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The Civil War

West Seminary Cadets c1870

When Florida seceded from the Union in 1861, the directors of the West Florida Seminary changed the name of the institution to the Florida Collegiate and Military Institute to reflect the addition of military instruction. They reasoned that this action would increase the chances of the school remaining open during the war years. It was extremely difficult to hire or retain qualified male teachers during these years, as most able-bodied men were actively engaged in fighting Yankees. Though scarcity of both faculty and resources seriously affected the progress of the institution, it did open its doors each fall, unlike many other schools of the day.

As the Florida Collegiate and Military Institute, the school trained cadets who also attended the usual classes. In a stroke of rare good luck, the school hired for a short while Captain Valentine Mason Johnson, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. On March 6, 1865, while under the command of Captain Bannister, cadets from the Florida Collegiate & Military Institute were called upon to defend Tallahassee at the Battle of Natural Bridge 13 miles south of the city. Their presence helped prevent Union soldiers from capturing Florida's capital city. Tallahassee became the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi not captured by Union forces. Because of the bravery displayed by the cadets of the military institute, the Florida State University Army ROTC cadet corps displays a battle streamer bearing the words NATURAL BRIDGE 1865 with its flag. The FSU Army ROTC is one of only two collegiate military units in the United States with permission to display such a pennant.


  • Edwards, Steve, Ph.D. Dean of Faculties. "History of Florida State University," Tallahassee, Florida, January 15, 1996.
  • Sellers, Robin, Ph.D. Femina Perfecta: The Genisis of Florida State University, Tallahasse: The Florida State University Foundation, 1995.

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