Ralph L. Peek


After months of bitter controversy Congress passed, over the President’s veto, the Reconstruction Acts of March 2 and March 23, 1867. The South was divided into five military districts, each ruled by a major general; Florida, Alabama, and Georgia comprised the third military district which was commanded by Major General John Pope. He in turn appointed Colonel John T. Sprague to head the sub-district of Florida, with headquarters at Tallahassee and later at Jacksonville. Sprague assumed command on April 1, 1867, with ten companies of the 7th United States Infantry and six companies of the 5th United States Artillery, comprising respectively 635 and 480 men, a total of 1,115 soldiers. 3 The artillery companies garrisoned the coastal defense bastions of Pensacola, Key West, and Dry Tortugas; the infantry companies were scattered about the state in small detachments of twenty to thirty men each. They were charged with aiding the civil authorities in enforcing law and order, and they served as a restraining force on civil officials or private persons who might wrong any individual. These troops were also available to aid Freedmen’s Bureau officials whenever the need arose.