Jacksonville, riverport-seaport


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Jacksonville, riverport-seaport
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Buker, George E.

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University of North Florida
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University of North Florida
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Half Title
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
    List of Illustrations
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
    French rivals
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
    The English challenge
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
    The false dawn
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
    One more time
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
    Frontier engineers
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
    Seminoles, steamers, and a seaport
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
    The blockade
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
    The inner blockade
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
    The steamboat era
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
    Down to the sea
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
    Coastal defense: St. Johns Bluff
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
    Topographical changes
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
    Fire and wars
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
    The container revolution and the JPA
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
    General index
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
    Index of ship names
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
Full Text



St. Johns River, Jacksonville to Sea
Courtesy U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers



University of South Carolina Press

William N. Still, Jr., Series Editor

Stoddert's War:
Naval Operations During
the Quasi-War with France,
by Michael A. Palmer

The British Navy
and the American Revolution
by John A. Tilley

Iron Afloat:
The Story of the
Confederate Ironclads
by William N. Still, Jr.

A Maritime History
of the United States:
The Role of America's Seas
and Waterways
by K. Jack Bauer

Confederate Shipbuilding
by William N. Still, Jr.

Raid on America:
The Dutch Naval
Campaign of 1672-1674
by Donald G. Shomette
and Robert D. Haslach

Lifeline of the Confederacy:
Blockade Running During the
Civil War
by Stephen R. Wise

Admiral Harold R. Stark:
Architect of Victory, 1939-1945
by B. Mitchell Simpson, III

History and the Sea:
Essays on Maritime Strategies
by Clark G. Reynolds

Predators and Prizes:
American Privateering and
Imperial Warfare, 1739-1748
by Carl E. Swanson

Crossroads of the Pacific
by Edward D. Beechert

Port of North Carolina
by Alan D. Watson

by George E. Buker

Copyright 1992 University of South Carolina
Published in Columbia, South Carolina, by the
University of South Carolina Press

Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Buker, George E., 1923-
Jacksonville, riverport-seaport / George E. Buker.
p. cm.-(Studies in maritime history)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-87249-790-9 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
1. Jacksonville (Fla.)-History, Naval. 2. Navigation-Florida-
Jacksonville-History. 3. Shipping-Florida-Jacksonville-
History. I. Title. I1. Series.
F319.J1B89 1991



Chapter 1. French Rivals
Chapter 2. The English Challenge
Chapter 3. The False Dawn
Chapter 4. One More Time
Chapter 5. Frontier Engineers
Chapter 6. Seminoles, Steamers, and a Seaport
Chapter 7. The Blockade
Chapter 8. The Inner Blockade
Chapter 9. The Steamboat Era
Chapter 10. Down to the Sea
Chapter 11. Filibustering
Chapter 12. Coastal Defense: St. Johns Bluff
Chapter 13. Topographical Changes
Chapter 14. Fire and Wars
Chapter 15. The Container Revolution and the JPA
General Index
Index of Ship Names


St. Johns River, Jacksonville to Sea frontispiece

following page 86
Indian Tribes in Florida, 1562
Inland Waterway, St. Marys to St. Johns
James Grant's Mud Machine
Union Gunboat at Mayport Mills
Steamboats in Water Hyacinths
Drawing of Henry Burden
Air View of Mouth of the St. Johns River
Blount Island with OPS Crane in Background
Sketch of St. Johns Bluff Fortifications
Three Friends Docking the USS Constitution
St. Johns River, Jacksonville to Source
U.S. Navy Instructors and Soviet Officers with
Lend-Lease YPs at Mayport
New Three Tier Loading at TMT


In 1974 I had the good fortune to receive a contract from the
United States Army, Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, to
write the district's history. This introduced me to the corps' im-
portance in maritime development. Juan Col6n, the chief of the
district's public affairs office, encouraged me to continue my
Corps of Engineers research by publishing several of my studies in
the district's monthly paper, the Drawbridge. In 1989 I received a
contract from the National Parks Service's Fort Caroline Na-
tional Memorial to do a historical study of the Spanish-
American War fortifications on St. Johns Bluff, Florida. This led
me to a deeper investigation of a specific corps involvement in
maritime affairs than that which I had pursued in my earlier
work. These associations provided me with insights into port de-
velopment which I might otherwise have overlooked.
I am grateful to the publications listed below for permission to
reprint some of my previously published articles. I have revised
these articles to some extent by the addition of recent research or
tailored them to conform to the format of this work.
Chapter 3, "The False Dawn," was originally printed as "Gov-
ernor Tonyn's Brown-water Navy: East Florida During the Amer-
ican Revolution, 1775-1778," in the Florida Historical Quarterly,
vol. 58, 1979.

viii |I Acknowledgments

Chapter 8, "The Inner Blockade," was originally printed as
"St. Augustine and the Union Blockade" in El Escribano: the St.
Augustine Journal of History, vol. 23, 1986.
Part of chapter 9, "The Steamboat Era," was originally printed
as "Engineers Vs Florida's Green Menace," in the Florida Histor-
ical Quarterly, vol. 60, 1982.
I wish to thank three individuals who assisted me, directly or
indirectly, in forming the views I have expressed in this work.
Edward A. Mueller has been a friend and source of information
for a number of years. No one could write about steamboats in
Florida without utilizing his research and writings. He is the au-
thority in this field. The research done by two former students,
years before I began work on this book, directed me to sources
and concepts I might not have discovered on my own. Richard
Apley Martin's term paper, "The River, The Road, and The
Revolution," led to our joint publication of "Governor Tonyn's
Brown-water Navy." The research of Robert M. Myers, Jr., on the
Savannah sources of the inland waterway between the St. Marys
and St. Johns Rivers gave me new insights into that project.
I owe thanks also to staff members of several libraries, espe-
cially to Hilda W. Federico and Anna K. Large of the Jackson-
ville University Library, Carol Harris of Jacksonville's Haydon
Burns Public Library, and Elizabeth Alexander of the P K. Yonge
Library of Florida History.
I alone am responsible for any errors of fact.



Chapter One


In the 1560s Jean Ribault brought his French Huguenots to the
St. Johns River, and Pedro Menendez de Aviles left Spain to
drive him out. These actions transformed the St. Johns River
from a potentially vast inland waterway, carrying settlers from a
seaport at its mouth into the interior, to a military barrier be-
tween Spain and its French rivals to the north. The Spanish
viewed the St. Johns as a huge moat protecting St. Augustine,
and it retained that role for most of the next 260 years. In the
early decades, the town and the river were vital to the defense of
Spain's treasure fleets sailing home from its overseas empire.
Pedro Menendez de Aviles, an able naval strategist, advised
the Crown that a base should be built in Florida to keep the
mainland shores clear of interlopers. This was crucial because the
Spanish fleet, upon leaving Havana, sailed northward in the
Gulf Stream until it reached the northern latitudes, wherein it
could pick up the westerly winds for its journey back to Spain.
The Crown accepted his plan, and, to insure its successful com-
pletion, appointed him adelantado (governor) of Florida in 1565
and governor of Cuba in 1567.1
By this time the French also had an interest in Florida. Earlier,
Jean Ribault, commanding three ships sailing north off the coast
of Florida, had come upon a place where the waters were boiling

2 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

and tumbling over the shoals as if falling over rapids. Realizing
this must by the mouth of a large river, he anchored for the
night. The next day, 1 May 1562, he crossed the bar into the
river, which he named riviere de Mai (River of May).
Ribault was not the first European to find this river. Some un-
known Spaniard had observed the same phenomenon at the riv-
er's mouth and called it rio de Corrientes (River of Currents), a
name found on many early maps dating from 1520. Later, after
Pedro Men6ndez de Avil6s drove out the French, he established
Fort San Mateo on the right bank at the river's mouth, and this
name also was applied to the river. About 1590 the Spanish built
the mission of San Juan del Puerto (St. John of the harbor) on an
island at the mouth of the river, and from then until the British
period in Florida, the river was known by both names, San
Mateo and San Juan. The British anglicized San Juan to St.
John's. When Florida became part of the United States, the
apostrophe was dropped and the St. Johns River received its final
name form.2
Ribault remained on the St. Johns for two days, trading with
Chief Saturiba and his followers before resuming his search for a
site to colonize. He continued northward until he reached a
place he called Port Royal, where he left twenty-eight men to
build Charles Fort while he returned to France for supplies.
These men endured a series of misfortunes. After a fire burned
their supplies and the Indians refused to give them more food,
they built a small boat, and, with no navigator or compass, set
out to recross the Atlantic. In mid-ocean they were becalmed
and spent days watching their meager supplies dwindle. In des-
peration "they agreed that one should die to sustain the others
[and] . his flesh was equally divided among his compan-
ions .. Fortunately, they were picked up by a passing English
ship before they had to make a second selection.
The governor of Cuba, hearing of this French settlement, dis-
patched soldiers to find and expel the intruders. They found the
abandoned fort and a young French lad who had remained be-

French Rivals 11 3

hind, preferring the known dangers of the Indians to the un-
known dangers of an ocean crossing in a small boat. The Spanish
destroyed the fort and took the lad with them to Havana.
Ribault, returning to a France torn by religious strife, fled to
England where, at first, he was welcomed. The English even
talked of using him to assist them in the New World. But later
Ribault was placed in prison, where he languished for a year.
After the Peace of Amboise, in March 1563, Admiral Gaspard
de Coligny, the leader of the Huguenots, returned to royal favor
and continued his plan to create a Huguenot colony. In Ribault's
absence, he selected Rend Goulaine de Laudonniere to lead three
hundred men in three ships to the New World. On 25 June 1565,
Laudonniere was back on the St. Johns River, building Fort Car-
oline about five miles from the river's mouth.
The artist Jacques Le Moyne, commissioned to record what he
saw, was among the colonists. His Narrative of Le Moyne sur-
named De Morgues included forty-two drawings and fifteen pages
of description. After his death, his widow sold his pictures to
Theodore de Bry who etched and published them in England in
1591. Le Moyne's originals were lost, but all of Europe became
familiar with his work through de Bry's art.
Many of Laudonniere's colonists, when their expectations of
immediate wealth were not fulfilled, looked elsewhere. Some of
them stole two small boats to prey upon the Spanish ships passing
up the Florida Channel (the Gulf Stream). One boat was cap-
tured, alerting the Spanish that the French were back. The other
returned to Fort Caroline empty-handed. The discouraged
Frenchmen began building a ship to return home.
It was at this time that the English trader John Hawkins sailed
into the St. Johns to replenish his fresh water. Hawkins offered to
take the Frenchmen back, but, fearing they might be held in En-
gland, they refused his offer. However, they traded for some guns
and ammunition from the Englishman before he departed. Then
they returned to their shipbuilding. Before they could leave, Jean
Ribault arrived with five hundred soldiers in seven ships. Ribault

4 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

took command from Laudonni&re and immediately prepared for a
Spanish attack he knew would come.4
Pedro Men6ndez, learning of France's second attempt in Flor-
ida, assumed the task of driving them out. Commanding five
ships, he briefly investigated Dolphin Bay south of the St. Johns
River before hurrying on to meet the French. When he arrived,
he found some of the smaller French ships inside the bar while
the larger ones were anchored outside. As he prepared to attack,
the ships outside the bar slipped their anchors and fled. Men6n-
dez decided not to risk crossing the shallow bar with French
forces in front of him and others at sea behind him. He sailed
south to Dolphin Bay (which he renamed St. Augustine) where
he crossed an equally shallow bar into the harbor and began off-
loading and making preparations for his defense.
On 10 September Ribault, with 200 sailors and 400 soldiers,
sailed south to find Menendez. He left 240 men at Fort Caroline,
half of them too ill to fight. Arriving at the St. Augustine bar, he
found the water too low for him to bring his ships in. He decided
to wait for higher water. Unfortunately for Ribault, a northeast
storm arose and drove his ships south.
Men6ndez took advantage of this storm to march overland to
Fort Caroline, employing 16 axmen to clear the way. Four days
later he fell upon the fort. In the ensuing action Menendez's men
killed 138 Frenchmen and captured 50 women and children and
6 noncombatants (drummers and trumpeters). The remaining 60
Frenchmen escaped into the wilderness. Two days later they fled
in two ships to France. Among these survivors were Jacques Rib-
ault, the son of Jean Ribault, Laudonniere, and Le Moyne. Me-
nendez left 300 soldiers at the captured fort, renaming it Fort San
Mateo, while he returned to St. Augustine to plan his next
Later Menendez learned from Indians that the French ships
had been wrecked and that a group of Frenchmen were stranded
south of an inlet below St. Augustine. He took 50 men to the
inlet, where he parleyed with the Frenchmen. He ferried them
over the river 10 at a time, gave them food and drink, and bound

French Rivals 11 5

them in groups of 10. When all 208 were accounted for, he killed
all but 10 professed Catholics.
On 10 October Ribault and the remainder of his men arrived
at the inlet. Again Men6ndez parleyed. Ribault and 150 men
crossed over to the Spanish side. Menendez spared only 16 (12
fifers, drummers, and trumpeters, and 4 Catholics). The inlet
became Matanzas Inlet (the Place of Slaughter).
The 170 who had not trusted the Spaniard turned south, and
at Cape Canaveral, where the Trinity had been beached, they
turned to building defenses and a boat. On 26 November, Me-
nendez found them and promised that they would be sent back to
Europe as prisoners. One hundred and fifty agreed, and Menen-
dez kept his promise. No one knows what happened to the re-
maining twenty.
Apologists for Men6ndez point out that the French greatly out-
numbered the Spanish, and they presented a serious security
threat if brought back to St. Augustine as captives. They say that
the final 150 were spared because their numbers no longer posed
a threat.
Menendez kept St. Augustine as his port of entry for Cuban
and Spanish goods. Late in 1565 the supply ship San Andres, a
65-ton, single-deck shallop, attempting to bring goods directly to
Fort San Mateo, grounded crossing the bar, and the swells de-
molished her. This disaster influenced the Spanish to look for a
safer route to supply their outposts on the St. Johns. Henceforth,
goods were carried overland along the Indian trail running west
from St. Augustine to the river, and then shipped downstream.
Occasionally supplies were sent to San Mateo from St. Augus-
tine, but the overland route proved more reliable.5
Two years later, in June 1567, Dominique de Gorgues sailed
from France on a punitive expedition to avenge the killing of
Ribault and his men. He made contact with Chief Saturiba, and
the joint forces attacked and killed all the Spaniards at San
This ended French colonization attempts in Florida until the
following century, when they settled on the Gulf of Mexico.

6 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

However, this did not end French influence in the region. Many
French pirates and privateers used the coast to establish camps
from which they preyed upon the Spanish treasure fleet on its an-
nual convoy to Spain, and woe to the poor sailors who fell be-
hind the main fleet. These stragglers were fair game for the
taking. In 1578 Governor Pedro Menendez Marques led a Span-
ish force up the east coast to drive out these French intruders. He
captured about a hundred men and killed the leader, Nicolas Es-
trozi, a pirate who had sailed in the Caribbean. Estrozi had many
friends among the Caribbean pirates, who retaliated by attacking
Spanish forces in Florida during the next two years.
In 1586 Sir Francis Drake, returning home from a raid in the
Caribbean, paused long enough to launch an attack upon St.
Augustine. The town, now twenty years old, was inhabited by
three hundred men, women, and children. The wooden fort was
not well-built (construction of the Castillo de San Marcos was
not begun until 1672), so the civilians fled inland to the Indian
villages, leaving eighty men to defend St. Augustine. Drake
landed a thousand men on Anastasia Island. Late in the day, as
he crossed over to the mainland, the Spanish defenders fled.
Drake burned everything and carried off a treasure chest of two
thousand pounds sterling.
For the remainder of the sixteenth century there was growing
discontent among some Spaniards over the site of St. Augustine.
In 1600 the Crown held a hearing in Florida on these charges.
Ultimately the defenders of the site prevailed. They said that,
while it may not be the best place for colonization, it certainly
was an excellent defensive post. The shallow bar at the harbor
kept large ships out, yet the area inside for anchoring smaller
ships was adequate. They also pointed out that there was no har-
bor closer to the Florida Channel, and if it was abandoned, some
other nation would settle in that area to the detriment of Spain.
Finally, the defenders noted the fact that the site was cut off from
the interior by the St. Johns River moat, which was defensively
sound.6 The consensus was that Pedro Menendez's selection was

French Rivals 11 7

correct. For the remainder of the Spanish occupation of Florida,
the presidio and the town of St. Augustine were the military and
administrative headquarters of Spain's territory on the east coast
of Florida. And during this period the St. Johns River was con-
sidered the last natural military barrier between Spain and its
northern enemies.

Chapter Two


In May 1670, the English Lord Godolphin negotiated the Treaty
of Madrid to bridge the gap between Spain's and England's con-
cepts of colonization in the New World. Spain claimed that all of
the land belonged to her by right of discovery, whereas England
held that only actual occupation conferred exclusive rights of a
nation to territory. In this treaty Spain recognized the existing
English colonies in America. Neither party was aware that, dur-
ing the month before this treaty was signed, 150 colonists from
England and Barbados had landed 25 miles up the Ashley River
to begin the settlement of Old Charles Town, South Carolina.
Thus, from the Spanish view, Charles Town's colonists were in-
terlopers, for at the time of the treaty the southernmost known
English colony was on the Virginia border on the Albemarle
Sound. The English, however, looked upon the treaty as agreeing
with their position of effective occupation.1 The Charles Town
settlement led to English-Spanish rivalry in Florida until 1763,
when England occupied all of Florida. It also brought warfare to
the St. Johns, further delaying the development of a port and
trade along the river.
The almost exclusive use of the Indian dugout on the St. Johns
was another factor, most often overlooked, which impeded the
growth of a port, or commercial trade, on the river. Seagoing

The English Challenge II 9

vessels were hindered from crossing the bar by the shallow,
treacherous channel at the river's mouth. However, the native-
type craft served military needs on the river so completely that it
further discouraged any attempt to develop the St. Johns valley
for commercial oceangoing ships.
The Spanish developed an impressive dugout which they
called a periagua, sometimes spelled piragua or pirogue. The pe-
riagua was the largest of the dugouts, generally built of two logs,
but occasionally three logs were used. This vessel usually was
powered by oars, but, if it operated upon open waters, it was fit-
ted with the two-masted Bermuda sailing rig. Regardless of pro-
pulsion, the dugouts were suited to work the rivers and inshore
waterways of the Southeast.2
Picolata, on the east bank of the St. Johns River, became the
port for St. Augustine with respect to water travel on the St.
Johns and for access to the inland waterways reaching north to
St. Helena Island. Both the Spanish and the English used this
water highway as a military route between their two colonies,
which created further restrictions upon peaceful development of
the St. Johns River.
Almost as soon as the English landed, Governor Francisco
Guerra knew of the intrusion. Spanish Indians attacked an
English landing party searching for food and water on Santa
Catalina de Guale. The Englishmen were sent to St. Augustine
as prisoners. Later Governor Guerra seized the English messen-
gers sent to petition for the release of the prisoners. Guerra did
this to cloak the military preparations being made to drive out
the Englishmen.
Juan Men6ndez Marques commanded the three ships which
sailed north in the Atlantic accompanied by fourteen periaguas
of Indians moving up the inland waterway. Before Marqu6s at-
tacked, a storm lashed the coast and his ships dragged anchors.
To save his vessels, he withdrew to deep waters. Shortly there-
after, the English ship Carolina arrived with reinforcements.
Marqu6s headed back to St. Augustine, and his Guale Indians
drifted off. The first military confrontation settled nothing.

10 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

The two antagonists soon strengthened their positions. In
1672 the Spanish began the construction of the Castillo de San
Marcos, a mighty coquina stone fort which defied later attacks
by Spain's enemies. In 1680 the English, realizing the weak-
ness of their position at Old Charles Town, moved their settle-
ment to the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers, where
the New Charles Town was built. (In 1683 the name was
changed to Charleston.)
In spite of the remoteness of these two colonies from the moth-
erlands, much of the colonial competition along the Florida-
Carolina border took place under the influence of the treaties
and alliances drawn up in Europe. The decades of the 1680s and
1690s demonstrate the European link between the two colonies.
In 1678 England was rocked by false disclosures of a Jesuit plot to
assassinate the king and place his Catholic brother on the
throne. News of this spread fear among the Englishmen in
Charles Town who imagined that popish plots might be hatched
in St. Augustine against their settlement. They organized their
Indian allies and encouraged them to raid and harass Spanish
In 1682 the governor in St. Augustine acted. He organized an
expedition to strike against the English Indians. But he was care-
ful to limit his actions to the offending Indians. Peace between
the mother countries in Europe kept both groups of colonists
from attacking the other, but many messages passed between the
two governors objecting to the actions of the other.
During the first four decades of the eighteenth century, mili-
tary activity between St. Augustine and 'Charleston increased
and the St. Johns River became more a military highway than
the defensive moat of the previous century. Although there was
peace in Europe between Spain and England, the English colo-
nists continued to incite their Indian allies to make forays against
the Spanish Indians, often as far south as the St. Johns River. In
1701, the governor in St. Augustine organized a punitive force to
strike back. Eight hundred men, Spanish and Apalachee,
marched north. Unfortunately for the governor, his Apalachee

The English Challenge I 11

Indians with their bows and arrows were no match for the gun-
carrying Creeks. His punitive force was routed.
Meanwhile, Governor James Moore of South Carolina pre-
pared a well-organized strike against St. Augustine. He had been
informed by his contacts in England that war was about to break
out in Europe between England and Spain, and he wanted to
have the advantage of the first strike. His sources were correct,
and the War of Spanish Succession, called Queen Anne's War in
the colonies, began that summer. Moore made his move on 10
September, leading five hundred Carolinians and three hundred
Indians south. Using fourteen small ships and periaguas, he
sailed toward St. Augustine. Moore split his command. Colonel
Robert Daniel in the periaguas paddled up the St. Johns River,
landed where the Apalachee Trail crossed the river, and marched
east to invest St. Augustine. Moore sailed directly to the St. Au-
gustine harbor entrance.
The Spanish governor, forewarned of the attack, withdrew to
the Castillo where he prepared for a long siege, and the coquina
walls proved impervious to the small field pieces the Carolinians
had brought with them. Both commanders sent messages for help
before the actual siege began. Havana, the first to react, sent two
men-of-war, a brigantine, and a sloop, to bottle up Governor
Moore's small fleet. Three days later, Moore burned his ships and
the town before retreating to his periaguas on the St. Johns.3
Moore's lack of success, the high cost of his expedition, and
the paucity of booty or captured slaves made the governor quite
unpopular in South Carolina. It was to restore his reputation that
he organized, at his own expense, another expedition into Span-
ish territory. In January 1704, his fifty whites and a thousand In-
dians struck at Apalachee. This time he was successful. He
captured 325 Indian braves and many more women and children,
all of whom were brought back as slaves, which lifted the spirits
and finances of many Carolinians.4
Later, in 1708, John Barnwell sailed up the St. Johns on an-
other Indian slave-catching raid. The St. Johns River now be-
came the usual route for such expeditions deep into the interior.

12 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Under these blows from the English, the Spanish Indians were
decimated, and the peninsula depopulated. There were no Span-
ish missions north of St. Augustine, and the Castillo was the
only protection the colony had.5
In the War of the League of Hanover, when the two mother
countries again were at war in Europe, Colonel John Palmer
marched south to attack the Yamasee people living at Nombre de
Dios, an Indian village in sight of, but beyond gun range of, the
Castillo. The Spanish governor refrained from making a sortie
from the safety of the Castillo. Four months later a Yamasee war
party retaliated by capturing several Englishmen and sending
them back to St. Augustine for safekeeping.6
In 1733, under the leadership of General James Oglethorpe,
the English moved into Georgia. The following year the Spanish
built two small forts on the St. Johns River where the Apalachee
Trail crossed the waterway: Fort San Francisco de Pupa on the
west bank and Fort Picolata on the east bank. These develop-
ments were in preparation for the next conflict between the two
colonial powers.
The War of Jenkins's Ear, the first conflict between England
and Spain to begin in the New World, broke out in 1739. Soon
after hostilities had been declared, Oglethorpe had his Scot
Highland Rangers and two hundred Indians up the St. Johns to
attack both Fort Pupo and Picolata. It was a decisive victory for
the English. Oglethorpe left Captain Hugh Mackay in charge of
the two forts while he returned to Georgia to organize his major
campaign against the Spanish.
Oglethorpe then gathered 1,620 men, 7 warships, and 40 pe-
riaguas at Frederica for the assault upon the Castillo. Using the
inland waterway, his periaguas brought his soldiers and Indians
to the south bank of the St. Johns River near the mouth. March-
ing south, he invested St. Augustine. By 13 June Oglethorpe's
men and artillery were in place and the Castillo came under in-
tense fire.
The Spanish governor endured twelve days of siege before he
decided to go on the offensive. At midnight on 25 June, he sent

The English Challenge I| 13

out a force of three hundred to surprise the English encamped at
Mosa under the command of Colonel Palmer, the man who had
destroyed Nombre de Dios in 1728. The counterattack succeeded
in catching Palmer and his men completely by surprise. After less
than an hour, seventy-two Highlanders lay dead, along with fif-
teen infantrymen and thirty-five Indians. The Spanish loss was
light. This victory at Mosa turned the tide against the English.
The English command seemed to lose its ability to be decisive,
and, with the arrival of seven ships from Cuba, the English siege
was over.7
Two years later it was the Spaniards' turn. In the spring the
governor gathered nineteen hundred men (including armed
blacks) to invade the English settlement on St. Simons Island.
Five men-of-war escorted the forty-nine small boats (periaguas,
launches, galleys, and half-galleys) up the coast. On 16 July, the
governor sent in fourteen ships to duel with the English artillery
to gain access to the inland waterway. Although the Spanish lost
a galley and two dugouts, they gained their objective, and the
English at Fort Frederica prepared for the assault.
Unfortunately for the Spanish, the two patrols sent out to
scout the land and prepare the way for the main body became lost
in the marshes on the eastern edge of the island. Although the
patrols found each other, they were still lost in the marsh. Gen-
eral Oglethorpe's scouts reported that the Spanish were wander-
ing around in the marsh completely confused. Oglethorpe seized
the opportunity to attack. The Battle of Bloody Marsh was as im-
portant a victory for the English as the previous attack upon
Colonel Palmer had been for the Spanish.8
From 1743 to 1763 the border was quiet, but the governors
continued to build their defenses in preparation for the next skir-
mish. However, the next war, the Seven Years War in Europe
(the French and Indian War in the Colonies) was between the
English and the French. The Spanish did not enter on the side of
France until 1762, when France had already lost the war. In the
diplomatic maneuvering at the Peace of Paris in 1763, Spain
swapped Florida for Havana (which had been captured by the

14 1| Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

English), and France lost all of its holdings on continental North
America. At last there was only one colonial power on the At-
lantic coast, from the pole to the Gulf of Mexico and westward to
the Mississippi River. It seemed as if the military function of the
St. Johns River was at an end.

Chapter Three


The English had to start from scratch when they moved into
Florida. Only a handful of the three thousand Spaniards elected
to remain. The new governor set out to build a viable colony.
However, it took years to bring in settlers and still more time to
find a commercial crop for Florida. Indigo, an immediate success,
had the quality to compete with the best in the world's market.
But after three or four years the soil was exhausted and could no
longer produce indigo. Just before the American Revolution, Flor-
ida's naval stores became an important export. Unfortunately for
port development, the Revolution cast the St. Johns River into
the same defensive military role it had played for the Spanish.
After the war, the nascent commercial growth was snuffed out as
the colony once again changed sovereigns. The glow of the En-
glish experience proved to be an economic false dawn along the
banks of the St. Johns River.
Governor James Grant's initial concern was luring settlers to
his new colony. Under his guidance the King's Road between
Fort Barrington on the Altamaha River in Georgia and St. Au-
gustine became an important overland link. It crossed the St.
Johns at the Cow Ford, the site of present-day Jacksonville. The
term ford is misleading, for the river runs deep and rapid there;
however, the St. Johns is at its narrowest, and it proved to be the

16 li Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

best place to swim cattle from shore to shore. A ferry based on
the left bank carried people and goods to the south shore, land-
ing near the old Spanish post of San Nicolas.
Denys Rolle developed a successful plantation near Palatka,
where he produced thousands of gallons of orange juice for ex-
port. He also shipped turpentine from his huge pine tract, and
raised cotton, sugar, and indigo for England. He claimed that his
thousand head of cattle roamed the finest range in North
America. 1
In 1774 Patrick Tonyn succeeded Grant as governor of East
Florida. By this time some impressive plantations dotted the
banks of the St. Johns River. Two years later, in 1776, the first
commercial shipments of naval stores began on the St. Johns.
Twenty-six vessels entered the river to gather their cargoes from
the plantation docks. Many of the landowners gave up their
other crops to concentrate on the profitable naval stores. The
growth of this commodity was phenomenal. In 1779 about
twenty-five thousand barrels were exported. The next year
around thirty-seven thousand barrels were produced, and by 1782
some fifty thousand barrels were available.2 But without an es-
tablished port, many Englishmen at home were not aware of the
value of East Florida; therefore, at the Treaty of Paris in 1783,
England returned this colony to Spain.
The failure of the English to build a port on the St. Johns may
be traced in part to Governor Tonyn's preoccupation with the
American Revolution, and to his concept that the St. Johns
River was a military barrier protecting the province from the
Georgians. There were three communication routes between the
two: a sea voyage in the Atlantic, a boat trip down the inland
coastal waterway, and the King's Road. The road was cut by the
St. Marys and St. Johns rivers in the frontier zone between the
two colonies. Thus, the easiest and most direct route was by wa-
ter, and, for armed intervention, the inland waterways proved
the most accessible. This fact caused Governor Tonyn to direct
his energies toward creating naval defenses on the St. Johns River

The False Dawn 11 17

to protect his province from the Americans, and he diligently
pursued the task of maintaining some armed ships to guard
the colony.
When Martin Jollie sent word that the Georgians were plan-
ning an attack, Tonyn was in a quandary.3 Where was his naval
protection? Without ships he would not be able to scout the St.
Marys and the St. Johns rivers, nor fend off the rebel supply ves-
sels traveling south along the inland waterways supporting the
invasion. East Florida's defenses were weakened by the absence of
naval ships.
Fortunately, the St. John and the Hinchenbrook arrived, giving
Tonyn his badly needed ships. He sent the St. John and planter
Jeremy Wright's sloop with a fifty-man infantry detachment to
the northern border. His sudden show of force caused the Amer-
icans to retreat, ending the invasion for the time being.4
In May 1776, Governor Tonyn heard that the Georgians were
planning to interrupt British cattle drives and to stage guerrilla
attacks on plantations along the north side of the St. Johns
River. He advised the loyalist settlers to drive their cattle to the
south side at the Cow Ford. He also ordered Lieutenant Grant to
reconnoiter. While on patrol, Grant sighted and detained a
small rebel sloop, and, during this endeavor, he was attacked by
a force of two hundred Americans who almost succeeded in
boarding the St. John. Grant rallied his sailors, who, after a
heated engagement, beat off the Georgians.5
The inhabitants of south Georgia apprehensively eyed the
troop buildup in East Florida. Now it was their turn to fear a Brit-
ish invasion. From their point of view, the schooner St. John
would be the spearhead of any attack coming up the inland wa-
terways. The Georgians decided to send out an expedition for the
express purpose of capturing the St. John. They mustered 240
men to man a schooner, a flat, and an auxiliary vessel to elim-
inate the St. John.6
On 5 August, when the American naval force passed Jekyll Is-
land heading south, John Martin sent a messenger overland to

18 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

warn Lieutenant Grant, who was on the St. Marys cooperating
with Captain Colin Graham's detachment of infantry. Grant de-
cided to go out on the open water to avoid being bottled up.7
There was an indecisive skirmish between Lachlan McIntosh's
raiding party and Captain Graham's men before both groups
broke contact and headed for their respective bases. The incident
ended without a clear-cut victory for either side. Later, Colonel
Augustine Prevost defended his retreat from the St. Marys to the
Cow Ford by claiming that he needed naval support.8
The increasing severity of the border incidents gave Governor
Tonyn much concern. He was aware of the importance of naval
power along his northern frontier; therefore, he exercised his Ad-
miralty commission to issue a letter of marque to Captain John
Mowbray of the sloop Rebecca. He placed the St. John, the
Rebecca, and the sloop Tuncastle on patrol on the St. Johns River
in September to discourage overland rebel raids. Toward the end
of 1776 Tonyn believed his defensive efforts were deterring the
rebels from invading East Florida. He confidently wrote that "by
means of the Sloop Rebecca whom I commissioned and stationed
on the St. Johns River, the inland passage from Georgia is se-
cured . and this town . has its coast at last well
The naval defense of the East Florida province remained the
major concern of Governor Tonyn throughout 1777. British na-
val vessels and merchant ships continued to come and go.
Tonyn's waterborne defense devolved upon Captain John Mow-
bray and his sloop Rebecca, for the schooner St. John had been
condemned as unfit for service and was left idle in St. Augus-
tine's harbor. o Mowbray was kept busy patrolling and scouting
the enemy's movements to the north.
Reports reached Tonyn that another major American invasion
was underway. He extended Mowbray's contract for another four
months, and enlarged his East Florida provincial navy by pressing
into service the Meredith, a recent arrival from England, mount-
ing ten guns, and the transport Hawke. Captain Mowbray, a
former Royal Navy officer, was placed in overall command. 1

The False Dawn |1 19

Indeed, an American invasion by land and sea was underway.
Colonel Samuel Elbert, the commander, intended to bypass the
swamps south of Savannah by sailing to the St. Marys River be-
fore coming ashore. A smaller force of Georgia militia led by
Colonel John Baker marched overland via the King's Road to
rendezvous with Elbert at Sawpit Bluff, Florida. Arriving first,
Baker's men undertook a scouting mission and forced the British
to retreat to the Cow Ford.
On 14 May, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Brown, leading the
East Florida Rangers (a loyalist militia) and Indian allies, sailed
from the Cow Ford downriver to Trout Creek in a private sloop
of war to scout the Americans. He debarked on the north bank
of the creek. There was a brief skirmish before Brown returned to
the Cow Ford. When he learned that the British regulars were
ready to cross the St. Johns to engage the Georgians, he volun-
teered to scout for the regulars again. Brown established contact
with the invaders and held them long enough for the regulars to
arrive and defeat the Americans in the battle at Thomas Creek,
the southernmost battle of the American Revolution. Two days
after the engagement, Elbert's force arrived at Sawpit Bluff
and rescued eighteen of Baker's men. Learning of the fate of
the land invasion, Elbert returned to his ships and sailed back
to Georgia.12
While the events near Thomas Creek were occurring, a lesser-
known but significant sea battle was underway off East Florida.
Governor Tonyn intended to have Captain Mowbray, then on
station up the St. Johns, lead the other provincial defense vessels
into the St. Marys. Mowbray brought the Rebecca and the Hawke
to the mouth of the St. Johns, where he anchored, just outside
the bar. The Meredith and the other small vessels followed suit,
though remaining slightly upriver. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, a
strong wind whipped up the sea, forcing Mowbray and his escort
to make for open water.
During the process of going to sea, the Rebecca's lookout spied
a rebel brigantine, which Mowbray immediately prepared to en-
gage. His ship only mounted ten carriage guns. Mowbray soon

20 (I Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

discovered his disadvantage against the more heavily armed
American brig, but he pressed on, and, as the distance between
the ships decreased, a running fight ensued. Both captains were
aggressive. Finally, Mowbray gained the upper hand when his fire
silenced the rebels for about eight minutes. Mowbray then ma-
neuvered to board. During this time the Americans resumed fire,
and, as Tonyn later related, "an unlucky shot carried away the
Sloop Topmast and rent the mainsail, which gave the Brigantine
the advantage in sailing and the opportunity of flight."13
The damaged American vessel's decks were crowded with
men. As she heeled over in the wind to flee northward, the
Rebecca's detachment of soldiers began to fire upon them. Cap-
tain Mowbray observed many dead rebels lying on deck as the
brig pulled away. Mowbray suffered only one dead and nine
wounded, but, due to his damaged condition, he returned to St.
Augustine. Governor Tonyn was delighted to hear of the Rebec-
ca's triumph. He gave much of the credit to Captain Mowbray,
lauding "his zeal, activity, and unwearied industry, on all differ-
ent parts of service."14
The tension between East Florida and her northern neighbor
did not lessen, although the amount of activity declined through
the end of 1777. Tonyn was so suspicious of this lull that he re-
quested another detachment of infantry for the Rebecca, which
was by then fully repaired and back guarding the inland water
The climax of American efforts to subdue East Florida oc-
curred in 1778. Once again naval matters remained a high pri-
ority; the Rebecca, joined by the schooner Hinchenbrook and the
ship Galatea, the latter two of the Royal Navy, formed a powerful
defense triad protecting the waterways approaching the colony.
By virtue of his Royal Navy rank, Captain Thomas Jordon of the
Galatea assumed operational command of the east Florida vessels.
On 6 April, he decided to intercept the invading American ships
at Frederica, on St. Simons Island, Georgia.16
On 28 April, 1778, Governor Tonyn reported the loss of the
Hinchenbrook and the Rebecca in an engagement at Raccoongut

The False Dawn 11 21

on Georgia's inland waterway. He questioned the circumstances,
and he requested a formal investigation. In the end, he con-
cluded that Mowbray was faultless and had been acting under or-
ders. The governor further justified Mowbray's actions by saying
that the captain had "attempted to destroy the vessel before he
left her."17
The loss of the Hinchenbrook and the Rebecca was a severe blow
to the East Florida forces. Captain Jordon had hoped to seize the
offensive, but the debacle at Raccoongut changed all of that.
The momentum had swung to the Americans, and Jordon would
have to await their next move.
By the end of April 1778, East Florida was facing a critical sit-
uation regarding the lack of coastal and riverine defense. With
haste, the governor was forced to purchase three vessels. Tonyn
named one of these, an armed ship carrying fourteen guns, the
Germaine, possibly hoping to flatter Secretary of State Lord Ger-
maine into sanctioning the expenditure. The Germaine was
suited for her task; she had a shallow enough draft to cross all the
local harbor entrances. Finding a crew to man his vessels proved
more difficult. Tonyn finally had to bargain with the crew and
agree to split whatever profits were to be made with them. The
Germaine and two other vessels, the brig Dreadnought and the
galley Thunderer, were converted into warships. Tonyn vowed his
further intention of procuring as many privateers as could be had
to protect the province.
Tonyn also had three floating batteries built and armed them
with twenty-four-pounders taken from the fort at St. Augustine.
These batteries were strategically located: one on the inland
passage, one at the foot of St. Johns Bluff, and the third at the
Cow Ford.18
On 30 June, Governor Tonyn learned that "five Gallies, two
flats, and two Pettuguas carrying Cannon," laden with a consid-
erable supply of provisions, were in Cumberland Sound awaiting
an opportunity to enter Nassau Inlet.19 His East Florida defense
vessels were ready to challenge the American ships. He sent the
Germaine, probably under the command of John Mowbray, the

22 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Dreadnought, and the Thunderer to patrol the St. Johns River.
Twelve days later his flotilla was strengthened by the timely
arrival of two Royal Navy vessels, the ship Perseus and the
sloop Otter.20
Captain Keith Elphinstone of the Perseus, the senior naval of-
ficer, formulated plans to engage the rebels. However, before his
operation could begin, the Americans learned of the increased
naval power and fled. Led by the Perseus and the Otter, Governor
Tonyn's navy made an effort to overtake them, but time and dis-
tance were on the side of the rebels.21
Tonyn was ecstatic over the turn of events. He confidently pre-
dicted that "the check given to the Rebels [by] the floating Bat-
teries and naval Armament in St. John's River, the dispositions
in posting his Majesty's Forces and the Difficulties thrown in
their way have made the rebels from all present appearances re-
linquish their Design against this Province."22
Through the summer of 1778, ships from East Florida contin-
ued to patrol the coastal waters. Then for the remainder of the
war East Florida forces were away from the province on overland
strikes against American strongholds in the rebellious Southern
colonies. After the capture of Savannah and the eventual British
occupation of Charleston in May 1780, all military threat to East
Florida had ended, and with it the Revolutionary War on the in-
land waters in and around British East Florida.
An example of what might have been may be seen in the rise
of St. Johns Town. In the 1770s William Hester owned a two
hundred-acre tract of land on the seventy-foot-high bluff on the
south shore overlooking the mouth of the St. Johns River.
(Hester's Bluff later became known at St. Johns Bluff.) In 1779
he sold his land to Thomas Williamson, who divided the prop-
erty into city lots and laid out two streets. Three years later, with
the influx of Georgian and South Carolinian loyalists, St. Johns
Town grew to a settlement of three hundred houses with fifteen
hundred inhabitants. Further, it became the shipping center for
the St. Johns River at a time when fifty thousand barrels of naval
stores were being exported. But, of course, time had run out for

The False Dawn 11 23

Governor Tonyn to build a seaport on the St. Johns River, for he
already had orders to transfer East Florida to the Spanish and to
begin the evacuation of the loyalists unwilling to change alle-
giance. By 1785 St. Johns Town was deserted.23 Economic dark-
ness replaced the false dawn.

