Saturday, August 9, 2008
Civil War in Panama City - Part Four
From 1862 through 1865, the U.S. Navy engaged in repeated attempts to halt the massive Confederate saltmaking operations at St. Andrew Bay.
These efforts consisted of raids into the bay, usually by crews of sailors in small boats. Sometimes they would fire artillery at the saltworks dotting the shoreline of the network of saltwater bays around present-day Panama City. Other times they would come ashore and break up the works using hammers and mauls.
Many of these attacks were launched from the U.S.S. Restless, a bark assigned by the Union navy to enforce the blockade of St. Andrew Bay. When the vessel began her operations against the saltworks, as many as 2,500 men from Florida, Georgia and Alabama were engaged in making salt along the bay, especially around the perimiter of West Bay.
In December of 1863, Acting Master W.R. Browne commenced a second major assault on the saltworks, destroying an estimated 290 installations valued at over $3,000,000 in 1863 dollars.
Despite its massive size and success, the operation did not end saltmaking on the bay. The Confederates rebuilt as soon as the Federals pulled back from the interior of the bay and the saltmaking in the St. Andrew Bay area continued until the end of the war.
Our series on the Civil War in the Panama City area will continue.