Always the partisan, he fought for his causes, and never surrendered.  --Kyle S. VanLandingham

Page 2 - 1861 Secession to End of Civil War

Page 1 - 1846 Magbee's arrival to 1860 Lincoln elected     Page 3 - Reconstruction to 1890s


Jan. 12, 1861 Peninsular
Letter from Simon Turman, editor of the Peninsular, in Tallahassee, Jan 4. 

The convention on secession getting organized.





Jan. 10, 1861 Florida Ordinance of Secession from the May 26 Florida Peninsular.
Several articles of the ordinance have been omitted here, see them all
at the above link.




Jan. 26, 1861 Peninsular

1861 - January 10  - Florida secedes from the Union


When the Senate reconvened in January, 1861,  Florida became the third state to secede from the Union on Jan. 10th.  The Convention met and approved Florida's secession from the Union by a vote of 62-7. In the majority were Hillsborough’s delegates, Simon Turman and James Gettis. 

Animated map adapted from Tennessee Civil War History


1861 - January 17 - Senator Magbee instrumental in creation of Polk County


On Jan. 17, 1861, Sen. Howell introduced legislation to create Polk County from parts of Hillsborough and Brevard counties.  Magbee shepherded the bill through the Senate.


On Jan. 21, Senator David Levy Yulee read a statement of withdrawal to the Senate, indicating that he and fellow Floridian Stephen R. Mallory would withdraw from the Senate to support the Confederacy.  On March 14, 1861, the Senate declared Mallory’s seat vacant. Yulee’s term expired on March 4, 1861, so no official Senate action was necessary.


Creation of Polk County
According to Canter Brown, Jr., in his book None Can Have Richer Memories: Polk County, Florida, 1940-2000, after Magbee and Howell were elected,  "...creation of the new county thereafter proceeded in an orderly manner.  It was Howell, a longtime frontier dweller from near Itchepackesassa, who introduced the legislation on Jan. 17, 1861, to create Polk County from parts of Hillsborough and Brevard counties. The measure passed the House about two weeks later, on Jan. 30. Magbee, a Tampa lawyer sympathetic to frontier issues, then ushered the measure through the Senate in less than a week, winning Senate approval on Feb. 4."

"Therefore, on Feb. 8, 1861, Polk was one of three proposed counties signed into existence by Gov. Madison S. Perry. It was named in honor of President James K. Polk, who took office about the time Florida became a state. “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Florida in General Assembly, convened, that from and after the passage of this act, the Western part of Brevard county and the Eastern part of Hillsborough county, shall form the county of Polk, and that the said county of Polk be and the same is hereby established,” states the law, Chapter 1201 of the 1861 Florida Statutes, that created Polk County. The law gave residents of the new county the right to elect their own county officers, just as they had in Hillsborough County, and to select by ballot a permanent seat of government (the location was not dictated by law, but the name was Reidsville). The first election was set to take place immediately."

Maps, Etc. - Johnson's Florida, 1860 Johnson, A.J., Johnson's New Illustrated Family Atlas (New York, NY: Johnson and Browning, 1860)

Florida Governor Madison Starke Perry
Fourth governor of Florida
October 5, 1857 to October 7, 1861

Portrait and info from Florida Dept. of State
Madison Perry was born in Lancaster District, South Carolina, in 1814. He came to Florida in the 1830s and became a leader among the area's plantation owners. As governor, Perry helped bring about the settlement of a long-standing boundary dispute with Georgia and encouraged the building of railways. During the years before the Civil War, Governor Perry foresaw the possibility that Florida might secede from the Union, and in 1858 urged the reestablishment of the state's militia. Florida did secede three years later, on January 10, 1861. After his term as governor ended, Perry served as colonel of the 7th Florida Regiment until illness forced his retirement. He died at his Alachua County plantation in March 1865.

President James Knox Polk
Eleventh president of the United States
March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849
Portrait from

Polk is known for his policy of expansion which added Texas, California and other territories to the U.S. Polk believed in the westward expansion of the nation at any price and that the ideal of expansion was the fate of the nation--he believed it was a 'Manifest Destiny' for the country. Polk was a member of the Democrat Political Party and was 49 years old when he was inaugurated.  In 1849 he was the first president in office to have his photo taken. James K. Polk was born on November 2, 1795 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He was named after his maternal grandfather, who was a militia captain during the American Revolution and also took his mother’s family name. Polk was a distant relative of John Knox who was the leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland openly called for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. James Knox Polk died on June 15, 1849 in Nashville, Tennessee.  Polk's careers included Lawyer, Politician and Statesman. He was well educated at the University of North Carolina and had military experience in the Mexican War. He was the only president who was also the Speaker of the House of Representatives.


Florida, 1871

Maps Etc., Asher & Adams, Asher & Adams new commercial, topographical, and statistical atlas and gazetteer of the United States (New York, NY: Asher & Adams, 1871).

Courtesy of the private collection of Roy Winkelman






By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

During the year 1860, Tampa continued to improve both as to business and population. To the best of my recollection there were about 1,500 inhabitants.  After the election of Abraham Lincoln as president, considerable excitement followed, when in January, 1861, Florida seceded and the climax was reached and every one went wild.

Later on, the militia was called out and every available man was put to work throwing up breastworks and batteries at the mouth of the river, to resist an attack from the United States navy, which we believed at that time we would wipe off the face of the water.

[Thomas E. Jackson in 1924 estimated Tampa’s 1860 population as 451 in the incorporated limits and 100 in the suburbs.]



Jan. 26, 1861 Peninsular
Taxpayers hold a meeting to decide on unincorporation of the City of Tampa

Feb. 2, 1861 Peninsular
Report on minutes of the public meeting

Feb. 2, 1861 Peninsular
Confederacy will be ready by the time of Lincoln's inauguration.


1861 - January Legislature session continued

In addition to the act forming Polk County, Magbee introduced a treasury act** to produce funds for the state, a bill that donated the Fort Brooke reservation to Hillsborough County and a bill granting land warrants to military veterans.  (**The treasury act is lengthy and has been cut from the image below.)

Feb. 23, 1861 Peninsular


In the paragraph directly above,
"County Site" should be "County Seat."


During its first six years, Polk County had no official county seat. The 1861 legislation creating the county directed voters to select a courthouse site. In fact, the legislation went so far as to name the county seat-to-be "Reidsville," possibly after Sam Reid, an early surveyor of the Peace River valley. In 1862 cattle baron Jacob Summerlin purchased the site of Ft. Blount on the Peace River and donated land for schools, churches, and a courthouse. The name Reidsville was abandoned for that of General Francis S. Bartow, recently killed at the first battle of Manassas, one of the first Confederates of high rank to die in the Civil War. Bartow, nicknamed "City of Oaks and Azaleas," has remained the county seat through the present day.
Florida's 10th Judicial Circuit - Polk County Courthouse

Magbee returned home on Wed., Feb. 20 from the Senate session in time to speak at (
ironically) the George Washington Birthday celebration on February 22, 1861.

Feb. 23, 1861 Peninsular



Hamlin V. Snell
Photo from Find a Grave

Tampa’s 8th Mayor

Land owner, State Legislator, Collector of Customs
Term: February 2, 1861 – May, 1861
Born: 1810, Savannah, GA.
Died: Jan., 1886, Gainesville, Fla.

Hamlin Snell moved to Calhoun County, Florida in the late 1830s where he served as the county’s representative in the 1840 Legislative Council. In 1842, he moved to Sarasota where he established a small plantation and is credited as the first person to plant guavas in Florida, which he imported from Cuba. 

Snell sold his plantation and relocated to Manatee County where in 1851 he was elected State Senator for the 18th District which, at that time, included Hillsborough, Levy and Hernando Counties. During his time as senator, 1852 - 1855, he was elected President of the Senate in 1854 and introduced the bill which created Manatee County.  From Nov. 24th, 1856 to Dec. 27, 1856, he served as Speaker of the 8th session of the  State House.  Snell resigned  and moved to Tampa in late 1857 where on  June 19, 1858, he replaced James T. Magbee as deputy collector for the Port of Tampa.

Snell continued to take an active role in local politics which led to his election as Mayor of Tampa in January 1861. However, by February 1861, war preparations between the southern and northern states were having its impact on Florida. Tensions between Tampa's small but influential number of unionists and the secessionist majority became increasingly violent. Most Unionists left Tampa for Key West where they received protection from federal troops. On hearing the news that Confederate guns had fired on Fort Sumter, Mayor Snell proclaimed a day of celebration.

On April 21, 1861 the 20th Florida Regiment assumed command at the abandoned Fort Brooke and declared Tampa under Martial Law. City government continued to operate, but its activities were subject to the approval of the Confederate commander. The value of Tampa’s port was recognized by both the Union and Confederate governments and soon the first ships of the Union Blockade appeared in Tampa Bay. Snell and other City officials served without pay during most of their term when all City salaries were cancelled after May 20, 1861. Snell resigned as Mayor and hurriedly left Tampa after selling his properties. At present the reasons for Snell's rapid departure have not been researched. One possible explanation is that he realized Tampa could not be effectively defended against Union invasion from the sea and had no desire to remain in the city.

Hamlin Snell never returned to Tampa and, in January 1886, passed away in Gainesville, Florida.

List of Speakers of the Florida House of Representatives     The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa
City of Tampa past Mayors, Hamlin V. Snell 7th Mayor Of Tampa


Feb. 23, 1861 Peninsular



The Confederate Battle Flag
The seven stars represented the original Confederate States; South Carolina (Dec. 20, 1860), Mississippi (Jan. 9, 1861), Florida (Jan. 10,1861), Alabama (Jan. 11, 1861), Georgia (Jan. 19, 1861), Louisiana (Jan. 26, 1861), and Texas (Feb. 1, 1861).


The $50 reward ad had been running since Nov. 17, 1860.
Dr. Franklin Branch was the owner of the Branch Opera House on Franklin St.

Jan. 26, 1861 Peninsular



James McKay and  Jean St. Shipyard

Feb. 1, 1861 Peninsular

Captain James McKay, Sr.
Sketched by Philip Ayers Sawyer in 1938 from an old photo in the home of James' son, H.C. McKay.**
State Archives of Florida

**James Sr. didn't have a son with H.C. initials. 

Image from Jean St. Shipyard website

The Jean Street Shipyard (est. 1843) is a shipyard located on the Hillsborough River in Tampa. It is located approximately 5 miles from the mouth of the Hillsborough River, about 1 mile above the Hillsborough Avenue bridge in what is now the neighborhood of Seminole Heights. It is a full service shipyard with wet slips and a Travelift for hauling vessels from the water.

