John Jackson Dickison was born on March 17, 1816 in Virginia. His father wanted him to become a soldier, but the boy proved to be prone to sickness growing up. By the time he turned 16, his father was forced to send him to live with relatives in South Carolina in the hopes that the climate there would improve his health.
He continued to live and work in South Carolina, serving in the militia there until 1856 when he purchased a plantation in Marion County, Florida. He began the Civil War as a lieutenant in the Marion Light Artillery, but early in 1862 he received permission to form his own company of cavalry. This unit became Company H of the 2nd Florida Cavalry and Dickison was promoted to captain.
He would lead his men on several daring raids throughout the war, but his more famous actions came in 1864. His took fifty men and captured the Federal steamer called "Columbine" without the loss of a single soldier. A few days later at Palatka, Florida, he took thirty men and forced a 280 man Federal detachment to retreat six miles. The Federals lost 72 men in this action while Dickison reported the loss of only two men. One of the losses was his son Charles Dickison who was killed.
Later in the year, he would take a couple hundred men to Jacksonville, Florida and route 380 Federal cavalrymen, capturing 150 prisoners, killing 30 while only losing 6 men of his own. Because of these actions he would earn two nicknames, "Swamp Fox" and "The Forrest of Florida".
As the war came to a close, John Dickison surrendered to Federal authorities as a captain. His commission to colonel reached him after the surrender. Today, he is remembered as Colonel Dickison, although he never held that rank during the war.
He died on August 23, 1902 in Ocala, Florida and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville, Florida.