Made ready for sea, and with a crew of around a hundred men,
on the night of January 15th 1863 the Florida again ran the blockade.
Lead coloured, and burning coke, she made a run for it.
Several blockading vessels had been waiting for this moment, in particular
the R.R. Cuyler, placed specifically capture the Florida.
One blockader chased a vessel, seen dimly before daybreak, but that was all.
The Florida was now free.
Maffitt wrote to Mallory from Nassau on January 27th 1863, describing
how he escaped from Mobile, he wrote;
I have the honor to inform the Department that on the morning of the 16th
instant I ran through the blockading force, twelve in number, that were
clustered around Mobile Bar to prevent the egress of the vessel. We
were not discovered until in the midst of them; an animated chase that
lasted all day then commenced.
The Florida, under a heavy press of canvas and steam, made fourteen
and a half
knots an hour, and distanced all her pursuers except two in a few hours,
and that night, by changing course, the two that held their way with us
For 6 months she sailed
the Western Atlantic, capturing a total of twenty one ships. Then, with
a Union squadron on her tail, the Florida sailed into Brest in Northern France,
for repair and re-fitting. Unfortunately, Maffitt`s condition was not much
better than his vessel, and in early September of 1863, he sent a letter
from Brest to Commander M.F.Maury CSN in Paris.
Maffitt enclosed a surgeon`s certificate in the letter, attesting to
his poor state of health, and requested that he be relieved of command of
the Florida on medical grounds, he received the following testament from Maury.
"I am grieved to learn that your health has given way under the severe trial
it has undergone in the Florida, and I am sure your countrymen will
also learn with regret that they have to lose, even for a time, the services
of an officer who has done so much to spread the fame of their flag over the seas.
Let us hope that your health may be speedily restored."
Several members of the crew,
upon hearing that Maffitt was leaving, seemed to assume he was to take
command of a different cruiser, and wrote a letter to him.
In early 1864 the Florida was back at sea again, this time without Maffitt,
Lt. Charles Manigault Morris was now
in command. The Florida made another wide sweep of the Atlantic, capturing
fifteen more Union ships.
It was during this phase of the Florida`s career, that Morris had the
misfortune to lose one of his officer`s to the sea. On the 10th July 1864,
had overhauled and captured the steamer Electric Spark,
Midshipman William B. Sinclair was drowned when the second cutter returning
from the prize vessel was swamped. Morris wrote of the incident;
"The moment it was known that the cutter was in danger a boat was sent to her assistance.
on reaching her she found all the crew hanging on the bottom of the boat,
and Mr Sinclair missing.
Mr. Sinclair had nobly refused the assistance of the crew, ordering them to
hang onto the boat, and he would swim to the ship, taking care of himself.
He was never seen afterwards, and I fear must have been seized with cramp
or taken by a shark; one had been seen not long before, swimming about the ship.
Every exertion was made to find him, but to no avail.
Mr. Sinclair was a most promising young officer, and esteemed and beloved
by officers and crew. His death has cast a deep gloom over all.
Needing coal and supplies, Morris took the
Florida into the neutral port of Bahia, in Brazil, on October 4th 1864.
Morris arrived in San Salvador Bay, Bahia, Brazil at 9pm on
4th October 1864. He needed coal and provisions, also some slight repairs,
after cruising for twenty-one days. Shortly after anchoring a boat passed
around the Florida, and asked the vessels name, when told they replied that
the boat was from H. B.M.Curlew.
Next morning Morris noted that the U.S.S. Wachusett was at anchor nearby,
but there was no English steamer visible, so Morris concluded that the boat
from the previous evening had been from the Wachusett. On the morning of
the 5th, Morris was visited by a Brazilian officer, and informed
him of his needs. Morris was told that his request would be forwarded to
the Brazilian President, and that he, Morris, was to have no communication
with the shore until an answer was received. At noon Morris received a note,
which he left on board the Florida, that the President was prepared to see
The President informed Morris that he had 48 hours within which to refit and
repair, and that the Brazilian Chief Engineer would be sent on board, to
examine the machinery. If the engineer thought 48 hours was too short, then
an extension would be granted.
