Chapter 37: operations of the East Gulf Squadron to October, 1863.
- Acting-Rear-Admiral Bailey appointed to command east Gulf Squadron.
-- vessels captured or destroyed.
-- places of safety.
-- destruction of Confederate salt works a necessity.
-- attempt to “cut” out schooner in mosquito inlet.
-- expedition up Indian River and other points.
-- capture of schooner and sloop.
-- Lieutenant-Commander English in gun-boat Sagamore explores coast.
-- value of property seized.
-- violation of blockade.
-- the sloop Helen burnt.
-- brisk engagement with Confederate batteries.
-- destruction of schooner.
-- River expeditions under Lieutenant-Commander McCauley.
-- disastrous reconnaissance at St. Andrew's Bay.
-- Flag of truce used as decoy by the natives.
-- the Tahoma shells a town.
-- boat's crew from bark Amanda cut out schooner “forward.”
-- loss of prize.
-- heroic conduct of Master Hoffner and men.
-- tribute to gallant volunteers.
-- destruction of important salt works by boat's crew from steamer Somerset.
-- Tahoma and Adela shell Confederate batteries.
-- destruction of two blockade-running steamers in Hillsboro River.
-- blockade-running broken up.
-- list of vessels composing east Gulf Squadron under Acting-Rear-Admiral Bailey.
-- list of officers.
Acting Rear-Admiral Theodorus Bailey
was appointed to the command of the East Gulf squadron on the 4th of June, 1862.
The Navy Department had found an opportunity to reward this gallant officer for his services at New Orleans, and although no important military or naval movements were going on within the limits of this command, it was the only way in which the Secretary
of tile Navy could show his high appreciation of Bailey
's gallantry and devotion to his country's service.
The limits of this command extended along the Florida Peninsula
from Cape Canaveral
on the east, to Pensacola
on the west.
Up to December, 1863, the little squadron under Bailey
had exercised the greatest watchfulness along the coast, had captured many prizes, and had apparently broken up the illicit traffic by which the Confederates
had been supplied with munitions of war. Lying adjacent to Cuba
, and at no great distance from the English
possessions of Nassau
, the coast of Florida
presented many available points for the introduction of all kinds of material by means of small vessels that could enter the shallow harbors, streams and inlets with which this State abounds.
But notwithstanding the advantages these small craft possessed for eluding the blockaders, they could not carry on their trade with impunity.
From the time that Bailey
took command, up to the end of the year, more than 100 vessels were captured or destroyed by the squadron.
From Cape Canaveral
, all along the eastern shore of Florida
to Cape Sable
, are numerous passages and inlets where vessels could with safety land their cargoes of arms or provisions in a night and be out of sight of the blockaders when daylight came.
Following the coast up to the northward were the Ten Thousand Islands
, Charlotte Harbor
, Tampa Bay
, Crystal River
, Suwanee River
, Appalache Bay, St.
George's Bay, Appalachicola
, St. Andrew's Bay
, and a thousand other places of refuge too numerous to mention.
Arms and munitions of war of all kinds could have been landed but for the watchfulness of the naval vessels.
, with its inaccessible and tortuous channels, and numerous islands surrounded by impenetrable swamps, was just the place to tempt smugglers, they being led there by the quantity of game and the romantic scenery, and a delicious climate that harbored no diseases and rendered the shelter of houses unnecessary.
It was a hard place to find smugglers, and the Federal
sailors had great difficulty in breaking up the traffic; but it was done in spite of all obstacles, and no more disagreeable and at times dangerous duty was performed anywhere.
(especially the west coast) was one of the great depots where the Confederates
made their salt.
This was an article without which they could not exist, and it could only be made in certain localities near salt water.
It may have been noticed in the naval reports of the war that certain vessels were mentioned as having destroyed salt works, and persons may have exclaimed, “Why distress the poor by destroying their salt works?
What good can it do to destroy salt?”
It was the life of the Confederate army which they were destroying.
They could not pack their meats without it. A soldier with a small piece of boiled beef, six ounces of corn-meal
and four ounces of salt, was provisioned for a three days march.
And though we might have pitied the Confederate army in the straits to which it was often reduced, yet the Federal
officers, by way of shortening the war, did all they could to destroy salt works wherever they found them.