Chapter Four


Once again European settlers were uprooted as the English left
and the Spaniards returned, and the historical patterns of the
past were repeated one more time. Warfare and violence contin-
ued on the river, the defenders of St. Augustine still looked upon
the St. Johns as a natural boundary for defense, and the dugout
remained the utility watercraft for the region.
By now Florida was not essential to Spain's colonial organiza-
tion. It was a matter of national pride for Spain to retake Florida,
and the few Spaniards in Florida lived in the two small villages of
St. Augustine and Pensacola. Spanish control over middle Flor-
ida was minimal, and the peninsula became the homeland of the
Seminole Indians and a haven for runaway slaves from Georgia,
Alabama, and the Carolinas.
Governor Tonyn remained in Florida until 13 November 1785,
overseeing the departure of the English. Governor Vicente Man-
uel de Z6spedes hoped that some of the English would remain,
shifting their allegiance to Spain, but he was anxious for those
migrating to leave.
Some former loyalists, who resented being uprooted again, be-
came a lawless group known as "the banditti." Daniel McGirt,
one of the more infamous banditti, had been a South Carolina
patriot until his commanding officer tried to confiscate his horse,

One More Time 1[ 25

Gray Goose. McGirt fled south on Gray Goose to Florida where
the British commissioned him to help organize the East Florida
Rangers, a loyalist militia. During the American Revolution
McGirt and his men stole slaves and rustled cattle from the
American rebels. Their actions were cloaked in the legality of
harassing the enemy. They continued these endeavors after
the war when the confused situation in East Florida aided
such lawlessness.
Another class in Florida was the fugitive slave. Many had ac-
quired great skill in handling the plantations' dugouts. Most of
the fugitives from American plantations used the inland passage
to reach Florida, although there were instances when the larger
dugouts made an outside voyage. For instance, in September
1788, the slave Thomas brought twenty-one fellow fugitives
safely through the roaring white water over the St. Johns Bar in
a large canoe.1
When Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada became governor in
1790, he was uncomfortable with the colony's defense. He relied
upon Colonel Carlos Howard, who spoke Spanish, English, and
an Indian language, but he needed more than a colonel to watch
over his riverine frontier. Thus the time was propitious for the
arrival in Florida of John McQueen, a Georgian debtor fleeing
from his financial obligations. John McQueen, of Philadelphia,
married into a wealthy South Carolina family, then settled in
Georgia. During the American Revolution he became a captain
in the navy. He worked for George Washington on several dip-
lomatic missions to France, where he associated with Thomas Jef-
ferson, Marquis de Lafayette, and the Count d'Estaing. Almost
immediately the governor appointed McQueen a captain in the
Rural Militia.2
One of McQueen's first military actions as a Spanish officer
was to lead some soldiers and sailors down the east coast of Flor-
ida to capture William Augustus Bowles, the Maryland loyalist
who had become a leader among his Indian wife's people. He had
declared the Indian State of Muscogee, and it was rumored that
he had landed at Indian River, planning to attack a trading post

26 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

on the upper St. Johns. McQueen was not successful in finding
Bowles, but he did encounter and drive off several Bahamian
boats engaged in wrecking on the Florida coast. For his efforts,
the governor granted him Fort George Island at the mouth of the
St. Johns.3
Yet John McQueen was most helpful to Governor Quesada
not for his naval ability, but for his becoming a loyal Spanish
citizen, and one who helped other American settlers in Flor-
ida to see the advantages of loyalty to the Spanish crown. For this
role the governor granted McQueen a large tract of land just up-
river from the Cow Ford, which McQueen called San Juan de
Nepomuceno. In short order McQueen converted to Catholi-
cism and became comfortable under his new allegiance as Don
Juan McQueen.
Early in 1794 agents from the French Republic appeared in
Georgia, recruiting men to invade East Florida, wrest it from
Spain, and turn it over to the Republic. This event caused the
governors of Georgia and Florida to set aside their differences to
work together against the French. Georgia's Governor George
Mathews was afraid that the United States and Florida might be
swept up in the maelstrom of the French Revolution.
Governor Quesada, fearing that he could not defend the lands
between the St. Marys and the St. Johns, issued a decree in Jan-
uary 1794 ordering the settlers to move south to the St. Johns.
Don Juan McQueen instructed his overseer at his plantation near
the Cow Ford to build shelters at the Cow Ford for the troops des-
tined to defend the St. Johns.
Although French warships sailed into the St. Marys River in
May 1794, they did not participate in any landings in Florida.
General Elijah Clarke, an American, commanded the "French"
forces on land. In the summer of 1795 the "French" marched
upon Fort San Nicolas on the south bank of the St. Johns.
Shortly after this, Colonel Howard counterattacked by sailing up
the St. Johns with three ships: Howard commanded the Santo To-
rds, a British brig of twenty guns purchased from a privateer for
this effort; McQueen commanded the Santa M6nica, a ten-gun

One More Time 11 27

Spanish schooner; and the San Augustin del Patr6n, a galley, car-
ried the remainder of the militiamen, Indians, and blacks.
Hardly had the first two vessels' guns fired upon the fort before
the rebels rushed to their canoes and fled up the winding creeks
emptying into the St. Johns from the north bank. The "French"
then retreated to Georgia.
In August, Howard, in command of the Santo Tomds, and Mc-
Queen, now commanding the gunboat Titiritera, crossed the St.
Marys bar to drive the "French" from Amelia Island, which they
did. About the same time, a detachment of Georgia militia from
Coleraine attacked the "French" and drove them back to the
Spanish side of the St. Marys. Spanish soldiers moved against
the deteriorating "French" forces until the invaders dispersed and
returned again to the civilian society whence they had come.4
When Governor Quesada left his post in East Florida in No-
vember 1795, one of his last acts was to appoint Don Juan Mc-
Queen Commander of the River Banks of the St. Marys and the
St. Johns, in recognition of his naval service on both rivers.
In 1803 the land-rich and money-poor Don Juan McQueen
sold his land grants of Fort George Island and San Juan de Nep-
omuceno to another, richer, former American, John Houstoun
McIntosh. This McIntosh was a cousin of the more famous Gen-
eral John McIntosh who served during the American Revolu-
tion. John H. McIntosh had inherited Spanish lands south of the
St. Marys from his father George McIntosh, but he also had
holdings in Georgia. He did become a Spanish citizen, although
his loyalty to Spain was dubious, as his later actions would dem-
onstrate. John H. McIntosh named the former McQueen's lands,
just upriver from the Cow Ford, Ortega.
That same year Zephaniah Kingsley arrived in Florida. Born in
Scotland, his father moved the family to Charleston, South
Carolina, when he was eight. The senior Zephaniah Kingsley, a
loyalist, was banished from the colony in 1782 and his estate con-
fiscated. Little is known of young Kingsley's life until he appeared
in Florida. However, he had engaged in the slave trade, had con-
nections in Africa, Brazil, and the West Indies, and had married

28 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

an African, Anna Madgigene Jai. Near the end of his life he was
interviewed in New York by the abolitionist writer L. Maria
Child. When she asked where he had met his wife, he said: "On
the coast of Africa, ma'am. She was a fine, tall figure, black as
jet, but very handsome. She was very capable, and could carry
on all the affairs of the plantation in my absence, as well as I
could myself. She was affectionate and faithful, and I could
trust her."5
Kingsley's physical appearance was as unique as was his life-
style. To compensate for his small stature he always appeared in
public on an especially tall white horse. He generally wore a
Mexican poncho, a broad-brimmed hat on his head, and square-
toed shoes with large silver buckles on his feet. Thus attired, he
rode around his holdings supervising the myriad details which go
into running a successful plantation.6
He was an astute businessman. He brought new crops to Flor-
ida and improved the native crops. On his first plantation, at
Laurel Grove, just south of present-day Orange Park, he devel-
oped flourishing citrus groves and planted sea island cotton. He
also harvested naval stores from the forest. He had this work per-
formed by his newly arrived slaves as a seasoning process before
he sold them. The result was that Kingsley's slaves always re-
ceived the top price on the slave market, as much as fifty percent
more than the price of an ordinary worker. In one year his en-
deavors earned him ten thousand dollars, an almost unheard-of
sum for East Florida.7 When Congress passed the Embargo Act of
1807, and declared the importation of slaves into the United
States to be illegal, it brought great prosperity to Florida. Both
Kingsley and McIntosh benefited as Florida's economy grew.
Many Americans looked to annex Spanish Florida, both East
and West. Former Georgia Governor George Mathews, who con-
sidered Florida ripe for conquest, became an agent of President
James Madison to carry out the secret plan of Congress to acquire
Florida east of the Perdido River.8
Mathews's plan was simple. He gathered a group of land-
hungry Georgians willing to invade Florida. Then he looked for

One More Time 11 29

an ex-American Spanish citizen to lead the revolt against the
Crown. He selected John H. McIntosh, who readily accepted.
Mathews counted upon President Madison to provide arms, sup-
plies, and both army and navy assistance to his men, who called
themselves the Patriots of East Florida. As soon as the king's of-
ficials were ousted, Florida would be offered to the United States.
What Mathews did not expect was the vacillation of President
Madison when the actual revolt took place.
On 12 March 1812, the Patriots crossed into Florida. But in-
structions from Washington for the American commanders were
confusing and contradictory. Yet under the urging of Governor
Mathews both the military and naval commands followed his Pa-
triots into East Florida. Colonel Thomas Adam Smith moved his
soldiers to the outskirts of St. Augustine. Commodore Hugh
Campbell sent three gunboats to the St. Johns. One was sta-
tioned near the mouth of the river; the other two were off Pico-
lata. Campbell ordered gunboats 62 and 63 to St. Augustine with
orders "not to offend the town or garrison unless in retaliation for
an insult to the American flag."9
The Patriots invited the people to join them. Kingsley was
asked but refused, suggesting he be considered a prisoner. He
changed his mind when he found out that the Patriots were not
taking prisoners; it was join the Patriots or be banished and lose
all property. 0
But all was not going well for the Patriots. On 18 June 1812 the
United States officially declared war on Britain, and on 2 July
the Senate rejected a bill authorizing the President to occupy
the Floridas.
On 10 July, at Fernandina, the Patriots held a constitutional
convention which elected John Houstoun Mclntosh as the con-
vention president. Two weeks later, at Kingsley's Laurel Grove
plantation, McIntosh became the Director of the Territory of
East Florida. Thus there was political action even though the
military positions were at a standstill.
However, Sebastian Kindelan, the new Spanish governor,
played upon the Indians' apprehensions. His agents told the

30 |1 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Seminoles that if Spain was conquered they would stand alone
against the Americans.1 The Alachua and Alligator tribes,
joined by some of the braves from several of the upper Creek
towns, as well as forty blacks, responded to Kindelan's call for
arms. Almost 250 warriors swept down upon the St. Johns, strik-
ing at the scattered plantations. Then swiftly they moved toward
the American camp outside of St. Augustine. The Seminoles
killed eight or nine soldiers and freed eighty or ninety slaves. The
Patriots shouldered their arms and fled, leaving Colonel Smith
to face the Indians and the Spanish. The Americans retreated
back to the St. Johns to the protection of the navy's gunboats.
On 9 August 1812, Governor Kindelan announced that the in-
vestment of St. Augustine had ended, and his black militia had
made contact with the Seminoles, who were driving cattle into
St. Augustine to relieve the town's food shortage.12
The fortunes of Zephaniah Kingsley and John H. McIntosh
moved in opposite directions as a result of the Patriots War.
McIntosh lost considerable money and property, whereas Kings-
ley continued to make money by importing slaves. In 1813 Kings-
ley bought Fort George Island from McIntosh. Kingsley built a
fine two-story house, which still stands on the island, and estab-
lished his wife and household at the mouth of the St. Johns,
where he could watch over his slave operations. After his death,
his executor collected $77,322 from the United States govern-
ment for the property damages he had incurred because of the
Patriots War. Payment was made under article 9 of the treaty
transferring Florida from Spain to the United States.13
An example of Kingsley's business acumen, and the compla-
cency with which some American officers charged with prevent-
ing the slave trade operated, may be illustrated by the captain of
a revenue cutter who had captured a slaver with 350 slaves on
board. It was one of Kingsley's ships. Yet the captain turned over
the rescued slaves to Kingsley because he was the only man avail-
able with the means of caring for so large a number of slaves!4
Americans living contiguous to Spanish Florida were disturbed
by the lawless conditions along the frontier region separating the

One More Time 11 31

two countries. Cattle rustling was a way of life on both sides of
the border. American slaveowners were convinced the Seminoles
were encouraging and even carrying off slaves to the safety of
their villages under the Spanish flag. The runaway slaves owned
cattle and lived a relatively free existence away from white men's
control, which was not the proper life to flaunt before the Amer-
ican plantation system. As a further affront, Spain stationed
black troops in Florida, an example fraught with danger for the
institution of slavery.15
Under these conditions, the situation deteriorated to the point
where President Monroe sent General Andrew Jackson with an
army into Spanish Florida to punish the Seminoles. The action
became known as the First Seminole War, 1817-1818. General
Jackson exceeded his orders, calling upon him to respect all posts
flying the Bourbon flag. Indian villages were burned; the Span-
ish settlements of Pensacola and St. Marks were occupied; and
two' British subjects were captured, tried, and executed. The
South was jubilant, Spain and Britain outraged, and the Semi-
noles impressed.
President Monroe promptly returned Jackson's conquest to
Spain, but the Spanish Crown knew its ability to restrain the dy-
namic, aggressive Americans was weak enough to encourage the
Americans to embark upon outright conquest. In order to sal-
vage as much as possible, Spain entered into diplomatic talks
with the United States. The following year the Adams-Onis-
Treaty ceded Florida to the United States, although the formal
transfer did not take place until July 1821. Thus was the territory
of Florida obtained by the Americans, and the St. Johns River
ceased to be a military boundary protecting St. Augustine.

Chapter Five


The transfer of Florida to the United States placed upon the na-
tion the same tasks that it had had when it received the Louisi-
ana Territory from France in 1803. Then, President Thomas
Jefferson immediately had sent out survey teams to study the land
so that it might be protected, settled, and developed. Now these
same tasks were necessary for Florida.
The interior of the peninsula was terra incognita in 1821 when
William Simmons, an author writing about Florida, attempted to
pierce its darkness. He gathered all the sources of information he
could find to amplify and enlarge upon his own knowledge of the
territory. Simmons concluded that south of the St. Johns River
the peninsula consisted of a large basin which probably provided
waters to the St. Johns as well as rivers in the southern part of
Florida. He speculated that it would be an easy matter to connect
the St. Johns with the Indian River on the east, with the
Caloosahatchee, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico, on the
west, and with Lake Mayaco in the center of the peninsula, thus
opening inland navigation throughout the territory.
Such reports of the impassability of land transportation cou-
pled with the enticing prospects of extensive waterways caused
the settlers of Florida to call upon the federal government for aid.
Of course, the Territory of Florida was not the only part of the

Frontier Engineers II 33

United States to need the technical engineering services that
only the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could provide. (West
Point was the first engineering school in the United States; Rens-
selaer Polytechnical School was not founded until 1824, and its
first graduates were not sent forth until the 1830s.) The whole
nation was bursting with projects to develop communications
systems, open transportation routes (both roads and canals), and
tame rivers-in a few words, to promote progress. The hue and
cry from all parts of the country was for government participa-
tion in these sectional projects; the local resources were not
enough to carry the cost nor supply the technical talent.
Congress reacted in April 1824 to the demand of its constitu-
ents by passing a Rivers and Harbors Act and a Canals and Roads
Act which put the Corps of Engineers into the midst of the na-
tion's expanding civil programs. Now that the way was clear for
the civil projects so badly needed to develop Florida, there was a
flurry of tasks performed by the corps to bring progress to the ter-
ritory. One of the first, though unsuccessful, endeavors was the
survey for a canal across the peninsula to link waterborne traffic
from the Gulf of Mexico with that of the Atlantic coast, bypass-
ing the lengthy, treacherous reefs and shoals of the Florida Keys.2
In March 1826, General Simon Bernard of the Board of In-
ternal Improvements drew up plans for this survey. In the spring
of 1827 Bernard visited Florida to personally examine the terrain
over which the earlier survey party had worked. When he re-
turned to Washington, he called upon President John Quincy
Adams to state that he believed a ship canal across Florida was
impracticable. The most that could be done would be to con-
struct a canal six feet deep for steamboats, and the final result did
not justify the expense and effort. He did recommend a canal
from the St. Marys to the St. Johns as part of the contemplated
inland waterway along the Atlantic coast.3
James Gadsden was one of the early engineers in Florida. Born
in Charleston, South Carolina, he joined the army soon after he
graduated from Yale in 1806. During the War of 1812, he served
as a lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. After the war he aided

