|Waterfront at Cedar Key, Florida|
Actually a collection of small keys or islands nestled in the curve of Florida's Gulf Coast, the Cedar Keys gained their name from the large numbers of cedar trees that grew in the area. An important military depot of the Second Seminole War, the islands became an important export point for shipments of cedar slats, lumber and naval stores during the antebellum era. The Cedar Key Light, on Seahorse Key, began operating in 1854, helping schooners, sloops and steamboats navigate the the banks and shallow waters surrounding the port.
|Island Hotel, built in 1859|
The first trains reached Way Key in March of 1861, after the secession of Florida but before Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. By that time a significant population had settled on the islands and a number of prominent buildings, including what is now the Island Hotel had been built there.
|Cannon thought to have been used on Seahorse Key|
Located at Cedar Key Museum Historic State Park
Despite the establishment of the Union blockade of the Florida coastline during the summer of 1861, Cedar Key had remained an important shipping point for Confederate blockade runners and January 15, 1862, found five schooners in port there. These were the Aucilla, Stag, Anna Smith, Wyfe and Fanny, all either loaded or in the process of being loaded with cotton, turpentine products and lumber for planned efforts to run the blockade. Three fishing smacks were also in port. An eyewitness described the place as "a small town with about thirty houses, and probably one hundred inhabitants."
|Marker for Yulee's Florida Railroad on Cedar Key Waterfront|
The cannon on Seahorse Key were considered so obsolete that they were simply abandoned where they sat, although a detachment of fewer than two dozen soldiers did remain on Atsena Otie Key with a single 6-pounder field piece. They were not really there to defend against Union attack, but rather to serve as something of a police force for the protection of the civilian residents of the islands.
They were not aware that two Federal warships, the U.S.S. Hatteras and the U.S.S. Florida, were closing in from Apalachicola and Key West, respectively. They would attack the following day.
I will have more on the Union attack on Cedar Key tomorrow, but until then you can learn more about the beautiful island town by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/cedarkey.