Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28, 1862 - The Federal Fleet sails for Fernandina

USS Wabash at Port Royal
It was on February 28, 1862, 150 years ago today, that the Union Navy began its move to close Florida's Atlantic ports to the use of the Confederacy.

The first target was Fernandina, an important town on Amelia Island in the very northeastern corner of the state. Commodore S.F. Dupont put together such a large fleet for the expedition that he left very little to chance:

...I sailed from Port Royal on the last day of February, in the Wabash.... The fleet comprised the following vessels, sailing int he order in which they are named: Ottaway, Mohican, accompanied by the Ellen, Seminole, Pawnee, Pocahontas, Flag, Florida, James Adger, Bienville, Alabama, Keystone State, Seneca, Huron, Pembina, Isaac Smith, Penguin, Polomska, the armed cutter Henrietta, the armed transport McClellan, the latter having on board the battalion of marines, under the command of Major REYNOLDS, and the transports Empire City, Marion, Star of the South, Belvidere, Boston, and George's Creek, containing a brigade under the command of Brig. -Gen. WRIGHT. - Commodore S.F. Dupont, Commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, March 4, 1862.

Civil War drawing of Fernandina
Dupont had the added advantage of the presence on his ships of W.H. Dennie, an assistant in the Coast Survey who had prepared the actual topographical map of the Amelia Island area for the U.S. Government.

Also accompanying the expedition was a correspondent of The New York Times. He described the departure of the ships from Port Royal in South Carolina in a letter dated Fernandina on March 5, 1862 and published in the newspaper ten days later:

..The transports, each one towing a schooner carrying camp equipage and Quartermaster's stores, were piloted over the bar by Capt. PHILLIPS, of the Marion, and in one hour we were in the midst of a cluster of lights which indicated a large fleet. - Unidentified Correspondent, The New York Times, March 15, 1862.

I will continue to post on the 150th anniversary of the expedition to Fernandina over coming days, so be sure to check back often!

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