Written by Christopher Hendrix. Research conducted by the staff of Manatee Village Historical Park. All sources are available upon request. Research on this topic is ongoing, and this article may be updated in the future.
The 1850 Manatee Burying Ground has a total of thirteen identified military veterans buried within its fences. Six served in the Seminole Wars*, and eight served in the Civil War, four from the confederacy and four from the Union. One man served in both the 3rd Seminole War and the Civil War. These men held ranks ranging from Private to General, and several in-between. Some of them had similar experiences, others had vastly different experiences, yet they all volunteered to serve in the military.
*Please note, while the period of conflict between the Seminoles and United States has traditionally been categorized by the United States as three separate wars, the Seminole tribe considers this to be one war. In this article, we will be referring to them as separate wars for the purpose of clarity.
The first group of veterans are those who served in the Seminole Wars. Major General James G. Cooper (grave #7), of the Florida Volunteer Militia, was born in 1801 in Georgia, and moved to Nassau County, Florida at a young age. At 14, he joined in the Army to fight in the Seminole Wars, where he made a career out of his military service. By 1835, during the 2nd Seminole War (1835-42), Cooper was given the rank of Captain in the 4th Florida Volunteers, and soon promoted to Major. He participated in the Battle of Withlacoochee on December 31, 1835, where he was severely wounded. The Pelot Family Genealogy cites a report from 1836, “We are happy to state that Major Cooper whom we saw a few days since, and who was severely wounded at the Battle of Owithlacoochee (Withlacoochee today), is rapidly recovering from his wound. The ball entered his chest on the left side high up, and was taken out of his back. Major Cooper is said to have conducted himself most gallantly at Owithlacoochy [sic].”
Major Cooper was discharged on March 5, 1836, due to his wounds. He remained a successful farmer and, in 1845, was elected Major General of the Florida Volunteer Militia. He went by the title of General until he passed away in 1876. It is unclear what his participation during the 3rd Seminole War (1855-58) was, if any. The Florida Militia played a role in that war, and if General Cooper was still in that position at the time of the war, he almost certainly would have played some role.
In 1861, General Cooper represented Nassau County at the Florida Secession Convention, during which he voted in favor of Florida leaving the Union and joining the Confederacy. Despite this, he did not serve in the Civil War. In 1867, General Cooper moved to Manatee County with his family and took up residence in the Braden Castle. The General passed away in 1876 (although his marker mistakenly notes 1879 as his death year).
Colonel John Cooper Pelot (grave #8) was born in Georgia in 1809. He moved to North Florida in 1830, and in 1838, was commissioned a Captain in the Florida Militia. He was given command of a company and quickly promoted to Colonel. His experience during the war is unknown at this time, although his obituary stated he was involved in several battles and was a well-regarded military commander. In 1861, Colonel Pelot served with General Cooper as Chairmen of the Florida Secession Convention as a representative from Alachua County, where he also voted for Florida to secede from the Union. Colonel Pelot moved to Manatee late in his life and lived near his son, Dr. John Crews Pelot, who will be discussed below. Colonel Pelot passed away in 1879.
After the end of the 2nd Seminole War in 1842, the government signed the Armed Occupation Act. This law effectively opened much of the Florida Territory, including what is now Manatee County, to American settlement. The terms were simple: in exchange for 160 acres of land, a settler must live on the land for five years, cultivate at least five acres of the land, and serve in the militia for five years. As a result, a number of families moved to the area, claimed their land, and joined the militia.
At the beginning of the 3rd Seminole War (1855 to 1858), the Florida Governor called for a volunteer force to form several companies to protect the frontier from Seminoles. Initially, six companies were formed, including Lesley’s Company, Parker’s Company, and Addison’s Company. These three companies recruited their volunteer militia from both Hillsborough County and the newly created Manatee County. Several members of these companies are buried in the 1850 Manatee Burying Ground. They are Private Henry A. Clark (grave #24), Private Josiah Gates (grave #43), and Private Ezekiel Glazier (grave #69). It is also possible Reverend Edward Gates (grave #39) was enlisted in Lesley’s company. In addition to these men, there were no less than 50 other Manatee County residents who were formally enlisted in one of these three companies.
