Ralph L. Peek


The clash of ideologies, conflicts over rights and status, and a struggle for power, all of which have marked man’s efforts to achieve a society satisfactory to himself, created an intense conflict in Florida during the years of Reconstruction, particularly in the period 1868-1871, In this bloody struggle the issue at stake was the possession of local, state, and national political and economic power, and this issue was colored and made more complex by social and racial elements, including the most virulent race hatred. The incipient conflict, created by the aftermath of war and the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, flared into open violence shortly after the reins of government were surrendered by the military in July, 1868. Protracted tension and violence ended with the victory of Southern white conservatives which was apparent by 1871. The familiar story of political reconstruction in the defeated South, and in Florida, does not need repeating here. This story furnishes the backdrop for the drama of conflict which was played out during the years 1868-1871. It is the purpose of this article to describe some of the elements of violence and intimidation which proved so effective in Florida during this period.