The shipyard was first established in 1843, as far upriver as was navigable on good solid ground. This allowed the shipyard to be surrounded by good quality shipbuilding material, as well as protect it from storms and weather. A massive wharf was built for the loading of local cargo, but the primary function of the shipyard was servicing and repairing riverboats, skiffs, barges, and local sloops. The site was equipped with a machine shop, wood shop, a marine hardware store, and railways for hauling vessels from the water. James McKay, a schooner captain, was one of the first owners of the shipyard and used the facilities to maintain his cargo and trading vessels, including steamships, schooners, sloops, skiffs, and barges. McKay was heavily invested in Tampa, owning a general store and a sawmill. He also owned two schooners that he used in the cargo trade with Cuba, Central America, and South America. McKay was elected mayor of Tampa in 1859.



McKay, an experienced sailor and seaman, is well known to Tampa history as a wealthy and successful businessman who owned the local salt works. He is credited with organizing the “Cowboy Cavalry” to supply beef to the fighting Confederate Army.

Around the time of the start of the Civil War, the Jean Street shipyard on the Hillsborough River was owned and funded in part by James McKay, and another local Tampa businessman, David Hope. McKay also owned and operated a shipping line that ran from Tampa to Havana.


McKay, however, is probably best known for, and perhaps immortalized for, being a daring and brazen blockade runner. In spite of the Union’s efforts to cut Tampa off from the rest of the world, he and his fleet of blockade runners helped to keep Ft. Brooke and the citizens of Tampa supplied with goods and able to continue outside trade.


During the Civil War the Union controlled the waters of Tampa Bay from its Naval base at Egmont Key. It also controlled most of the Gulf of Mexico from its Naval and Army bases in Key West, making it no easy task to get past a blockade. Both McKay and Hope owned and operated blockade runners during the Civil War. Jean Street Shipyard serviced these vessels, and as such became indirectly involved in the battle.


The Hillsborough River Raid and the battle of Ballast Point, at Jean Street Shipyard




1861 - April 13 - Articles in The Florida Peninsular


1861 - April 20 - Articles in The Florida Peninsular

Partial article, see entire article online





1861 - Magbee begins a campaign against McKay

John T. Lesley was a prominent cattleman and like many of the prominent men in Southern communities at the onset of the Civil War formed a military company at his own expense. Lesley’s Tampa troops who were later described as coming from “the best families of the town and vicinity,” trained and paraded through Tampa streets while waiting two months to be sworn in.


Major William Iredell Turner, 
Staff, 8th Florida Infantry

Residence Tampa FL; 49 years old. Enlisted on 9/15/1861 at Tampa, FL as a Captain.
On 9/15/1861 he was commissioned into K Co. FL 8th Infantry. He Resigned on 9/17/1862
Promotions: Major 7/5/1862 
Intra Regimental Company Transfers: 8/5/1862 from company K to Field & Staff 

Born 6/7/1812 in Richmond, VA
Died 10/28/1881 in Manatee County, FL 
Prior service in US Army. Served in Seminole War.
Photo & info from Find-a-Grave



Unfortunately, some of the Lesley’s youngsters were more used to parties than digging the earth works ordered by Col. William I. Turner, commander of Fort Brooke and a veteran of the Second Seminole War. This lack of discipline led to problems.


In one instance in April 1861, Lesley and his men refused to obey the direct orders of Turner, a colonel in the state militia. They had seized and refused to return a fishing smack they believed to belong to the controversial James McKay whose business dealings, including selling Florida beef and supplies to Unionists in Key West since 1858, placed his loyalty to the Confederacy in question. The high jinks by Lesley’s men angered fellow merchant, John Darling and others who wanted the men placed under Turner’s authority. 

Tampa’s citizens informed Governor Madison Perry of the conflict at Fort Brooke and Turner’s strict conformity to orders in a letter dated June 27, 1861.  McKay wrote and asked the governor to clarify for Lesley and his men that they were subject to his friend, Turner’s authority.




Magbee responded to McKay in a letter to the Florida Peninsular, July 19, 1861.** After comparing McKay to Benedict Arnold, Magbee wrote:


"Former differences I burn upon the altar of my country and will to the last moment stand side by side with any one in the cause of the South. She is now entered into a Just and Holy war, in which every man, woman and child is and should feel interested and we have not the right to cater to the views and interests of friend or foe, whose conduct cannot meet the smiles and plaudits of our country, the land of the "stars and bars," the home of the patriot where the only temple of true fealty has been preserved. I am a Southern man by birth, was reared and educated in Georgia, was born a slave owner and have owned slaves all my life and am also an undoubted secessionist."

**All Florida Peninsulars of July 1861 through April 1866 are missing.

John Thomas Lesley on his wedding day when he married Margaret Brown Tucker, widow of William W. Tucker.
Photo from Florida Memory State Archives

There were few aspects in the life of the young community of Tampa that Capt. John Thomas Lesley (1835-1913) did not touch in some significant way. At the age of 25, Lesley had already become one of Tampa’s leading citizens. Born in Madison County, Florida, John Lesley moved to Tampa with his family in 1848. During the Third Seminole War, Lesley joined the Florida militia as a private but quickly was promoted to lieutenant. He became a cattle rancher and at the outbreak of the Civil War, he formed a company of Tampa men and was elected its captain. In October 1862, Lesley was commissioned a major in the Confederate Army.

At the end of the war, Lesley returned to Tampa where he worked to establish his financial and social position. During the next several years, Lesley served as sheriff for two years and built a sawmill that supplied much of the lumber used to re-build the town. He later became a  state legislator.



Magbee then began a campaign in the Peninsular to have McKay arrested for petty treason.


Gov. Perry agreed with McKay, but Lesley's unit was mustered out before McKay’s boat was returned. Col. Turner was replaced in late July by Florida Militia General, Joseph M. Taylor.


The Robles Family During the Civil War in Tampa, by Karen Lucibello


1861 - April 21 - Confederate command takes over Fort Brooke

On April 21, 1861, the 20th Florida Regiment took over the abandoned Fort Brooke and the Confederate military commander declared Tampa under marshal law, dismissed the mayor, city council and other employees and essentially nullified the authority of the town's government. About three weeks later, current mayor Hamlin Valentine Snell hurriedly left Tampa after selling his properties.

John Jackson took over as acting mayor in May, 1861.

Tampa’s 9th Mayor

Engineer, Surveyor, Merchant
First Term: May, 1861 – February 3, 1862 - Acting Mayor
Second Term: Feb. 3, 1862 – Feb. 22, 1862
Born: June 1809, Ballybay, County Monaghan, Ireland
Died: November 4, 1887, Tampa, Florida


See earlier info about Jackson as a surveyor previously presented in this feature.

While on a surveying  assignment in 1847 St. Augustine he met Ellen Maher and they married there on July 22, 1847.  He and Ellen Maher had four children: Thomas, James, Kate, and John. In 1849 they came to Tampa where  he and his wife established a general store on the corner of Washington and Tampa streets. They also led a movement to have a Catholic priest brought to Tampa. His children were the first in Tampa to be baptized in the Catholic faith.

Jackson served as acting mayor when Hamlin Snell resigned in mid-May, 1861, until his election February 3, 1862.


James McKay had been shipping cattle to Cuba since 1858-59 and although the war had broken out April 12, he continued the trading, not only selling cattle in Cuba but also to U. S. troops in Union-controlled Key West and the Tortugas.  Magbee seized on these resolutions below to gain support for McKay's arrest when he returned to Tampa.

Florida Peninsular - May 11, 1861


Florida Peninsular - May 25, 1861
This is the last Florida Peninsular available until May 5, 1866

From the Florida Peninsular - May 25, 1861
The Salvor and the Weir arrived in Tampa bringing secessionist citizens ("loyal citizens of the State") from Key West who were being treated "badly" by the U.S. military in Key West. 


In the summer of 1860, McKay experienced a disaster due to the late arrival of his new ship, the Salvor.  Modifications to the Salvor in New York took longer than expected so thousands of his cattle died of thirst while waiting to be shipped south from Tampa.  This resulted in McKay and other cattlemen to shift their operations from Tampa to the Peace River at Charlotte Harbor in order to take advantage of the better opportunities for selling cattle from there. 

The Republican presidential victory and the ensuing clamor for secession prompted McKay and other cattlemen to step up their operations.  Business was booming for McKay as he made numerous runs to Key West, Cuba and the Tortugas.  This opened a "Pandora's box" for McKay.

On June 6, 1861, McKay's cattle boat Salvor was detained by the U.S. Navy at Key West.  The Navy then leased the ship from McKay for their own use and allowed him to return to Tampa in a fishing smack.  Soon after his arrival in Tampa, McKay was arrested for treason and charged with supplying beef to the Union enemy.

Florida's Peace River Frontier, by Canter Brown, Jr.



July 8, 1861 - Savannah Republican
Reports from the Tampa Peninsular the Salvor detained at KW and sent to Ft. Pickens, Lesley's Sunny South Guards detain the W.A. Wilbur
Capture of the Salvor

July 8, 1861 - Savannah Republican

July 10, 1861 Savannah Republican - Blockade of Tampa by the R. R. Cuyler

July 16, 1861 - Savannah Daily Morning News - More of Lincoln Despotism
Schooner Dudley arrived in Tampa on July 2 with preacher who was arrested and jailed
for praying for Confederacy in church at KW on Jun 23.

July 30, 1861 - Savannah Daily Morning News - Coast invaded by Lincolnites

Aug. 12, 1861 - Savannah Republican - Report of capture of Lincoln steamer Crusader



1861 - Aug 10 - Sen. Magbee is prosecutor in controversial James McKay trial


Ads for Gettis, Hart and Magbee appear one right after the other on the front page of many issues of the Peninsular.  These from May 21, 1859.

On August 10, 1861, Magbee once again entered the political arena, this time in the highly controversial McKay treason case.  Court was not in session at the time, so McKay’s trial was held before two justices of the peace at the Hillsborough County courthouse on August 10.  McKay was represented by James Gettis and Ossian B. Hart. The volunteer prosecutor was none other than Senator James T. Magbee.


Ossian B. Hart
10th Governor of Florida, and first governor of Florida who was born in the state.  Wikipedia

McKay believed that "the whole matter originated through malice of two or three dishonest Govt. officials, who, a few years before, I was instrumental in having removed from office for their bad acts" [referring to Magbee. Cattlemen associates of McKay’s offered, in his words, “to come in mass and break up the justice court,” but the defendant declined their efforts. 


McKay's defense was ably conducted by Tampa lawyer and future Republican Governor Ossian Bingley Hart, a Tampa Unionist,** and James Gettis, McKay’s personal lawyer and a northern-born secessionist.  Also, McKay’s friend, militia Brigadier General Joseph M. Taylor, as a local man put it, “sat himself on the trial."


**In the United States, Southern Unionists were white citizens living in the Confederate States of America, opposed to secession, and against the Civil War. These people are also referred to as Southern Loyalists, Union Loyalists and Lincoln Loyalists.



James McKay's trial is continued after the Gettis profile below.



James Gettis

When 32-year-old Pennsylvanian James Gettis arrived in Tampa in 1848, he doubled the local lawyer population.  Born May 4, 1816, he graduated from law school in Pennsylvania and practiced in that state until he moved to Hillsborough County. Gettis never spoke of his family, for personal reasons known only to himself, even when directly questioned about them. He had practiced law in his home state but friends believed that disagreement with his family, over the issues that led to the War Between the States, prompted his removal to Florida.

The first recorded session of circuit court in Hillsborough County occurred in April 1846, although an earlier term was held in the fall of 1845, no records remain. Georgia-born James T. Magbee, Tampa's first practicing attorney, was admitted to the bar in April 1846 and not until October 24, 1848 was another Tampan admitted to practice. On that date, James Gettis was examined by attorneys Magbee and Thomas E. King and found qualified to practice law in the courts of Florida. The court minutes show that Circuit Judge Joseph B. Lancaster granted his approval to the admission of Gettis. He had several students of law under his tutelage including Henry Laurens Mitchell, later Governor or Florida; and John A. Henderson.

James Gettis, from a larger group photo of the 1861 members of Florida's Secession Convention in Tallahassee.
Florida Memory-State Archives


On August 10, 1850, James Gettis was initiated an Entered Apprentice in Hillsborough Lodge No. 25, Free and Accepted Masons and was raised a Master Mason on September 17, 1850. For the remainder of his life, Gettis remained a loyal and active Freemason. Though northern-born, James Gettis soon earned his bona fides as a Southerner. He owned no slaves but strongly supported the institution. Gettis, a member of the controversial "Know Nothing" party, was active and vocal in politics. He was city councilman, a state representative and later a judge, as well as tireless promoter of Tampa's development.

He was elected Representative to Legislature for Hillsborough County and was Solicitor for the Southern Judicial Circuits of Florida; was a Circuit Judge, delegate to the Secession Convention of 1860 (voting for secession) and was elected Chairman. He was also a Delegate to the Constitutional Convention of Florida in 1865. During the Civil War, he organized his own Company and was elected its Captain. Captain Gettis served in the Company from 10 April 1862 until he resigned on 17 April 1863, due to ill health, at that time he served in the Tampa City Guards. As a bachelor, upon his death all of his property was left to James F. Henderson, executor of his estate. He is buried in Tampa's Oaklawn Cemetery.

1861 Florida Secession Convention members, Gettis 2nd row, 3rd from left, #12.  Click to see larger

City of Tampa Parks & Recreation Dept., Oaklawn Cemetery
The South Florida Rifles, Officers Biographies



1861 - Sen. Magbee is prosecutor in controversial James McKay trial (continued)

At McKay's trial, which was described as "long and acrimonious," Magbee prosecuted the case with vigor and called for the death penalty, demanding that McKay be hanged.


However, the Justices of the Peace, after the intercession of Gen. Joseph M. Taylor, commander at Fort Brooke, Ossian Hart, Gettis, and a number of cattlemen who pressed the justices to set McKay free on bail, avoided judgment by binding the captain over for a new trial at the October term of the circuit court.  Taylor also arranged for McKay to pass the new Union blockade and head for Key West.  McKay was required to post a bond of $10,000. Soon after, McKay was allowed to leave Tampa and resume his business activities.  He went back to Key West.


In mid-August Taylor left Fort Brooke and J. T. Lesley began his short stint as commander there. In less than two weeks he and his men were transferred to Shaw Point on the south side of the Manatee River. His unit came under the new commander of Fort Brooke, Major Wylde Bowen from Lake City who brought his two companies of the 4th Florida Infantry formerly of the Cedar Keys.


The Robles Family During the Civil War in Tampa, by Karen Lucibello


Maj. Wylde Lyde Latham Bowen
The Sunland Tribune, Journal of the Tampa Historical Society, Volume XVII November, 1991 Journal of the Tampa Historical Society - Tampa's Forgotten Defenders, By Zack Waters.




Florida's gulf coastline geography and sparse population provided an ideal setting for resourceful sea captains with small ships to slip past the Union ships blockading the east gulf coast.  The U.S. Navy kept a close eye on Florida's ports and patrolled the coastline, sending armed expeditions ashore to destroy Confederate facilities. Tampa's large bay offered many places of hiding for blockade-running vessels, so it drew much attention from the Union Navy.

To support the blockade and control Tampa Bay, the Navy kept a base of operations and a coal station on Egmont Key,  located about 35 miles from Fort Brooke, where Tampa Bay joins the Gulf of Mexico. The key's small civilian population was mostly made up of northern sympathizer taking refuge on the small island.

Early confrontations in the bay area could be described more accurately as "skirmishes"   or "squabbles" between resident Unionists and Confederate troops comprised of local citizens.  But engagements on land and sea became more serious when crew members of Federal ships started going ashore and raiding the local salt works.

Salt processing facilities were built in the shallow salt waters along the gulf coast, where seawater was boiled in large kettles so the water would evaporate and leave the salts behind.  When Union salt factory raiders began to be  ambushed by the local Rebels, the Navy changed its strategy and began to shell the salt factories before sending troops ashore to finish the destruction.

Fort Brooke, with its ideal location, provided excellent protection for the area during the Seminole wars and served as a marshaling point for troops going to Mexico during the Mexican War.  But when the Civil War started, Confederates took over the fort, and the cannon that once had protected Tampa from Indians were turned facing the river in expectation of a Union invasion. Directly south of Fort Brooke, in Hillsborough Bay, were some mud flats, the largest was known as Big Grassy Island. Any ship coming in from south had to pass the island to get to the Hillsborough River.

The Hillsborough River Raid & Battle of Ballast Point


The story of Egmont Key is not that of a major battle or a significant individual. Egmont Key’s story is about local resistance, disease, and the fight for survival. It reminds the public that the sectional conflict reached even the distant corners of the divided nation and illustrates the challenges that war thrust upon the settlers on the Florida frontier.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Tampa Bay area was a sparsely populated borderland rife with mosquitoes and disease. Indeed, in 1861, one New York Times correspondent denounced it as a “miserable, God-forsaken hole.”  But the U.S. government disagreed and, even years earlier, had perceived the strategic value of Tampa Bay and of Egmont Key, which stands guard where the bay’s shallow waters meet the Gulf.

1855 Nautical map of entrance to Tampa Bay
From Florida Memory, State Library & Archives of Florida

When Florida became a state in 1845, recognition of the bay’s importance heightened. The following year, Florida’s senators pressured Congress to appropriate funds for a lighthouse to guide ships into Tampa Bay. Three years later, a group of army engineers, led by young U.S. Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, recommended fortifying the Key. Fortifications did not materialize, but Congress appropriated ten thousand dollars to construct a lighthouse, which began operating in May 1848.

A few months later, on September 25, 1848, a hurricane inundated the Key with six feet of water, damaging the new beacon. The U.S. Congress responded on August 10, 1856, by appropriating sixteen thousand dollars for a new lighthouse. This structure, completed in 1858, stood eighty-seven feet above sea level and could “withstand any storm.”  The sturdy lighthouse has needed very few repairs over the years, but one resulted from the actions of loyal Confederates during the Civil War.

Egmont Key Lighthouse, 1862
From Florida Memory, State Library & Archives of Florida



1861 - Death of  Susan Tatum Magbee


In November 1861, Sen. Magbee returned to Tallahassee for the upcoming legislative session. There, he came close to being elected to the Senate of the Confederate States of America.  Magbee's wife, Susan A. Tatum Magbee, died at age 33 on Nov. 18, 1861.  There is not a record of her burial in the Magbee plots at Oaklawn or Woodlawn cemeteries.


James McKay blockade-running and capture

Most of the Tampa area population sided with the Confederacy, and one of the most prominent of Tampa's was Captain James McKay, the owner of two blockade runners, among other vessels.


McKay was a master seaman from Thurso, Scotland, who brought in a large amount of cash from his  business ventures and eventually became city mayor and local hero.


In 1859, McKay bought several ships and started shipping cattle from Tampa to Havana, and then from Charlotte Harbor to Key West, Havana and Tortuga. The Cubans paid him in gold, enabling McKay to expand into other businesses. He continued to operate these businesses during the Civil War while also handling supplies for the Confederacy. It was common for McKay to lead herds of cattle northward to supply Southern troops with his much-needed beef.


After reclaiming the Salvor in Key West from the Union command's 3-month lease, McKay took it to Havana for repairs.

On October 13, 1861, McKay was traveling with his son and crew from Havana aboard his steamer Salvor when he was captured by the USS Keystone State. A search of the Salvor reportedly found 600 pistols and rifles, 500,000 percussion caps, coffee, cigars and clothing.   They were brought into Key West where McKay, his son Donald, and his crew became prisoners of war and his steamer was confiscated.

McKay felt that his ship, the Salvor, which was sailing under the British flag as the MS Perry, was wrongfully seized by the Union, claiming he had sold it to a British subject in Havana.

The Salvor and its cargo, along with McKay's young son Donald, the crew, and McKay's slaves, were towed to Philadelphia, while McKay, and two passengers were detained at Fort Taylor in Key West.  From Philadelphia, Donald McKay and the crew were sent to prison at Fort Lafayette off the coast of the Bronx in New York, where they were eventually released on different dates for various reasons.

It was only after five months, at a considerable cost and through the personal intervention of President Lincoln, that James McKay was allowed to take an oath of allegiance and was paroled. 

See details of this on this separate page:

On April 21, 1862, McKay was back in Key West and returned to Tampa in mid-May.

Part of the condition of McKay’s pardon was a promise not to return to the service of the Confederate cause, a promise the now bitter McKay abandoned immediately upon his return to Tampa.

Upon his return he armed the Scottish Chief with a 6-pounder cannon, and went to work eliminating a fleet of small boats which were fishing with "illegal fishing contracts" along the lower west coast of Florida and were also spying. This fleet of small boats was supplying federally-controlled Key West not only with Florida fish, but also with information about Confederate ships and their positions to the Union army based at Key West.  The Scottish Chief captured 24 small boats and their crews, thus making Florida waters safer, but earning a vendetta against him from the Union.


This vendetta would eventually cost him dearly. Later, according to Union records, it was the destruction of McKay's two vessels, and nothing more, that was the actual focus of a attack against Tampa in October 1862, dubbed the Hillsborough River Raid. The Hillsborough River Raid then led to the Battle at Ballast Point.


After the capture of these “illegal fishing boats” for the Confederacy, McKay continued  blockade running with his sailing sloop, the Kate Dale, and his prize vessel, the Scottish Chief. He made six more successful runs past Union vessels with Scottish Chief.

At first he carried beef to Havana but as beef became more vital to the Confederacy and the Florida legislature outlawed the export of cattle, he shifted to cotton. For the relief of the remaining Tampans he also brought in medicines, rum, foodstuffs and other supplies.

The relief offered to Tampa by McKay and the other local blockade runners so rankled Union blockaders that on several occasions Union ships entered Tampa Bay to reek mischief and remind Tampa citizens that they were being blockaded. 


By October 1863, McKay was ready to make another run with bales of cotton through the blockade with the Scottish Chief and his new vessel Kate Dale, a small sailing sloop, neither of which drew more than 4 feet of water.

Congressional Edition, Volume 3788
Hillsborough River Raid.
The Hillsborough River Raid and Battle of Ballast Point


In July 1861, approximately thirty to forty U.S. seamen from the steamer R.R. Cuyler fortified the key with three eighteen-pound guns and erected a battery on the island’s east side. But blockaders did not maintain a constant presence at Egmont Key since blockade duty elsewhere along the Gulf Coast often necessitated their presence.

In August 1861, lighthouse keeper George H. Richards, an opportunist who feigned loyalty in blockaders’ presence but harbored Confederate sympathies, fled to Tampa in their absence. Upon hearing of the Yankees’ departure, members of the Sunny South Guard and pro-Confederate civilians went out to Egmont Key and removed the lighthouse’s lamp and oil to black out Tampa Bay, scuttle U.S. ships, and frustrate the blockade. The crafty Floridians smuggled the lamp to Tampa and hid it so well at Fort Brooke that it was not rediscovered until after the war, allowing the lighthouse to finally resume operating in June 1866.

One New York Times correspondent decried the theft of the light as “a mark of Southern vandalism,” but the Union persisted in its efforts to thwart blockade runners from reaching Tampa by devising a makeshift light.

Union military campaigns, the blockade, and Confederate government directives bled Florida residents of necessities as the war dragged on.

1864 drawing of three vessels blockading Tampa Bay, the schooner Stonewall, the man-of-war James L. Davis, and a steamer Sunflower. Courtesy of Florida Memory: The State Library & Archives of Florida.

Consequently, U.S. troops took advantage of the war-weariness of Bay Area residents, especially those with Union sympathies. Captain Eaton, of the U.S. Ethan Allen blockading Tampa Bay, estimated that there were about forty Unionist families in Tampa and, in February 1862, proposed making Egmont Key into a place of refuge for residents seeking U.S. protection.

Nine months later, the New York Times reported that a dozen contrabands and four white refugees occupied the buildings surrounding the lighthouse, cleared the island’s ground, and cultivated sweet potatoes. These men and women recognized that Union forces on the Gulf Coast generally, and on Egmont Key specifically, represented their best hope of survival despite the logistical challenges that U.S. troops faced in supplying refugees and contrabands who sought their protection.

Egmont Key remained isolated from major engagements, but the men stationed on or near the island felt the ravages of one of the Civil War’s most deadly assailants – disease. A yellow fever epidemic struck the Key in July 1864 and claimed the lives of sixteen young men – seamen and soldiers – whose ages ranged from sixteen to thirty-six. Survivors buried these casualties, along with four others who died from accidental gunshot wounds as well as from unknown causes, in a modest cemetery under Egmont Key’s sandy soil, where they rested until 1909 when the Civil War burials were reinterred in the National Cemetery in St. Augustine.

Egmont Key lighthouse & pier, 1910s
Courtesy of Florida Memory: The State Library & Archives of Florida.


Nov. 4, 1861 - Savannah Republican - Yankees get news and Capture of the Salvor from NY dispatch of Oct. 24.
This article misspells "Salvor" and incorrectly describes it as having been captured while entering Tampa Bay.  It was south of Tortugas.

Nov. 6, 1861 - Savannah Daily Morning News - Capture of the Salvor from Tallahassee Floridian.


See separate page  The Capture of the Salvor and Imprisonment of James McKay.


Records show that Captain McKay shipped 4,016 head of cattle to Cuba in 1860 but only 2,000 in 1861 after the beginning of the war. There were no records kept for the remainder of the war. Imported items like medicine and luxury items like cloth, coffee, cigars and white flour became rare and were in high demand in Florida’s small towns. Cuba’s need for cattle and cotton and Floridians’ desire for luxury items created a situation of high demand while the naval blockade caused a severe shortage in supply. These two factors drove prices up and created the opportunity for huge profits to be made by anyone who was daring enough to break through the federal blockade.

River History fact sheet at Hillsborough Water Atlas,



1862 - February 3

John Jackson is elected as the 9th mayor of Tampa on February 3, 1862 serving for 19 days, the shortest in Tampa history. This event was a formality since both the military authorities and Hillsborough County had assumed the city's activities the previous year. After his dismissal, Jackson returned to his general store and remained in Tampa for the remainder of the Civil War.Mayor after his term as acting Mayor in place of  Hamlin Snell is up.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline



1862 - February 22

Confederate military authorities suspend the City’s government. Major Thomas takes charge of the city in the name of the Confederacy; Mayor John Jackson cedes civil authority to Major Thomas.

The Mayors of Tampa 1856 - 2015,  A project of the City of Tampa, City of Tampa:  Incorporation Timeline


April 19, 1862 - Savannah Daily Morning news receives word from former Key West prisoner that enemy is preparing to attack Tampa


1862 - April 13 & 14  Fort Brooke threatened, told to surrender

On April 13, 1862, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant William B. Eaton, who had begun the blockade, sent a detachment from his small bark, the USS Beauregard, to Piney Point (today's Palmetto area), to "shell out a company of soldiers who were stationed there to watch our movements and signal to the town." Confederate batteries were located along the banks of Tampa's main channel, and soldiers were stationed at various points to keep track of the blockading fleet.  Eaton reported, "A few shells drove them away and a force was landed, and the barracks, consisting of log huts, were destroyed."


On April 14th, Eaton proceeded up the harbor, entering the main channel, and anchored off Big Grassy Island just one and a half miles from Fort Brooke and out of range of her guns. He sent a boat ashore demanding the Confederate major R. B. Thomas, who was in command of the fort, "to unconditionally surrender the town of Tampa, Fla., together with all munitions of war and ordinance stores contained therein.  If these terms are not complied with I will give you 24 hours to remove all women and children to a proper distance and proceed to bombard the town." 


Major Robert Brenham Thomas who commanded Company F, 4 Florida Infantry (“Lafayette Rangers”) and the Key West Avengers (who became Company K, 7 Florida Infantry) had arrived at Fort Brooke in 1856 and on Feb 10, 1862 was assigned command of the fort. Thomas was a Kentuckian and the first West Pointer to serve with the Confederacy in Tampa. There, he met and married a daughter of James McKay. 


When Thomas refused to surrender to the Union threat (but removed the women and children to safety), the Beauregard withdrew from the bay.  There is some question whether Eaton bombarded the town as he had threatened. Some say he did and the damage was slight and that he later wrote a letter of apology.

Florida Civil War Blockades: Battling for the Coast By Nick Wynne, Joe Crankshaw
The Robles Family During the Civil War in Tampa, by Karen Lucibello
Discovering the Civil War in Florida, by Paul Taylor






Capt. John Pearson

John William Pearson (January 19, 1808 – September 30, 1864) was an American businessman and a Confederate Captain during the American Civil War. Pearson was a successful businessman who established a popular health resort in Orange Springs near Ocala as well as a hotel, grist mill and a machine shop.  Orange Springs was a popular destination for tourism in northern Marion County until the opening of Silver Springs and Ocala by steamboat after the American Civil War.
Pearson is best known for forming the Oklawaha Rangers named after the Ocklawaha River in Orange Springs. The Oklawaha Rangers were used in the American Civil War for guerrilla tactics against the Federal troops throughout North Florida and Central Florida. Pearson became mortally wounded while leading Company B of the Ninth Florida Infantry Regiment across a cornfield at the Battle of Globe Tavern. He resigned his command as a result of his wounds and died in Augusta, Georgia while making his way home to Orange Springs, Florida
Photo & info from Wikipedia

1862 - Confederate draft and rebels bushwhacking Unionists


On April 16, 1862, the Confederate Congress enacted a draft law and in June, Capt. John Pearson’s Confederate troops stationed at Fort Brooke began scouring the woods, looking for deserters and conscripts. Tampa was nearly deserted, many of its residents having moved into the country.

Later that year, on Sept. 3, , Capt. J.C. Howell, of the USS Tahoma, wrote to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, that three Unionists who had been seeking refuge at Egmont Key, under protection of the United States, were on the mainland trying to obtain potatoes, beef, and other supplies from their own farms near Tampa for the support of themselves and families, when two of them, John and Scott Whitehurst, while shoving from the shore in their boat, were barbarously attacked by Rebel  guerrillas. Scott Whitehurst was immediately killed and John Whitehurst mortally wounded.  A third man, named Arnold, is supposed to have been murdered later in the day. "These guerrillas are scouring the woods, looking after deserters and conscripts" he wrote. "They rob, murder, and steal indiscriminately. If the reports of the refugees are to be credited; Union men they threaten to hang, and do shoot."


By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

Tampa furnished several companies of men for the army, and after a year, the inhabitants, all of whom could leave, moved to the country and the town again began going down grade. Some few troops were kept as a guard to give notice of the approach of the enemy -- not for protection of the place, for this they could not do. Tampa was a dead town at this time. Only when the enemy gunboats visited the place and would throw a few shots and shells in the town did the people show much life.




May 10, 1862 - Savannah Daily Morning news - From the May 7 Quincy Dispatch - Spain recognizes Confederacy



1862 - June 30 - The first assault on Tampa

Major John W. Pearson, who had raised his own company of volunteers, the Oklawaha Rangers, were ordered in June to protect the town of Tampa at Ft. Brooke. Pearson replaced Thomas at Fort Brooke just in time to face the not unexpected arrival of Union warships into Hillsborough Bay.

Oaklawn Cemetery marker from "Tampa: An Intimate History" on Facebook

On June 30, 1862, the gunboats, USS Sagamore and the Ethan Allen under the command of Lieutenant Bigelow, came to anchor broadside to the fort and opened her ports. She sent a launch bearing twenty-one men carrying a flag of truce. Pearson took a boat and sixteen men and met the Federal forces on the bay and rejected the demand for unconditional surrender, saying “we do not understand the meaning of the word surrender, there is no such letter in our book; we don't surrender.” 