This distressed the soldiers more than the loss of blockade-runners, for although these vessels generally brought plenty of guns and powder, their owners were rarely thoughtful enough to lay in a supply of salt.
The history of these saltdestroying expeditions may appear tame, but they are part of the history of the war, and if possible a place must be found for them.
Early in the year 1863, Acting-Master J. A. Pennell
reports the destruction of large salt works near St. Joseph
He commanded the bark “Ethan Allen” (a sailing vessel), and, on the morning of the 9th of January, got underway and stood up St. Joseph's Bay
He anchored at daylight abreast of where he supposed the salt works to be, and sent three armed boats (in charge of Acting-Master A. Weston
, his executive officer), with forty men, to destroy them.
The men in charge of the works fled when the boats landed, and everything was set on fire and destroyed.
This establishment could make 75 bushels of salt daily, and it was the fourth of the kind that Master Pennell had destroyed within a short time.
At the same rate of doing work, these four manufactories could have turned out for the Confederate army 110,000 bushels of salt in a year.
(The Confederates had their agents in every State where salt could be made, and in those days the wants of the Army were first considered.)
Sometimes the boats of the squadron would have something more interesting to report than the capture of a salt crop.
Late in February, Lieutenant-Commander Earl English
, in command of the gun-boat Sagamore
, received information that a schooner was in Mosquito Inlet, Florida, loading up with cotton, the captain being of the opinion that there was no blockading vessel in the vicinity.
English proceeded to that point at once, arriving there on the 28th, when the schooner was discovered inside.
An expedition was organized to cut her out or burn her.
It was placed under the command of Acting-Master
's Mate J. A. Slamm
, a very young officer, but one who was full of zeal.
He took the ship's launch, with Third-Assistant Engineer F. G. Coggin
, thirteen men and a howitzer; the first cutter in charge of Acting-Master
's Mate Frank E. Ford
with seven men; the second cutter in charge of Acting-Master
's Mate C. R. Fleming
with eleven men, and the gig in charge of Acting-Master
's Mate George B. Sidell
, five men; in all, forty-one officers and men.
The boats proceeded up the river and sighted the schooner without meeting any resistance, when suddenly she was set on fire by a party that ran on board of her. The cutters were then ordered to board, extinguish the fire and bring the schooner out, while the launch shelled the banks and bushes with her howitzer.
While boarding, the sailors were fired upon by a party of twenty-five men concealed in the bushes behind the embankment.
Finding that the schooner was hard and fast on the bottom, and that it was impossible to extinguish the fire, the young officer, having accomplished the object of the expedition, determined to return to his vessel.
Unfortunately, while in the act of boarding, Hugh Maguire
, a seaman, was shot dead, and most of the crew of the first cutter were wounded.
's Mate Ford
, of the first cutter, though wounded himself, shot one of the enemy who was in the act of firing upon the boarding party.
While the boats were returning, the enemy
continued to fire upon them, but a heavy return fire of musketry and shrapnel was kept up by the men, and some punishment was, no doubt, inflicted.
The schooner was of 150 tons burden, all ready to sail, but instead was given to the flames by the advent of this brave little party, which lost one killed and five wounded. So it will be seen that this affair, which lasted only twenty minutes, was gallantly managed and was not without danger.
On March 4th Acting-Master
's Mate Henry A. Crane
reports the results of an expedition up Indian River
, under the instructions of Lieutenant-Commander Earl English
On the morning of February 23d, he started in a boat and reached a cove five miles above the mouth of St. Sebastian River
, and at 2 o'clock P. M. discovered a schooner
Lieutenant-Commander (now Rear-Admiral) Earl English.|
bearing down, apparently filled with men. From their number and appearance it was supposed that they were Confederates prepared to act on the offensive.
's boat was so disguised as to look like a boat from a merchantman, so that the Confederates
passed him unsuspiciously and went on down the river.
He allowed the schooner to get well ahead and then followed in her wake, until night came on and she got into shoal water.
While her crew were employed in getting her over the bar, the Union boat dashed alongside and captured her. There were twelve men on board, who no doubt would have made a good fight if they had not been taken by surprise.
Ordering the schooner's sails hoisted, Mr. Crane
started down the river, when he discovered a sloop ahead, which he determined to run into and capture, but was informed by one of his prisoners that she had no crew and was full of cotton.
