Battle of Fort Brooke
The Battle of Fort Brooke was a minor engagement fought October 16–18, 1863 in and around Tampa, Florida during the American Civil War. The most important outcome of the action was the destruction of two Confederate blockade runners which had been hidden upstream on the Hillsborough River.
|Battle of Fort Brooke|
|Part of the American Civil War|
|United States (Union)||CSA (Confederacy)|
|Commanders and leaders|
|A.A. Semmes||John Westcott|
|2nd Florida Infantry, Company A|
|Casualties and losses|
An important facet of the Union's long-term strategy during the American Civil War was the Anaconda Plan, which established a blockade along much of the coast of the Confederate States. Though only a small town at the time, Tampa had been an important port for exporting cattle and crops from ranches and farms in the interior of central Florida before the war. By 1862, most local shipping had been stymied by Union Navy ships patrolling near the mouth of Tampa Bay. However, several fast blockade runners based in Tampa had consistently slipped out to deliver cattle and cotton to Spanish Cuba in exchange for needed goods and gold. Captain A.A. Semmes, the commander of Union naval forces in the area, decided to mount an expedition to destroy the ships used in the trade.
Two Union gunships, USS Tahoma and USS Adela, sailed into Tampa Bay on October 16, 1863 and began a slow bombardment of Fort Brooke while staying just out of the range of the fort's batteries. Two days later on October 18, a Union raiding party under Acting Master T.R. Harris secretly disembarked at Ballast Point, landing near the current intersection of Bayshore Boulevard and Gandy Boulevard. While the Union gunships continued a diversionary bombardment of the fort, about 100 Union troops marched 14 miles (23 km) north through a heavily wooded area that was later developed into the neighborhoods of Palma Ceia, West Tampa, and Seminole Heights. Their target was the Jean Street Shipyard on the Hillsborough River near today's Sligh Avenue, and upon reaching their destination, they quickly seized and burned several ships moored at the dock including two notorious blockade runners, the steamship Scottish Chief and the sloop Kate Dale.
The ships and the shipyard were owned by the once and future mayor of Tampa, James McKay. Escaping capture by the attackers along with some crew members, McKay sped to the town and warned the Confederate forces at Fort Brooke about the raiding party and the fate of his ships. The 2nd Florida Infantry Battalion along with the Oklawaha Rangers cavalry unit and a few citizens of the town quickly gave chase and caught up with the Union detachment near their landing point on Tampa Bay. A short but sharp engagement known as the Battle of Ballast Point ensued as Union troops attempted to board their dinghies near today's Ballast Point Park and return to the waiting ships in the bay. With the support of covering fire from Tahoma and Adelia directed at Confederate forces on shore, the raiding party reached the ships having suffered 16 casualties. Union forces sailed out of Tampa Bay soon thereafter.
The raid met its objectives, as shipping out of Tampa came to a virtual halt for the duration of the war.
The blockade running steamer Scottish Chief was heavily damaged but remained afloat after it burned. It was towed back downriver to near today's Blake High School, stripped of usable materials, and destroyed. The steamer A.B. Noyes, which had also been damaged in the raid, was similarly broken down to preclude her capture. The Kate Dale sank near its mooring and remains at the bottom of the Hillsborough River near the current location of ZooTampa.
- Kennedy, Frances H. (1998). The Civil War battlefield guide (2nd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-74012-6.
- Bair, Cinnamon (April 13, 2012). "Scottish Chief, the Pride of Tampa Bay". The Lakeland Ledger. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
- "Battle Detail: Battle of Fort Brooke". National Park Service. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
- Dyer, Elisabeth (May 24, 2008). "Sloop's identity almost certain". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved January 5, 2021.