The Union officers, after allowing time for the civilians to evacuate the town, began the shelling of Tampa at 6:00 p.m. and continued it for one hour. They continued the attack the next morning for two hours with an 11-inch gun and rifles, inflicted no significant damage, and then suddenly just sailed away. Pearson described the encounter as  "a spirited little engagement."

The Robles Family During the Civil War in Tampa, by Karen Lucibello

July 12, 1862 Savannah Republican - Letter from Alfonso DeLaunay, Postmaster, re June 30 & 31 attack

Title: "View of Ship Island, Louisiana. -- By our Special Artist on Board the 'Sagamore'"
Description: Photo #: NH 59009 View of Ship Island, Louisiana. By our Special Artist on Board the 'Sagamore' Line engraving, published in Harper's Weekly, 1862, depicting several U.S. Navy ships anchored off the Federal base at Ship Island in early 1862. Ships are (from L to R) Winona, New London, Niagara, Sagamore, Wissahickon, and Massachusetts. Other features identified, in the center and right background, are Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island, the 9th Connecticut and 22nd Massachusetts Regiments and a military camp. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo.  Catalog #: NH 59009

USS Ethan Allen
The Ethan Allen was built in 1859 at Boston, Massachusetts; purchased by the Navy 23 August 1861; and commissioned 3 October 1861, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant W. B. Eaton in command. During her first wartime cruise, 27 October 1861 to 30 March 1863, Ethan Allen patrolled in the Gulf of Mexico, capturing eight prizes, and destroying extensive salt works along the Florida coast, thus hampering the Confederate war effort and civilian economy.
Info from Wikipedia

Title: USS ETHAN ALLEN (1861-65) Caption: Painting by Rear Admiral J.W. Schmidt, USN (retired). Description: Courtesy of Mrs. Robert H. Hopkins Catalog #: NH 54113-KN
Photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command Original Creator: Artist, Rear Admiral J.W. Schmidt, USN (retired) After this Year: 1861 Before this Year: 1865 Original Medium: Painting, BW Photo






Gov. John Milton

Fifth governor of Florida

October 7, 1861
to April 1, 1865

John Milton was born near Louisville, Ga., on April 20, 1807. A descendant of the English poet John Milton, he practiced law, first in a number of Georgia and Alabama communities and later in New Orleans. Before coming to Florida in 1846, Milton allegedly killed an adversary in a duel. After entering Florida politics, Milton became a statewide force in the Democratic party, serving as a presidential elector in 1848 and as a member of the 1850 House of Representatives. A vigorous states-righter, Milton encouraged the early secession of Florida from the Union. As governor, Milton stressed Florida's ability to serve as an important source of food and salt for the Confederate war effort. On April 1, 1865, as the southern cause was collapsing, John Milton shot himself at "Sylvania," his home near Marianna. In his last message to the legislature, he had said, "Death would be preferable to reunion."

Photo from Florida Memory State Archives

Info from Florida Dept. of State website



1862 - Magbee's 4-year Senate term cut short


Magbee suffered a personal and political blow during the summer of 1862. At Gov. Milton’s request, Attorney General Galbraith issued an opinion construing the 1861 Florida Confederate constitution approved by that year’s convention. According to Galbraith, all senators, even those elected like Magbee to four-year terms in 1860, would have their terms expire in October 1862. Soon after the word arrived in South Florida, James D. Green of Manatee County announced his candidacy.  Samuel B. Todd of Tampa entered the contest along with Gen. Joseph M. Taylor of Hernando County.


Magbee decided not to run, but to contest the results of the election. Green, who was "a particular friend and correspondent" of Magbee, soon withdrew, possibly at Magbee’s urging.  On October 6, Todd out-polled Gen. Joseph Taylor in Hillsborough but Taylor prevailed in the rest of the district and won the election.










1862 - McKay exonerated


When the Grand jury met at Tampa during the fall of 1862, James McKay was exonerated from his treason charge prosecuted by Magbee the previous year. The presentment stated that “the prosecution was instigated by private malice or some not more laudable motive." McKay’s ally, Gen. Joseph Taylor, was acting solicitor during the proceedings and Madison Post was foreman of the grand jury.


1862 - Magbee unseated in the Senate


Magbee was on very shaky ground when he answered the roll call at Tallahassee on the first day of the Senate session. The following day Gen. Joseph Taylor was sworn in. Magbee, along with Sen. P. B. Brokaw, whose situation was identical, protested, contending that their terms did not expire until two years later.  A Select Committee endorsed the Attorney General’s July opinion and Taylor was seated.


In October 1862, McKay was elected to the Hillsborough County commission.




1862 - Magbee leaves Tampa enraged and marries again

Magbee was furious. He returned to Tampa, sold his belongings and moved to Wakulla County (located on the south border of Leon County, on the Gulf of Mexico.) In the eyes of some, he had retired in "disgrace."


It had been about 11 months after his first wife Susan died when he married on September 7, 1862, in Leon County to Julia A. Henderson, a very attractive and cultured woman and a member of a fine old Leon County family.**  Julia was around 23 years younger than Magbee.  Her 1860 census in Wakulla County shows she was the daughter of H. L. and Nancy P. Henderson, a farming family. 


**Julia's description is according to D. B. McKay.










Magbee waited out the Civil War at this new home in the town of Newport, Wakulla Co., living the life of a planter with his seven slaves.


The Henderson family on the 1860 Census of Wakulla Co., Fla. Julia's father was a farmer and had real estate valued
at $500, with personal property valued at $100.  D.B. McKay's claim of Julia's family being "...a fine old Leon County family."  appears to be unsubstantiated.



Nov. 13, 1862 Savannah Republican - Oct. 28 letter from Pearson re Rascally Attack


Ossian Hart and Claiborne Mobley



Ossian B. Hart (1821 - 1874) a Republican, was the tenth governor of Florida serving from January 1873 until his death on March 18, 1874.  Hart was a progressive who had a good relationship with black citizens in Florida.
Photo and info from the Clarence Darrow digital collection of the University of Minnesota Library




During the Civil war, 2nd Cavalry Union troops from Cedar Key, led by Gen. Alexander Asboth, found many closely linked unionist families in the Tampa area who had been subjected to "social proscription" and mistreatment by Confederates.  Lawyer Ossian B. Hart protected these unionists from pillage by Union soldiers and acted as a leader of the unionists when Magbee departed Tampa for Wakulla County.


Hart was well-known in Florida, his father was Jacksonville's first storeowner and had planned the streets of Jacksonville in the 1820s, naming several of them for his children.  Hart took a firm stand against secession in 1861. 


Hart's new friend, pharmacist Claiborne R. Mobley, a recent resident of Tampa, was forced to join a local Confederate company.  Mobley, a former Kansas "border ruffian," had arrived in Tampa during the early part of Civil War and professed allegiance to the Confederacy. He was captured by Union troops in October 1863 during the Spanishtown Creek-Scottish Chief incident and imprisoned at Key West.  After the war, Mobley returned to Tampa where he operated a drug store and practiced law. By then a Unionist, he received the appointment of Freedman’s Bureau agent at Tampa and was counted among the scalawags.  Hart avoided the draft by obtaining a physician's certificate of disability.  All three men, Hart, Magbee and Mobley, would someday serve as Republican state Judges, and in 1873 Hart would become Florida's governor.

The Scalawags: Southern Dissenters in the Civil War &Reconstruction, by James Alex Baggett


Learn more about the controversial Claiborne R. Mobley at this Word document download




Friday, Nov. 7, 1862                                     New York Times

WEST COAST OF FLORIDA.; The Blockade of Tampa Bay Description of the Coast Wretchedness of the Inhabitants, A Small Bombardment
From Our Own Correspondent.
Published: November 17, 1862


This place has been blockaded since last November by the United States bark Ethan Allen, assisted of late by the United States schooner Beauregard, which still remains here. Our ship came in here the last of September to await supplies from Key West, when we received orders to remain on this station and relieve the Ethan Allen, which was ordered to St. Joseph's Bay on blockading duty.

The Pursuit left New-York last January, and up to the time of coming in here, has been allowed a roving commission, and with considerable success, having captured several valuable prizes. We are lying up the bay far enough to guard the entrance to Manatee River, as well as the passage up to the town of Tampa, which is thirty-five miles distant.

To the west side of the main ship entrance (north channel) to this bay is Egmont Key; to the east, Mullet Key. These keys are small, low, sandy islands, covered with a rank undergrowth of prairie grass, the palmetto tree and a few stunted pines. The latter key is not inhabited. On the extreme sandy point of Egmont stands the new light-house, one hundred and ten feet above the level of the sea. The light has not been lighted since the rebels destroyed the apparatus last year -- another mark of Southern vandalism. The keeper's house is a comfortable two-story brick building, with several out-buildings. They are occupied at present by some dozen contrabands and four white refugees, who have escaped from the main land. The contrabands are engaged in clearing the ground and planting sweet potatoes.

Some three weeks ago, three wile men, refugees from Southern tyranny, escaped from Tampa in a small boat, and came down to us for protection. They are men of intelligence, and state that they have been using every means to escape for the last nine months, but their Union sentiments were so well known that every attempt proved abortive.

One of them, who formerly belonged to the United States Army, was put in charge of the guns of a small sand battery near the town, to prevent him from escaping, but he was all ready to spike the guns in case of an attack by our boats. The other two have been compelled to assist in running sugar from Manatee River to Tampa, since last July. By pretending to have changed their feelings and espoused the cause of the South, they were allowed to load the boat with empty barrels, as usual, to go for sugar, and leave alone. On their way down the bay they stopped for their friend, with whom they had made arrangements previously, in case they succeeded. When they came alongside they gave three hearty cheers for liberty and the Union.

They gave a sad account of things in this part of the South; that they had to live on corn, sweet potatoes and fresh meat, without salt enough to cure the latter, this useful article bringing $20, $30, and even $40 per bushel, when it can be had.

They say there are 125 soldiers at Tampa, and another company expected soon to join them; that they are obstructing the channel, by sinking old hulks, to prevent the Yankee gunboats from coming up to the town. They have two small fortifications, mounting ten old 24-pounders, and are using every means within their power to be prepared for an attack, which they are expecting daily.

(Cont. in next column)






The files of Southern, but more especially Floridian papers, which they brought, give a still darker picture of affairs. One hundred and eight thousand men have deserted from their army since the war began, and it is with the greatest difficulty they can carry out the provisions of the late conscription act.

It is almost impossible to subsist the army, the severe drought having cut off the corn crop at least one-half. They curse the Nationals most bitterly for using up all the surplus corn, meat, cattle, as they advance into their territory. Next after the food question, clothing the men seems to be the greatest difficulty, as the cold weather approaches. The following estimate of a soldier's outfit for the coming Winter, every article of which is indispensable, is given by the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Daily Rebel: Fur cap, $5; one jacket, $25; one pair pants, $30; one pair shoes, $18; two pair socks, (wool,) $10; two pair drawers, $8. Total, $96.

