Bygone Jax: Our Unsung History

Brendan Rivers, Tammy Cherry, Jennifer Grey

The city of Jacksonville turned 200 in 2022, but how much do Jaxsons really know about their city’s history? Bygone Jax: Our Unsung History, a podcast from WJCT Public Media, highlights some of the lesser known or little explored stories from the River City’s past.In our first episodes, we’ll take listeners back to March of 1863, when two regiments of Black Union soldiers were sent to Jacksonville to occupy the city for the third time during the Civil War. Their mission: pester Confederate troops in the area, free enslaved people along the St. Johns River and enlist as many Black men as possible. Despite their successful occupation of Jacksonville, the Union soldiers were ordered to withdraw after just three weeks.During that short span of time, media coverage of what transpired in Jacksonville helped turn the tide of public opinion on Black troops serving in the army. Seeing this as a chance to tip the scales in the Union’s favor, President Abraham Lincoln’s administration decided to move forward with the full-scale enlistment of Black troops.When those troops first made their way up the St. Johns River in March of 1863, they were two of just a handful of Black regiments serving in the Union Army. By the war’s end in 1865, nearly 180,000 Black men were wearing or had worn Yankee blue. Some historians believe the Union wouldn’t have won the war if it weren’t for this influx of manpower.This is just one of the stories from Jacksonville’s rich history that has escaped our collective memory over the years. In Bygone Jax: Our Unsung History, we aim to bring those stories back into the light with compelling sound-rich storytelling, a diversity of primary sources, and historical context from subject matter experts. Research for this podcast comes from Florida State College at Jacksonville, which launched a new History of Jacksonville course in fall of 2022.

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