Civil War Steamship Is Found In Riverbed, Robbyn Mitchell, Tampa Bay Times, September 15, 2009
Burned and sunk, the steamship Scottish Chief lay at the bottom of the Hillsborough River for 146 years, a legend for its ability to keep Tampa afloat amidst the city's isolation during the Civil War. Underwater archaeologist John William Morris, with the Florida Aquarium, said Tuesday a research team has found the ship, a vessel not seen since the night in 1863 when Union troops raided the shipyard.
Morris' team first spotted the suggestion of a ship August 29 with new sonar technology, but it took until Tuesday to confirm that the shadowy trace in the sand was that of the lost blockade runner. The relic has been lodged underwater near the Interstate 275 exit to the Hillsborough Bridge, across from Blake High School, said aquarium spokesman Tom Wagner. The find comes one year after the discovery of the Kate Dale in the river, which had been reduced to wooden ship's ribs, he said.
"It helps tell the story. Some people weren't even aware Tampa even had a small role in the Civil War," Wagner said. "These boats were part of the skirmish at Ballast Point, the only battle in Tampa where soldiers lost their lives." As the story goes, naval bases at Egmont Key and Key West controlled the movement of ships in the Gulf of Mexico during the war, blockading Tampa Bay to keep supplies for the Confederacy from moving in or out.
The Scottish Chief and Kate Dale were two of the dozen ships that sailed through the blockades to Havana to trade cotton in exchange for medicine, liquor, food and other supplies. Union sailors slipped ashore in the darkness on Oct. 17, 1863, and marched 14 miles to the Jean Street Shipyard near what is now Lowry Park, where they captured and burned the two blockade runners, each loaded with cotton. The ships had been ferrying supplies to the town under the command of Tampa's first mayor, James McKay, according to historian Canter Brown Jr.'s Tampa In Civil War and Reconstruction.
McKay, who owned a local salt works, was aboard the Scottish Chief that night, and escaped along with several crew members, who alerted the town. The Union landing party soon had to contend with Tampa militia and Confederate soldiers in what became a running, bloody skirmish. The next day, Tampa lost its salt works, several homes and buildings as two Union ships systematic shelled Fort Brooke and the town.
Wagner said this story and others are crucial to Tampa's maritime history and will be documented in the aquarium's project. But excavation of the rear-wheel steamship will have to wait. "We had funding for the search and discovery, but excavation can be very timely and costly," Wagner said. "We'll try to get funding, but it boils down to dollars needed to do that and then the human resources needed to do the excavation."
Text and Top Image Source: Tampabay.com
Bottom Image Souce: The Wreck of the Kate Dale, weblog Battlefield Journal