We had a little taste of excitement last week. The schooner Beauregard, commanded by Acting Master ARTHUR, with Acting Master LAPHAM and a boat's crew from our vessel, went up the bay, ostensibly to gather oysters. They arrived at the oyster ground just before dark, which is above Gadsen's Point, and about eight miles below Tampa. From there they could distinguish the tops of houses in the town.

The temptation to have a nearer view was too strong to be resisted, so they kept on until the lights could be seen plainly, when they anchored for the night. As soon as it was light enough in the morning to see, they found they were about two miles below to town, and that there was an unusual excitement on shore. Nearly abreast of them were several companies of soldiers drawn up in line on the beach, with fixed bayonets. Near by was a tall flag-staff from which floated a large secession flag. While our friends were admiring this parade, gotten up, as they supposed, for their special benefit, they were awakened to their position by the report of one of the twenty-fours from the fortification, and saw the shot strike in the water at least one mile short of them. This was followed by another, with like success.

The officers of the schooner, thinking it would be a breach of etiquette not to return the salute, trained the 30-pound Parrott rifle, which is a part of her armament, on the battery, and fired. The shell struck, and exploded in a small wooden building in the rear of the fortification, knocking it into splinters. There was no more firing from the fort. The next shell struck just in front of the line of soldiers, and, bursting at the same time, it plowed its way right and left through them, causing those that were able to take to the bush in double-quick time.

After dropping some fifteen shells into the fort and woods, but receiving no response, they concluded the fun was all up in that vicinity; and, gallantly dipping the American ensign to the apparently deserted fort and town, they left for the oyster ground, where they took on board twenty-five barrels of fine oysters, and returned to their old anchorage, having been absent only two days.

I trust the time is not far distant when we shall have the opportunity of making them another and still more effectual visit. PERSONNE

Dec. 3, 1862 Savannah Daily Morning News - Another Example  
Hamlin V. Snell's generosity in selling cotton at cost.

1863 - March 27 - Pearson's Revenge

Angered by the June 30, 1862 attack and the ramming of a blockade runner in Tampa Bay by two Federal gunboats, Pearson got his revenge on March 27, 1863. When the Federal gunboat Pursuit appeared in the harbor, Pearson dispatched some of his men to Gadsden Point disguised in dresses and in blackface to lure the sailors ashore. The Union sailors took the bait and when were in range Pearson’s men emerged from the woods and opened fire, wounding four sailors and incensing the Unionists. They again bombarded the town, but as before little damage was done.

USS Pursuit was a bark purchased at New York City on 3 September 1861; and was commissioned 17 December 1861, Acting Volunteer Lt. David Cate in command.  Assigned to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, she operated off the Florida coast, with several cruises to Cuba, during the course of the American Civil War.

Period watercolor of the USS Pursuit alongside the Federal troopship Empire City
USS Pursuit watercolor by T Flagler c1863, Heritage Auction Gallery
Image and info from Wikipedia



1863 - Oct. 18 - The Hillsborough River Raid and Battle at Ballast Point

The next bombardment came that October during an invasion by Commander Semmes. The shelling from the 11-inch Dahlgren gun (200-pounder) on the Tahoma and the two 20-pound Parrot guns, one 12-pound and four 24-pound smooth bores on the Adela was intense.  A shell was said to have blown the dinner off the table of a Miss Crane. The bombardment lasted all day and later it was found that 126 shells had been fired at Fort Brooke. 

The USS Tahoma was a Unadilla-class gunboat built by order of the United States Navy for service during the American Civil War. Tahoma was used by the Union Navy as a gunboat in support of the Union Navy blockade of Confederate waterways. Info from Wikipedia.

USS Tahoma (1861-1867) Description: Wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1903, depicting the ship as she was during the Civil War. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.
Photo from U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 57826


The USS Adela (1862) was a steamer captured by the Union Navy during the American Civil War. She was used by the Union Navy as a gunboat in support of the Union Navy blockade of Confederate waterways.

USS Adela Description: (1863-1865) Drawing by George H. Rogers, depicting the ship on blockading service off the coast of Florida, winter of 1863. The artist served on board Adela as a Pharmacist's Mate. Courtesy of Charles Rodgers Lord. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 57250

1863 - Oct. 18 - The Hillsborough River Raid and Battle at Ballast Point (continued)


The shelling was only a diversion, as Semmes had sent 85 Union troops from the SS Adela and the gunboat  USS Tahoma to move six miles up the Hillsborough River and destroy McKay’s blockade runners, the Scottish Chief and the Kate Dale.

A Union raiding party, under Acting Master T.R. Harris, disembarked at Ballast Point, landing at the current intersection of Gandy Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard.

McKay's ships were  at Jean Street Shipyard in preparation for another supply run through the blockade, along with at least one other blockade runner, the A.B. Noyes, having their hulls scraped of barnacles for better speed. They were loaded with cargo and awaiting the signal to depart past the blockade. Almost a dozen blockade runners operated out of Tampa, but McKay was the target of this raid, presumably for breaking the promise that freed him from Union captivity a few years earlier.

Acting Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey, commanding the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, wisely chose two local men, Union sympathizers Henry A. Crane and James H. Thompson, to act as guides for the raiding party.  Crane had moved to Florida during the Second Seminole War and had served in the Army during that conflict. When the Civil War broke out, both men sided with the Union. In late 1862 they joined the Union Navy, Crane serving as an acting volunteer master's mate and Thompson as a first-class fireman. They had quickly been put to use guiding Federal forces throughout central Florida.

They guided the Union expedition 14 miles by foot to the Jean Street Shipyard to destroy McKay’s Ships. The expedition carried a small boat in case they needed to cross the river, but ended up hiding it a few miles from their destination to speed up their walk.

(River Raid continued after the Crane profile below.)

Henry A. Crane (c1810-88) Continued from a previous profile:

New Jersey’s Henry A. Crane, a newspaperman, founded the Tampa Herald in 1852  and was editor of the Florida Peninsular.

During the Third Seminole War, he served as a lieutenant under Capt. Leroy G. Lesley. Active in the vigilante or regulator organization of 1858 were some of Tampa’s leading citizens, including Henry A. Crane.  Crane advocated secession in 1860 but soon sided with the Union and left Tampa in 1862, making his way to the Indian River.  Crane's lapse from Unionism occurred on November 24, 1860 when he signed a petition of Hillsborough Countians calling for a convention to consider secession. Among those attending and signing the petitions were: John Darling, James Gettis, Reason Duke, James E. Bowden, Hamlin V Snell, John T Givens and Henry A. Crane.   He joined the U.S. Navy as "acting volunteer master’s mate" and served until 1864 when he became a captain in the 2nd Florida Cavalry.  On April 2, 1864 Union Capt. Henry A. Crane, formerly of Tampa,  in recommending a commission for James D. Green, described him as having: "the dash & daring necessary for a leader in this peculiar kind of warfare which is different from almost any other-nothing but skulking Guerrillas to encounter.

During the Civil War he was a captain, later major in the Second Florida Cavalry, U. S. Army. After the war, the Republican Crane settled in Key West where he served as clerk of the circuit court and as state senator. He was also editor of the Key West Dispatch and, subsequently, founder and editor of the Key of the Gulf.

Henry A. Crane's son Henry Lafayette Crane was a Confederate soldier throughout the war, later a county judge, and U. S. Commissioner.

Henry Lafayette Crane was born Sept. 25, 1838 at St. Augustine. He came to Tampa with his parents in the early 1850s. During the Civil War he served as Chief Musician of the Fourth Florida Infantry, CSA. He was captured near Spring Hill, Tennessee, Dec. 21, 1864, confined at Camp Chase, Ohio, and released Feb. 18, 1865. Crane and the Ferris brothers, Josiah and William, had been members of the Tampa Brass Cornet Band, organized March 31, 1860, by J. A. Butterfield. The band’s musical instruments were purchased for $170.11 from W. G. Ferris and Co. The "S.S. Guards" were the Sunny South Guards, a Tampa company commanded by Capt. John T. Lesley. They became Co. K, 4th Florida Infantry.

The Orange Grove Hotel during the 1876-77 winter season.
The Orange Grove Hotel was located near the present day intersection of Kennedy Blvd. & East St. See historical marker in downtown Tampa where hotel was located.  The hotel was built in 1859 as the home of cattleman William B. Hooker, Florida's pre-Civil War "cattle king". During the Civil War, it was used as Confederate Headquarters. It is where Tampa pioneer Joe Robles marched his captive Union soldiers in the winter of 1863. (See "The Courage of Joe Robles" below).

In 1866, Hooker converted it into a hotel. Judge Henry L. Crane and his wife, who operated the hotel in 1876, are said to be standing on the left side of the second floor porch.  Poet Sidney Lanier has been identified by contemporaries as the man standing on the far right side of the second floor porch with his leg propped on the rail. But D. B. McKay in the Tampa Tribune, March 6, 1955, said Lanier is standing at the left end of the first floor veranda. Located at 806 Madison Street.

The original of this photo was owned by Mrs. Samuel E. (Mary Hooker) Hope, later Mrs. Clara (Hope) Baggett and then by Mr. and Mrs. L.E. Vinson of Tarpon Springs.

The large image used above is courtesy of William LaMartin, with ultimate source being the
Florida State Archives Memory collection.

Ads in the Florida Peninsular

Ad in the 1882 "Key of the Gulf" Key West newspaper


Click to enlarge the marker
See the fine print at the bottom of the marker:
Erected by the Tampa Historical Society in cooperation
with Kyle S. VanLandingham, a great-great-great-grandson of (William B. ) Hooker.

Orange Grove Hotel, 1924
Burgert Brothers photo courtesy of the USF Digital Collection
Same photo at the Florida Memory collection includes: Note from sleeve: Poet Sidney Lanier stayed here during his visit to Tampa (Dec. 1876 - April 1877) and wrote 11 poems, including the famous "Tampa Robins".

A famous visitor came to Tampa in 1876. The celebrity was Sidney Lanier, noted poet of the South, who arrived with Mrs. Lanier on December 21.

At first he was not much impressed with Tampa and in a letter home described it as "the most forlorn collection of one-story houses imaginable." Mr. and Mrs. Lanier stopped at the Orange Grove Hotel, the former home of William B. Hooker which had been converted into a hotel and was being operated by Hooker's son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Henry L. Crane. Lanier described the hotel as "a large three-story house with many odd nooks and corners, altogether clean and comfortable in appearance, and surrounded by orange trees in full fruit."

