The Southern District of Florida was created as part of the Territorial court system in Florida in 1828. When Florida became a state in 1845, the entire state was considered one Federal judicial district. Court continued to be held in Key West, even after the creation of the southern district in 1847.
An admiralty court is concerned with prize, ransom, salvage cases, ownership, maritime contracts and torts. Maritime contracts relate to charter, passenger transportation, baggage, loading and unloading, salvage, seaman’s wages and the care of injured seamen. Maritime torts relate to collisions, loss or damage of cargo, and claims of personal injury.
The southern district court, unlike other district courts, was open year-round. It was the major prize court during the Civil War. Prize cases for 1861-1865 appear in Volumes 6, 7, 8, and 9. Those from the Spanish-American War appear in Volumes 16 and 17.
More information is provided by NARA in a PDF descriptive pamphlet for this series: M1360.