant threat by the Union naval raids and cavalry forays. In an attempt to cut the supply line once and for all, Union forces attacked at the Battle of Olustee and were soundly defeated. Subsequently, the 1st Florida Special Cavalry Battalion, commonly referred to as the “Cow Cavalry,” was formed to protect the herds as well as drive the cattle northward for consumption by the army.

During the two years of the operation’s existence, more than 75,000 head of cattle were official delivered, and it’s likely considerable more went north on an unofficial basis. Eventually, General Sherman’s March to the Sea, cut the supply lines, and no more cattle reached the Confederate field units.

(For more information, see Taylor’s “Rebel Beef: Florida Cattle and the Confederate Army, 1862-1864,” Greenwalt’s “Florida’s ‘Cow Cavalry,’” Taylor’s “Cow Cavalry: Munnerlyn's Battalion in Florida, 1864-1865,” and “Florida's Role in the Civil War: Supplier of the Confederacy,” all available online.)

A scarce collection of documents and letters regarding a little known, but incredibly important, facet of the Civil War. Nothing similar is for sale in the trade. Rare Book Hub shows only one related item that has ever been sold at auction, a Union report about the Battle of Olustee that sold for $2,250 in 2013. The Florida Historical Society holds the personal papers of Pleasant Woodson White; OCLC shows no other similar material in institutional collections.

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Price: $2,000.00