Far away from the big battles that take up most of the space in histories of the Civil War, there was a continual struggle being waged between Union and Confederate forces for control of the Confederate coast line. Usually lacking the drama and larger than life figures of the Civil War waged inland, this campaign for control of islands, ports and harbors was probably more critical to the outcome of the War than any other campaign, the eventual Union success in the coastal campaign sealing most of the Confederacy off by the end of the War from crucially needed supplies.
One early battle in this campaign, that would stretch from the start to the end of the War, was the battle of Santa Rosa Island. With the fall of Fort Sumter, Fort Pickens guarding the entrance to Pensacola, Florida, was one of the few coastal positions along the Confederate coast still in the hands of the Union. Confederate General Richard Anderson, who would eventually lead the First and Fourth Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, was the garrison commander at Pensacola. After midnight on October 9, 1861 he ferried 1200 men in two small steamers to Santa Rosa Island in a surprise attack on Fort Pickens. (more…)