He placed two men in her, thus reducing his party to five, and ran down for the inlet (some eighteen miles), reaching there on the morning of the 27th, having been seventy-two hours on the expedition with no sleep and very little food.
He took his prizes off to the Gem of the Sea
, where he obtained assistance to secure his prisoners and take care of his vessels.
This was a small party, but of inflexible firmness, to which they were indebted for securing two vessels that netted them a nice little sum in prize-money.
Even so small an affair, when well executed, is more creditable than a great one poorly managed.
The only way of reaching the Confederates
up the crooked and shallow streams in Florida
was by boat expeditions, and Rear-Admiral Bailey
kept his officers and men well employed, giving all those who deserved it an opportunity to distinguish themselves.
On March 24th, 1863, he directed Lieutenant-Commander Earl English
to proceed to Cedar Keys
with the gunboat Sagamore
, taking with him two armed launches from the flag-ship St. Lawrence
, under the immediate command of Acting-Lieutenant E. Y. McCauley
, for the purpose of scouring the coast between the Suwanee River
and the Anclote Keys
, where it was reported a number of small craft were engaged in violating the blockade.
There was no end to this kind of traffic wherever there was a slip of land to haul a boat upon, or a shallow stream where a schooner could scrape her keel over the sandbar and proceed inland.
When one considers that this was going on all along 3,000 miles of coast, it will appear wonderful how, even with the force the Federals
had on hand, they were able to put a stop to the traffic which alone kept the Confederate armies in the field.
During the war, over $30,000,000 worth of this kind of property was seized and turned into the Treasury — not a tithe of its value, for a large portion of it went into the possession of land-sharks, who rarely gave a fair account of the money which passed through their hands.
But when the big holes and the small leaks on the blockade were all closed up, the tale was told at Appomattox
, where General Grant
had to serve out rations to Lee
's soldiers and give them enough to enable them to reach their homes.
A launch and cutter from the Sagamore
and others from the Fort Henry
, including an ambulance boat, were added to this expedition and the whole force proceeded direct to Bayport
, while the Sagamore
remained in the offing to prevent the escape of Confederate vessels.
Great difficulties attended this expedition, as the weather was very unfavorable, but the main object was handsomely carried out.
The sloop Helen
, of Crystal River
,loaded with corn, was burnt, and the boats pushed on for a large schooner on the inside, loaded with cotton and said to contain three hundred bales.
As they pulled for the schooner the boats were opened upon by a battery of two guns on shore, and by quite a number of riflemen concealed in the woods.
A brisk engagement of half an hour ensued and the bushwhackers were driven from their works and rifle-pits, with one killed and three wounded. Unfortunately, the howitzers in the launches were partly disabled, by their recoil, from rapid use, but they kept up such a fire, while they could, with shrapnel and
grape, that the enemy's fire was very wild, and went over the boats.
This little affair was conducted with coolness and judgment, and also with the right spirit.
When the Confederates
found that the boats could not be driven off, they set fire to the schooner.
The engagement was still continued from the boats until there was no chance of extinguishing the flames, and it is quite probable the Confederates
were delighted to think the attacking party would secure no prize.
The object of the expedition having been effected, the party in the boats returned, after seeing the vessel and cargo totally consumed.
This boat expedition then proceeded to the Chassahowitzka, thence to Crystal River
, the Homosassa
, the Withlacoochee
and the Wakassa
— beautiful Indian names, that signified anything rather than the lawless scenes that were carried on in their waters.
The expedition had, however, been so delayed by head-winds and currents, and by the sluggishness of one of the launches, that they only made seventy-five miles in five days, so that the news of their coming preceded them, and, on the appearance of the boats, everything had been moved out of the way. This expedition was well managed by Lieutenant-Commander McCauley
An expedition fitted out on March 20th by Acting-Master John Sherrill
, commanding bark Roebuck
did not fare so well.
sent a launch up St. Andrew's Bay
on a reconnaissance; but, on the return of the boat, they were attacked by a party of fifty men, with rifles, one man killed and six severely wounded, including the officer in charge, Acting-Master Jas. Folger
Two brave seamen, Thomas Wylie
and James Kitchen, brought the boat off, all the rest being killed or wounded.
The fire from the bushwhackers was very severe, and most of the men shot were mortally wounded.