34 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Andrew Jackson in surveying the military defenses of the Old
Southwest and the Gulf Coast, and he was with Jackson during
the First Seminole War. His friendship with Jackson helped his
military career so that in late 1820 he served as Adjutant Gen-
eral of the Army. When the Senate refused to ratify his appoint-
ment, he was miffed, resigned his commission, and moved to
Florida to start life anew. Gadsden remained in the Territory for
the next sixteen years, maintaining continual communication
with the Chief of Engineers in Washington, proposing engineer-
ing undertakings, supervising assigned projects, and recom-
mending competent individuals in Florida to act for the Corps.4
In 1828 James Gadsden was given supervision over the Florida
project. He surveyed the area between the St. Marys and the St.
Johns and felt that a canal could be cut and, with the deepening
of several shoal spots, a passage could be made which would allow
vessels of thirty or forty tons to pass through at low tide without
difficulty. He advertised for laborers for this work, but only
Zephaniah Kingsley submitted a bid for the task. Earlier, Kingsley
had submitted a bid to improve the Talbot Dividings for $3,500
more than the total appropriation of $13,500 which Congress
had set aside to connect the two rivers.
Gadsden talked Kingsley into a new contract by which Kings-
ley would complete the canal, line the mouth of the canal with
a stockade of palmetto logs to prevent sand bars from forming,
open the Talbot Narrows, and remove the oyster beds from the
Sisters waterway. All of this was to be done for $13,500.
Before Kingsley could begin dredging operations he had to
send his crews out to clear the channel of snags (a general term
for any submerged artificial obstruction in a waterway). The ma-
jority of snags were trees and large branches which had fallen
into the water. Snagboats, for removing these underwater barri-
ers, usually consisted of two large flats, fifty or sixty feet long,
joined together with an eight-foot space intervening. Over this
space a windlass was mounted to raise the snag to the surface.
Gadsden found that the marsh was made up of a soft mud, al-
most in a liquid state. Therefore, it would be difficult to dig too

Frontier Engineers II 35

deeply into the channel bottom without disturbing the banks.
But he felt that, as the weight of the removed earth settled on
the banks, it would firm the sides, allowing the channel to be dug
to greater depths. Thus, he was willing to do some work, let it
settle, then return to digging. In addition, he felt that during the
winter months, when work had stopped, the currents, helped by
the initial digging, would scour the channel deeper, saving him
some expenses.5
Not all of Gadsden's problems were caused by nature. At one
time, while Kingsley was absent from Florida, Gadsden issued
some new instructions to Kingsley's agent, who was hesitant to
carry them out. After considerable thought, the agent decided
not to do anything without Kingsley's permission, for his em-
ployer was a strange man who defied convention. Therefore, the
agent shut down all work.6
The following year Gadsden reported some success. The initial
cleaning and digging had strengthened the current during the
change of tides, and the expected scouring had taken place.
However, the earth placed upon the banks had not strengthened
the banks to allow noticeable deepening. In fact, the banks were
as susceptible to sliding into the canal as before. He realized that
he should have made the canal wider initially so that the sliding
banks would not fill up the center channel.
In July 1830 Gadsden reported that navigation between the
St. Marys and the St. Johns was open for coasting schooners
drawing not more than five or six feet. But he stated that the
schooners had to pass the Amelia Cut at the north, or the Sisters
Cut at the south, at an early stage of the flood so as to reach the
Talbot Dividings at a favorable stage of half or full tide. He knew
that such timing would keep them from being impeded at the
Talbot Dividings.7
By September 1832 Gadsden reported that dredging by shovel
was not successful. The crews could only work during the warm
months, and the liquid mud was difficult to shovel out of the
channel. The shovel men were exposed to the elements out in
the marsh, with no protection. Even worse, they could work only

36 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

between the ebb and flood tides, which was a small portion of
the day. But Gadsden had a solution. He requested that one of
the new steam-powered mud machines be provided. He knew
that one of these machines was working on the St. Marks river in
Florida; if he had a mud machine he could protect his men from
the elements, he could haul the dredged material farther away
from the delicate channel banks in flat boats, and he could go
deeper than his shovel men could dig.
Gadsden was talking about one of James Grant's mud ma-
chines. Grant, a mechanic of Baltimore, had built several ma-
chines for the Corps of Engineers. Basically, his device was an
endless chain of buckets on a frame which could be attached
to a flat or a boat so that the buckets could be lowered to the
bottom, and, when the steam power was engaged, the buckets
would revolve, bringing up the mud or sandy material from the
river bed.8
Press of other business made it necessary for Gadsden to give
up his supervision of the St. Marys-St. Johns excavation before
he received an answer to his request for a mud machine. But,
concerned that his departure would hinder Jacksonville's outlet
to the sea, he recommended Lieutenant S. W. Harris, then sta-
tioned at Fort King in Florida, to replace him. He also suggested
that Harris be sent to West Florida to work on the St. Marks mud
machine to gain experience while he waited for one to be as-
signed to Jacksonville.
The Chief of Engineers did not act upon Gadsden's request.
He felt that the cost of a mud machine exceeded the appropria-
tions allocated for the waterway. The Chief decided that the mud
machine at work at St. Marks, or the one working on the mouth
of the Savannah River, should be sent to the waterway when
available. Meanwhile, he shut down the work on the St. Marys-
St. Johns channel.9
It was March 1835 before the Corps of Engineers ordered a re-
newal of the inland navigation project. This time Lieutenant Jo-
seph K. F. Mansfield was assigned to supervise the work. First he
ordered carpenters to repair the Savannah mud machine, and

Frontier Engineers II 37

then to build mud-flats to haul away the dredged material. He
planned to use the Savannah-built government steamer Essayons
(named after the Corps of Engineers motto), to haul his mud-
flats and dredge to the coastal workings. Mansfield hoped to
commence operations on the inland waterway by January 1836.
However, military operations of the Second Seminole War,
which began in December 1835, disrupted his plans.10
In May 1836, Major General Winfield Scott, military com-
mander in Florida, ordered that the Essayons be assigned to him
for military operations. Scott ascended the St. Johns as far as
Lake Monroe. The Essayons was the first steamer to steam on
this lake. When Scott tried to continue south he found that
the bar at the inlet to the lake was too shallow for the Essayons.
General Scott referred to his commandeered ship as "a miserable
little steamer.""
Finally Mansfield was able to assemble all of his watercraft for
dredging. In July, in order to save both time and money, he re-
quested permission to cut wood for the dredge from government
land on Amelia Island. At the end of July he had to lay up his
dredge because it was the sickly season when he could not hire
hands to work in the marshes during the heat of summer. With
the advent of cooler weather in the fall he was back at work on
the narrows. Mansfield reported that his expenses were $1,950
per quarter ($650 per month). He broke down his monthly ex-
penses as follows:

1 Captain Dredge Boat $ 75.
1 Engineer 55.
mate & mudflats 45.
9 hands 210.
supplies 24.
1 man & 4 hands survey 241.

In February 1837 the new military commander in Florida, Gen-
eral Thomas S. Jesup, needed his dredge boat to dredge the bar at

38 |1 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Lake George. Mansfield had to wait until the end of March for
his dredge.12
In spite of all the military interruptions, Mansfield kept at it,
and, at the end of 1837, he was able to report that he had cut a
channel at the oyster banks between the Sisters, near the St.
Johns River. He dredged a cut 3,680 feet long, 70 feet broad, and
3 feet deep at low water. He estimated about 2,990 cubic yards
dredged. He still had to dredge 500 yards at the Amelia Divid-
ings, and 1,400 yards at the Talbot Dividings. He acknowledged
that it was slow going, but noted that the dredge could be em-
ployed only when it was afloat.13 Thus he was at the mercy of
the tides.
By 1839 the project was completed. The inland waterway be-
tween the St. Johns River and Cumberland Sound was in oper-
ation, the first step in opening Jacksonville and the river to the
oceans of the world. These frontier engineers performed amazing
feats using man or animal power and primitive steam engines.
They too were frontiersmen who should be acknowledged along
with the cattlemen and the plantation owners for developing the
Florida Territory.

Chapter Six



When warfare had come to the St. Johns River in the past, it
had meant delaying any plans to build a port. But the Second
Seminole War, 1835-1842, had the opposite effect. The Indian
conflict provided a boost to port development, for the army em-
ployed steamers to support its logistics system in the roadless
frontier territory of Florida. The St. Johns River, with its tribu-
taries, offered ready access to the interior of the peninsula. The
army used steamers to explore, transport troops, and supply its
forts along these waterways, and, with few exceptions, these in-
coming and outgoing steamers stopped off at Jacksonville.
In the first year after Florida was transferred to the United
States, the settlers around the Cow Ford laid out the initial
streets for the creation of Jacksonville, in honor of General An-
drew Jackson, Florida's first governor. That same month, June
1822, sixty-one citizens petitioned Secretary of State John
Quincy Adams to designate their new municipality a port of en-
try, while pointing out the disadvantages of St. Johns Bluff. Ad-
ams did not act on their petition. But a decade later, after
Congress created the District of St. Johns, President Andrew
Jackson selected Jacksonville as its port of entry.
Sailing ships frequently ascended the St. Johns as far as Lake
George, although they often had to rely on row boats to tow them

40 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

against wind or current on the river. But it took some time before
a steamboat captain ventured into the St. Johns River from
the active ports on the Atlantic coast. On 4 May 1829, the Ma-
rine News of Savannah noted that Captain Curry left port in the
George Washington for the St. Johns River. At the end of the
month it reported the arrival of Captain Curry from Jackson-
ville. It is not clear if these two entries report one or two voyages.
The paper made no mention of any other steamboats plying be-
tween Savannah and Jacksonville in either 1829 or 1830. But the
George Washington made other trips to the St. Johns in April and
May 1831, and in May and June 1832. On 19 November 1833,
the Washington arrived in Savannah from Picolata with a cargo of
oranges and towing the steamer Darien.2
Captain Charles Willey's letters to his ship's owners in Maine
illustrate schooner traffic on the St. Johns River. On 11 October
1831, Willey reported a seventeen-day passage from New York to
the St. Johns. He had planned to go to Charleston, but the wind
at the bar shifted, so he continued on another day to the St.
Johns, where he crossed the bar without a pilot and without
grounding. He passed a ship heading for New York with 135,000
oranges, but until he got upriver he could not tell what his
freight would be.
On 29 October Captain Willey detailed his activities. He had
traveled to the head of Black Creek, selling the following portion
of his cargo:

Item Price
Flour $ 7.00
Mackerel 3.50 per half barrel
New Rum & Gin .50
Potatoes 2.00 per barrel
Onions 2.75 per barrel
Pork 17.00
Salt (30 bags) 2.311/2
Lumber 25.00

Seminoles, Steamers, and a Seaport 11 41

He noted that the New Brunswick Cider had leaked badly, and
that the dry goods were dull sellers. He also said that he had de-
posited all the goods not sold with Calvin Roads of Mandarin, in
case he should be lost at sea on his next voyage.
Captain Willey loaded 85,000 oranges as freight from the Fatio
Plantation, for which he charged $3.50 per thousand. He then
bought 80,000 oranges and 5,700 lemons for the ship's account.
In addition, he took aboard four passengers at $16.00. (His letter
gave no indication if that was per passenger or a total fee.) He
directed the owners to write to him care of a dockside address in
New York.
It took him twelve days to reach New York, where he sold
35,000 oranges at $18 per thousand. He sent 5,100 oranges and
550 lemons to the owners. Willey also picked up freight for a re-
turn trip to the St. Johns, and he said he would have to sell the
remainder of his cargo, whatever the price. He calculated that he
had made $525 on the oranges and cleared about $875 total for
the voyage.
His return trip to the St. Johns took only six days. Willey
waited a day and a night for a pilot, but weather prevented the
pilot boat from leaving shore. The wind drove him onto the
south breakers, and he was forced to jettison some of his deck
load. Willey estimated his loss at $35. Worse yet, his schooner
was damaged, forcing him to go to Charleston for repairs.3
Lieutenant William P. Piercy, U.S. Navy, commanding the
one-gun schooner Spark, sailed up the St. Johns to check on live
oak operations in 1831. His brief sojourn on the river demon-
strates again the ineffectiveness of sailing ships. On 22 August,
Piercy hove too off the bar waiting for a pilot. An hour later, the
pilot brought him over the bar. Lt. Piercy anchored in four fath-
oms of water next to an American schooner. The next day, before
6:00 A.M., Piercy boarded the schooner to examine its cargo of
live oak bound for the Navy Yard at Charlestown, Massachusetts.
When the pilot came aboard, Piercy weighed anchor and made
sail upriver. It took him until 1:00 P.M. the next day to beat

42 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

against the wind and current to reach Jacksonville. He spent the
rest of the day watering his ship.
At daylight on 25 August the wind had shifted 1800, so that
when Piercy weighed anchor to exit the river he again had to
beat against the wind. He anchored at midday and sent a boat
ashore to get wood. Twenty-four hours later, Piercy resumed
working downriver. Within two hours, he grounded on the south
shore. Three hours later, when the tide changed, he hauled off to
his kedge anchor and made sail for St. Johns Bluff. The next day
he tried to beat downriver, but when the flood tide set in, at
about half past eight, he had to anchor to keep from being car-
ried upriver. With the changing tide, he finally was able to reach
the mouth of the river and anchor near the schooner Argo,
which also was waiting to leave the St. Johns.
At daybreak Lt. Piercy weighed anchor and stood down to the
bar, but found he could not cross. The wind was off his head and
there were heavy swells over the bar. He wore around to return to
his former anchorage. A week later he got underway to stand
down to the bar. This time it was light winds and a heavy swell
which kept him from exiting. Again he wore around and re-
turned to his anchorage. Finally, on 5 September, Piercy was able
to stand out of the river, and "at 10 crossed the bar in 1I faths.
water, hove too and discharged the Pilot. At 10.15 filled away &
stood to the Southd."4 Clearly steamers were less at the mercy of
the elements than sailing ships.
In early 1834, the Florida, a 144-ton, side-paddle wheeler,
built in Savannah specifically for the Savannah-St. Johns run,
began once-a-week operations. She steamed from Savannah to
Jacksonville and Picolata, the port for St. Augustine. Her adver-
tisement listed her stops and stated that all slave passengers must
be cleared through the Savannah Customs House before one
o'clock. The Florida continued this schedule through December
1835, when the Second Seminole War broke out. In fact, on 23
December 1835, just three days before hostilities, she carried five
army officers, who were en route to Fort King in the center of the
peninsula, up Black Creek.5

Seminoles, Steamers, and a Seaport 11 43

The army employed steamers in combat operations during the
Second Seminole War, the nation's longest and most costly In-
dian war. During this conflict the army brought a great number
of steamers to the St. Johns, where they were used extensively for
combat operations, and the steamers proved their worth. In the
early years of the war, while the troops campaigned in the north-
ern portion of the Florida Territory, the army used the St. Johns
as its major waterway to reach the Indians. The Quartermaster
Corps built its supply depot, Fort Heilman, at Garey's Ferry, on
Black Creek near present-day Middleburg. But as time passed,
the army built a series of forts stretching south along the river
some hundred miles beyond Lake Monroe. Occasionally a shal-
low draft vessel might steam as far south as Fort Lane on Lake
Harney, but beyond Fort Lane the army had to rely on poled or
rowed canoes and dugouts.
The army immediately employed steamers. On 11 January
1836, the Florida steamed downriver carrying General Duncan
Clinch to the St. Marys, where he hoped to enlist Georgians to
volunteer for defense of the St. Johns settlers. The Florida passed
the Davenport from New York carrying fifty soldiers headed for
Fort King. Later, on 29 January, the Florida steamed into Jack-
sonville with the Richmond Blues from Virginia on their way to
Picolata. The John David Mongin arrived in Jacksonville the same
day with 116 volunteers from Savannah.6
The steamboat gave the military commanders in the field
rapid communication with Washington. Fort Mellon in the in-
terior was only five days from the nation's capital. A letter could
leave Washington on Friday and arrive at Charleston the next
Monday. Here it would be transferred to a small river steamer
to be taken to Fort Mellon. The round trip from Charleston up
the St. Johns took from Monday to Friday, and the Charleston
packet departing Friday would arrive in Washington the follow-
ing Monday.7
The army chartered most of the steamers it employed. The
government had few steamboats of its own, and, believing that
the war would be over soon, the Quartermaster felt that chartering

44 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

the necessary vessels would be more economical than building a
fleet just to fight Indians in Florida. The Quartermaster erred in
his basic assumption about the length of the Indian conflict.
Of course, the military commanders were not adverse to using
government vessels, when available. Time and again, Lieutenant
Mansfield, working on the dredging project to open up the in-
tracoastal canal between the St. Marys and the St. Johns rivers,
had his government steamer ordered off the job to perform some
military task in Florida. From 24 to 29 April 1836, General Win-
field Scott used the Essayons to go up the St. Johns on a recon-
naissance mission. Before the steamer was returned to Lt.
Mansfield, Scott sent the Santee and the Essayons to Volusia to
evacuate troops who had come down with yellow fever.
In July the Essayons, under the command of Captain Fenn
Peck, transported troops up Black Creek to Fort Heilman. While
steaming back to his dredging work, Peck found Colonel Hal-
lowes on shore wounded, trying to attract attention. Captain
Peck picked up Hallowes, along with several of his slaves, all ref-
ugees from a Seminole attack upon Hallowes's plantation. Peck
carried them to Picolata. Two weeks later Peck steamed up Black
Creek to Fort Heilman. En route he spotted and fired at some
Indians on shore. Shortly after this trip, Captain Peck steamed to
Picolata, where he towed Lieutenant Herbert's fifteen men and
forty horses across the St. Johns in flats. The next night, on
Black Creek, Peck sent his men out to gather wood for his
steamer. At daylight he steamed down the creek to the St. Johns.
Just as he appeared at the mouth of Black Creek, Lt. Herbert
burst into view, followed by a band of Seminole warriors. Peck's
yawl could carry only nine men at a time. His men covered Her-
bert's boarding by laying down heavy fire upon the Indians. Dur-
ing this skirmish the steamer was struck by many bullets, but no
harm came to the crew.8
The Essayons was not the only equipment Lt. Mansfield lost to
the war in Florida. In 1837, when General Thomas S. Jesup be-
came the military commander, he repeatedly asked for Mans-
field's dredge so that he could remove the bars on the St. Johns

Seminoles, Steamers, and a Seaport 11 45

at lakes George and Monroe. Jesup wanted to make the St. Johns
"an avenue for the transportation of troops and supplies near two
hundred miles." Evidently the general was successful, for in No-
vember 1837, the Santee passed the Camden at the bar on Lake
George guarding a dredge boat working to deepen the channel.9
It is small wonder that Lt. Mansfield took so long to improve the
waterway between the St. Johns and the St. Marys.
Gradually the army drove the Indians southward, and the the-
ater of war shifted to the Everglades. The army decreased the
number of chartered vessels on the St. Johns. But many steamers
continued to operate out of Jacksonville, catering to the civilian
demands developed during the war.
Early in 1841 Jacksonville's position as the port of entry was
challenged by the citizens of Hazard, Florida. The town, later
known as Mayport Mills before becoming Mayport, felt that the
Indian conflict had created an erroneous assumption of the im-
portance of Jacksonville. The citizens of Hazard desired to have
the customs house moved to their community so that incoming
vessels could file their papers immediately before going on to
their ultimate destination. When the first petition was denied,
the people of Hazard submitted a second and a third petition.10
But nothing came of these requests to Congress.
In 1844 Master Edward Clifford Anderson, USN, boarded the
General Taylor in Savannah just as she was leaving for Florida to
check on the Indians and to prevent illegal lumbering of live oak
timber. He commented on how dull the inland trip was, with
nothing to be seen but an occasional clump of trees or a lonely
plantation now and again. When a storm broke and heavy rain
fell, Anderson brought a pitcher on deck to catch some of the
rainwater. He said that the ship's drinking water had been taken
from the Savannah River which was "thick & muddy," and the
rainwater was a welcome relief.
At six in the evening the Taylor grounded in the mud. There
was nothing Anderson or the crew could do but wait for high tide
to help them off. It was 4:00 A.M. before the ship was free to
steam on. At 8:00 A.M. she anchored off Jacksonville, where she