In the first month of the war, Lesley’s company patrolled the Peace River area, before being transferred to the area surrounding the Village of Manatee. From Manatee, Lesley dispatched small groups of volunteers to scout for Seminoles and protect settlers in the area. On March 31, 1856, Manatee saw its only real skirmish during the war, when a small group of Seminoles attacked the Braden Castle and raided the plantation. Several days later, a small detachment from Lesley’s Company located the Seminoles at the Big Charlie Creek and another skirmish ensued. While no one was injured at the Braden Castle, several Seminoles were killed and others captured at the Big Charlie Creek. It is believed Reverend Edward Gates was a member of this party, though it is unclear if he was formally enlisted in Lesley’s Company.
Throughout the war, Lesley consistently patrolled and scouted the Manatee County area, and by April 1857, Lesley concluded, “I have no hesitation in making the assertion that there are no [Seminoles] within the district assigned to me.” In late 1857 and early 1858, Lesley’s Company was involved in numerous engagements with the Seminoles and the search for Billy Bowlegs (also known as Holata Micco) in the region of the Big Cypress Swamp.
Parker’s Company seldomly participated in the war, probably acting as more of a “home guard,” type militia. Although the governor accepted their services, according to their muster rolls, they were disbanded in December 1856.
Addison’s Company contained a number of the same men as Parker’s Company, though it is unclear which company was formed first. Little is known about Addison’s Company, or their actions during the war. Evidentially, there was a fort named “Captain Addison’s Fort” about 2 miles down river from the Manatee River headwaters. That is all that is known to us at this time.
Due to the nature of the war and the concept of a volunteer militia, it was not uncommon to see members come and go throughout the war. There is little documentation on the matter, so it is unclear what battles or other military actions the men enlisted in the Florida Militia participated in, if any at all.
Local Residents who Enlisted for the American Civil War
In January1861, the State of Florida held a Secession Convention to determine whether Florida would stay part of the Union or break away with the Confederacy. This was attended by three people buried in the 1850 Manatee Burying Ground: John Cooper Pelot (Convention Chairman representing Alachua County), James G. Cooper (representing Nassau County), and Ezekiel Glazier (representing Manatee County). None of these men served in the Civil War.
Many of the Manatee locals enlisted in the Confederate Army at the beginning of the war. However, it is important to note that roughly 11% of enlisted Floridians did serve for the Union. While we do not know if anyone from Manatee County enlisted with the Northern Army, many Union veterans did move to the area after the end of the war.
In 1861 and 1862, the Florida Governor repeatedly called for several regiments (roughly 1000 men each) to be formed and sent to fight for the Southern cause. The first of those regiments to recruit members from any nearby area was the 4th Florida Volunteer Infantry. Only one local is known to have enlisted in this regiment: Private Henry A. Clark (grave #24).
Born in Atlanta on Christmas day in 1835, Henry A. Clark moved with his parents to Manatee in the early 1840s. A veteran of Lesley’s Company during the 3rd Seminole War, Private Clark did not wait long to enlist in the Confederate Army after the state declared secession. While his headstone states he was part of Munnerlyn’s Brigade, Company A (more formally known as the 1st Florida Special Cavalry, or the "Cow Cavalry"), he also served in an infantry unit. In The Lures of the Manatee, Lillie McDuffee states Clark enlisted in the 7th Florida Volunteer Infantry, Company K, along with several other Manatee residents. We could find no evidence of this, however, we did find proof that he served in the 4th Florida, Company I. Created several months prior to the 7th Florida, the 4th Florida was known to have recruited some of its members from Hillsborough County, including Captain Lesley’s son, who also became a captain. It is likely Clark was initially a member of the 4th Florida, and later joined the Cow Cavalry. We do not know when he left the 4th Florida nor the date he joined the Cow Cavalry. It is unclear what his experience was like during the war, or which battles he might have been in. We do know what the 4th Florida and the Cow Cavalry was doing during the war, and it is possibly Clark experienced some combination of the following.
The 4th Florida (regimental flag right) started the war with 983 men and was assigned to the Army of Tennessee. They suffered approximately 98% casualties throughout the first two years of the war. After their involvement in the battles of Murfreesboro (Stones River), Jackson (Salem Cemetery), Chickamauga, and the Chattanooga Campaign, all but 31 were killed, wounded, or captured. In December, 1863, they had to be merged with another Florida regiment, the 1st Florida Cavalry, due to their dwindling numbers. By the time the combined regiment surrendered in April of 1865, there was just 23 men left between the two regiments.
The Cow Cavalry (regimental flag right) was created in July1864, and remained in Florida, protecting and driving cattle throughout the state to aid the Southern war effort. Florida was called “the breadbasket of the Confederacy,” and Florida cattle was one of the most important resources in the state. Union troops had begun attacking cattle ranchers and drivers, disrupting the flow of cattle out of the state; in response the Confederate War Department issued a call for the Cow Cavalry to be created. They served in the state of Florida for the remainder of the war protecting cattle, fending off Union raiding parties, and acting as a "home guard" type group.
The first regiment to recruit directly from Manatee County was the 7th Florida (regimental flag below to the right). Mustered in April 1862, the 7th Florida incorporated a company from the Coast Guard, called the “Key West Avengers.” Volunteers from Manatee and Hillsborough counties were added to this company, which was designated Company K.
The 7th Florida began their service garrisoned in Florida (Company K in Tampa), but was assigned to the Army of Tennessee by July 1862. During the war, the 7th Florida was involved in several major battles and campaigns: Chickamauga, the Chattanooga Campaign, and the Atlanta Campaign, including Resaca (Lay’s Ferry), Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta. The regiment’s “high water mark,” of the war was when they charged up Snodgrass Hill on the final day of the battle of Chickamauga, and broke the Union line providing cover for the Union retreat from the field. After the Atlanta Campaign, they participated in the battles of Franklin and Nashville. Their final engagement of the war was at Bentonville, North Carolina. Soon after, the Army of Tennessee surrendered to General William T. Sherman at Bennett’s Place on April 26, 1865, the 7th Florida included.
Manatee County contributed at least 26 men to Company K, and possibly upwards of 40. Many who are believed to have served in this company have not been confirmed. One that has been confirmed is Private Benjamin Samuel Curry (grave #63)*. Private Curry enlisted in 1862, though we do not know when he was discharged. As of yet, his service records have not been located, though he did appear on muster rolls for Company K in 1862.
*Some sources indicate the Samuel Curry enlisted in the 7th Florida, Company K was actually Samuel George Curry. Research is ongoing and this article will be updated when service records are located.
Veterans Who Relocated to Manatee
Following the war, many veterans returned home to find their quality of life was worse than before the war. Homes, farms, infrastructure and plantations were destroyed and economies were ruined, amongst other effects. As a result, many veterans moved to Manatee County from all over the country, bringing veterans from both the northern armies and southern armies to the area.
First Lieutenant John Waddel Harllee (grave #60) was one such veteran. Born in South Carolina in 1837, John Harllee joined the 1st South Carolina Infantry in December 1860, probably around the time of that state’s secession in December 1860. He was assigned to Company I as a First Lieutenant. His regiment served under several notable Southern generals, including George Pickett, James Longstreet, John Bell Hood, and Braxton Bragg, resulting in their involvement in no less than 17 battles, including the 2nd Battle of Manassas (2nd Battle of Bull Run), Antietam (Sharpsburg), the Siege of Petersburg, and Appomattox Court House. During the Petersburg campaign Lieutenant Harllee was shot in one of his knees. He allegedly refused to have his leg amputated, so the surgeon attempted to repair his leg, leaving it shorter than the other. It is believed he stayed with the regiment until the end of the war.
John Harllee visited Manatee after the war with his brother, at the request of their cousin. Though his brother decided not to move here, John did. In Manatee, he met and married Mary Ellen Curry. He built a wharf, a storefront, and became a leading merchant in the area.
Harllee was not the only southerner who relocated to Manatee following the end of the Civil War. Dr. John Crews Pelot, M. D. (grave #14), who became a prominent local doctor moved here, as well. It appears Dr. Pelot enlisted in the 2nd Florida Cavalry, Company K, of the Confederate Army in 1862. He held the rank of Sergeant. Eventually, he was appointed Assistant Surgeon General and assigned to Camp Sumter, also known as Andersonville Prison, which held captured Union soldiers. While there, he reported on the terrible conditions prisoners were kept in, and tried to get additional aid supplies.
During the Civil War, and today, the position of Assistant Surgeon General held a rank and status of officers in the US Army, though they only had authority within the Surgeon General’s office and Medical Corps. The Confederate army, however, had no such rank structure. There were several bills introduced into the Confederate legislature to try to bring a rank and pay structure to the Surgeon General’s office, but none were passed. The closest they came was in 1863, when the Confederate House of Representatives passed a bill, but it was defeated in the Senate. That bill would have given the Surgeon General the rank and pay of Brigadier General, and the Assistant Surgeon Generals the rank and pay of Colonel. Because this was never passed, Dr. Pelot’s official title at the end of his service in the Civil War was simply Assistant Surgeon General, Confederate States Army.
Following the war, Dr. Pelot and his wife moved the land previously owned by the Dr. Joseph Braden. They gave some of the land and the famed Braden Castle to her parents. While in Manatee, Dr. Pelot served as a local doctor, and treated patients during Manatee’s recurrent Yellow Fever epidemics in the 1880s. He also donated the land for one of our county courthouses, which is where the current Clerk of Court’s Office and Judicial Center sit today (although the courthouse itself has been replaced). Though he died in 1917, Dr. Pelot’s name is still fairly prominent in Manatee County, and his descendants still own the Pelot Pharmacy.
Sergeant Benjamin F. Carter (grave #4) traveled farther than any veteran who moved to Manatee. He was an 18-year-old farmer from Etna, Maine, when he enlisted in the US Army on September 10, 1862. He was initially assigned to the 22nd Maine Infantry as a Private. The 22nd Maine did not see much action during their 9 months of service, spending most of the time being transferred between forts and camps in the Western Theater of the war (the area from the Appalachian Mountains west to the Mississippi River, and from the Ohio River south to the Gulf of Mexico). The 22nd Maine was then sent back to Maine to be disbanded. Carter was given an honorable discharge on August 14, 1863, and reenlisted February 1, 1864. He was then assigned to the 1st Maine Cavalry (regimental flag above) as a Sergeant. This time, his regiment was more involved in battles, fighting at Cold Harbor and Appomattox Court House, among others. He remained there until the war’s end, and finally left the army for good on July 27, 1865. It is unknown when or why he moved to Manatee. According to his service records, he died on October 23, 1885.
Enos E. Johnson (grave #66) enlisted on August 16, 1861, and was assigned to the 18th Indiana Infantry, Company B, as a Private. He was eventually discharged on March 24, 1863, due to an unspecified disability. Given the dates of his enlistment, it is likely he spent a majority of his wartime experience in Missouri and Arkansas. At that time, the 18th Indiana was involved in engagements at Milford, where they took 1300 Confederates prisoner, and Pea Ridge Arkansas. The circumstances surrounding his discharge are unclear.
After the war, Johnson returned to his home in Indiana. In 1883, he purchased land in Manatee County and moved due to health reasons. He became a successful merchant, operating a drug store in Bradenton. Unfortunately, Johnson passed away from Yellow Fever in 1887. It is believed he was the first person to die of Yellow Fever in Manatee County.