These were dangerous enemies to encounter.
They were not soldiers, but, more properly speaking, smugglers.
There was not a particle of loyalty in these parts and the only object of the inhabitants was gain.
They were fighting, not to preserve the independence of the South
, but to make rich harvests by smuggling and to set the laws at defiance.
This region at that time could boast of the worst and most reckless set of men in the South
, and they would have been just as willing to put to death a Confederate party as a Union one, if it should attempt to interfere with their vocation.
They had no military notions of honor, and would not respect a flag of truce if the bearer of it had anything on his person worth taking.
As a proof of this we relate the following incidents, which are officially reported:
On the 27th of March, as the bark Pursuit
was lying in Tampa Bay
, a smoke was discovered on the beach and three persons made their appearance with a white flag.
The commanding officer
, supposing them to be escaped contrabands, sent a boat in charge of Acting-Master H. K. Lapham
with a flag of truce flying.
On nearing the beach, two of the parties were seen to be clothed in women's apparel with their faces blackened and seemed to be overcome with joy at the idea of obtaining their freedom, exclaiming, “Thank God, Thank God, I am free!”
When the boat touched the beach the female apparel was thrown off, and it then became evident that these were white men disguised, and using a flag of truce to decoy
the boat on shore.
Immediately after, a hundred armed men rose from the bushes where they had been concealed, and demanded the surrender of the boat, which being refused, the enemy opened fire, wounding the officer in charge and three of the crew.
But the brave fellows who were left un wounded returned the fire and the attacking party took to the trees.
Some of the men in the boat kept up a rapid fire with their breech-loading guns, while the others pushed off the boat, and they finally got out of range.
As soon as the first volley was fired, the broadside of the Pursuit
was opened on the bushwhackers, and the shells bursting among them sent them scampering away.
Next day the gun-boat Tahoma
arrived, and her commander, having heard of the outrage committed, brought two vessels up and threw some shells into the town, which was called barbarous at the time, but it was the only way to prevent the indiscriminate slaughter that would have been inflicted on a boat's crew that attempted to land on any part of that coast unsupported by gunboats.
It is dreadful to think of the bitter feeling that sprang up among the lower classes of men against the flag which they once thought they honored; but the rough life led in that section of the country, the years spent in hunting the Indian
in dismal swamps and forest fastnesses, had produced a class of people far more barbarous than the Indians themselves — men without any sentiment but a love of plunder, who placed no more value on human life than on the life of a dog. Yet they were intrepid and defied all laws, human and divine, and the only way to touch their understanding was by the most severe retaliation.
On Friday, March 20th, an expedition left the United States
, for the purpose of proceeding to the Ocklockonnee River
, to cut out the schooner “Forward,” supposed to be loaded with cotton.
The expedition was under the charge of Acting-Master R. J. Hoffner
, and consisted of two boats and twenty-seven men, with a boat howitzer.
Great difficulty was encountered in finding the mouth of the river, and the boats constantly grounded on oyster beds, over which they had to be hauled in the night for fear of discovery, but at daylight the entrance of the river was found and the boats proceeded up. At 8 A. M., of the 23d, a dismasted schooner was discovered lying close to the starboard bank.
At the same time the expedition was discovered by some people on the schooner, who jumped into the small boat and made their escape, no doubt carrying news of its arrival.
The boats boarded the schooner and took possession, hove up the anchor and commenced towing her down the river, having two hours tide left.
They anchored when the tide was too low to proceed, got underway again at 5 o'clock in the morning, and by 8 o'clock were clear of the entrance to the river.
They steered for the bay channel, and again grounded when nearly over all the difficulties of the navigation.
Again the tide served and the vessel was got underway, but this time they followed the wrong channel and grounded again, and all their endeavors to get her afloat proved unavailing.
These brave fellows had worked for twenty-four hours with an energy unsurpassed, hoping to receive a large share of prize-money, but now they saw that all their work had been in vain, and prepared to set fire to the vessel.
The arms were all put in order in case they should be needed suddenly; the howitzer was loaded with canister and every preparation made to repel the attack which Mr. Hoffner
At about noon, a party of forty horsemen was discovered approaching at some distance.
They turned and appeared to be going off, but soon re-appeared with some squads of infantry (about 200 in all) jumping from tree to tree, and taking position to attack the sailors.
