Battle of Bayport, Florida
Bayport was a small but
bustling port on Florida's Gulf
Coast. During the Civil War it
became an important harbor
for blockade runners.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Bayport, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Bayport, Florida
Battle of Bayport, Florida
The Battle of Bayport resulted from a raid by the U.S.
Navy against the Confederate held port in
Hernando County, Florida.
Bayport Battery Site
Traces of the Confederate's
Bayport Battery can still be
seen at Bayport Park in
Hernando County, Florida.
The Gulf from Bayport
The view of the Gulf of Mexico
from the pier at Bayport is one
of the finest along hundreds
of miles of Florida coastline.
Harbor at Bayport, Florida
Bayport developed as an
important port for blockade
runners after the Civil War
broke out in 1861.
The Battle of Bayport - Bayport, Florida
Naval Raid in Hernando County
On April 3, 1863, the Union navy launched a
surprise attack on the Gulf Coast community
of Bayport in Hernando County, Florida. The
result was a sharp action with Confederate
land forces that can be called the Battle of
Bayport (also then spelled Bay Port).

Established during the years before the war
as a small but bustling port town, Bayport
was quickly identified by blockade runners as
a good port for their activities after the Civil
War erupted and the Union navy began to
close the Confederacy's major port cities.
While it could not handle ships of large draft,
Bayport was ideal for the small, shallow draft,
fast schooners preferred by many of the
captains who ran commerce in and out of
Florida under the very guns of the Union navy.

As the blockade tightened, more and more
blockade runners fell into Union hands. A
surprising number of them had sailed from
Bayport. The little port on the Gulf soon
attracted the attention of the U.S. Navy and by
April of 1863, a plan was underway to end its
usefulness to the Confederates.

As darkness fell on the night of April 2, 1863,
an expedition of seven launches and cutters
left the U.S. warships
Sagamore, Fort Henry
and
St. Lawrence. Daylight the next morning
found the little flotilla two miles downwind
from the harbor entrance, battling against a
stiff westerly wind and outgoing tide. It took
two hours for the boats to finally make the
channel into the harbor, giving the Southern
troops on shore time to prepare a defense.

Six blockade runners were in port when the
raiding party approached. Four of these, two
sloops and two schooners, were run up into
a bayou by their crews and grounded. The
fifth, a large schooner loaded with cotton and
ready for sea, was found at anchor in the
main harbor. The sixth, the sloop
Helen, was
spotted lying inshore south of the main
harbor and burned by the Federals.

The crew of the
Helen, however, provided the
Union sailors with information that may well
have saved their lives. Bayport, they reported,
was defended by a battery mounting two
heavy guns.

Built by the Confederates to defend the port,
the Bayport Battery was an earthwork facing
the main anchorage. Additional rifle pits had
been prepared adjacent to the battery and on
a spot of high ground opposite the channel.
By June of 1863, these positions were
defended by three independent companies
of Confederate troops, commanded by
captains J.C. Chambers, S.M.G. Gary and
Samuel E. Hope. It is unknown if all three
units were there in April.

Clearing for battle, the four largest of the
Union boats, all armed with howitzers, began
to pull for the anchored schooner hoping to
either capture or destroy her. When they
came within 900 yards, the battery opened
fire.

Riflemen positioned along the shore joined
the battle as the boats continued to close the
range. When they reached a point 400 yards
from shore, the sailors began to return fire
with their howitzers, the largest of which was
a 24-pounder.
For 25 to 35 minutes, the battle raged with
impressive fury. A man could be seen leaving
the anchored schooner and not long after
she burst into flames, evidently destroyed on
purpose to prevent her capture.

As the range continued to close, the cannon
in the Bayport Battery switched to grape shot,
but the fire of the Confederate gunners was
wild and did no injury to the boats. Two of the
sailors, however, were hit by small arms fire.
One was merely bruised, but seaman John
Baptiste of the U.S.S.
Sagamore was hit by a
bullet that went in his back and came back
out of his body about four inches away.

The fire of the Union cannon was so effective
that the Confederates finally abandoned their
guns and fell back from the battery. Two of
the howitzers, had become disabled due to
the stress of firing and Acting Lieutenant E.Y.
McCauley, commanding the expedition,
decided to withdraw.

As the boats, at least one of which was
proving difficult to navigate, began to pull
back out to sea, the Confederate gunners
returned, bringing up a rifled field gun. They
continued to fire on McCauley's men until
they were out of range. The Union sailors
then began a long journey up the west coast
of Florida to reunite with their ships near
Cedar Key.

Bayport remained in Confederate hands for
the time and would play a part in the
Brooksville raid the following year.

The site of Bayport is now part of Bayport
Park, a beautiful recreation spot just under 7
miles east of Florida's famed Weekiwachee
Springs at the end of Highway 550 (Cortez
Boulevard). The park features a boat launch,
picnic areas, a very nice pier and outstanding
views. An interpretive marker near the pier
tells the story of the old community.
Battle of Bayport, Florida
Confederate infantry was
positioned in positions like
this during the battle and
could fire on the Union sailors
from several directions at
once.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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