The President was uneasy about the Florida
being in port, and insisted that Morris observe the neutrality laws, he
seemed to have no worries about the Wachsett observing these same rules.
The President stated that he had received assurances from the U. S.
consul, that the Wachusett would do nothing to contravene the laws of
nations or Brazil.
There was a Brazilian Admiral present at this interview, and he suggested
to Morris that the Florida be moved to a position that placed the Admirals
vessel between the two warships. Morris agreed to, and in fact did this.
Upon hisreturn to the Florida, the Brazilian engineer informed Morris
he had four days to complete repairs to the pipe of the condenser. Morris
then decided to allow liberty, and sent the port watch off that afternoon.
Around 7:30pm, a boat containing the U.S. consul, came alongside from the
Wachusett, the consul stating that he had official communication for the
Commander of the Florida. A letter and card were then handed to First
Lieutenant Porter. Porter examined the letter and discovered that it was
addressed as "To Captain Morris, sloop Florida". Porter returned
the letter to the consul, telling him it was improperly addressed; that
the vessel was the CSS Florida, and that when the letter was so
directed, it would be received.
On October 6th, a Mr L. de Videky came on board, and informed
Morris that he (Videky) had received a letter from the US consul,
containing a letter for Morris. Mr de Videky`s letter from the consul,
contained a challenge to the Florida to meet the Wachusett in battle,
with the promise that, if this was accepted, the consul would use his
influence to speed up repairs to the Florida. The letter to Morris was
still incorrectly addressed, so not accepted. Morris had heard enough,
he informed Videky that he had come into Bahia for a special purpose,
and that he would neither seek nor avoid a contest with the Wachusett,
but should he encounter her outside of Brazilian waters, he would
do his utmost to destroy her.
That afternoon (6th) the port watch returned, and the starboard
watch, plus Morris and some of his officers, left the Florida for their own
On the morning of the 7th, Morris was awoken in his hotel at 3:30am,
and informed that there was some sort of trouble on his ship. He could here
firing and cheering coming from her direction, but due to the darkness,
had no idea what was happening. When he reached the landing of the hotel, a Brazilian
officer informed him that the Wachusett had rammed and captured the Florida,
and was towing her out of the harbour.
At around 3:15am, the Wachusett passed the Brazilian corvette
Dona Januaria, and her commander Gervasio Macebo sent an officer on board
the Wachusett to find out what she was doing, and why she was not still at
anchor. The Brazilians also gave notice that if the Florida was attacked,
all the Brazilian ships, as well as the forts, would fire on the Wachusett.
Napolean Collins replied that he would comply and do nothing further.
Shortly after this confrontation the Brazilians heard the Wachusett "fire
a shot loaded with ball". They then saw the vessel appearing to return to
her anchorage, it was only as she passed them that they realised she was
"tugging the Florida." The Brazilians did fire one "cannon shot loaded
with ball" at the Wachusett, but were unsuccessful.
Commander Macebo had anticipated that something like this may happen, and
had ordered the Paraense to be made ready to sail. Immediately
this was possible she went after the fleeing Wachusett. The breeze was very
light so a signal was sent to the yacht Rio De Centes to join the
chase. Both Brazilian vessels starting the chase approximately 3 miles
adrift of their quarry. By 7am, the Paraense had gained considerably on
the fleeing vessels and Commander Macebo had high hopes of saving the
Florida, and Brazilian honour. Then the wind began to calm, as it did so,
Collins, realising that he had the faster vessel, started steaming at full
He quickly began to outpace the Brazilians, and by 11:45am was out of sight.
Both Brazilian vessels returned to port, dropping anchor at 3:15pm.
Morris immediately went to the Brazilian
Admiral`s vessel, who told Morris he was going after the Wachusett, to bring
her back. He returned in the afternoon, having been unable to overtake her.
Morris mustered the officers and crew left on shore, and found that there were
four officers, Lieutenant Barron, Paymaster Taylor, Midshipman Dyke and
Master`s Mate King, plus seventy one men, six of whom had escaped from
the Florida after her capture.
Before entering Salvador Bay, Captain Morris had ordered all shot to
be removed from the guns and once moored near
the Brazilian vessel the fires were let down.
