On Jan. 21st, before the skies darkened and winds picked up, the 37th Annual Brooksville Raid Re-enactment took place. The re-enactment was supposed to continue on Sunday, but was unfortunately cancelled due to inclement weather. To coincide with this Civil War Battle re-enactment, one of the largest in the country, this article describes the primary conflicts that occurred in Hernando County.
During the Civil War there were two significant conflicts in Hernando County: the Battle of Bayport and the Brooksville Raid. The Hernando County area had come to the attention of the Union, because it was supplying the Confederacy with needed provisions.
The Battle of Bayport occurred on April 3, 1863. Seven launches and cutters were released from the U.S. warships Sagamore, Fort Henry and St. Lawrence. The four largest of the boats were armed with mortars, with the largest mortar being 24 inches.
Dawn found the raiders two miles outside of Bayport facing offshore wind and an outgoing tide. It took the attackers 2 hours to get through these to Bayport. This allowed the defenders to prepare for the coming attack.
There were six ships in port at the time. Four of the ships were run up into the salt flats and grounded. The Helen was found south of the main harbor and burned by the Union Forces. The remaining ship was a large schooner loaded with cotton, which was burned in the main harbor during the battle (most likely by Confederates to prevent its capture).
The port was defended by three companies of Confederate troops, commanded by Captain J.C. Chambers, Captain S.M.G. Gary and Captain Samuel E. Hope. The troops had built an earthwork battery on the main harbor. There were also rifle pits around. These rifle pits were adjacent to the battery and on a small area of high ground opposite the channel.
The battle between the Confederate soldiers and the Union sailors lasted 25 to 35 minutes. The Union cannon fire drove the Confederates from the battery. Two of the Union mortars had become disabled, because of intense usage, so the Union decided to withdraw.
Again in July of 1864 the Union decided to attack the area, since it was supplying the Confederacy. The idea was if the Confederate soldiers had no supplies, they would have to surrender. This attack would be referred to as "The Brooksville Raid."
The Union sent 240 soldiers by sea to disrupt the supplies coming from the area. They landed near Anclote River and headed north along the path. The troops were supplied by the 2nd Florida Cavalry (Union) and the 2nd U. S. Colored Infantry.
The Union troops burned a swath six miles wide. They confiscated livestock, grain, provisions and other supplies. Sometimes they set fire to barns, smokehouses, and houses. Some of the Union soldiers were locals of the area and knew where things were located.
The Confederate soldiers facing a superior force skirmished the Union soldiers as they advanced attacking and fading. There was no major battle since the Confederate volunteers did not want to directly engage the larger Union force and the Union soldiers were more interested in disrupting the supplies to Confederates than engaging their soldiers.
The raid netted the Union seven prisoners, 15 horses, 13 slaves and disrupted the Confederacy’s supply line. The clashes during the raid resulted in the deaths of five Confederates and three Union soldiers. The homes of a number of residents were destroyed including prominent Confederate officers Captain Hope, Captain Leslie, and Captain Hooker.
The Union saw the importance of Hernando County to the Confederacy as a supplier. They attacked the port and then the source of the supplies. The loss of supplies contributed to the defeat of the Confederacy.