The boat howitzer was brought to bear upon the Confederates
, and fired with grape and canister, but without marked effect, as the enemy was protected by the trees.
At the same time ten sailors with muskets (behind such defences as they could throw up on board the vessel) kept up a continuous fire whenever anything could be seen to shoot at. Once a squad of twenty exposed themselves, and a shrapnel was exploded in their midst, and a number of them seemed to have been hurt.
A rapid fire was kept up on both sides, each party protecting themselves behind their barricades, until the tide began to run flood, and the boats floated.
Then Mr. Hoffner
determined to fire the vessel, as an attempt to save her would involve too great a loss of life.
The schooner was only two hundred yards from the shore, and directly under a galling fire from the enemy's rifles.
The howitzer was hoisted into the boat, while the enemy fired rapidly (though not accurately). and the boats were kept on the off-side until the sailors were able to shove off with safety.
In an hour and a half the tide was supposed to be high enough, and the boats' crews embarked and shoved off; but, with the weight of the crews, the boats grounded, and the enemy opened upon them again.
The sailors jumped overboard, and, taking hold of the boats, commenced dragging them over the bottom — slow work under a heavy fire.
, a seaman, was killed instantly, shot through the heart.
At the same moment, the officer in charge, Mr. Hoffner
, received a rifle-ball in the right side of the neck, passing around the back and lodging in the left side, deeply imbedded in the muscles.
Other men were struck at the same time, but only one of them so seriously that he could not work.
Every one was doing his best to get the boats over the bottom, or else firing at the pursuers, who were keeping up with them along the banks.
, the second officer, was conspicuous in setting an example of gallantry very much to be commended.
At length, after being nearly exhausted by the hard work, the sailors got their boats afloat in deep water, jumped in, and, giving the enemy a parting volley and a cheer, they sprang to their oars, and soon put themselves out of range.
The bushwhackers had kept themselves so well protected by the trees that they could be detected only by the flashes of their guns.
Under such circumstances and with so greatly a superior force, some officers would have felt themselves justified in surrendering to save the lives of their men. But there was not a word said about surrendering in this party.
The commanding officer
, Mr. Hoffner
, though dangerously wounded, stuck to his work like a hero and brought his boats off safely, with one man killed and six (besides himself) seriously wounded.
During this engagement, which lasted several hours, some heroic acts occurred, which would have done credit to any service, and the determination shown not to be captured proved the stuff the officers and men were made of. These gallant fellows abhorred the idea of letting their flag (which was kept flying in the boat all the time) fall into such an enemy's hands, for though the people, who performed the part of soldiers on shore, were at the farthest extreme of the Confederacy
, and not inspired by the exciting scenes which were daily taking place between the Federal
and Confederate forces, yet they were as bitter in their hostility to everything Union as if they had received some great injury at the hands of the Government
These people, no doubt, considered it an outrage for the Federal
naval forces to interfere with their smuggling articles contraband of war, but they never stopped to reflect that war could not be ended merely by the Navy sailing up and down the coast of Florida
and looking at them violating the laws.
Hence all this talk of the Confederates
about the inhuman treatment to these smugglers (for they were nothing more) is simply absurd.
War is not a pleasant pastime.
Its object is to bring about law and order, and the most stringent measures are those most likely to succeed.
There was no way of arresting this war but by sacrificing every object that would tend to keep it going on.
Let it be understood that most of these little expeditions, which were fitted out and did so well, were commanded and officered by those gallant volunteers from the merchant marine, who, sacrificing all their interests in commercial affairs, joined the Navy to devote life and all they held dear to the defence of their country's rights and honor.
They gave such a guarantee, by their matchless adaptation to the rules and
regulations of the Navy, of their ability to learn the science of war from officers edu cated for the naval service, that the country must not forget, while awarding credit to the Navy proper, to allow a full share of the honor to fall upon the volunteer officers from the American
On July 6th, Rear-Admiral Bailey
reports the destruction of important salt works, under the direction of Lieutenant-Commander A. F. Crosman
, of the steamer Somerset
This duty was well performed by Acting-Master Thomas Chatfield
, who landed in boats under the guns of the Somerset
, and, with sixty-five sailors and marines,
destroyed four distinct stations.
Sixty-five salt-kettles were demolished.
over two hundred bushels of salt destroyed, and thirty houses, with all their appurtenances, were burned.
The whole establishment was completely blotted out without the loss of a man, in which these expeditions were not always so fortunate.
On the 16th of October an expedition was fitted out to destroy two blockade-running steamers in Hillsboro River
Lieutenant-Commander A. A. Semmes
, in the gun-boat Tahoma
(assisted by the Adela
), was directed to divert attention from the expedition by shelling the town and fort and to land men under cover of the night at a point in Old Tampa Bay
, some distance from the fort, to proceed overland to the point on the Hillsboro River
where the blockade-runners lay, and destroy them.
On the date mentioned, the Tahoma
ran in abreast of the batteries, and shelled them slowly during the day, their fire being unusually accurate.
As soon as the moon went down that evening, a force of sixty men, under Acting-Ensigns J. P. Randall
and J. G. Koehler
, from the Tahoma
, and forty men, under Acting-Ensigns F. A. Strandberg
and Edward Balch
, and Acting-First-Assistant Engineer G. M. Bennett
, from the Adela
, with Acting-Master
's Mate Crane
and Mr. J. A. Thompson
as guides, was landed at Ballast Point
The whole expedition was under the immediate command of Acting-Master T. R. Harris
, executive officer of the Tahoma
The line of march was quietly taken up under guidance of Mr. Thompson
(who, being too ill to walk, was carried in a litter). A march of fourteen miles brought the party, before daylight, to the river-bank.
As soon as it was light the two steamers were discovered on the opposite side.
The force was assembled abreast of the steamers, and those on board brought under aim of the rifles, and ordered to send a boat, which was done.
A detachment was then sent to bring over the vessels and to make prisoners of their crews.
At this time two men succeeded in escaping from the steamers, and carried the alarm to the garrison.
The prizes were meantime set on fire effectually, and the Union
force set out on its return.
Encountering an armed party near the beach, a charge was made and two of the Confederates
The beach was finally reached without loss, pickets were stationed, and the party rested, waiting the arrival of their boats.
While so resting (after a twenty-eight-mile march), word was brought the commander of the expedition that a detachment of cavalry and one of infantry were advancing, and the party was formed to resist an attack; the boats, however, having arrived, the embarkation commenced; and while this was going on the Confederates
The first and second divisions of sailors, with seven prisoners, proceeded in an orderly manner to the boats; the third division deployed as skirmishers and returned the fire of the enemy with great spirit; the Adela
in the meantime shelled the woods and drove the Confederates
The first two divisions having embarked, the rear guard followed, after having stood at their posts and protected the retreat with the coolness of veteran soldiers.
Finally, they, at the order, entered the boats, taking their wounded with them.
The Confederate troops were under the command of Captain Westcott
, and were the so-called regulars, who could act as smugglers or bushwhackers as suited their purpose; but they did not seem inclined on this occasion to come out boldly and “try conclusions” with the sailors.
The retreat to the boats was conducted by Acting-Master Harris
, with the most admirable coolness, and the expedition throughout was characterized by a degree of discipline, courage and energy not often met with even among the best trained troops.
It shows how carefully the men of the Navy were drilled and how well commanded.
On this occasion, although the Union
force suffered a good deal while on the beach, they never swerved for one instant. Three of the sailors were killed, and their names are mentioned as an inducement for others to show an equal bravery.
They were James Warrall
, John Roddy
and Joseph O'Donnell
, all seamen.
Ten men were wounded severely, and we are sorry not to be able to chronicle their names also, for no seamen ever deserved better!
were wounded, and four men were made prisoners.
This is the last of Rear-Admiral Bailey
's operations up to October, 1863, and although they were not remarkably important, they show a determination to break up the blockade-running, and it was done effectually.
Of fifty-two vessels that attempted to run the blockade, only seven succeeded, the rest being taken into the port of Key West
Nearly one hundred were captured in the space of six months.
The command of this station, although a compliment to Admiral Bailey
, was scarcely a reward commensurate with his character and services.
He was not a man whose appearance would attract attention, except from those who could appreciate the honest and simple character of an old-time naval
officer, but he was a man who had no superior in the Navy in point of dash,energy and courage, and, if he had ever had the opportunity of commanding a fleet in action, he would have done it with the coolness and bravery of Nelson
No higher compliment could be paid him.