Conch Republic, Waiting for Dennis

By Demosophist

I haven't been able to interest Pat at The State of Jefferson in a little geography/history quiz, inspired by the history that inspired his blog name. So rather than exercise any further restraint, I'm spilling the beans. Here was the question:

One area of the country managed to initiate a "successful" secession movement, not in the sense that the secession stuck, but in the sense that the movement achieved its objectives. The place also happens to be the only area of the "deep South" that fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War.

For fun and valuable prizes can you name the place, time and circumstances of the secession movement? (Hint: Check the title of this post.)

Yes it's the Florida Keys. During the Civil War the Union maintained a naval base and fort there (Fort Taylor), intended to service the Union Fleet and help maintain the blockade of Southern ports. 120 years later, in 1982, during the Mariel Boat Lift, the Feds returned the favor by setting up a roadblock on Highway 1, which was the only land route to and from Key West, and citizens of the Keys reacted by staging a brief secession movement. They named their new country the Conch Republic.

One minute after declaring secession the Prime Minister of the Conch Republic surrendered to the Union Forces at the Naval Base, a drama of such satirical pith that it broke the back of the Union blockade, which immediately dispersed.

Some of my family now resides in Key West, although fortunately about half of them are in Seattle for the summer, visiting other family. (Except for myself, the family tends to live at the extreme ends of the cross-national backslash.) But my neice and her daughter, as well as a few family friends, are still waisting away in Margaritaville. Dennis, meanwhile, seethes menacingly from the south.

The fact is, although the Keys are right in the heart of Hurricane Alley, Key West is rarely in danger. Due to the prevailing winds and currents most hurricanes are deflected away from the Keys, and there's almost never a direct hit on Key West. But we're watching the situation with some anxiety, and I don't know yet whether Brooke and Kamaya, and friends, intend to "bug out." If it were me though, I'd be long gone. Every once in awhile those deflecting forces don't work their magic, and Key West suffers a full scale assault and battery.


Posted by: Demosophist at 04:30 PM


1 Don't underestimate the real Conchs. I lived in Key West for ten years. My children were born there. Been through many storms that did more damage than hurricanes. They know what they're doing. They'll leave if necessary.

The only ones to worry about are the tourists or recent transplants who decide to leave too late and get caught in traffic on US1. They're the ones who don't take the threat seriously enough.

I'll be down there in about two weeks. Gotta get my share of fish, crawfish and rum & cokes.

Posted by: Oyster at July 08, 2005 08:59 PM

2 Oh, and I should have read the rest of the post. The secession took place on April 23rd 1982. I was there. The official Conch Republic weapon is a stale loaf of Cuban bread. Good ole Jimmah Carter was an absolute piece of shit throughout the whole Mariel Boat lift in 1980. Anything you want to know about the whole ordeal, I can tell you. I won't make a giant post about it, but trust me, it was the biggest farce you could imagine. THAT'S when I first lost faith in the media.

Posted by: Oyster at July 08, 2005 09:05 PM

3 Oyster:

I'm not sure where I got the notion that the roadblock was motivated by the Mariel Boat Lift. I'm a little vague on that part of the lore, but my take was that the feds were attempting to stop undesirables from getting into the US by way of the Keys.

Of course, the Keys have changed a lot since then... mostly due to the Cruise business and development, but it's still a charming place. A little hedonistic, but not in a terribly bad way. It's sure not the anti-American cesspool that San Francisco has become.

Posted by: Demosophist at July 08, 2005 09:48 PM

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