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Union Naval Blockade and
the USS Sagamore


General Scott's Anaconda Plan. Courtesy Library of Congress.

At the beginning of the Civil War, General Winfield Scott recommended to President Abraham Lincoln that Union naval vessels blockade southern ports along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in order to cut off all trade to and from the rebellious states. This plan, known as the Anaconda Plan, also called for the Union to take control of the Mississippi River splitting the Confederacy in two. It was an ambitious plan because the Union navy would have to patrol 3,500 miles of Rebel coastline, including the 1,400 miles of Florida’s coast.

Confederate ships sailed to Europe, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Cuba carrying products such as cotton, molasses, whiskey, and other goods in exchange for war materials and soap, coffee, dry goods, flour, alcohol, and other luxury goods. When ships returned they sailed through any number of inlets to arrive at their final destinations including the Jupiter and Indian River Inlets.


"View of Ship Island, Louisiana. -- By our Special Artist on Board the 'Sagamore.'" Line

engraving, published in Harper's Weekly, 1862, depicting several US Navy ships anchored off the

federal base at Ship Island in early 1862. Ships are (from left to right) Winona, New London,

Niagara, Sagamore, Wissahickon, and Massachusetts. Other features identified, in the center and

right background, are Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island, the 9th Connecticut and 22nd

Massachusetts Regiments and a military camp. Courtesy US Naval Historical Center Photograph.

The Union Naval Squadron responsible for patrolling Florida waters was the East Gulf Blockading Squadron headquartered at Key West. Union gunboats pursued the Confederate ships to capture or destroy them to hinder the trade. Some of the gunboats that operated off the Jupiter and Indian River Inlets were the U.S.S. Sagamore, Roebuck, Honeysuckle, and Beauregard.

Besides hunting for blockade runners, Union naval forces also carried out raids against Confederate salt works along Florida’s coastline. Escaped slaves familiar with the area would sometimes assist Union forces; some of the African Americans joined the Union navy, serving on blockading ships. Click here for a list of African American sailors who served aboard the U.S.S. Sagamore.

Six different US ships operated off of Jupiter during the war. The one that saw the most action was the U.S.S. Sagamore: she was 158 feet long and 28 feet wide, drew 12 feet of water, carried 4 cannons, and had a crew of 85. At 691 tons, the Sagamore was one of the largest blockading ships in Florida waters.


An image from Harper's Weekly depicting ten of the "90-Day Gunboats" constructed for the U.S. Navy in 1861-62. Ships,

as identified below the image bottom, are (from left, all USS): Chippewa, Sciota, Itasca, Winona, Huron, Ottawa, Pembina,

Seneca, Unadilla and Sagamore.

The Sagamore was a Unadilla class gunboat. This class of vessels was built specifically for blockade duty. Constructed in only 90 days, the shallow-draft, oceangoing vessels were able to operate close to shore. They could not enter most of Florida’s shallow inlets, so they used thirty-foot cutters to patrol inland waters.


Accompanying note: "We give below a sketch of the destruction of two rebel

schooners off Homosassa River, Florida, by a boat's crew from the United

States steamer Sagamore. A correspondent wrote: 'About three o'clock on the

afternoon of April 1 we saw a schooner making in for one of the rivers to the

southward of Cedar Keys, and immediately gave chase with the steamer; but

soon shoaled our water so much that we had to come to anchor and send off

boats. One boat soon distanced the others, finding two schooners instead of

one. The crews of both had run them ashore and taken boats for Dixie. Our

boats' crew soon had good fires going on both of them. The first one boarded

was a 150-ton schooner with an assorted cargo, the other was a 70-ton

schooner loaded with castor-oil and poor [whiskey]."

Courtesy Flordia State Archives.

As a patrol vessel, the Sagamore captured Confederate blockade runners, several between the Indian River Inlet and the Jupiter Inlet. The ship was decommissioned in 1864 and sold the following year. She subsequently became the Japanese merchant ship Kaga no Kami. In 1868-1871, she was a Japanese warship, under the name Yoshun.





Blockade Runners Captured between the
Indian River and Jupiter Inlets

January 17. Tender Union, twenty-four miles N.W. of Jupiter Inlet light hales and boards Havana schooner Emma. Towed to Key West.

October 28. Gunboat Sagamore captures British schooner Trier. Bound from Green Turtle Cay. Bahamas to Indian River Inlet with a hundred bags of salt and several boxes of sundries.

December 2. Sagamore captures blockade-running English schooner By George off Indian River Inlet, along with cargo of coffee and sugar.

December 5. Sagamore captures and sinks two unidentified schooners off Jupiter Inlet.

December 10. Sagamore, now at Indian River Inlet, captures Nassau schooner Alicia with a cargo of cotton.

December 12. Union bark Gem of the Sea captures and scuttles sloop Ann six miles inside Jupiter Inlet. Cargo netted: seventy-six bags of salt plus crew supplies.

January 5. Sagamore sends armed crews up Indian River. The next day they capture English sloop Avenger from Nassau loaded with coffee, salt, gin and "baled goods."

January 7. Sagamore sends a cutter into Indian River, captures two men "believed to be Rebel spies.”

