Sunday, November 20, 2011

Artillery Duel at Pensacola Bay

Artillery engagement on Pensacola Bay on 22-23 November 1861. Santa Rosa Island, Ft. Pickens, and Union batteries on the island are in the foreground; Pensacola Navy Yard and adjacent towns on the mainland are in the background. Source: Fla. Dept. of State on-line photo archive.

Angered by the Union Navy’s destruction of the privateer Judah in September 1861 (my 11 Sept 2011 post), Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, commanding the CS Army forces garrisoning Pensacola and the Pensacola Navy Yard, sent a force of 1,200 soldiers to Santa Rosa Island. The force landed at night on 8 October 1861 and assaulted the camp of the 6th New York, a Zouave regiment. The Union troops were initially routed, but reinforcements from Ft. Pickens helped them reform and they pushed the Confederate forces back, who then departed the island by the next morning.

In response to this attack, and the increasing size of the Confederate force garrisoning Pensacola, Col. Harvey Brown, now commanding the Union forces in Ft. Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, ordered his artillery to open fire on the mainland on 22 November. The army artillery was supplemented by gunfire from the steam frigate USS Niagra and steam sloop USS Richmond. The Confederates returned the Union gunfire. For two days, the bombardment continued, with thousands of rounds expended by both sides. Ft. McRee was destroyed by the gunfire from the US Navy ships, and portions of the Navy Yard and adjacent villages were set on fire from the barrage. Richmond suffered one sailor killed and seven injured by fire from the Confederate batteries. Hostilities ceased on the night of 23 November.

Steam frigate USS Niagra. Source: USN History and Heritage Command on-line photo library.

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