46 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

remained for a day because of the gale winds blowing from the
southwest. Anderson noted that Jacksonville had about six hun-
dred people and was "one bed of heavy sand.""
Around 1845 the Savannah Line began regular operations be-
tween. Savannah and the St. Johns. Initially the line had three
ships: Ocmulgee, St. Matthews, and William Gaston. In 1851
the Welaka and Magnolia were added to the fleet. The Savannah
Line was dogged by misfortune. In 1854 the Gaston was sold and
became a river boat. The Magnolia's boiler exploded off St. Si-
mons Island, killing Captain William T. McNelty. Later the
Welaka was wrecked on the St. Johns Bar. The Seminole and St.
Johns replaced these last two vessels. Both replacements caught
fire and burned at their docks in Jacksonville. The hull of the St.
Johns was raised and rebuilt, and she continued on the same route
until 1862. After the Civil War she was renamed the Helen Getty.
The last vessel of the Savannah Line was the St. Marys, acquired
in 1857.12
Jacob Brock, a Vermonter, was among the early steamboat
captains on the St. Johns. He recognized the tourist trade's po-
tential. He was the owner of the Darlington, a western river-type
vessel whose main deck was cluttered with freight surrounding
the ship's engine. The Darlington was a South Carolina-built ves-
sel completed in 1849. She spent her first years on the Pedee
River traveling into the Darlington District, whence she got her
name. Brock acquired her in 1852 to use between Jacksonville
and his Brock House at Enterprise. Brock set aside a small salon
for women and children to protect them from the vulgarity of
the Grand Salon, although the latter served as the dining room
at mealtimes.13
There were two navigational approaches to Jacksonville: the
inland passage, which was restricted to small vessels, and
the ocean route, through the shifting channel over the bar at the
mouth of the river. Dr. Abel Seymour Baldwin was the first man
to seriously study this problem of the moving channel of the St.
Johns. Until Baldwin provided an answer to the question of why
the river bed did not remain in one place, no one had given it

Seminoles, Steamers, and a Seaport 11 47

much thought. From his study, he concluded that the Fort
George Inlet was the culprit. Normally, the sediment, carried
down a river by the current, fans out and settles when the river
flows into the ocean, where its current is diffused in the larger
body of water. This is part of the creation of shoal waters about
the mouth of a river. However, the main current from the river,
continuing its force longer, has the effect of cutting through the
shoal grounds, creating the channel of the river bed.
Dr. Baldwin determined that the opening of Fort George Inlet,
no more than a mile or two north of the St. Johns, under certain
circumstances of tide and current, had an injurious effect upon
the main channel. During each tide there was an interchange of
waters between the river and the inlet, brought about because of
the different time of the flood and ebb tides in each outlet. Fort
George Inlet flooded anywhere from one and a half to three
hours before the ebb current of the St. Johns River stopped flow-
ing over the bar. During this period, a large volume of water pass-
ing out the river's mouth was pulled northward into the inlet.
Thus, a series of swash channels over the north shoal were
formed, which diminished the amount, velocity, and force of the
waters flowing out the St. Johns River's main channel.
He also noted that local wind conditions contributed to the
uniqueness of the St. Johns Bar. Prevalent northeasterly winds
pushed the river waters back up the St. Johns, causing a decrease
in the volume and velocity of the waters in the main channel.
The result was that the sand thrown up by the ocean waves met
a reduced ebb flow and it was deposited in large amounts in the
channel, further shallowing the depth of the bar. The reverse was
true from prolonged westerly winds. The ebb current was in-
creased by the wind push, causing a greater depth of water over
the bar.15
Still another factor was the littoral current. The average storm
flow (littoral current) of the Atlantic Ocean along the Florida
coast was in a southern direction, and the sand from the littoral
current washed southward along the coast until it came in con-
tact with river or inlet currents moving eastward. When this

48 1| Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

occurred, the sand was deposited on the upflow side of the
intersection of the littoral and the river current, building a sand
bar on the north side of the outflow. The river current, seeking
the path of least resistance, swung southward, closely followed by
an ever-building curved sand bar. In cases where the inlet flow
was weak, the littoral current would seal shut the exit to the
ocean. On the other hand, strong river currents would bend
southward three or four thousand feet from the original track.16
The St. Johns channel, over time, would swing gradually
south until conditions were such that the river current would
punch another channel through the shoals in a more easterly di-
rection. The southern channel would fill up with sediment
again. At times, the St. Johns would have two main cuts to the
ocean; at other times, it had only a northern or a southern deep-
water exit. Is it any wonder that throughout the years the sinuous
channel challenged the coastal captains calling upon the port
of Jacksonville?
All of these phenomena added to the risks a merchantman en-
countered using the St. Johns River. Smaller ships, which were
safe enough in draft, often were too light to be seaworthy in the
Atlantic, especially during the fall hurricane season; large ocean
vessels might stand off the bar for days or weeks waiting to enter
the river. Once over the bar, the route to Jacksonville was rela-
tively easy. With added cargo, the ship might have to wait once
again for enough water to exit the St. Johns. Jacksonville, as a
seaport, competed poorly against Fernandina and Savannah,
even though it drew upon the tremendous resources of the St.
Johns valley.
The early solution to the shifting channel, and the one pro-
moted by the people at Fernandina on Amelia Island, was to use
their deep-water harbor. Small coastal steamers could steam from
Jacksonville to Fernandina by either the protected intracoastal
waterway or the outer oceanway, where the goods could be trans-
ferred to the larger vessels for any destinations bordering the
world's seas. This was not acceptable, however, to Dr. Baldwin or
the citizens of Jacksonville, who dreamed of opening the St.
Johns River so that their own city might engage in world trade.

Seminoles, Steamers, and a Seaport 11 49

Baldwin presented his answer to the shifting channel in 1852
when he suggested closing up the Fort George Inlet. He reasoned
that the waters of the Fort George River then would
be added to those of the St. Johns. Two effects would result: the
elimination of the crosscurrent over the shoal ground; and the
strengthening of the main flow of the St. Johns River, which
would aid in the creation and deepening of the cut across the
shoal grounds. The logic of his observations resulted in the
town's voting to send Baldwin to Washington, D.C., to present
his proposal before Congress to seek federal aid.
At first, everything went as planned. Florida representatives
presented the doctor's views to Congress, and received permis-
sion for him to explain his project to the Topographical Bureau.
The bureau accepted and approved of his plan with a recommen-
dation to Congress to appropriate money to carry out the project.
Congress provided twenty thousand dollars.
Unfortunately for Dr. Baldwin and Jacksonville, Congress
failed to pass a bill for fortifications that session; therefore, the
funds appropriated in the Lighthouse Bill and River and Harbor
Bill were divided between the Corps of Engineers and the Topo-
graphical Corps. This resulted in works on the Atlantic being as-
signed to the Corps of Engineers, while the Topographical Corps
received the projects on the Great Lakes and western rivers. Dr.
Baldwin had to start over again with the Corps of Engineers.
In his dealings with the Corps he related: "I at once called
upon the chief of the Military Bureau, General [Joseph G.] Tot-
ten, and offered to give him a history and exposition of my plan,
but his time was too much occupied in assigning the work in var-
ious localities to the charge of separate engineers to listen to me.
I was requested to leave any statement in writing, or confer with
the engineer in whose charge the work would be placed."17 The
doctor left Washington to await the results of his efforts.
The next winter, Lieutenant Horatio Wright arrived in Jack-
sonville to study plans for the improvement of the St. Johns
channel. When Wright informed the doctor that the original
funds from Congress were paying for the survey, Dr. Baldwin im-
mediately objected. According to his interpretation, Congress

50 1| Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

had accepted his proposal and the monies were appropriated to
close Fort George Inlet, but his protest was to no avail. This was
the beginning of a running feud between Dr. Baldwin and the
Corps which was to last over a quarter of a century.
When Wright recommended the construction of a single pier
on the north bank of the outer channel, Baldwin was convinced
that the Corps of Engineers was out to destroy his scheme. He
knew the cost of a pier was above the limit Congress could
reasonably expect to finance. Further, the doctor was sure that a
pier would not change his original premise. It would project the
channel farther out to sea, but when the pier ended, the same
influences from Fort George would be there to act as always. He
believed that Lieutenant Wright was wrong.
Ultimately, the support of the local population for Dr. Baldwin
and the extreme difference in the solutions proposed by the doc-
tor and the lieutenant led the Chief Engineer to refer the prob-
lem to a special commission, consisting of a navy captain, a
captain and two lieutenants from the Corps of Engineers, and a
civilian. Lt. Wright and Dr. Baldwin both were on the commis-
sion. The result was two statements: a majority report subscribed
to by the government officers, and a minority statement signed
by Dr. Baldwin. Lt. Wright was right.
The formal hearing did not end Dr. Baldwin's fight with the
Corps. In 1857, he obtained another examination of the mouth
and bar of the St. Johns, this time under the direction of Lieu-
tenant Stephen D. Trenchard, USN, who was serving with the
Coast Survey Service. Dr. Baldwin was delighted with the re-
sults. A comparison of the 1853 and 1857 charts showed great
changes in the underwater topography, which convinced the
doctor that his assumptions had been justified.18 But once again,
Dr. Baldwin's goal was thwarted, this time by the outbreak of a
major conflict-the Civil War.

Chapter Seven


The twelfth of April 1861, the day Confederate forces bom-
barded Fort Sumter, began in Jacksonville the same as most days
after the withdrawal of the Southern States from the Union.
Locally the paper wrote of the construction of several new
wharves in town which would strengthen port facilities. Then
word of the firing on Fort Sumter began to come in over the tele-
graph wires from Savannah. Before amplifications could be sent,
the wires went dead, leaving the people in Jacksonville wonder-
ing what had happened. The next day the Steamer Cecile arrived
from Charleston with eyewitness accounts of the opening of
Confederate President Jefferson Davis faced the task of creating
a navy. In his April 1861 proclamation, he called for letters of
marque hoping to entice adventurers to the profits of privateer-
ing. Louis M. Coxetter, a popular St. Johns River captain, ac-
cepted Davis's call. He became a privateer commanding the Jeff
Davis (the former slaver Echo), a five-gun, seventy-four man brig
of 230 tons. On a seven-week cruise during July and August
1861, from Maine to Delaware, he captured nine merchantmen.
At one time, there were eight Union Navy ships assigned to run
him down. He headed for St. Augustine, where he had to wait
two days for a gale to blow over. Then going in, he grounded,

52 1I Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

losing his brig. When he and his crew arrived in Jacksonville af-
ter his disaster, the whole town turned out to welcome the pri-
vateers and to celebrate their victories. Had the Confederacy had
more privateers like Coxetter, the Union blockade might have
been less effective and naval operations might have developed
differently. 2
Although President Davis counted on actions such as Coxetter
performed to be part of the South's answer to the North's naval
power, he could not foresee Europe's reaction. Both England and
France refused to allow prize courts within their sovereignties.
As the blockade became effective, it became difficult to bring
prizes into Southern ports. Finally, and probably more telling,
seafaring adventurers found higher profits and less danger act-
ing as blockade-runners rather than as privateers. The
end result was that the Confederacy only sent out about thirty
privateers, and most of these vessels were small, poorly armed,
and inadequate for the task. When Coxetter tried to outfit a
new privateering expedition, he failed to receive any backing;
therefore, he settled for command of the steamer Herald,
and became a blockage-runner. He added to his fame as a block-
ade-runner, but he was no longer in the business of destroying
enemy merchantmen.3
It took time for the Union Navy to create an effective blockade
for the port of Jacksonville. But with the outbreak of hostilities,
many of the steamer captains plying the river turned immediately
to blockade-running. Captain Jacob Brock had the distinction of
bringing the first shipment into Jacksonville after the blockade
had been proclaimed. He brought his Darlington loaded with pro-
visions up to Cyrus Bisbee's wharf. Both men were New England-
ers devoted to the Southern cause. The Cecile and the Kate made
numerous runs before they were wrecked in 1862. The St. Johns
and the St. Marys, two Savannah steamers, ran the blockade
many times, occasionally coming into Jacksonville.4
Near the end of October 1861, the yacht Camilla from England
crossed the St. Johns Bar, bearing dispatches for the Confederate
government. Her lines gave her away, and word spread through-

The Blockade 11 53

out Jacksonville that the famous yacht America, winner of the
"America's Cup," had crossed the blockade. She made at least
two trips from Jacksonville, but as the blockade tightened, the
risks of capture became greater. Her last run through the block-
ade into Jacksonville was made in March 1862.
The blockaders gradually tightened their hold over Jackson-
ville, as a series of captures of blockade-runners demonstrate.
On 12 October 1861, the USS Dale took possession of the
outward-bound schooner Specie just to the east of the St. Johns.
She had a cargo of rice for the Havana market. A month later,
the Dale captured the blockade-runner Mabel, of recent British
registry, formerly the John W. Anderson of Baltimore, to the east
of Jacksonville.6
On 11 December 1861, as Commander Charles Steedman, of
the USS Bienville, steamed southward along the coast toward the
St. Johns Bar, he sighted two sails. He immediately gave chase.
When almost upon them the crew of the pilot-boat schooner
abandoned her and went aboard the other vessel. Steedman con-
tinued the chase, driving the blockade-runner onto the breakers
at the mouth of the St. Johns. However, he deemed it too dan-
gerous to continue, with night falling. Steedman returned to the
first schooner, which proved to be the Sarah and Caroline from
Jacksonville, Charles Brown her master. Among the letters
aboard the ship was one from a son in Jacksonville to his mother
which said in part that "quite a little trade sprung up between
this place [Jacksonville] and the same island [in the Baha-
mas] . But don't blab, for if Seward should hear of it he would
put Lincoln up to send a blockading vessel to stop it."7
Two weeks later, Steedman, cruising off the St. Johns River,
noted a schooner standing off to land. He closed with and cap-
tured the Arrow carrying a load of salt. The next day, while an-
chored in nine fathoms of water, two and a half miles east of the
St. Johns Bar, Steedman saw a schooner to landward trying to
enter the river. He shipped his anchor and began his chase. He
fired several shots at the vessel before she gave up attempting to
escape. As she bore up and ran down to the Bienville, she

54 1| Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

displayed English colors. But on boarding the prize, she turned
out to be the Alert, whose master and owner was a citizen of Sa-
vannah. Steedman put aboard a prize crew to take the blockade-
runner and her crew to Philadelphia for adjudication.8 So in a
matter of months the navy was on station off the Confederate
coast. Although the vessels were not always in sight, the people
on shore knew of the blockaders' presence.
The Blockade Strategy Board meeting in June 1861, under the
chairmanship of Captain Samuel F. DuPont, recommended a se-
ries of amphibious operations to seize vital bases on the Confed-
erate coastline to be used for supply, repair, and recreation bases
for the blockading squadrons, and as staging areas by the army for
operations into the enemy's hinterland. The Board's broad poli-
cies were accepted and carried out throughout the course of the
war. This led to DuPont's promotion to flag officer, and he com-
manded the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron when it cap-
tured Port Royal and Hilton Head, South Carolina. His next step
was to secure a base in northeast Florida.9
Following the capture of Port Royal, a stream of Union support-
ers and contrabands slipped through the lines to this Northern
enclave with military information about northeast Florida from
the Cumberland Sound to St. Augustine. Dr. Henry Balsam,
founder of New Berlin on the St. Johns River just downstream
from Jacksonville, and Isaac Tatnall, an escaped slave who had
been the pilot of the steamer St. Marys, were among the infor-
mants. These men provided information on Confederate de-
fenses and local navigation which was instrumental in DuPont's
decision to capture Fernandina.10
While DuPont gathered information on northeast Florida,
Captain Charles Willey, now residing in Jacksonville, and the
owner of the Rebecca, prepared his ship to run the blockade. She
left Jacksonville on 3 February 1862, but had to remain in May-
port until 2 March waiting for tide, weather, and the absence of
Union blockaders before venturing into the Atlantic. She carried
turpentine and resin on her outward voyage. The Rebecca prob-

The Blockade I1 55

ably was the last blockade-runner to leave from the mouth of the
St. Johns River. "
Meanwhile, as a part of General Robert E. Lee's policy of con-
solidating military defenses until the North had committed itself,
General James H. Traiper received orders to evacuate Fernan-
dina, on Amelia island, and Cumberland island. This happened
just four days before DuPont sailed from Port Royal for northeast
Florida. Traiper's evacuation was still in process when the Union
Fleet appeared.
As DuPont arrived in Fernandina, an escaped slave rowed out
with the news that the Confederates were fleeing by rail. DuPont
ordered his shallow-draft gunboats to push ahead to destroy the
rail trestle linking Fernandina with the mainland. Only the USS
Ottawa reached the Amelia River in time, and a bizarre chase
took place between the Confederate soldiers on the train pursued
by Union sailors in a gunboat. For a two mile stretch the tracks
ran parallel to the river. Passengers and soldiers began firing
upon the Ottawa, and the ship's guns returned fire. Two young
men sat on a sofa on the last railroad car, which was loaded with
furniture and bedding. They were hanging on, enjoying the
chase, when a shell from the Ottawa burst over the last car, kill-
ing them instantly and scattering furniture in all directions.
Trainmen quickly released the damaged car, allowing the train to
continue on over the bridge to the mainland and safety.12
While the train-gunboat race was underway, another chase was
setting up. In Fernandina, Captain Jacob Brock loaded his Dar-
lington with military supplies, wagons, mules, forage, and as
many women and children as he could carry, and, while the Fed-
erals were concerned with the fleeing train, he headed for a small
creek which flowed under the same railroad bridge. He knew that
the Ottawa could not go up that creek. But Commander C. R. P.
Rogers took two armed launches in full pursuit after Brock. Only
when all means of escape had eluded him did Brock surrender.
Afterwards, DuPont reported that "the brutal captain [Brock]
suffered her [the Darlington] to be fired upon and refused to hoist

56 11 Jacksonville: Riverport--Seaport

a white flag, notwithstanding the entreaties of the women. No
one was injured." He also told Secretary of the Navy Welles that:
"We captured Port Royal, but Fernandina and Fort Clinch have
been given to us."13
Later DuPont sent gunboats south into the St. Johns River as
far as Jacksonville. By the time of the Federal invasion of the
river, the pro-Northerners of Jacksonville were beside themselves
with joy at their expected liberation. But after crossing the bar,
the United States ships stopped at the mouth of the river to dis-
charge a detachment of soldiers to secure the entrance before
moving up to Jacksonville; the delay was nerve-racking for the
town's Unionists.
On 11 March 1862, Jacksonville was defenseless. The only
Confederate troops left were there to burn public property before
the Northerners arrived. They put the torch to seven steam saw-
mills, much lumber, an iron foundry, and a partially built gun-
boat, The soldiers of the rear guard were careful not to damage
private property, and Union sympathizers were relieved, for many
had feared that the troops might punish them for their Federal
allegiance. However, about midnight, as the Confederate soldiers
departed, and before the Union troops arrived, Florida irregulars
moved into town and began intimidating the Unionists. At least
three Northern men were shot in the streets or as they fled to
boats headed downriver for the protection of Federal guns. Indis-
criminate shooting broke out, some fires were set, and soon there
was mass panic in Jacksonville. Many of the Unionists fled across
the river to hide on the south bank until Federal forces arrived. 4
Thus did the outside blockade come to Jacksonville. Although
the Union Army occupied and left the city on three different oc-
casions before the fourth and final occupation, the navy was on
the river to stay. Hence forth Confederate ships running the
blockade would have to find other outlets; the mouth of the St.
Johns River was closed to the South.

