Civil War naval clashes uncovered at Bayport
By Dan DeWitt
Dale Groth — minding his crab traps at Bayport Park and soaking in the gulfside atmosphere of sunshine, marsh grass, cabbage palms and wind-rippled water — was asked if he knew that this peaceful setting had hosted a series of naval clashes during the Civil War.
Groth, 76, a Bayport regular since 1997, gave a surprised look and shook his head no. "I'll be darned,'' he said.
It's true. At least five times between 1863 and 1865, Union ships confronted blockade-runners in or near Bayport.
Three of these cargo ships were burned, either by Union sailors who had captured them or Confederates who wanted to prevent their seizure.
In the most dramatic engagement, in April 1863, one Confederate soldier was killed and at least three were wounded.
That surpasses the single Confederate death and gunshot wound — probably inflicted by a band of fellow Southern sympathizers — during the much ballyhooed Brooksville Raid in 1864.