October 9, 1861: Battle of Santa Rosa Island

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.

Landing four miles east of Fort Pickens, the Confederates marched three miles towards the Fort, routed the 6th New York from its camp and adopted a defensive position in front of the Fort.  The Union garrison under Colonel Harvey Brown, about 600 men, sallied from the Fort, driving the Confederates back to their steam ships and ending the battle.  Union losses were 14 killed, 29 wounded and 24 captured.  Confederate casualties totaled 87, of which about 30-40 were killed.  General Anderson was severely wounded in the engagement, and would be out of action until February 1862.  Fort Pickens remained in the hands of the Union throughout the War.

Published in: on October 9, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 9, 1861: Battle of Santa Rosa Island  
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