Chapter Eight


Navy gunboats steaming up and down the St. Johns River cre-
ated an inner blockade which was more detrimental to Florida's
military effort than the outer blockade. When the mouth of the
river closed, Floridians carried their cotton upriver and overland
to the Mosquito Lagoon or to the Indian River to be shipped
through the offshore blockade. But the inner blockade disrupted
this traffic. It also separated St. Augustine and the lower east
bank of the river from the rest of the Confederacy, creating a ha-
ven for Unionists, contrabands, and, as time went on, for the
war weary.
Influential citizens of Jacksonville made preparations to pro-
tect their blockade-runners from the advancing Northerners.
Colonel J. C. Hemming was assigned to take the steamer St.
Marys and the yacht America upriver to be scuttled in some trib-
utary well away from Federal discovery. Hemming turned into
Dunn's Creek, where the keel of the yacht kept it from progress-
ing too far upstream. He scuttled her in three fathoms of water,
with only the port rail showing above the surface. Then he pro-
ceeded farther with the St. Marys, crossing Dunn's Lake and en-
tering Haw Creek. Here the steamer was allowed to settle on the
muddy bottom to await a more opportune time to work for the
Confederate cause.

58 11 Jacksonville: Riverport--Seaport

The Federals did not plan to occupy Jacksonville when they
arrived in March 1862. They were conducting a reconnaissance
mission, but Unionists pleaded with the commanders to remain
to ensure their safety. The result was that the Northern troops
moved ashore and built defenses around Jacksonville.
While the troops were being off-loaded, Lt. Thomas H.
Stevens, commander of the gunboat Ottawa, boarded the steamer
Ellen, a lighter draft vessel than his own, to steam upriver on a
survey of the territory. At Palatka he met a person who told him
that the Confederates had taken the St. Marys and the America
up one of the river's tributaries to hide them. The informant only
knew vaguely where the ships were located. On Stevens's return
trip, he came upon a small boat with two people in it. As he
turned his steamer toward them, they rowed frantically for shore,
where they jumped into the shallow water, splashed into the un-
derbrush and escaped capture. However, when Stevens examined
the boat, he found a letter from Colonel J. C. Hemming giving
complete directions as to the whereabouts of the scuttled vessels.
Stevens returned to Jacksonville to organize salvage opera-
tions. The next day he left in the Darlington, the Ellen, and two
launches from the Wabash to claim his prizes. At Dunn's Creek
he found the yacht. Leaving the Ellen on guard, he pushed on
through Dunn's Lake to Haw Creek, where he found the St.
Marys. Unfortunately for Stevens, he had to return to Jackson-
ville for additional equipment to raise the ships. Then he worked
his sailors for a week to refloat the America. Later, the navy re-
fitted her for duty with the squadron off Charleston.
Unknown to Stevens and his sailors, Captain Winston
Stephens, with some of his men of the Second Florida Cavalry,
watched the whole operation. Captain Stephens was there to
prevent the capture of the America, but, in his own words: "I
can't shoot them. I just can't do it-it would be murder."1 He
returned to his base at Welaka.
Lt. Stevens did not have the opportunity to return to raise the
St. Marys, as other duties on the lower river kept him busy. Later

The Inner Blockade |1 59

the Confederates were the ones to refloat the St. Marys and re-
turn her to clandestine operations on the St. Johns, where she
sometimes steamed as far north as Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, DuPont also sent gunboats south to St. Augus-
tine. On 11 March 1862, Commander C. R. P. Rodgers of the
frigate Wabash anchored off the mouth of St. Augustine's harbor.
The day before, Confederate soldiers, accompanied by a number
of the town's civilians, had left for the interior. Mayor Christobal
Bravo raised the white flag over Fort Marion, whereupon Rod-
gers boarded a small boat and went to the town's wharf where
he met the mayor in the midst of a crowd of curious onlookers.
The two officials went to the town hall, where the council was
in session. Here Rodgers conducted the formal ceremony of
surrender. 2
A week later Lt. J. W. A. Nicholson, commanding the Isaac
Smith, entered St. Augustine harbor with a marine battalion aug-
mented by an army company of the Seventh New Hampshire
Regiment. On 3 April Nicholson heard that a schooner had
crossed the Matanzas Bar. He borrowed twenty-five army men to
accompany him in three armed boats when he headed south to
investigate. He captured the blockade-runner Empire City, of En-
glish registry, cleared from Nassau for St. John, New Brunswick.
However, on closer examination of the crew only the captain
had escaped; Nicholson learned that she was Captain Willey's
Rebecca returning with provisions, dry goods, and medicines.
The last vessel to run the blockade from Jacksonville became en-
trapped upon its return.
Often the contraband (a term used to refer to any Southern
black man within Northern lines) provided valuable services as
a pilot or guide. The escaped slave was in a more dangerous po-
sition on these expeditions into the interior because the enemy
showed little mercy toward a captured contraband. The black
pilot on the USS Penguin is a case in point. In late March 1862
Federal authorities received word of an arms shipment arriv-
ing in Mosquito Inlet. Lieutenant Thomas A. Budd of the Penguin

60 |1 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

and Acting Master S. W. Mather of the Henry Andrew went to
Budd organized an expedition of four or five boats, with crews
from both vessels to scour the shore. Both commanding officers
went on the search. Budd took the inland passage and proceeded
fifteen to eighteen miles south of New Smyrna before giving up.
On the return the boats became strung out. Budd decided to in-
vestigate some abandoned earthworks in the dense underbrush.
Just as he neared shore, heavy fire poured in from the cover, kill-
ing Budd, Mather, and two sailors instantly. Two others were se-
riously injured and the black pilot had a slight wound in his foot.
All were captured. The remaining boats, under fire, retreated to
the opposite bank, where the sailors hid in the underbrush. At
dusk, an acting master's mate gathered the men, returned to the
boats, and, passing close by the rebel pickets, made good his
Flag Officer DuPont arrived off Mosquito Inlet as the men re-
turned, and he ordered extra boats to cross the bar that night.
The next morning the navy had a substantial group inside the
bay, but no enemy could be found. Later, under a flag of truce,
the bodies of Budd and Mather were returned. The black pilot
had been summarily hanged shortly after his capture.
Sometime afterwards, Lt. Daniel Ammen picked up six con-
trabands on the St. Johns. Three of the men claimed that their
master was George Huston, a captain in the Florida militia, who
had built a boom across Black Creek, and placed coverts nearby,
where his men might shoot at any sailors moving up the creek.
One of Huston's slaves shipped on as a pilot and guide. This man
told Ammen that his ex-master had participated in the Penguin-
Henry Andrew skirmish at New Smyrna. He insisted that Huston
had been the one demanding the hanging of the captured black
pilot. He also said that Huston led regulators against the Union-
ists living along the St. Johns. Ammen decided he must capture
and remove Huston from the local scene.
Ammen's lieutenant arrived at Huston's house about day-
break. Huston, forewarned, met him at the door heavily armed.

The Inner Blockade |1 61

When the lieutenant demanded his surrender, Huston drew his
pistol and mortally shot the officer. The sailors immediately re-
turned his fire, and Huston fell with four serious wounds. The
blockaders carried him back to their ship. Two months after the
affair, George Huston died of his wounds aboard the gunboat; his
body was returned to his widow.3
Often contrabands identified enemy prisoners. Ammen cap-
tured Durham Hall while he was being rowed across the St. Johns
River. Hall was a member of the Florida militia, and his com-
manding general desired to set up an exchange for him. Ammen
refused, claiming that Hall was captured in civilian clothes "not
as a soldier but as a disturber of the public peace."4 The slave who
had been rowing Hall joined Ammen's crew, and he convinced
Ammen that Hall was another regulator terrorizing the Unionists
along the river. Ammen placed Hall in double irons; later, he
said that Hall's capture had decreased the threats directed to
Union sympathizers within the area of his patrol.
On 24 March 1862, Jacksonville's Unionists felt secure enough
under Federal troops to announce a convention of loyalists to
meet in a month's time to create a state government under the
Union. Unexpectedly, just before the convention, the Federal
Army received orders to evacuate Jacksonville. The Unionists
were dumbfounded. They had openly declared themselves for the
Union. They could no longer remain in their homes. Despite
their pleading, the army could do no better than to offer the
Unionists transportation to Fernandina or St. Augustine.
Although the army withdrew from Jacksonville, Flag Officer
DuPont left some of his gunboats at Mayport. He reasoned that it
took fewer ships to blockade the river when stationed at its
mouth than it would if his ships were on station at sea beyond the
bar. Further, the winter storms would endanger, and occasionally
drive off, his ships at sea, weakening the blockade. But ships at
the mouth of the river could maintain a tighter blockade under
safer conditions. DuPont opted to create a series of inner block-
ades along his squadron's coast at "St. Catherine's, Sapelo,
Doboy, and St. Simon's sounds, Fernandina, St. John's River, St.

62 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Augustine, and Mosquito Inlet, thus closing the entire coast of
Florida and Georgia to all efforts of the rebels and our neutral
friends to introduce provisions or arms."
After the gunboats began patrolling the river, many people
sought safety with the blockaders. In early June 1862, Lt. Am-
men picked up a Northern lady and a Confederate soldier
who had deserted. A few weeks later, Lt. Nicholson took aboard
the Myers and Tombs families, seventeen people. Both families
fled to the navy because they had been ordered to move into
the interior.6
The Confederate reaction to the navy's patrols was to order all
residents living on the banks of the river who were suspected of
disloyalty to move inland ten miles. It also destroyed small boats
along the banks so that dissidents would not be able to commu-
nicate with the enemy forces afloat.7
The blockaders, too, were eliminating boats along the St.
Johns. Commander Maxwell Woodhull wrote of destroying "per-
haps a thousand boats. They were so numerous on our first ap-
pearance in the river it might almost be said to be 'bridged
over.' He did this to keep the Confederate regular and guerrilla
forces from crossing to the eastern shore to bother Unionists. Of
course, navy ships carried oared boats, enabling the blockaders to
communicate with individuals on shore at will.8
The destruction of small boats along the St. Johns River was
detrimental to the Southerners because it destroyed their means
of crossing the river. Later, when the Confederates executed raids
on the east bank, horses and wagons were ferried over on un-
wieldy rafts. Such an awkward craft, if caught in midstream,
would be extremely vulnerable to the blockaders' gunboats.
On 7 April 1862, Governor John Milton wrote to President
Jefferson Davis that the retirement of Confederate forces from
Fernandina and the St. Johns River had demoralized many of the
Florida troops and it had a serious impact upon the citizenry. He
said that as soon as he could, he would declare Florida east of the
St. Johns to be under martial law, because so many citizens had
already demonstrated that they were ready to submit to the en-
emy at the first opportunity.9

The Inner Blockade 11 63

A few days later, General Richard F. Floyd, the Confederate
commander of the state troops, received from Captain J. W.
Pearson of the Oklawaha Rangers firsthand information on East
Florida. "At least three-fourths of the people on the St. Johns
River and east of it are aiding and abetting the enemy; we could
see them at all times through the day communicating with the
vessel in their small boats." Pearson went on: "It is not safe for a
small force to be on the east side of the river; there is great danger
of being betrayed into the hands of the enemy."'1 He said that he
had two or three men already marked for hanging.
General Floyd wrote to the governor on 11 April suggesting
that the eastern counties be placed under martial law as they
"contain a nest of traitors and lawless negroes." Just as soon as he
had sufficient units he would move in, for "thus far treason has
boldly appeared in our midst with impunity; the hour to deal
with it summarily has arrived."1 Unfortunately for both the gov-
ernor and the general, the military situation was not such that
they could deal with it promptly or effectively.
A few days after Captain Pearson wrote to General Floyd, he
took his men to the east bank near Orange Mills to ambush a
Union detachment expected to arrive momentarily. Pearson
made his crossing at night to secure secrecy. By dawn some of his
men were still on the west bank. Pearson hid, waiting for dark-
ness, when the rest of his men could join him. But just at dusk,
a gunboat hove in sight and anchored about four miles below the
mills. The captain decided that, in the face of a Union gunboat,
it was useless to attempt a surprise attack with only a portion of
his men. He remained hidden until the next night, when he re-
crossed the river. By early Monday morning Pearson and his men
were seven miles inland from Palatka, heading back to camp.
F. L. Dancy, who gave Pearson the information about the
Union troops' move to Orange Mills, stated: "I am convinced
[the ambush] failed through information furnished them by trai-
tors living in our midst and communicating with the enemy with
impunity by means of boats and otherwise. There were not less
than four boats from different points on the river that commu-
nicated with the propeller [the gunboat] during Sunday."12

64 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Lt. Ammen cruised the waters of the St. Johns, picking up
Unionists, contrabands, and Confederate deserters. He also
talked to people on shore. From bits of conversations he began to
suspect that the Confederates had been using steamers in spite of
the navy's control of the river. He heard that the Silver Springs
and the Governor Milton were seen on Black Creek, a tributary
too shallow for his gunboat, just south of Jacksonville.
Ammen's suspicions were correct. Confederate General Joseph
Finegan searched the area for guns to use against the navy. In
Volusia he found two eight-inch Columbiads, which he moved to
Black Creek by steamer without being detected by the navy gun-
boats. Because he knew that there were Unionists living along
the river who would inform the navy of these movements, he or-
dered all suspected people to move inland ten miles so that he
could cloak his actions from prying eyes.13
Not all Unionists moved. When the Browards told Dr. Henry
Balsam to move, he sought protection from Lt. Nicholson, who
told him to return to his house at Dames Point and to shoot any-
one prowling about. That night after dark, Nicholson sent the
Uncas up to Dames Point with instructions to shell the woods
surrounding Balsam's place. The next day, Nicholson moved up
river to shell the Broward house, which flushed out a party of
eight mounted men who fled into the woods.14
In August General Finegan sent soldiers to St. Johns Bluff to
prepare the terrain for the guns he had gathered outside of Jack-
sonville. By the first of September, Finegan knew time was run-
ning out for him to execute his plan, for Master L. C. Crane, of
the Uncas, on a trip upriver from the Navy anchorage at May-
port Mills, noted the activity of the soldiers on the bluff. He fired
several shots among the soldiers and was satisfied that he had
routed them.
Finegan ordered Captain Winston Stephens to attack Mayport
Mills to keep the sailors and their gunboats busy while he armed
St. Johns Bluff. Stephens hit the settlement on the night of 6
September, and managed to set fire to one house before being
driven off by the sailors.

The Inner Blockade |1 65

Meanwhile, Finegan moved all the guns he had collected on
rafts, towed by the Governor Milton, from Jacksonville to St.
Johns Bluff between 6 and 9 September without being detected.
Unfortunately for Finegan, Israel, a slave living in western Jack-
sonville, fled to Mayport Mills to report what the general was
doing. Master Crane steamed up to the bluffs on the night of 10
September to lob a few shells into the area. Captain Joseph L.
Dunham, the Confederate in charge at the time, refrained from
answering because he knew that the powder flashes would give
away his gun positions. But at daybreak, when he could see the
Uncas clearly, he opened up on the anchored gunboat. The Un-
cas was hit five times before she slipped her anchor and got
underway. In spite of the hits registered on the ship, none of
the crew suffered injury. Crane returned fire for an hour as the
two sides shelled each other. Once his ship was in motion, it
was not hit by enemy fire. General Finegan claimed victory for
this engagement.15
When Admiral DuPont heard of this activity, and of Finegan's
challenge to his squadron, he sent three ships to boost the Navy's
firepower at the mouth of the St. Johns.16 The next gun duel,
which lasted five hours, was between seven gunboats and the bat-
teries on the bluff, and was clearly a standoff; neither side suffered
grievous losses. Commander Charles Steedman wrote to DuPont
that it would take a combined operation to wrest St. Johns Bluff
from the rebels.
DuPont concurred. General John Milton Brannan was se-
lected to lead the troops dispatched to take the bluff. On 1 Oc-
tober the soldiers were off-loaded at Mayport Mills and the next
day they began their trek through the swamps and woods to cap-
ture the bluff. Lieutenant Colonel Charles F. Hopkins, now com-
manding at St. Johns Bluff, told General Finegan that the
Yankees had landed three thousand troops. Later Hopkins revised
his figures upward to five thousand attackers. In truth, Brannan
had fifteen hundred soldiers.
Quite unexpectedly Colonel Hopkins decided to withdraw be-
fore the first Yankee arrived. He pulled his forces out at night

66 11 Jacksonville: Riverport--Seaport

without being detected. The next morning, while the troops
were struggling through the underbrush toward the bluff, the
gunboats sent some shells crashing into the rebel gun emplace-
ments which did not elicit any reply. The sailors went ashore
to find the bluff deserted, with the guns primed and loaded.
Thus, when the soldiers arrived at the top of the bluff, they
were met by sailors who had raised the Stars and Stripes over
the emplacements.17
The second occupation of Jacksonville followed the capture of
St. Johns Bluff. It was not intended to be a permanent takeover.
Troops were in Jacksonville for four days for the express purpose
of ensuring that other fortifications had not been built to chal-
lenge the U.S. Navy as it patrolled the river.
The small coastal steamer Darlington, one of the prizes taken
when Fernandina was captured, became an army transport. The
navy provided a contraband crew who knew the local waters.
Commander Percival Drayton left instructions for his relief con-
cerning the precautions he employed on the Darlington because
of her contraband crew. Normally, when she went out on an ex-
pedition beyond local waters, he put an officer, an engineer, and
ten to forty armed men aboard to protect the crew. 18 The Dar-
lington participated in the second occupation of Jacksonville.
A contraband former pilot of the rebel steamer Governor Mil-
ton came over to the Union with information on the whereabouts
of the steamer. He offered to lead an expedition for its capture.
The navy, anxious to seize the Governor Milton for its part in the
rearming of the St. Johns Bluff, accepted his offer. The Darlington
and the E. B. Hale, both shallow-draft, steamed upriver for the
prize. The Hale had to anchor at the mouth of the Oklawaha
River because of its draft. The Darlington pushed on. At Hawk-
insville the crew found traces of the Milton's recent departure up
one of the smaller creeks too shallow even for the Darlington. The
crew manned boats to continue the chase. A few miles farther
upcreek they found the Milton tied to the bank with two engi-
neers on board. They took possession of the steamer, fired her up,

The Inner Blockade 11 67

and searched upcreek a little way before returning to the two
Union ships waiting for them. 19
Acting Master Edward McKeige wrote that, since his arrival at
Mayport Mills, five or six families had moved to Batton Island,
on the opposite bank, The island had long been the residence of
bar pilots of the St. Johns River. It was connected to Fort George
Island by a wooden bridge sixty feet long. The pilots fled to the
woods earlier to live in shanties under great fear of the Confed-
erates because of their loyalty to, and the services they rendered
to, the U.S. Navy. McKeige destroyed the bridge, cutting off
communications with Fort George Island, thus isolating Batton
Island from Confederate marauders. Many of the bar pilots re-
turned to their homes just as soon as the bridge was destroyed.20
After the pilots moved back to Pilot Town, a permanent settle-
ment of Union sympathizers grew up there.
By early November, Commander Woodhull reported a nucleus
of five men, three women, and a half dozen children at Pilot
Town. Near the end of the month the population had grown to
nearly a hundred, black and white. Most of the people fleeing to
the Union were destitute. Many left everything, setting out at
night in small boats with a few belongings. Woodhull furnished
the refugees with rations, and sometimes even clothing. His ma-
jor solicitude was food. By December he was feeding a hundred
civilians as well as his own squadron, and he was down to fifteen
or twenty days' supply. But he felt this was worth it, for "if the
colony is broken up, we will lose the advantage of this nucleus for
them to rally around, who might otherwise be compelled to give
their services to the rebels."21
The commander saw the advantages of this refugee colony. His
talks with those at Pilot Town convinced him that "there are
numbers of others that will join us as soon as circumstances will
permit them to escape."22 Every fresh arrival reported the same
story of the increase of desertions among the Florida troops and
the great dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war. Woodhull
commented that "the people along the river bank are well

68 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

disposed to us, and I am satisfied from their conversation that
they are very tired of the war; that discontent and discourage-
ment are very prevalent among the masses."23
By now there were enough men at Pilot Town for Woodhull to
organize them into semi-military units to provide their own
guards for the colony. As further protection, Woodhull built a
heavy abatis, an obstacle for defense consisting of embedded
sharpened tree trunks, which he placed in the creek bottoms
from Cedar Point to Trout Creek to keep marauding rebel bands
on the mainland from approaching Pilot Town in small boats.
Yet, in spite of all these precautions, Woodhull strongly recom-
mended that the army establish a post near the refugee camp to
give confidence to these people that they were safe from recap-
ture. If that happened, "there would be a rapid melting away of
the armed men composing the whole military strength of this
part of Florida.""24
DuPont also was concerned with this problem. Earlier he had
written to the army's Department of the South that the navy had
sixty contrabands on North Island, near Georgetown, Georgia,
and almost a hundred refugees at Pilot Town. He requested in-
structions for their welfare. The army replied that it could take
the contrabands immediately, but it had no place for the Pilot
Town people until houses could be built at St. Helensville, South
Carolina.25 This was not what DuPont wanted. Moving Florid-
ians to South Carolina would alienate many potential refugees. It
was apparent that the army did not grasp the importance of the
navy's contacts with Floridians.
Almost a year after Lt. Stevens had raised the America, Ad-
miral DuPont received reports that the rebels had raised the St.
Marys. According to his sources, the St. Marys and a small stern-
wheel tug were engaged in clandestine operations on the St.
Johns River, sometimes as far north as Jacksonville. DuPont or-
dered Cdr. Steedman to take the Norwich and the Uncas upriver
as far as necessary to confirm the status of the St. Marys. Two
weeks later Steedman reported: "I have learned from reliable
sources that there is no foundation for the report that the steamer

The Inner Blockade 11 69

St. Marys has been raised or moved from the place where she was
sunk some time ago."26
In the years after the Federal forces captured St. Johns Bluff,
Jacksonville was occupied three times. It was burned twice, once
by the Confederates when they withdrew, and at the end of the
third occupation when the Federal troops left. But throughout
that time the navy patrolled the St. Johns River, and St. Augus-
tine remained in Union hands, serving as a rest camp for Federal
forces. The United States made no major effort to extend its con-
trol over territory much beyond St. Augustine proper.
The question to be asked is, Why was St. Augustine so peace-
ful when protected by so few, especially when these troops made
no effort to extend their control beyond the town limits? The an-
swer is to be found in the navy's inner blockade. Those ships,
based at Mayport Mills, made patrols as far upriver as Lake
George. It was this inner blockade which limited Confederate ac-
tivity on the east bank of the St. Johns River to a few hit-and-
run expeditions. The danger of being trapped on the wrong side
of the river by Union gunboats demanded caution.
In February 1864, just before the army occupied Jacksonville
for the fourth and last time, Acting Master Frank B. Meriam,
now commanding the Norwich, heard rumors that the St. Marys
was in Jacksonville picking up cotton to carry upriver. The fre-
quent reports upon the little Confederate steamer's operations
seemed to defy and taunt the navy's river patrols. Meriam would
like nothing better than to steam up to Jacksonville and destroy
this rebel challenge to the inner blockade, but he could not jeop-
ardize the army's operation.
When at last the soldiers embarked to make their surprise
landing, Meriam and the Norwich were in the van. Meriam stood
by while the troops disembarked. Then he immediately steamed
to McGirt's Creek, on the outskirts of Jacksonville, to bottle up
the St. Marys. The little steamer, loaded with bales of cotton,
was trapped by the rapid occupation and could not steam up
McGirt's Creek because of its draft. Meriam stationed a picket
boat at the creek's entrance. The next morning he discovered the

70 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

cotton had been burned and the ship scuttled, for the second
time. The next time she was refloated, the Union Navy per-
formed the work.27
The Department of the South's sudden interest in Florida
stemmed from political reasons rather than military strategy.
With the approach of a presidential election year, the Republi-
can party expected to gain electoral votes if Florida could be oc-
cupied soon enough to bring another state into the political
arena. Militarily, Florida now provided vital food to the Confed-
eracy, so its occupation would hasten the conclusion of the war.
The behind-the-scenes machinations which created the build up
of Federal troops in Jacksonville are beyond the scope of this
study; nevertheless, the end result was an increase in military
strength in Florida by both sides, leading ultimately to the Battle
of Olustee on 20 February 1864.28 Olustee, the only major mil-
itary engagement in the state throughout the war, was a Con-
federate victory. As the Union troops retreated to Jacksonville, it
was the navy guns on the river which kept Jacksonville safe from
the Confederate troops and provided the army with a safe haven
from which to regroup.
Finally, in March 1864, the Confederates unleashed their lat-
est weapon to clear gunboats from the St. Johns when they
mined the river. (In their terminology, they employed torpedoes;
however, these weapons were non-mobile charges of gunpowder
sown in the river to explode when triggered by the blow of a pass-
ing ship.) The first inkling the navy had that mines were in the
river occurred when the army transport Maple Leaf, on a trip
from Palatka to Jacksonville at night, exploded one off Mandarin
Point on 1 April 1864. In a matter of minutes she was on the
bottom. Five crewmen, among the forty people aboard, were
killed by the explosion. On 16 April, the second army transport,
the General Hunter, hit a mine near where the first transport had
gone down and lost one crewmember. Early in May a third trans-
port, the Harriet Weed, steaming from Jacksonville toward the
bar, struck two mines which lifted the vessel almost out of
the water. The navy's reaction was to devise "torpedo catchers"

The Inner Blockade 11 71

to sweep over mine fields, cutting the mines from their moor-
ings so that they would rise to the surface where they could
be exploded.2
In spite of the challenge to the river's gunboats, the navy
maintained its control over the St. Johns and its east bank.
Drover Edwards, a landsman aboard the Columbine when she was
captured by Captain J. J. Dickison of the Second Florida Cavalry,
demonstrated the security of the east bank of the St. Johns. In
May 1864 the Columbine had gone up to Volusia to check on the
safety of the army detachments along the river. On her return,
her captain, expecting to be fired upon by rebel infantry at Horse
Landing, called all hands to quarters. During his approach he
shelled the shore. Dickison, concealed on the west bank, waited
until the ship was no more than thirty yards distant before he
opened fire with several field pieces. The Columbine's forward
gun and wheel ropes were hit. Before the steering mechanism
could be restored, she went aground to lay at Dickison's mercy.
The skirmish lasted less than an hour. During that time both
guns were put out of commission, and the carnage on deck
caused Ensign Frank Sanborn to strike his colors.
Because no contraband could look forward to good treatment
upon being captured, many of the black troops and seamen
jumped in the river to try for the east bank, Edwards among
them. He saw four black soldiers and a contraband shipmate,
William Moran, sink below the waters. Later he came across
three soldiers of the Thirty-fifth United States Colored Troops,
and the four unarmed men made their way safely to St. Augus-
tine, after a five-day trip through the wilderness.30
The eastern shore continued to be a safe haven for Northern-
ers and their supporters. Here Confederate scouts seldom oper-
ated. Major General Patton Anderson, commanding the District
of Florida, acknowledged his inability to observe Union move-
ments on the east bank. When the enemy withdrew four regi-
ments from Palatka and carried them across to Picolata,
Anderson did not know if they had marched to St. Augustine to
be shipped north, or marched down the east bank to Jacksonville.

72 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

He commented that the parallelogram bounded by St. Augus-
tine, Picolata, Jacksonville, and the mouth of the St. Johns River
was "wholly within the enemy's possession and .. it was im-
possible to keep ourselves well advised of all his movements on
that side of the river."31
The Federal river patrols created a Union enclave on the east
bank of the St. Johns River centered around St. Augustine. Two
quotes from contemporary sources demonstrate the success of
the inner blockade. In May 1864 John C. Gray, Jr., a Federal of-
ficer, stated that "the people on the east side of the St. Johns are
called Florida Yankees and the majority of them are Union
men."32 Two months later Lake City's Columbian voiced the
same sentiments in an editorial praising Captain Dickison while
wishing that he had a larger command so that: "We would soon
hear of the evacuation of Lincoln's congressional district in
East Florida."33
It is clear that after the Union Navy closed the mouth of the
St. Johns River, Confederate river traffic reversed. Small steam-
ers began carrying goods from Jacksonville upriver then overland
to Indian River or the Mosquito Lagoon to be shipped out to sea.
Much of this traffic was halted by the inner blockade, although it
is noteworthy that as late as February 1864 the St. Marys was cap-
tured in Jacksonville, loaded with cotton, preparing to run up-
river. However, the inner blockade made a significant impact
upon Jacksonville, its port, and all of northeast Florida.

Chapter Nine


At the end of the Civil War, Jacksonville had to rebuild both
the town and the port. Lumbering, which had been a thriving
industry before the war, was the first to revive. The relatively
new endeavor of catering to the Northern tourist followed closely
behind lumbering. Then, in the 1870s, exporting oranges be-
came a third economic factor in the revival of the port. Lum-
bering relied upon the schooner; the other two were served by
the steamboat, both shallow-water and oceangoing types. Natu-
rally, the shallow-water, or coastal steamer, held sway until the
channel at the bar of the St. Johns had been deepened; then the
ocean going steamers entered the port. The period from 1865
through the 1890s may be considered the steamboat era for Jack-
sonville's port.
On 3 March 1865, Congress created the Bureau of Refugees,
Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. The Freedmen's Bureau, as it
was called, initially concerned itself with providing provisions,
clothing, and food for refugees and freedmen. It also established
schools and hospitals. It converted the Magnolia Hotel into a
hospital and sent many of its patients and medical supplies up-
river aboard the Darlington, which had been reacquired by Cap-
tain Brock.1

74 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Northern lumbering interests returned to Jacksonville and the
St. Johns River shortly after the end of the war. Ambrose Hart,
a New Yorker, commented at the end of 1866 that Jacksonville
was full of Northern men building sawmills and re-establishing
logging operations upriver. He entered into a partnership with
Samuel B. Thompson, who had a logging camp on Black Creek.
Much of the timber acreage was government land purchased at
$1.25 per acre. Timber carts, with wheels eight feet in diameter,
carried their logs, attached by tackle, beneath the axles. The logs
would be carried to the creek bank, dropped, and rolled into the
water. Then they would be floated down to a place wide enough
for the logs to be joined into rafts, generally about five hundred
per raft. When assembled, the rafts would be measured, marked,
and sold to a sawmill. The raft, or rafts, then would be towed to
the mill by tugs.2
Hart and Thompson found the price of food and normal sup-
plies exorbitant along the St. Johns. It was cheaper for them to
buy their supplies in New York and ship them to Florida. For ex-
ample, a comparison between Jacksonville prices and the price
Hart and Thompson paid at their landing for New York goods

Jacksonville their price
price at landing
barrel of pork $25.00 $21.00
100 lbs. of hay 2.55 1.60
corn per bushel 1.75 1.41

And Hart noted that the prices in Middleburg, near his camp,
were even higher than in Jacksonville.3
At the end of the war, the government had a surplus of ships
to dispose of at attractive prices. The Revenel and Company,
shipping interests in Charleston, teamed up with the Leary-
Pease-Greenman partners to purchase some of these vessels to re-
instate the Charleston-St. Johns River route. Their first steamer
was the City Point, a wooden sidewheeler with a normal draft of
seven feet which allowed her to cross the St. Johns Bar with ease.

The Steamboat Era II 75

The City Point made its appearance on the St. Johns on 23 or
24 November 1865. She was, up to that time, the largest vessel
in commercial service on the St. Johns. It took just twenty-four
hours from Charleston, and about seventeen from Savannah.
Her owners advertised her as offering "a first class table and clean
comfortable staterooms at no extra charge."4
The winter tourist trade was good enough for the owners to put
a second steamer on this route. On 22 March 1866, the Dictator
arrived in Jacksonville to work with the City Point. Captain
Louis Mitchell Coxetter was master of the Dictator. Coxetter had
sailed the Charleston-St. Johns run during the 1850s; his war-
time exploits have already been noted.
At the completion of the winter season, the owners sent the
City Point to New York for repairs and upkeep before joining the
New York summer excursion trade. Meanwhile the Dictator stayed
on the Florida route throughout the lean summer months. This
procedure proved advantageous for the owners, and, for several
years thereafter, one ship would go north for the summer excur-
sion trade while the other remained on the St. Johns.
The two steamers' winter schedules meshed so that the City
Point departed Charleston in the evening on Friday and arrived
back on the afternoon on Wednesday. The Dictator left on Tues-
day and returned on Sunday. Palatka was the terminus for the
ships. Here the more adventurous could connect with Captain
Jacob Brock's Darlington to continue on to his Brock House at
Enterprise on Lake Monroe.5
There was great anticipation among the citizens of Jackson-
ville in mid-April 1870: General Robert E. Lee was coming up
the St. Johns. When the steamboat Nick King pulled up to the
dock, a large crowd was at hand to see this honored gentleman.
When the gangplank was secured, a welcoming committee in-
troduced the local dignitaries to the general. Finally, the com-
mittee asked General Lee to go out on the upper deck so that
those people still on shore could see him. The Florida Union re-
porter wrote: "Not a word was spoken; not a cheer was uttered,
but the very silence of the multitude spoke a deeper feeling that
the loudest huzzas could not have expressed."6

76 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

It was quite appropriate that the famous Southern leader
should ride on the Nick King, for the little steamboat was the
former St. Marys which had been so active in the Confederate
cause and twice scuttled in attempts to keep her from falling into
Union hands.
Captain Brock and other river captains made Jacksonville
their northern terminus, and competed with the ocean steamers
from Jacksonville to Palatka. Many Jacksonville residents utilized
these local vessels for day trips upriver for an outing to Green
Cove Springs or other destinations for picnics.7
Northern visitors who actively promoted Florida as a place to
spend the winter were instrumental in bringing others to the St.
Johns. Foremost among these people was Harriet Beecher Stowe,
who settled in Mandarin, She wrote glowing reports of the ad-
vantages of spending the winter in Florida. Her house included a
large porch facing the river. When she and her husband were in
Mandarin, many steamboat captains slowed down when passing
her place, just to give their passengers an opportunity to see the
famous lady.
There is a story that Mrs. Stowe was paid by some of the steam-
boat owners to sit on the porch of her house so that the vessel's
passengers might see her. In the early years, either Mrs. Stowe or
her husband, the Reverend Stowe, would sit on the porch receiv-
ing the silent adulation from the passing tourists. But in 1878, a
large pier, jutting 556 feet out into deep water, was built next
door to the Stowe's place. This pier made it possible for the large
steamers to dock while its passengers rushed ashore to invade the
privacy of the Stowes. This disturbing intrusion influenced the
Stowes to give up their winter living along the St. Johns at
the conclusion of the 1883-84 winter.8
In the 1870s citrus became a large commercial crop along the
St. Johns, because the river provided a means of transportation
in the days before the railroad. Many of the large orange groves
had long wharfs jutting out into the river to provide direct load-
ing of the crop for shipment to the north. The smaller groves re-
lied upon an old renovated steamer, the Orange Maid, which

The Steamboat Era 11 77

would steam up and down the St. Johns, picking up the bulk
fruit. On board the Maid, packers would process and pack the
fruit for transshipment at Jacksonville to large steamers headed
north. In the 1880s, this industry "represented a $10,000,000 in-
vestment with an annual income of $1,250,000 from a yield of
75,000,000 oranges, selling at $15 per 1,000."9
Lumbering, tourists, and citrus expanded during the seventies
and eighties, bringing more schooners and steamboats to the St.
Johns and to Jacksonville. The DeBary line began operations in
1876, and by 1885 it had thirteen steamers operating. It em-
ployed over three hundred people. The Plant Investment Com-
pany had four steamers on the river, and smaller lines also
worked the St. Johns out of Jacksonville. Supposedly, Jackson-
ville had a total of seventy-four vessels on regular operations from
its port. Thus, the various ships had to resort to public relations
devices to set themselves above the others. In 1874 the officers of
the Dictator began wearing dark blue uniforms in emulation of
the New York merchant officers. Later a small brass cannon was
placed at the bow to be fired upon arrival and departure of
the steamer. 10
Another appeal to the public was to engage in racing with a
competitor. In March 1874, the Dictator and the Brock Line
steamer Florence both left Tocoi wharf headed for Magnolia. The
Florence, on the inside route, aimed directly for the Magnolia
wharf. The Dictator, trying to cut its competitor off, crossed the
bow of the Florence to obtain the preferred position. Unfortu-
nately for both vessels, the captain of the Dictator misjudged his
distance and the strong wind blew the smaller Florence into the
larger ship. The damage was slight, but the Florence lost its chain
box and a water cask, which was carried away when water rushed
through the open port gangway.
In December of the same year, the Dictator ran aground in the
St. Johns. It happened on its run from Jacksonville to Palatka
during a dense fog. She was rendered immobile, and her pas-
sengers expressed great indignation over the captain's incompe-
tency. When the Silver Springs, one of the local river steamers,

78 1I Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

appeared, the Dictator's captain arranged for his passengers to be
transferred to the smaller vessel for transportation to Palatka.
The Dictator's crew then shifted the cargo and waited for the ris-
ing tide to free their steamer."
Even before work began on the bar of the St. Johns, ocean-
going steamers began to appear in the Jacksonville port. In 1878
the Western Texas entered the winter tourist trade. Five years
later, the Florida Steamship Company brought the City of Palatka
to Jacksonville. She was an iron-hulled twin-screw vessel, one of
the first of her kind to enter coastwise service. She was two hun-
dred feet long, a little over thirty-four foot beam, and had a hold
of almost twelve feet. In February 1885, the City of Palatka made
a record-breaking run from Charleston to Jacksonville in a little
over fifteen hours. In 1886 the Clyde Line established service be-
tween New York and Jacksonville. The first Clyde steamer was
the Cherokee, and when it steamed in on 18 November 1886, it
was a day to celebrate. The riverside was jammed with people
witnessing the event. The Wilson Battery turned out to fire sal-
vos from its twelve-pounder as the steamer tied up at John Clark's
dock at the foot of Newnan Street. The Clyde Line added other
steamers over the years, including the Algonquin, the Iroquois,
and the Comanche.
Ray's Steam Schooner Line followed, offering regular service
to Jacksonville. Then the Ocean Steamship Company with the
Kansas City, the City of Birmingham, and the Le Grande Duchesse
joined its competitors in coming to the St. Johns. The Mallory
Line did not operate south of Brunswick, Georgia, until after the
St. Johns jetty work was complete. Then it merged with the
Clyde Line, forming the Clyde-Mallory Line.12
Most of the steamers on the St. Johns in the 1880s were of the
eastern sidewheel type, but in 1882 the first of the western steam-
ers arrived. The genus of the western steamers may be traced to
Captain Henry M. Shreve's George Washington, built in 1816.
Fulton's steamer, and the eastern steamboats, followed the tide-
water design of having comparatively deep-draft hulls. Shreve,
who had gained his initial experience on flatboats on the Ohio

The Steamboat Era II 79

and Mississippi rivers, envisioned his hull as a buoyancy cham-
ber, not as a place for the engines and cargo. Thus, his steamer
basically was a flatboat with the engine and cargo space on the
first deck.13
The Fannie Dugan, one of the earliest western steamers to ply
the St. Johns, was a sidewheeler that began her operations in
Portsmouth, Ohio. Her trip from New Orleans to Jacksonville
was rough enough to peel paint and smash planking during the
heavy seas. When she arrived in port, she was in need of an
overhaul and refurbishing inside and out. It took most of August
to prepare her for trade on the St. Johns. She only drew thirty-
two inches of water when light. Her thirty staterooms, each with
two berths, were arranged around her 120-foot salon. Each state-
room had two exits, one into the salon, and the other outside to
the rail. On 29 August 1882, she made her first commercial trip
upriver to Sanford and Enterprise.
In early October, the Fannie Dugan collided with the Frederick
DeBary near Buffalo Bluff. Both captains claimed that they did
all in their power to avoid the mishap, and that the other was at
fault. The damage was limited principally to the reputations of
the respective captains. The Dugan's claim was only twenty-five
dollars, for the staving in of one of the paddleboxes.14
The Jennie Lane, another western steamboat, soon worked in
tandem with the Dugan, because the two ships had either the
same owners or a good working relationship because both were
western boats. At any rate, by the end of the year the Dugan
sailed from Jacksonville to Enterprise on Monday, Wednesday,
and Friday. The Lane sailed on Tuesday and Saturday. Both ar-
ranged their departures from Sanford to take place after the Or-
lando train had arrived.
Competition became intense on the Jacksonville upriver run.
The Baya Line brought in the new sidewheeler H. T. Baya, and
the DeBary Line added the City of Jacksonville. In addition, the
H. B. Plant, the Frederick DeBary, the Welaka, the George M.
Bird, and the Rosa ran upriver to Sanford. All of these were com-
peting with the Flora, the Eliza Hancox, the John Sylvester, the

80 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Magnolia, and the Palatka from Jacksonville to Palatka. In Janu-
ary 1883, the Dugan cut its rates: $3.50 cabin fare to Sanford,
$5.00 for meals and stateroom, and $8.00 for a round trip with
meals and stateroom. The Jennie Lane reduced its rates to the
same prices a few days later.
Throughout January the Fannie Dugan did well with the lower
fares. Unfortunately for the steamer, near the end of the month,
while returning from Enterprise, one of her guy wires for the
smokestack became entangled in a tree, which caused the stack
to collapse, resulting in quite a bit of damage. The crew jury-
rigged the stack to allow her to continue on to Jacksonville for
repairs. Although the Dugan continued operating against her
competition for most of the year, she was continuously beset by
mechanical problems. 15
The race between the H. T Baya and the John Sylvester ranked
on the St. Johns with the famous steamboat races on the Missis-
sippi River. The Sylvester was built in 1866. She was a wooden
sidewheeler, 193 feet long, 30 foot beam, and had a hold of 9/2
feet. The Baya was a wooden sidewheel vessel built in 1882, 205
feet long, 32 foot beam, and had a hold of 9 feet. The Baya was
newer, longer, and had more horsepower than the Sylvester, yet
the latter had a reputation as a fast vessel and was more "finely
tuned."16 A lengthy article in the Jacksonville Florida Union
by an unknown reporter provides the best source for the race in
its entirety.
News of the impending race brought large crowds to the Jack-
sonville piers. "The two racers of the river started out fresh,
graceful and buoyant, nose to nose, each confident . cheer af-
ter cheer rent the air as the two steamers reached Grassy Point
with no change in their relative positions." Some time after
that, the H. T. Baya gained slightly on its opponent so that, al-
though their sterns were side by side, the bow of the longer Baya
jutted out in the lead. In this position the two ships rounded the
turn in the St. Johns and were lost to the view of the crowd
in Jacksonville.
The Baya inched forward until she was a half a length ahead of
the Sylvester. Then the latter pulled alongside, and Captain John

The Steamboat Era 11 81

Post and his crew shift the chain box and all of the passengers to
the port side, which elevated his steamer's starboard guard above
the Baya's. Then closing over the Baya's guards, Post had the pas-
sengers and chains moved amidships, dropping his guard down
upon the Baya. The reporter wrote: "in this familiar fashion the
twain proceeded as bosom friends with locked arms to the buoy at
Green Cove Springs, turned sharply there and headed for the
dock with not one ray of daylight showing between their sides
and their passengers shaking hands across the guards of the rival-
welded steamers." In addition to the damage done to the guards
of the Baya, the galley, stove, and dishes were smashed, ending
any prospect of meals for the Baya passengers on this trip.
The writer continued: "This was the most exciting part of
this most exciting race. If the boats had kept their straight
course, as it appeared they would do, they would have knocked
the dock and the people into the river. Each boat was trying
desperately for advantage here. The Baya on the right hoped
to crowd the Sylvester off to the left of the dock and take pos-
session. The Sylvester, however, threw her guards above the
Baya, gave her rudder a sudden turn to starboard, and threw the
Baya off the dock to shoreward, and the Sylvester thus took
the dock."
Outmaneuvered, Captain Leo Vogel of the Baya outfoxed his
opponent by not docking at Green Cove Springs. Instead, he or-
dered his crew to heave the mailbags ashore while he backed
down and headed towards Tocoi. By this action he was a half
mile ahead of his rival departing Green Cove Springs. Vogel
maintained his lead. He left Tocoi just as Captain John Post
brought the Sylvester up to the pier.
The Baya reached Palatka about five minutes ahead of the
Sylvester. Unfortunately for Captain Vogel, the Baya had not
taken on a full supply of coal in Jacksonville, and it was apparent
that more would have to be loaded aboard in Palatka. In spite of
the urgings of all concerned, the delay to load coal allowed the
Sylvester to leave ahead of the Baya. Vogel's people said they were
sixteen minutes behind; Post's crew claimed it was only a six-
minute delay.

82 |1 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

On the return journey, the Sylvester was several miles ahead
when it reached Green Cove Springs. Once again, Captain Vo-
gel resorted to the same stratagem of casting the items destined
for Green Cove Springs onto the shore without making a land-
ing. Thus he regained the lead, and on the final leg to Jackson-
ville the Baya was about four lengths ahead of its rival.
The reporter wrote that a "half hour before the arrival of the
boats, their respective docks were thronged with a pushing,
'scrounging' mass of eager people. When a red light came into
sight up the river, a cheer rent the air that was not allowed to
subside until the jubilant sky rockets of the John Sylvester, this
side of Grassy Point, showed the letters H. T. B. on the leading
boat. Then the scene that followed baffles description. Shouts
and yells and hurrahs, benedictions, congratulations, explana-
tions, vociferations, and every demonstration known to human
excitement . "
Who really won the race? That question was debated all over
Jacksonville. Colonel H. T. Baya was ecstatic over the race and
his victory. He claimed that his ship could take the Sylvester in a
fair race. He noted that his ship was new, the engineers were not
familiar with the engine, and the captain was new to the river.
He also pointed out that his ship carried a large number of pas-
sengers, who at times rushed from one side to the other, causing
his ship to list from port to starboard, so that occasionally his
captain was dependent upon only one sidewheel for power. Fur-
ther, he stated that he did not have a chainbox or other heavy
object that his crew could shift from side to side to steady his ship
to counter the movement of the passengers.
Captain Post claimed victory because he had made all of the
stops en route. He said that he only carried thirty pounds of
steam throughout the race, and that he could have passed the
Baya on several occasions if his rival had not cut in on him. Post
was emphatic that in a fair race he would win, and he was willing
to stake money on it.
The reporter concluded by saying: "The Sylvester is perhaps the
best handled boat of the two. Captain Post is a perfect master of

The Steamboat Era 11 83

her movements and knows her like a book. . The talk on the
streets last night was that Captain Crawford would have handled
the Baya better on this river than her new captain who is unac-
quainted completely with its channels. It was said that fully
$10,000 was 'up' on the race and most of this was declared 'off
until a more decisive race would take place."17 However, the
Baya was too large for the St. Johns River. It could not handle
the river bends well enough to remain in Florida service. In a
short time she was sent to the New York area to be used in the
excursion business.
Besides engaging one another in steamboat races, the river
captains encountered a new challenge from nature at about this
time. In the late 1880s or early 1890s (sources are vague as to the
exact time), people living along the St. Johns River were en-
thralled by the addition of a beautiful floating water plant to the
river's scenery. Above a luxuriant green base towered a spike of
purple flowers. Steamboat operators were pleased when the tour-
ists admired the drifting bouquets gliding by their vessels.
The recipient of this attention was the water hyacinth, a fresh-
water, free-floating plant. From its dark green bulblike leaf base
grow bright green upright leaves, which serve as sails in the
wind, crowned by a tall spike of purple flowers rising three to four
feet in height above the water's surface. Below the surface a bushy
mass of fibrous roots extends out six to twenty-four inches. The
flowers last only a day or two before they fade. Then the flower
stalk bends, thrusting the spent flowers and seed pods under wa-
ter. When ripened, the pod releases the seeds which settle to the
bottom or are entrapped in the mass of roots. The seeds remain
fertile for seven or more years.
During warm-weather months along the St. Johns, the seeds
may produce two crops in their growing season, with a third ready
to mature the next spring. However, most of the plants are re-
produced by the vegetative process as stolons develop from the
healthy parent plant. In a short time these offspring emit their
own stolons, reproducing more individual plants. The prolifera-
tion of the water hyacinth borders on the fantastic: it doubles its

84 1| Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

area every month of its growing season. In Florida, where it has
no natural enemies, hyacinth propagation becomes awesome.
Here, the plants are killed by floating down to saltwater, or by
being exposed to a heavy frost.
W. F. Fuller claimed to have brought this beauty to the St.
Johns River, and he believed that "the people of Florida ought to
thank me for putting these plants here."18 Captain W. A. Shaw,
of the steamer City ofJacksonville, said that Fuller "being a fancier
of rare species of plants bought some of the hyacinth seed in New
York and planted it in the pond on his place among other lilies
that were there growing." True to form, the plants multiplied,
and he cast the excess growth into Dunn's Creek.19 Propagation
continued as clumps of water hyacinths drifted about on the St.
Johns at the whim of wind, current, and tide, occasionally mass-
ing at some bend in the river until the wind shifted. People soon
noticed these floating gardens.
By 1893 there were acres of hyacinths floating about until a
man-made barrier, the Florida East Coast Railroad bridge at
Palatka, impeded the plant's movement downriver. Only in the
center, where the draw was, could the hyacinths pass. When a
prolonged south wind pushed the floating masses against the
bridge, a plant jam occurred. The hyacinth became so entan-
gled, both above and especially below the water, that none of the
plants passed, even in the center at the draw. For the first time,
the wide St. Johns was covered from bank to bank. The plant was
no longer a picturesque floating garden; now it was a menace to
navigation, a green menace.
The next year, 1894, when the railroad rebuilt its bridge with
the same low braces from piling to piling, the rivermen protested
this dangerous design. They called upon bank president E. S.
Crill to state their case. Crill wrote to his congressional repre-
sentative, C. M. Cooper, saying: "If this bridge is constructed so
they can pass through they will go out with the tide, and, when
they strike salt water, die. . it will cost thousands to remedy
what can be done now with little or no extra expense."20 Cooper
called upon the Corps of Engineers for aid.

The Steamboat Era 11 85

Crill and the Corps were not the only ones concerned by the
arrival of the water hyacinth. The Department of Agriculture
sent Professor H. J. Webber of Eustus to Jacksonville to investi-
gate the plant. Because of its concern over this threat to river
navigation, the Clyde Line entertained the professor as its guest
on his trip downriver from Sanford to Jacksonville.21
The rivermen were afraid this approach was too passive; they
wanted more positive action. J. E. Lucas, owner of three steam-
boats, represented the boat owners when he made a trip to Wash-
ington to see the secretary of war. Lucas carried photographs to
substantiate his point. One picture showed his three boats in line
near the railroad bridge, struggling to move through the hyacinth
mass. He said that "in three hours they were able to get ahead
only 100 feet."22 Another picture portrayed his crews standing on
a large plant floe using axes and saws to cut through the entan-
gled mass in order to free his boats.
By January 1897, the Times-Union was editorializing about the
serious impedance to navigation caused by these pesky plants. In
August the summer growth was so great that huge masses of hy-
acinths flowed downstream past Jacksonville. On one particular
morning, the plant jam was thick enough to keep the ferryboat
from entering its slip at the foot of Newnan Street. The captain
pushed his ship against the hyacinth, then sent two men out on
the jam with a hawser to secure the plants. When tied down,
he reversed power and hauled the hyacinths out to midstream
where "the men unfastened the hawser and stepped aboard
the ferryboat, which then re-entered the slip and made fast to
the pier."23
The next month Captain Beerbower, of the tug Ida B., re-
ported that he had to turn down a number of tows because he did
"not know what moment we will have our wheel taken off by
some log in the mass of hyacinths." He said that he had already
had one wheel broken for that reason and that the Anne H. had
to replace its shaft because of the plant jam. Later that month
visitors were kept from going aboard the gunboat Nashville when
the plants stopped rowboats from leaving shore. One of the

86 11 Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport

Nashville's cutters became entangled in a mass and had to drift
with the plant flow until extricated by the tide.24
The hyacinth growth struck hardest upon the small commer-
cial river boats and recreational boaters, especially in the narrow
tributaries where the green menace closed all navigation. In Feb-
ruary 1898, the Ida B. again had to be hauled up on the ways at
the Merrill Stevens yard to replace her shoe and rudder, which
had been wrenched off when she tried to force her way through a
dense plant jam. The following September, the steamer Gipsy
took several days to force her way through the hyacinth mass in
Haw Creek to Paxton Landing to pick up 190 barrels of naval
stores bound for Jacksonville. Paxton Landing had been virtually
blockaded by the plants, and there were still several hundred
barrels left which the Gipsy could not accommodate. Business
up the clogged tributaries was coming to a halt, and this was
being felt throughout the St. Johns waterway down to the port
of Jacksonville. 25
The Harvesta Chemical Compounding Company of New Or-
leans contacted the Corps of Engineers to say that it had a spray
which could eliminate the hyacinths. In October 1901, the
steamer Le Reve, a former houseboat rented for private parties,
was fitted with a spraying apparatus. When ready, Le Reve
steamed up the river, dispensing 242,503 gallons of arsenic acid
upon Black Creek, Rice Creek, Deep Creek, and Blue Springs, as
well as the St. Johns. Not all went well on this voyage. Cattle-
men claimed that the solution killed their stock. In 1905 the wa-
ter hyacinth appropriation in the corps' budget contained a
proviso prohibiting spraying in Florida.26
From 1906 to 1939 the most effective destroyer of the weeds
was the sawboat, which contained a horizontal shaft holding
cotton-gin circular saws out in front of the boat. In addition to
the forward horizontal axle, there were two other axles mounted
as outriggers on each side of the stern of the seventeen-foot boat.
After allowing for overlapping, the sawboat destroyed water hy-
acinth in ten-foot strips as it moved through the mass.The same
saws which cut the plants provided propulsion for the boat. Be-
hind the sawboat floated a mass of shredded material which

The Steamboat Era II 87

would decompose and sink within two weeks, if it was not carried
downstream sooner.27
When used properly, the sawboat was 95 percent successful in
killing water hyacinths, but the magnitude of the task prevented
the United States Hyacinths Destruction Boats from ridding the
St. Johns of the green menace. It was considered more effective
in areas of great congestion to have the sawboats cut out large
patches from the main plant-jams so that the hyacinths might
drift downstream to the sea and extinction. In 1932, for example,
1,617,427 square yards of hyacinth jams in the St. Johns were
removed by drifting.28
The water hyacinth's greatest impact was upon pleasure craft
and smaller commercial boats, such as the Ida B. and the Gipsy,
who used the tributary streams. These waterways were periodi-
cally blockaded by the hyacinth bloom. The river's tourist trade
was not affected, because much of this steaming took place in
larger ships, in the winter months, and in channels opened by
the sawboats. Thus the hyacinth's impact upon the tourist trade
was not great.
But the tourist industry, the mainstay of the steamer traffic
into Jacksonville, had already peaked and had entered its de-
cline, as the following figures indicate:

Number of tourists
Year to Jacksonville
1870 14,000
1875 50,000
1885 60,000
1886 65,193
1887 58,460

The peak year was 1886, and the decline the following year was
attributed to the active advertising employed by California to sell
its climate in competition with Florida.29 Still, what might be
overlooked is the fact that by the 1890s the railroads were making
serious inroads into steamer travel. The heyday of the tourist
steamers to the port of Jacksonville was coming to an end.

Chapter Ten


In 1867 Dr. Baldwin joined the newly formed Jacksonville Board
of Trade. The following year he headed the board's Bar Improve-
ments Committee, and, in that capacity, he was back in Wash-
ington seeking funds from Congress.' His plea resulted in
General Quincy Adams Gillmore ordering several more surveys
during 1868 and 1869. The results of these surveys were no dif-
ferent than earlier reports submitted by the Corps in rejecting
Baldwin's views. But Jacksonville's drive to the sea could only be
delayed; it could not be stopped.
Colonel William Ludlow, in charge of the latest investigations
of the St. Johns, wrote Baldwin that Gillmore had discussed
many plans with him. They had considered straightening the
river channel above the bar to increase the scouring action;
constructing piers for the same reason; following Dr. Baldwin's
plan of closing Fort George Inlet; and, finally, raking or dredg-
ing the bar itself. This last procedure was most agreeable to
After more thought, General Gillmore submitted his plan to
rake the bar during the ebb current, when the sand in suspension
would be forced out to sea. He also said that Charles H. Camp-
bell had offered to rake and keep the depth at fifteen feet for ten
thousand dollars per year. The Corps accepted his proposals.3

Down to the Sea 11 89

Dr. Baldwin would have worn a smug smile of satisfaction if he
had read Gillmore's follow-up report on the dredging operations.
The contract was canceled on 22 May 1871, because of lack of
success.4 In fact, Campbell's failure was so complete that Gill-
more made no payment for his efforts.
General Gillmore was at the end of his resources. He had no
confidence in the practicality of jetties, he did not accept Dr.
Baldwin's proposal, and his own scheme of raking or dredging
had failed. He was running out of ideas, while Baldwin still ex-
erted pressure on the Corps to do something. This was when
Colonel Ludlow provided him with a new and revolutionary an-
swer to his problem: a hydraulic hopper dredge.
Earlier, Gillmore had Ludlow examine the Charleston, South
Carolina, harbor. Ludlow's detailed report in April 1871, quoted
from a letter to the Commissioners of the State of South Caro-
lina, on 10 November 1857, discussing the improvement to the
harbor through the use of a hydraulic hopper dredge, the General
Moultrie.5 Gillmore read Captain George W. Cullum's reports of
the world's first hydraulic hopper dredge, and he decided to adopt
the same method.
The steamer Henry Burden, a sidewheeler built to carry pas-
sengers, was chartered. She was 132 feet long, 241/2 foot on the
beam, and drew 5/2 feet. She could carry 100 tons on a 7-foot
draft. She was a strongly built ship, and, although her deep draft
and small carrying capacity hindered her work as a dredge, she
had been the best available for charter. She was equipped with a
centrifugal pump, two suction hoses, and a bin to hold the sand
brought up from the bottom. The Burden became the second hy-
draulic hopper dredge in the United States.
Gillmore made the suction pipe flexible by including a section
composed of a six-inch rubber hose covering a spiral spring so
that it could ride on the bottom, regardless of the pitching of the
Burden. He put a two-hundred-pound iron frame on the dredge
end of the pipe to weight it down. Below this, at the mouth of
the pipe, he fastened metal teeth to stir up the sand and muck.
The entire pipe was fifty feet long. Two years later she was