January 8. Sagamore seizes British sloop Julia, carrying salt, ten miles north of Jupiter Inlet.

January 9. Henry Crane's crew from Sagamore captures and burns unmanned schooner, Flying Cloud, in St. Lucie River.

January 12. Gem of the Sea takes small, unidentified schooner in tow for Key West.

January 16. Volunteer Henry Crane and others from Sagamore destroy forty-five sacks of salt at Couch's Bar near Jupiter Inlet.

January 25. Sagamore captures and destroys British blockade runner East Yarmouth off Jupiter Inlet.

January 28. Sagamore had just captured the schooner Agnes when sloop Ellen darts out of Jupiter Inlet. Sea chase ends with capture of cargo of cotton and turpentine.

January 28. Nassau sloop Elizabeth runs aground crossing Jupiter bar in full sight of Sagamore. Captain escapes. Sagamore orders the ship burned.

January 28. Gem of the Sea captures "small boat" off Jupiter Inlet.

February 3. Volunteer Crane sends five men up Jupiter Narrows. They confiscate several bales of cotton hidden along shore.

February 4. Cutters from Sagamore capture schooner Pride in Indian River Narrows. Crew the Indian River with a cargo of salt.

April 26. Sagamore captures sloop New York.

June 23. Bark Pursuit captures sloop Kate at twelve miles north of Indian River Inlet.

August 8. Sagamore captures sloops Clara Louisa, Southern Rights, and Shot - all a few miles off Indian River Inlet. Later that day the Sagamore captures schooner Ann off Gilbert's Bar.

August 22. U.S.S. Beauregard boards schooner Phoebe off Jupiter Inlet, then allows it to anchor. When the suspect ship tries to send a crew ashore at night to unload suspect goods, the ship is captured and towed to Key West.

December 13. Bark Roebuck seizes unnamed schooner off Indian River Inlet.

December 17. Roebuck takes English schooner Ringdove bringing salt, coffee, tea and whiskey from Bahamas.

January 8. The Roebuck sends two armed cutters inside Indian River Inlet with orders to rendezvous at Jupiter Inlet with any captured blockade runners. The cutters arrive on January 12 towing the Mana Louise, an eight-ton Savannah-registered sloop with 3,000 pounds of cotton. Also in tow: the six-ton Susan of Nassau with forty-three boxes of salt and several sundry boxes. Roebuck skipper Sherrill decides to equip the Susan with a howitzer and send it back into Jupiter Inlet as a river patrol boat.

January 11. The gunboat Honeysuckle captures English schooner Fly a mile off Jupiter Lighthouse after firing a shot across her bow.

January 14. Cutters from Roebuck chase British blockade runner Young Racer and force her aground north of Jupiter Inlet. Cargo of cotton destroyed by Young Racer's own crew.

January 14. British schooner Minnie tries unsuccessfully to outmaneuver patrol boat Norfolk at mouth of Mosquito Inlet. The Minnie makes a dash for Indian River Inlet, the Beauregard captures its cargo of salt, liquor and earthenware.

January 16. Roebuck captures Confederate sloop Caroline, carrying salt, gin, soda and dry goods, as it attempts to run into Jupiter Inlet.

January 19. Roebuck catches British schooner Eliza escaping Jupiter Inlet laden with fourteen bales of cotton.

January 19. Roebuck heads to Indian River Inlet and captures British sloop Mary with thirty-one bales of cotton. The ship and crew are beached on Hutchinson Island until they can be towed to Key West.

February 4. Beauregard sends cutters into Jupiter Narrows to seize schooners Lydia and Hope with cargoes of cotton and turpentine.

February 26. Roebuck seizes British sloop Two Brothers carrying salt, liquor, coffee and cotton from Bahamas into Indian River Inlet.

February 27. Roebuck forces surrender of British schooner Nina, then on same day captures and burns Nassau schooner Rebel.

March 1. Roebuck seizes British schooner Lauretta and her cargo of salt at mouth of Indian River.

March 11. Beauregard and U.S.S. Nantucket intercept unidentified schooner hauling salt, liquor, coffee, and dry goods into Indian River Inlet.

March 30. Roebuck longboat captures sloop Last Resort.

April 7. Beauregard captures sloop Spunky and cotton cargo at Indian River Inlet.

June 10. Union supply vessel Union fires two shots at Nassau sloop Caroline neat Jupiter Inlet. Caroline comes alongside and is towed to Key West.

June 30. Cutters from Roebuck capture sloop Last Resort with six bales of cotton and two passengers at Jupiter Inlet.

July 10. Roebuck hauls beside and captures British schooner Terrapin at Jupiter Inlet as it tries to run blockade with cargo of cotton and turpentine.

December 4. Gunboat Pursuit captures cotton boat Peep O'Day in the Indian River.

March 16. The British sloop Mary already captured once, auctioned, and somehow back with her owner in Nassau, tries again to run Indian River Inlet and is captured by the Pursuit.

(Above list from: James D. Snyder. A Light in the Wilderness: The Story of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & The Southeast Florida Frontier. Jupiter: Pharos Books, 2006, pps. 166-170)

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