Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January 11, 1862 - The U.S.S. Florida reaches Key West

Commander J.R. Goldsborough, U.S.N.
It is unique to note that there were actually three ships (at least) bearing the name Florida active in the Gulf of Mexico during the month of January 1862. The famed Confederate warship, C.S.S. Florida, was in the Mobile area.  The Southern blockade runner, Florida, was in New Orleans, but would soon slip out to sea. And the Union warship, U.S.S. Florida, reached Key West on January 11, 1862 (150 years ago today).
 The Union vesssel had been sent to the Gulf of Mexico on an urgent mission to capture the blockade runner Gladiator, a vessel that was expected to slip a cargo of arms and munitions into port somewhere along the Gulf Coast.  Commander J.R. Goldsborough was ordered to call at Key West to confer with officers there about his mission. He took advantage of the opportunity to dispatch a report to his commanding officer:

     ...I obtained some valuable and useful information that leads me to think the Gladiator may attempt to land or transship her cargo to the Cedar Keys.
     The Florida's draft will not permit me to approach the keys as near as I could desire, and would be pleased if you can spare a vessel of light draft to assist in this important duty.
     The battery on Sea Horse Key, one of the group, has been nearly if not entirely abandoned, and the railroad bridge could, with a small force, be easily destroyed, which would prevent the further trans-shipment of articles on this end of the line.  - Commander J.R. Goldsborough, U.S.S. Florida, January 11, 1862.

Goldsboroguh did not know it, but the U.S.S. Hatteras of the Gulf Blockading Squadron already had received orders to carry out the mission of destroying the battery and other facilities at Cedar Key. Both ships steamed for the Florida port over the next few days, with the Hatteras arriving first.

I'll have more on that attack by the Hatteras on Cedar Key in coming days.

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