Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Gem of the Sea and the Charlotte Harbor Blockade during the Civil War

Typical bark vessel of the time.  Gem of the Sea was a bark.  

Florida became part of the Confederacy at the beginning of the Civil War, the third of the original seven states to secede from the Union.   Florida had a very small population at this time, nearly half of them slaves.  It only sent15,000 troops to the Confederate States Army. Its chief importance was in food-supply to the south, and support for blockade-runners, with its long coastline full of inlets that were hard to patrol.

Starting in 1863,  Union forces, attempting to suppress shipment of cattle and hogs, organized a blockade at Charlotte Harbor. One of the ships assigned to the picket was the Gem of the Sea, a wooden bark, commissioned on October 15, 1861 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

From December 24 to 30, 1863, Union military regulars sailing on small boats from the Gem of the Sea encountered signal fires and sporadic gun fire from local southern sympathizers. The U.S. sloop Rosalie arrived to provide cover at a shelling position 200 yards from the Myakka's east shore. On June 11, 1864, Gem of the Sea shared in the capture of the steamer Emma by tender Rosalie, for violation of blockage near Charlotte Harbor.

Gem of the Sea remained in Charlotte Harbor until February 1865 when as the Civil War came to an end, she left for the Philadelphia Navy Yard where was decommissioned and sold for $6500.