Lanier came to Tampa primarily to obtain data for a Florida guide book he was then writing and expected to remain only a short time. But he learned to like the town so much that he stayed three months.


Sidney Lanier photo from "Literary Hearthstones of Dixie by Pickett, La Salle Corbell, 1848-1931 at Project Gutenberg,  Internet

In a letter to a northern friend he rhapsodized: "What would I not give to transport you from your northern sorrows instantly into the midst of the green leaves, the gold oranges, the glitter of great and tranquil waters, the liberal friendship of the sun, the heavenly conversation of the robins, and mockingbirds, and larks, which fill my days with delight."

While in Tampa, Lanier wrote eleven poems including Tampa Robins, The Mockingbird, The Masters, and A Ballad of the Trees.

Despite his love for Tampa, Lanier never returned. His failing health prevented him from again undertaking the long, hard journey, the trip from Philadelphia having required eleven days. He had spent four days on trains, four days on steamers, and three days in layovers at Danville, Va., Brunswick, Ga., Fernandina and Cedar Keys. He had traveled from Cedar Keys to Tampa on the steamer Valley City, of which Capt. James McKay, Jr., was master.

Tampa, A History of the City, etc by Karl H. Grismer


1863 - Oct. 18 - The Hillsborough River Raid and Battle at Ballast Point (continued)



Somehow, the expedition ended up on the wrong bank of the river. Since they had previously left their boat behind, they had no boat to cross the river. The surprised and equally disorganized sleeping crew of the Scottish Chief , however, actually sent a boat for two Union officers, and a hand full of the Union soldiers that were calling to them from the other bank. The Scottish Chief’s crew was ambushed, and the landing party removed 156 bales of cotton from the Scottish Chief and 11 bales from the Kate Dale before they set them aflame.

McKay and his Captain of the Scottish Chief, and two crewmen escaped, but five other crewmen were captured. The captain and the two crewmen that escaped ran to Tampa and alerted the town and the Fort of the attack.  Another boat at the Shipyard (name unknown) was also destroyed by the Union soldiers. The “A.B. Noyes” escaped upriver, near to what is now Lowry Park, only to run aground and be burned by its own crew to prevent it from being captured and used by the Union. Had the Captain and two crewmen of the Scottish Chief not escaped, the Union expedition would have undoubtedly destroyed the shipyard, but aware that the fort would quickly be alerted, and with their primary mission now accomplished, the expedition quickly moved back south toward their rendezvous point of Ballast Point, some 14 miles away.


Map of Fort Brooke Battlefield core and study areas by the American Battlefield Protection Program
From Wikipedia Battle of Ft. Brooke



1863 - Oct. 18 - The Battle at Ballast Point

On the way down to Ballast point by land, Harris's Union forces were surprised by a detachment from the garrison; the 2nd Florida Infantry Battalion. A brief but sharp exchange resulted in a few casualties before the Union troops returned to Ballast Point.

The Union sailors finally reached the shore at Ballast Point (near current day intersection of Bayshore Blvd and Gandy Blvd) and posted lines of lookouts  while they waited to board their ships. A short time later, Harris received word that a party of Rebel cavalry was hiding the woods. A company of Rebel infantry was also reportedly advancing.

When he learned of the enemy's presence, Harris ordered his party to prepare for a fight in case they were attacked before the boats arrived. At 10 a.m. from aboard Adela, Lieutenant Stodder saw some of his sailors on the beach. He quickly signaled the Tahoma, and boats from both ships were sent to recover the men.

Harris ordered all but about 20 men, including officers, to depart. As the departure began, Confederates in the woods opened fire on the them. The Rebels brought a weapon manufactured in Tampa from a bored-out engine shaft and used it to blast buckshot at the sailors.

Harris's raiders were met by not just local militia with homemade weapons, but by 40 armed Confederate soldiers, under the command of General Bragg, who just happened to be in Tampa at that time as part of an expedition to protect a cattle drive leaving Tampa to supply the Confederate front.

Meanwhile, gunners aboard the Adela caught glimpses of the Confederates hiding in the tree line, upon which they opened fire so as to cover the landing party's escape. Admiral Bailey later reported that while most of the landing party, along with seven prisoners, headed for the boats in an orderly manner, the rear guard spread out and returned the Confederates' fire "energetically and with great coolness and bravery." But one young Confederate, Dick Robles, noted that some of the Federals "threw away their heavy guns" so they could get away more quickly.

The Confederate cavalry unit, the Oklawaha Rangers, also caught up with the Union raiders, and a full engagement ensued. The union soldiers came under direct fire as they boarded their dinghies in a tactical retreat.

For about 20 minutes, Harris and the rear guard were under heavy fire until the landing boats arrived and the acting master gave the command to pull out with the wounded. As the last of the sailors waded out to their boats, the Confederates continued their assault. One sailor was killed in the water while six more were captured. Of those captured, two were severely wounded; one of them died the following day at a hospital in Tampa.

By 2 p.m., all the boats had returned to the Adela with the wounded. As the two gunboats were preparing to leave Hillsborough Bay, Semmes sent another raiding party to Frazier's Beach at the head of the bay (near the east end of present-day Courtney-Campbell Causeway), where it destroyed a large salt works factory owned by McKay. In operation since early in the war, the works was equipped with large boilers, giant kettles, vats and barrels. Losing this facility was a devastating blow to the people of Tampa, as salt from the works was locally used to preserve food.

Click the markers to see larger
Marker images from


1863 - Oct. 19 - The aftermath


Dr. John D. Westcott (1807-1889), Surveyor General of Florida (1855) Pres. Florida canal company (1881-1889). Courtesy, Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Va. (Carte d’ visite).
From Florida's Big Dig


Captain John Westcott of Company A, 2nd Florida Infantry Battalion, who was a recent arrival in the Tampa area, had taken command of Confederate forces at Fort Brooke on October 14, 1863, just before the Union river raid. The next day after the raid, Semmes and Westcott met under a flag of truce to discuss the status of the prisoners. No decision was made about the them, and negotiations continued for more than a month as noncombatants were exchanged.

The Federals considered the mission a success, since the goal of destroying McKay's two steamers and their cargo had been achieved. Five Southern boatmen and two militiamen were captured, six killed and a significant number wounded. The Federals also paid a price. Three sailors; Joseph O'Donnell, James Worrall and John B. Roddy; were killed, 10 others were wounded and five others were taken prisoner.

Confederate commander Westcott also considered the engagement at Ballast Point a Southern victory. He reported that before the Federals returned to their boats, "they were badly whipped.... If I had more men I could have captured the whole concern."

By the time the story got to the Savannah Republican, from the Tallahassee Floridian by report from someone in Gainesville, it was a "rout" by Westcott, capturing 50 prisoners (instead of 5).

Calvin “Pop” Taylor, Tampa diver and historic preservationist, is shown with the helm of the Scottish Chief and other artifacts which he recovered from the Hillsborough River. (Photo by Tony Pizzo)



After the loss of his ships, McKay accepted an assignment as head of the Fifth Commissary District for the Confederacy and continued to provide the Confederate Army with cattle for meat, tallow and hides. At the request of Federal Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Woodbury, Henry A. Crane was transferred to the U.S. Army.  Admiral Bailey wrote a letter to Woodbury stating that Crane was "well known and popular among the people of lower Florida, and will, no doubt, be useful in recruiting."

The remains of the Kate Dale are sunk near the west side of the Jean St. Shipyard. The Scottish Chief remained afloat after it burned, and it was towed back to Tampa by its owner, stripped of its fittings and furnishings, and the rest destroyed. The remains of the A.B. Noyes lies in the river just up from Lowry Park and can sometimes still be seen at low tide. Its sighting is often included in the Nature Boat Tour from Lowry Park Zoo.

The Hillsborough River Raid and Battle of Ballast Point by Lewis Zerfas, America's Civil War magazine
Long-Lost Ship May Surrender Civil War Secrets
Scottish Chief, The Pride of Tampa Bay  
McKay Historic Marker 
Civil War Monument Courthouse

Jean Street Shipyard**
The Robles Family During the Civil War in Tampa, by Karen Lucibello
The American Battlefield Protection Program

Read more about the wreckage of the Scottish Chief in this 2009 article: Divers Survey Wreckage of Civil War-Era Boat 

**Jean St. Shipyard's account of the River Raid (which cites the Tampa Bay History Center as their source, see below) has James McKay hiding and watching in horror as his blockade-running ships burned.  Others say he escaped with the others and alerted Ft. Brooke about the attack.  They also state that "both sides incurred heavy casualties," but most sources say the number of casualties, other than the few which occurred as the raiding party made its escape to Ballast Point, are unknown.

From Jean St. Shipyard website:

We give our thanks to the Tampa History Center for the use of their research materials and records, and we graciously give our thanks for the many neighbors and residents of Tampa who provided us with the pictures and stories to reconstruct the history of Jean Street Shipyard for this Website. We would be very happy to hear from anybody who can provide further pictures and stories of interest to Tampa. Please e-mail us at
Thank you,
John W. Brotherton,
Owner and Operator of Jean Street Shipyard, Inc.


The Courage of Joseph Robles

The first avocado trees on Florida's west coast were planted by Joe Robles.


There is no doubt, however, that in the fall of 1864, Joseph Robles exhibited his own brand of courage and patriotism. He was on guard duty at the salt works owned by Captain James McKay at Frazier’s Beach at the head of Old Tampa Bay. When Robles saw a Union landing party, the USS Nita and the USS Hendrick Hudson approaching and anchor at approximately where the Gandy Bridge is now, he must have known that the crew of eighteen to twenty men entering the launch were coming to check whether the works had been rebuilt after Union forces destroyed it a year earlier. Ten or twelve of them came ashore to do another wrecking job.

Robles concealed himself in one of the old abandoned steam boilers used to evaporate the salt water which had been destroyed on the previous raid. When the landing party started up the beach he “cut loose with his heavy caliber double-barreled rifle and brought down two and wounded several others with the first discharge.” The men in the boat backed off the beach stranding the shore party.

Robles told the eight survivors to drop their weapons and lined them up for the march back to the commander of the Home Guards stationed in the Orange Grove Hotel in Tampa. All the while during the march his muzzle-loading rifle was empty, but his captives didn’t know that and went along passively.

In his “Pioneer Family” column, D. B. McKay recalled seeing that old boiler out on the beach when he was a young man on hunting and fishing expeditions in the area.

On November 24, 1948 reporter Jim Powell of the Tampa Sunday Tribune wrote an article, “Tampa Confederate Vet, Nearing 100, Takes Life Easily.” In it Joseph Robles summed up some of his feelings

“War is a bad thing, Sherman was right when he said ‘war is hell. ’  There has always been war. It will always be. There’ll never, in my opinion, be peace as long as there’s a man living.”

