St. Andrew Bay
This view of St. Andrew Bay
was taken from near the site
of the Civil War era resort
community of St. Andrew, now
part of Panama City.
Confederate Salt Kettle
This iron kettle was once
used by Southerners to make
salt. The commodity was vital
for preserving meat.
Civil War in Panama City, Florida
Civil War in Panama City, Florida
Salt for the Confederacy
The modern city of Panama City did not exist
at the time of the Civil War, but then as now
people came down to the beautiful Florida
Gulf Coast to vacation.
Nineteenth century visitors weren't as
interested in the beautiful white sands of the
Gulf beaches as their modern counterparts.
They focused instead on the shores of St.
Andrew Bay where they could swim, wade,
fish and just enjoy cool coastal breezes.
During the Antebellum years, the small resort
community of St. Andrew grew on the shores
of the bay near the heart of today's Panama
City downtown district. Homes were built
here looking out over the beautiful bay and,
although the community had a small cluster
of permanent residents, it was best known
as a resort for the people of the interior
counties of Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
Especially during the searing heat of
summer, residents from the interior would
come down to the bay to cool off.
In addition to the noted resort of St. Andrews,
the area surrounding modern Panama City
was also the focus of light commerce during
the days leading up to the Civil War. Sailing
vessels came into the bay to pick up lumber
from sawmills that had been established in
the region during the 1850s and also
provided an outlet for cotton and other
agricultural projects that came down the
Econfina from the interior.
The bay also supported a small fishing
industry and racks of fresh fish being
smoked along the shores of the bay were not
uncommon sights during the Antebellum era.
The outbreak of the Civil War, of course,
brought much of this activity to a crashing
halt. The appearance of Union blockade
vessels in the bay quickly ended St. Andrews'
popularity as a resort and by 1862, the
community was all but abandoned.
Instead, the Panama City area became a
center for the Confederacy's vital salt industry.
Massive amounts of salt were needed to
preserve meat for the Southern armies and
massive saltworks sprang up along St.
Andrew Bay and connected North, East and
Water from the bays was placed in large
boilers and boiled until a salty residue could
be collected from the bottoms of the vats.
Salt, in fact, became one of the most valuable
commodities in the South and was so
important that men were exempted from
military service if they labored in the
The Union navy, of course, tried to end these
operations and the Panama City area was
the focus of numerous raids against
saltworks. The raids were only marginally
successful, for no sooner was one set of
works destroyed than a new set popped up
to replace them.
As Union warships shut down larger points,
St. Andrew Bay also became a port for
Southern blockade runners. These fast ships
slipped in from the Gulf, usually at night, to
bring in badly needed supplies and take
shipments of cotton back out for sale to keep
the Southern economy alive.
|The St. Andrew Skirmish
This brief but bloody encounter between Union
sailors and Confederate troops was one of a series
of incidents in the Panama City area.
The Confederate blockade runner Florida
(not to be confused with the famed Southern
raider of the same name) was the focus of a
major operation by the Union Navy after she
ran into St. Andrew Bay in 1862. Captured by
a boat party, the Florida was converted into
the warship Hendrick Hudson by the Union
Navy and eventually took part in the campaign
leading to the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida
in March of 1865.
The Union army and navy both used St.
Andrew Bay as a base for significant raids
into the interior. One of these expeditions,
carried out by the army in 1864, penetrated
the farms and plantations along the Econfina
and resulted in considerable damage.
Another, launched by the navy in January of
1865, resulted in the capture of the
Confederate troops at Ricco's Bluff on the
Actual fighting in the Panama City area was
limited, but some encounters did take place.
The most significant of these was a skirmish
fought at St. Andrew on March 20, 1863.
The encounter developed when an 11-man
boat party from the U.S.S. Roebuck
approached St. Andrew while searching for a
civilian vessel reported to be in the area. The
Union boat was ambushed by the
Confederate company of Captain Walter J.
Robinson. When the smoke cleared, 6 of the
sailors were dead and another 3 wounded.
To begin your exploration of the little known
Civil War activities in the area of the modern
city of Panama City, Florida, please follow the
A Key Blockade Point
Union ships used St. Andrew
Bay as an important harbor
during their enforcement of
Capture of the Florida
The Southern blockade
runner Florida, seen here,
was captured by the Union
navy and converted for war.
The St. Andrew Skirmish
attacked a Union boat party
here, killing six and wounding
three in a brief but bloody
|Copyright 2011 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: March 23, 2014
Civil War in Florida