Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 18, 1862 - Union sailors examine Fort Mallory on St. Vincent Island

St. Vincent Island, Florida
On January 18, 1862 (150 years ago today,) a boat party from the U.S. Gunboat Sagamore chased a 40 ton sloop back into the city of Apalachicola.

The vessel, armed with a 6-pounder cannon, had been seen lying at anchor at the inner anchorage of Apalachicola Bay. There is no indication of firing between the two parties, but the sloop did withdraw to the waterfront of the city itself.

USS Sagamore
On the same afternoon, however, the Sagamore made a more significant discovery. Noticing a lack of activity on St. Vincent Island, where the Confederates had built Fort Mallory to protect Apalachicola Bay, Lieutenant A.J. Drake ordered a larger boat party to find out what was going on:

In the afternoon I sent boats to reconnoiter the island of St. Vincent and found that the platforms of the late battery had been destroyed, with evident marks of a hasty retreat. Found a few cattle, sheep, horses, and chickens about a house standing on the point at West Pass. Found the barracks and buildings mostly destroyed. - Lt. A.J. Drake, U.S. Navy, January 18, 1862.

View of St. Vincent Island across Indian Pass
The battery on St. Vincent Island bore the name Fort Mallory, after Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory. A former U.S. Senator from Florida, he was the state's most influential member of the Cabinet of President Jefferson Davis.

The problem, however, was that while the guns of the fort could control West Pass (the channel between St. George and St. Vincent), it was poorly positioned to provide much actual protection to Apalachicola itself. By using East Pass, the U.S. Navy could easily bypass it with shallow draft vessels.

The fort was an earthwork built of sand with timber backing and mounted six 32-pounder cannon. After general agreement was reached that the position was too isolated to be effective, the Confederate military removed the guns to Apalachicola itself and began building fortifications there. Fort Mallory was abandoned, as was discovered by the Union navy 150 years ago today.

To learn more about historic Apalachicola, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/apalachicola.

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