About himself he reflected,

“My life hasn’t been perfect, as no man’s has, but I don’t figure I will leave the world any worse than I found it."

See Joe Robles feature at

The Robles Family During the Civil War in Tampa, by Karen Lucibello

Salt works historic marker from

1863 - Dec. 24 - USS Tahoma fires on Ft. Brooke again

A later bombardment took place by the Tahoma on December 24, 1863. On Christmas Eve, Tampans were given another reminder of the Union’s presence and a warning not to interfere with the Union forces around Fort Myers. The warship USS Tahoma anchored off Fort Brooke and fired off one shell just before midnight. The next morning after fine-tuning its trajectory it bombarded the fort and the town at two hour intervals.

Many deserters from the army and some from the lower part of south Florida below Fort Meade, with the notorious Jim Green, located at Fort Myers, and increasing in such numbers the Federal government organized them into companies. There were also negro soldiers with this command.

These deserters made raids in the interior, taking cattle owned by loyal southerners and destroying homes to such an extent, the authorities sent Colonel Munnerlyn to this section, directing him to organize the citizens and all home companies into an organization under the name of Munnerlyn’s battalion, for the protection of south Florida, with headquarters at Brooksville.

During the summer of 1864 a body of these deserters numbering about 90 under Jim Green, well armed and equipped, marched overland from Fort Myers in direction of Fort Meade, with the purpose of destroying all houses in that locality, but they were discovered when within 15 miles of their destination.  We met them with some 25 men and had a fight, they killing one of our best men, Jim Lanier. However we stopped them from carrying out their foul intentions and turned them down the Peace Creek swamp, they making their escape during the night.

by James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923


1864 - May 5 - Fort Brooke and Tampa fall to Union forces

  The Union ships James L. Davis, Sunflower and Honduras

James L. Davis (Bark: t. 461; l. 133'; b. 30'7"; dr. 12'; also called J. L. Davis), a wooden sailing vessel, was purchased at Philadelphia 29 September 1861; and commissioned 30 December, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Joseph Winn in command.  At the beginning of 1864 the James L. Davis was ordered to Tampa Bay where she served until fall. On 4 May 1864 she joined Sunflower and Honduras in landing Army troops at Tampa and in providing men for a naval, landing party which helped to capture the town 6 May. During the operation the three ships cooperated in capturing blockade-running sloop Neptune with a cargo of cotton. In July and August, James L. Davis participated in a series of successful boat expeditions which destroyed salt works, a large saw and grist mill, and a sugar mill belonging to Jefferson Davis.

The first Sunflower, (ScStr: t. 294; l. 104'5"; b. 20'9"; dr. 12') a screw gunboat purchased at Boston, Mass., on 2 May 1863, was commissioned on 29 April 1863, Acting Master Edward Sice in command. Sunflower was assigned to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron and arrived at Key West in mid-May 1863.  On Christmas Eve 1863, she captured blockade runner Hancock near the lighthouse at Tampa Bay with a cargo of salt and borax. Sunflower remained on patrol during 1864 and, on 24 March, captured sloop Josephine in Sarasota Sound. Josephine was en route from Tampa to Havana with a cargo of cotton when she was intercepted. Sunflower, with Honduras and I. L. Adams [sic-should be J. L Davis], supported the capture of Tampa, Fla., in a combined operation from 4 to 7 May. These Union ships transported Northern soldiers to Tampa and also provided naval landing parties which participated in the assault. On the 6th, the three ships captured sloop Neptune which was carrying a cargo of cotton, when she attempted to run the blockade On 2 June, Sunflower landed three armed boats to destroy salt works at Tampa Bay.

USS Honduras at anchor in Key West, 17 January 1865. Scott De Wolf Collection.  Courtesy of Mrs. Ida M. Harris, Sunnyrest, Port Washington, New York, 1932.  From Naval History and Heritage Command.

Honduras, (Side wheel steamer: 376 tons; length 150 feet; beam 27 feet; depth of hold 10 feet; speed 12 knots; armament 2 12-pounder rifled guns) was built in 1861 at New York and purchased from her owner, Simeon Ackerman, 31 July 1863. Converted to Navy use, she commissioned at New York Navy Yard 8 September 1863, Acting Lieutenant T. Stites in command. Assigned as a supply boat and dispatch steamer with the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, Honduras sailed for Key West soon after commissioning. She carried mail and dispatches, and in addition served on the blockade which so effectively strangled southern commerce and strength. She captured British blockade-runner Mail in the Gulf of Mexico 15 October 1863, and early the next year supported a joint operation at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. Honduras carried troops to the mouth of the river and disembarked them 4 January 1864. In addition to her regular dispatch duties, the steamer also participated in the capture of Tampa, Fla., by joint expedition, 4-7 May 1864. Honduras, with Sunflower and James L. Davis, carried General Woodbury and his troops to Tampa and provided a naval landing party which joined in the assault. During the successful operation the ships also captured blockade-running sloop Neptune 6 May.

Info from Naval History and Heritage Command

On May 5, 1864, Tampa and Ft. Brooke fell to the Union forces.  Commanding Gen. Woodbury landed troops south and east of Tampa, surrounding and capturing it by surprise. Troops from the James Davis, Honduras and Sunflower, along with Navy personnel, comprised of elements of the 2nd U.S. Colored Regiment, 2nd Florida cavalry, U.S. sailors and Florida Union (irregular troops) quickly overtook the town and the fort without a fight.   The town of Tampa was relatively empty at the time because most of the men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five were away raiding Unionist farms or rounding up cattle.  Darwin Givens, who was 5-years old at the time, went screaming home through the streets, "The devils are coming!" 

The Federal troops destroyed the fort and scattered the larger old cannon along with most of the fort's armaments on the banks of the Hillsborough River and hauled off many of the smaller cannon.  They arrested about 40 citizens, damaged or destroyed buildings and machine shops, and even plundered ritual items from the Masonic Hall. About a year later, those items were returned to Tampa when they were found by Union officers in Key West. The Federals left after Tampa was rendered defenseless and no longer a threat to the North. Not finding enough justification to stay, after they threw most of the fort's armaments into the Hillsborough River and took much of the city's remaining food and supplies, they left after three days.

When Westcott and his Confederate soldiers returned, they immediately saw the damage done to the fort. Westcott decided that the outpost was no longer worth manning and departed after only a few days. On May 15, a Federal force commanded by Captain D.B. Westbury came back to Tampa and stayed about a month. The Federals soon left after also deciding that the town had no further military importance.

They again made a raid into Tampa, capturing the town. General Woodbury in command and some 400 deserters and negro soldiers holding the town for two days, after taking what property suited them hurriedly left, hearing that Dickinson and his men were advancing on the place to attack it.

I was at Fort Meade with 55 men, organizing some 1,200 head cattle, to forward to the army of Tennessee, when I received the news of the capture of Tampa at 2 o’clock that afternoon. I left with 35 men for that place, reaching within two miles of the town at 11 o’clock the same night, when I obtained information as to the force that occupied the town.

Immediately upon receipt of news of the capture of Tampa, couriers were dispatched calling all citizens to report to the Six Mile creek, as quickly as possible, which they did and by noon of the next day we had about 75 men and boys.

The morning after my arrival near Tampa, I sent a flag of truce into the town by Gideon Zipperer and another man, two of the bravest and best men I had with me, requesting that my wife and child be permitted to leave the town with these men, as I would attack the town within 24 hours. Mr. Zipperer is now living below Bartow on his magnificent home and orange grove. The Federals declined to permit either the men or my wife to leave the town and held them until they evacuated the place, taking some 60 bales of cotton that my father owned.

By James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923



In 1891 while constructing the Tampa Bay Hotel, H.B. Plant was credited with saving these cannon by bringing them to the grounds of the Tampa Bay Hotel from Ft. Brooke and including them in a "Childrens Fort" play area.

Originally part of a battery of 3, mounted on Barbette Carriages and placed in the year 1861 near the northeast corner of the mouth of the Hillsborough River, these 24-pound shot sized cannon were used to defend Tampa and Fort Brooke during the Civil War. When Tampa fell to Union forces, the 24 pounders were disabled and their mounts destroyed. Two smaller 6 pound shot size cannon were carried away.  

**Cannon is both singular and plural.

Cannon photos by TampaPix Plant Park, April 2, 2011

Click the plaques to see them larger






Darwin Branch Givens (1858 - 1942) was a young boy when Union forces arrived. As a young child, he alerted Tampa of the invading Yankee soldiers with the cry "the devils are coming." For his bravery, he was actually granted a Confederate soldier’s pension long after the war. 

I had placed pickets on all roads leading out of Tampa, with orders to halt all passers, no matter who they were. The picket force was composed of six men. At 12 o’clock the night of the day the federals evacuated Tampa, six men came riding up the road from the direction of Tampa and although the guard heard them talking before getting abreast of their position they were permitted to pass without challenging. I was notified two hours afterwards, when I immediately started six men after them, but it was too late, for they had some 10 or 12 miles the start of our men. The deserters proved to be Jim Green and five of his followers.

by James McKay, Jr. in "Reminiscences - History of Tampa in the Olden Days"  Dec. 18, 1923

Along with many other ships that fought in the Civil War, Adela and Tahoma were decommissioned after the war and auctioned off by the Navy in New York.  Adela brought $21,000 on November 30, 1865, and Tahoma was sold for $3,000 on October 1, 1867.

Tampa - An Intimate History: Tampa Trivia
Hardcore Confederates

The blasé attitude towards the bombardments adopted by Robles and the citizens of Tampa was noted by a New York Herald reporter: “Some of the rebels would dodge behind the trees when the shells were fired and after they had exploded would come out again evidently much pleased with the fireworks.”

Despite their brave fronts, Tampa’s wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts not only faced the loss of their beloved men from war and disease in far off places, they faced depravation at home. Women’s lives in Tampa were greatly affected by the widespread shortages brought about by the blockade. Luxuries and often the basic necessities of life were curtailed. Candles were used sparingly because of the shortage of tallow. Clothing became scarce. New dresses were unavailable due to the cost of cotton. Some women made do with hats made from palmetto fronds. Shoes sold at fantastic prices if they could be found at all.

The Robles Family During the Civil War in Tampa, by Karen Lucibello


Read about "The Final Battle for Ft. Brooke" here at TampaPix


(For this feature and the Magbee/Ulele Springs history feature.)

Saving Fairyland
Page 1   Page 2   Page 3   Page 4   Page 5    Page 6

Page 7 (Fairyland at Ulele - A History of Magbee/Ulele Spring & Tampa's Waterworks)


Lowry Park/Fairyland History    Herman - King of the Zoo     Safety Village      Fantasia Golf

TampaPix Home