One of two Union veterans who moved to Manatee from Missouri, little is known about Sgt. Robert Greer (grave #86). Born in Ireland sometime around 1842, it is not known when or why he moved to the United States. He enlisted in the Union Army in March 1, 1862, and was assigned to the 8th Missouri Cavalry. By his discharge on July 20, 1865, he had risen to the rank of Sergeant. After the war, he married twice and had two children. By 1870, Greer was a Deputy Sheriff in Polk County, Missouri, and later served as Sheriff for four years. He moved to Manatee sometime around 1879. Sgt. Greer passed away on October 31, 1891 at his home in Sarasota (then still part of Manatee County).
The other native Missourian, and the highest-ranking Civil War veteran in the 1850 Manatee Burying Ground, is Brigadier General John Riggin (grave #83). Born in 1835, John Riggin Jr. lived most of his life in St. Louis, where he ran a successful real estate business with his father. Their business was located near another real estate firm called Boggs & U.S. Grant, the same U. S. Grant who would become the overall commander of the Union Army and later, President of the United States. While it is not proven, historians believe Riggin and Grant struck a friendship during their time in St. Louis. In January 1862, Riggin joined General Grant’s staff as a volunteer aide-de-camp, and was later given a commission as a Colonel. At one point during the war, Riggin was accused by the War Department of sending false telegrams impersonating Grant, and was almost arrested. Grant stepped in and defended him, saying Riggin was acting on Grant’s behalf, and any order given by Riggin was an order given by Grant. He stayed by Grant’s side until October 1863, when he resigned citing family health responsibilities.
Serving alongside Grant from January 1862 to October 1863 would have made him a veteran of several major battles, including Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing) and the Siege of Vicksburg. At the end of the war, he was promoted to Brigadier General in recognition for his service, even though he was no longer actively serving in the Army at the time. In early 1874, he and his wife, Fannie, moved to Manatee County, and settled in what is now Whitfield Estates. They developed a citrus growing business, and were early prominent Sarasota residents. Gen. Riggin passed away in 1886. Officially, his cause of death was due to an injury he received during the Siege of Vicksburg.
Other Veterans May Be Out There
Though the 1850 Manatee Burying Ground contains only 13 men confirmed to have served in the military in one way or another, there are possibly many more. A ground penetrating radar survey of the cemetery showed there was a total of 229 burials, only 98 of which are marked; 17 of the marked graves and vaults have no name or identifying information, rendering the identities of those buried there unknown. As previously stated, dozens of locals volunteered for military service, and Manatee County became a destination for veterans to move to following the Seminole Wars and Civil War. We know of many residents who have been confirmed to be veterans of one army or another, yet we do not know where they are buried.
While this article discusses the veterans buried in the 1850 Manatee Burying Ground, it is by no means a comprehensive list of all local veterans from the area. There were dozens of other veterans of these same wars who were not buried there, or are not known to be buried there. Additionally, the cemetery was only open to white settlers and only during the second half of the 19th century, unless someone was a direct relative of a person already interred. Because of this, all of the known veterans are from the Seminole Wars and the Civil War. Many veterans who served in other wars or military conflicts throughout American history, such as the Spanish American War or World War I, would likely not be buried in there, but in another cemetery.
Major General James G. Cooper, courtesy of Pelot Family Genealogy
Colonel John Cooper Pelot, courtesy of Pelot Family Genealogy
Private Josiah Gates, ca. 1865-1870, courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections
Private Ezekiel Glazier, ca. 1880-1890, courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections
1st & 4th Florida Consolidated Flag Recreation
1st Florida Special Cavalry Battalion (Cow Cavalry) Flag
7th Florida Flag Recreation
Lieutenant John W. Harllee with sons, ca. 1890, courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections
Dr. John Crews Pelot, ca. 1871-1881, courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections
1st Maine Cavalry Flag, courtesy of Maine State Museum
Private Enos E. Johnson, courtesy of Pelot Family Genealogy
Brigadier General John Riggin, ca. 1865-1870