Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17, 1862 - Capture of the blockade runner Emma off Jupiter Inlet

USS Connecticut during the Civil War
Under Commander M. Woodhull, the USS Connecticut was steaming 24 miles southeast of Jupiter Inlet and about 12 miles off the Florida coast on the afternoon of Friday, January 17, 1862, when a suspicious sail was spotted about five miles away. The warship began to pursue the mysterious vessel and came alongside her in just 20 minutes.
Built in 1861 in New York as a civilian vessel named Mississippi, the side-wheel steamer had been purchased by the Union Navy that summer and was commissioned on August 23, 1861, as the USS Connecticut. She mounted five guns and was capable of 10 knots.

The mystery vessel spotted off Jupiter inlet proved to be the schooner Emma. As the Connecticut came alongside the crew of the schooner raised an English flag. And when hailed the Emma’s captain said his vessel was English and that she was bound for St. John in New Brunswick, Canada.

1862 drawing of Jupiter Inlet and Lighthouse
Despite the fact that the Emma was flying English colors and had announced herself as the vessel of a neutral nation, Woodhull ordered her boarded. All of the men on board the schooner were found to be “Americans of Southern birth or proclivity.” As a result, the warship declared her a prize and placed on board a prize master and crew. The Emma was taken to Key West where she was turned over to U.S. officials there.

Papers found on board the Emma showed that she had run the blockade off Apalachicola in December of 1861 with a cargo of tar, turpentine and other naval stores that was sold at Havana, Cuba. This cargo was replaced with one of oranges, bananas, tourniquets, soap, spool cotton, shoe thread and other items that the Federals recognized would be of value to people in the Confederacy. The investigation also found that the store of provisions on board the Emma was insufficient for a long voyage and concluded that the vessel most likely had been planning another run through the blockade.

Apalachicola Bay as it appears today
Among the prisoners taken on board the Emma were a number of individuals from Florida. These included B. Ellison, a merchant from Apalachicola; an unnamed cook who said he was a servant to Ellison, and the schooner’s captain, who was identified only by his last name of Marks.

The capture of the Emma showed that despite the imposition of a blockade of Apalachicola Bay the previous summer, Southern vessels were still making successful runs in and out of that port. They would continue to do so throughout the year 1862.

You can read more about Apalachicola, the city from which the Emma had sailed, by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/apalachicola.

No comments: