The Lake City Outrage of 1873

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Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
I'm reading the colorfully titled Frolicking Bears, Wet Vultures, and other Oddities: A New York City Journalist in Nineteenth-Century Florida by Jerald T. Milanich & Amos J. Cummings (University Press of Florida, 2005). Cummings was a New York City journalist, Democrat, and Civil War veteran (26th NJ Infantry) who wintered in various parts of Florida in the 1870s and 1880s. He often wrote home for his paper, the New York Sun, usually under the pen name "Ziska." Milanich compiled, edited, and annotated Cummings' articles about Florida into a book.

While most of these are the usual "Northern visitor remarks on the places he goes in wild Florida and the wacky people he encounters (and many animals he hunts, fishes, or shoots)" there are three articles involving some investigative journalism about an incident in Lake City, seat of Columbia County, west of Jacksonville and north of Gainesville. As an alternative to getting a copy of the book, if you have access to a newspaper database with the New York Sun, the three articles appear on three consecutive days - March 17-19, 1873 - all under the headline "The Trouble In Florida."

The Lake City Incident involves the nighttime shooting up of several homes in Lake City as part of a local political dispute between two factions of the Republican Party during the early months of the administration of Gov. Ossian Hart. I wont try to quote the text here as it's pretty extensive (pages 57-95 of the book, including editorial comments, plus the endnote annotations). Specie fraud, embezzlement of county tax revenue, and spoils system appointments are at the center of the dispute with both sides pointing fingers at the other. There is an emphasis on the corruption, lawlessness, and ease in which men can be hired to "assassinate" enemies. In addition to the scalawags and carpetbaggers (terms which I think the articles may not have actually used), several of the scalawag Republicans involved were believed to be ex-KKK. The incident is addressed in at least two works on Reconstruction Era Florida: Jerrel Shofner's Nor Is It Over Yet: Florida In The Era Of Reconstruction (1974) and Canter Brown's biography of Ossian Bingley Hart (1997).

Having read through the three articles, I'm not sure what to make of the situation. It doesn't help that Cummings comes off as very politically biased. Nevertheless, these articles seem like an important source so I wanted to bring attention to them.
 
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