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St. Augustine and the Civil War
The state of Florida seceded from the United States in January of 1861, and the Union began a blockade of southern ports that April. At the time, St. Augustine was an important port city with fortifications and a lighthouse. The South desperately needed to export cotton and other commodities in exchange for arms. Southern ship-owners were issued letters of marque (1) by the Confederacy, and they began privateering. Both trade and privateering required well fortified ports. Northern shippers were in a panic. On August 18, 1861 the most successful of the Confederate privateers, the brig Jeff Davis, was grounded on the bar outside the St. Augustine harbor (2). On March 12, 1862 Union forces under Commodore Dupont seized control of St. Augustine and Fort Marion (Castillo de San Marcos) (3). The night before 20% of the population set sail for New Smyrna (4). Pictured at right are Union troops in the courtyard of Fort Marion.
Fort Marion
Major Jeremiah S. Durgin
Jeremiah S. Durgin 1810-1867
On September 3, 1862 Captain Jeremiah Smith Durgin arrived in St. Augustine with the 7th New Hampshire Regiment Infantry where he was appointed Provost Marshal (5). As Provost Marshal, Durgin was in charge of military police and responsible for military discipline. St. Augustine was under marshal law, so he had broad civilian responsibilities too. These included the suppression of gambling houses and the supervision of hotels, saloons and brothels. He also administered the oath of allegiance to the government of the United States. Citizens who refused to take the oath were often expelled from the city (6). According to the regiment`s historian, Durgin was "Beloved by both officers and men. He would pay strict attention to a complaint from an enlisted man and would do his utmost to correct any mistake whereby any soldier would in the least be wronged." (7). Durgin was promoted to a Major on September 30, 1864.
Major Durgin`s Sword
Presentation swords like this one were usually given to popular officers by the men under their command. The blade is 29 7/8 inches long with lightly engraved floral designs. The pommel of this sword has a bust of George Washington in profile. The forward border is decorated with floral sprays and a mother of pearl oval engraved with two oak leaves surrounding an acorn (8). A laurel wreath surrounds the crown. The grip is made of leather wrapped with a double strand of twisted brass wire bordered by a single strand on each side. The brass guard is a half basket pattern with four branches engraved with flowers and leaves. The guard is decorated with an outstretched eagle and shield holding a banner in its beak, which reads, "E Pluribus Unum". The eagle is surrounded by thirteen stars, has olive branches in one claw and arrows in the other. The obverse side is engraved: "PRESENTED TO Capt Jeremiah S Durgin, Co E 7th Regt NH Vol, FOR HIS SERVICE AS PROVOST MARSHAL AT SAINT AUGUSTINE FLA 1862". The iron scabbard is painted black, its throat is brass decorated with a floral design. The two suspension bands and drag are brass with oak leaves and acorns.

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