|Blockade Runner Florida|
Having run the blockade out of New Orleans with a cargo of cotton, the Florida returned in March of 1862 carrying 2,500 small arms and 60,000 pounds of gunpowder. Coming in at night, she slipped past the blockade ships off St. Andrew Bay and came to anchor at the small port near the mouth of Bear Creek.
The war supplies were unloaded and moved inland to Marianna as quickly as possible and the ship began taking on a cargo of cotton, barrels of rosin and other items for the trip back through the tightening Union web offshore.
|St. Joseph Bay, Station of the USS Roebuck|
A boat party headed by Acting Master Elnathen Lewis left the Roebuck on April 4, 1862, and began the long row for St. Andrew Bay. The seamen camped on the beach that night and then captured the schooner Lafayette in Crooked Island Sound the next day. The Federals rowed quietly past "St. Andrew's Town" at 4 p.m. and made their way into North Bay, where the Florida was anchored, after nightfall. They came within sight of the picket guard standing watch over the steamer early on the morning of April 6th:
|St. Andrew Bay|
The "Mr. Harrison" mentioned in the report was the captain of the schooner Lafayette, captured on the morning of the 5th in Crooked Island Sound (today's St. Andrews Sound). He proved to be a Unionist and had offered to guide the armed force into St. Andrew Bay and past the pickets posted to guard the Florida.
Unlike the crews of many such vessels captured by the U.S. Navy during the war, the crew of the Florida did try to resist when they were surprised during the predawn hours of April 6, 1862:
...We were then hailed by the watch, who gave the alarm. We then boarded her in both boats, on both sides. We met with but little resistance, they being taken completely by surprise. On gaining the deck of the steamer I received a pistol shot in the forehead. - Elnathen Lewis, Acting Master, U.S. Navy, April 10, 1862.
|St. Andrew Bay|
The Federals, with help from a few of the crew of the Florida, immediately set to work raising steam in the boilers. At 11 a.m. the ship got underway and started steaming slowly down the bay. After going only five miles, however, she ran aground on an oyster bank. She remained stuck there through the afternoon and coming night.
The delay in escaping from the bay caused by the grounding incident gave Confederate forces in the area time to respond to the capture of the vessel. A courier rode as fast as possible to Marianna where authorities were alerted to the raid. Captain Walter J. Robinson was then commanding an independent cavalry company stationed at Blue Springs, just east of the city in Jackson County. He immediately ordered his men to break camp and started a ride for St. Andrew Bay.
I will have more on the collision between the two forces in the next post, so be sure to check back!
To read more about Civil War activity in Florida until the next post, be sure to visit our main page at http://civilwarflorida.blogspot.com.