Wednesday, February 25, 2009
St. Marks, Florida - The Confederacy's Last Port
It is a little known fact that Confederate blockade runners continued to slip out of the port of St. Marks, south of Tallahassee, until the end of the War Between the States.
There was considerable speculation in Northern newspapers during January and February of 1865 that Confederate authorities were moving to prepare St. Marks for greater activity as a result of the capture of Fort Fisher and closure of the port of Wilmington in North Carolina.
The following item, for example, appeared in the Kansas Weekly Champion and Press on February 2, 1865:
The American Counsul at Havana sends notice to Collector Draper that the rebels are reported to be staking out the harbor of St. Marks, on the western coast of Florida, in order to make it available for blockade runners. Vessels drawing eight feet of water can enter this harbor. No doubt some of our gun-boats drawing about that much will shortly look in at St. Marks.
St. Marks at the time was defended by the Confederate gunboat C.S.S. Spray and the heavy artillery of Fort Ward, an earthwork fort on the site of today's San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. Making the port of more importance, it was connected to Tallahassee by the Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad, which remained in operation throughout the war. This allowed supplies brought in by blockade runner (and cotton, etc., being shipped out) to be moved easily to and from the port to the capital city.
The reports that surfaced in January and February about Confederate plans for St. Marks likely contributed to planning taking place at that time in Key West. These plans would lead to the Natural Bridge expedition by the end of February.
I'll continue posting on this topic over the next few days. In the meantime, you can read more about the Battle of Natural Bridge and some of its related events by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex.