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April 2022 Program - Diane Swearingen

posted Mar 30, 2022, 10:29 AM by Gayla Kittendorf   [ updated Mar 31, 2022, 9:39 AM ]
Book cover: shows trees, swamp, images of Thomas Swearingen and others
The Wakulla County Historical Society invites you to attend our monthly historical program on Tuesday, April 12 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wakulla County Public Library, 4330 Crawfordville Hwy.  The featured speaker will be author Diane Swearingen.  Her book is based on the diary of Thomas Swearingen.  

The Smallest Tadpole’s War in the Land of Mysterious Waters is based on a true story, a family story.  It follows the life of Thomas Franklin Swearingen and is part of the Florida Special Collection at the State Library of Florida, the University of Florida, Florida State University and Gulf Coast State College. 

Thomas came to Wakulla County in 1852.  Florida was a pioneer state in the 1800’s.  The majority of the white population was relatively poor and rural.  Thomas purchased land just north of Crawfordville, he followed his family profession as a farmer and operated a cotton gin.  He married a widow and adopted her children as his own.  For the next ten years, Thomas and his family farmed the land and fished the Gulf waters and the many rivers that crisscross the county.  The heat, insects and storms from the Gulf made life difficult; family, friends and neighbors made it a good life. 

Everything would change dramatically with the talk of war.  There is a quote that reflects the changes, it takes place after a wedding. 

“I searched the night sky and I made a wish.  I wished we could always be as happy as we were that day, but I didn’t get my wish.  Maybe I jinxed us, wanting it so badly, or maybe so many forces were already in motion that even the brightest stars couldn’t change our destiny.” 

Lieutenant Thomas Swearingen joined the Wakulla Guards in Newport on May 17, 1861.  They become part of the 3rd Florida Infantry.  Thomas was wounded in May of 1962 and return to Crawfordville to recover.  He later reported to duty as a member of the Capitol Guard, the 5th Florida Cavalry.  We are able to follow the war from the letters home and the news that trickled down to rural Florida, following battle after battle, including Gettysburg. 

While the book follows Thomas’s life and the war news, the lives of those left behind are compelling.  The women and children left without a man in a dangerous environment.   Blockade runners that tracked the Union vessels taking advantage of the many rivers, bays and inlets to transport salt, and other products needed for an army on the move.  And finally, the local battles to protect Florida’s Capitol. 

Thomas’ time as a Capitol guard gave him an introduction to Florida politics.  After the war, he would serve Wakulla County as a Representative and as a Senator.  He was a framer of the 1885 Florida Constitution and retired as President Pro tem of the Florida Senate, elected unanimously. 

The descriptions of 1800’s Florida come mostly from Wakulla and Jefferson County, with the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge offering the most untouched, rich accounts.  Each is worth the read! 

The public is invited to attend and there is no cost.  For more information, call the Historical Society at 850-926-1110.  

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