Collins, after his discussion with the Brazilians maintained his course and
went directly for the Florida, ramming her abreast of the mizzenmast, which
broke into three pieces, destroyed the bulwarks, knocked the quarterboat on
deck, jammed the wheel and carried away the main yard. At the same time
around 200 shots from small arms, and two from her guns were fired into
The Wachusett then backed off around a hundred yards, and
demanded that the Florida surrender.
Acting Master T. Hunter was on deck, and on hearing the demand for surrender,
he contacted Lt Thomas K Porter, who was in command in Morris`s absence.
Porter replied to the Wachusett that he would reply in a few moments.
The reply from the Wachusett was surrender immediately or be blown out of
the water. Porter discussed the matter with Lt. Stone, but in reality had
no option but to agree to surrender.
The captain of the Wachusett, Napolean Collins, called for Morris to
come to his ship, Porter told Collins that he was in command, as Morris was ashore,
and that he would come as soon as a boat could be prepared. Porter went onboard the
Wachusett and handed Collins the ship`s ensign and his sword.
Collins then sent a
number of armed boats to take possesion of the Florida.
When the crew heard Lt. Porter agree to surrender, fifteen men jumped
into the water to escape capture, only six succeeded, the rest being hit
from the forecastle and boats of the Wachusett. Mr. Hunter had been wounded,
and a number of men were killed. Collins then had a hawser made fast to the
foremast of the Florida, and proceeded to tow her out to sea.
During the daylight hours of October 7th, Collins transferred about two
thirds of the Florida crew to the Wachusett, where the officers were paroled,
and the men placed in double irons. The Wachusett called at St. Thomas on
her return Journey to the United States, where Collins found the U.S.S.
Kearsage in port, and transferred Assistant Surgeon
Thomas J. Charlton
and eighteen men to her. This was the beginning of their period of imprisonment by the United States.
Morris`s next thoughts were for the crew, and what to do with them. They all
expressed a desire to remain in the Confederate service, so Morris decided
to do his best to secure a passage to England for them. Captain Bray, of
the English bark Linda agreed to take the men to England, at a charge of £10 each
for crew, and £20 each for officers.Morris also had to pay the cost of fitting
up their berths, about £80. Morris arranged for passage for himself and Paymaster
Taylor on the English mail steamer, departing Bahia on the 13th, two days before
The unlucky Mr de Videky, upon realising that he had been duped by the U.S. consul
wrote the following to Morris.
October 7th 1864
Dear Sir: I feel bound to address you after the fatal affair of last night
has happened. When I accepted to go on board your vessel, I did so firmly
believing that the mission I had to you was meant honestly and in good faith.
Had I only the slightest idea, that the man who sent me to you on a mission
, as I thought of honor, at the same time meditating (as it appears now), such
an infamous, blackguardly trick as he played, I certainly never should have
accepted it. How could I think such villainy to be possible? Be sure that
whenever I shall meet the faithless scoundrel who calls himself a consul of
the United States of America, and goes by the name of Wilson, I will take my
revenge, and treat him as he deserves it. I am very sorry for what has
happened, and I am still more sorry for having accepted that mission of
carrying a letter or verbal communication from him. My services are at your
orders if you should require them. I am still in possesion of the two letters,
which I did not deliver to him, as I could not find him after I saw you.
He has not got your answer at all, which proves still more that miserable
and lawless trick must have been meditated before and at the same time when
he pretended to offer a fair engagement outside the juridiction of the
Government of the Brazils.
I am dear sir, your very obedient servant,
L. DE. VIDEKY.
There was a great outcry against the actions of the United States navy in
a neutral port, particularly from England and France, where the U.S. was
castigated in the national press. Gideon Welles, U.S.Secretary of the navy,
had little option but to have Commander N. Collins appear before a court
martial, which took place on the U.S. steamer Baltimore, April 7th, 1865.
Extracts from the Court martial of Commander Napoleon Collins U. S. Navy.
Charge and specifications preferred against Commander
Napoleon Collins, U.S.Navy,
in the case of the seizure of the C.S.S.
Florida in neutral waters.
CHARGE: Violating the territorial jurisdiction of a neutral government.
Specification.--In this, that on or about the seventh day of October
, eighteen hundred and sixty-four, the said Commander Napoleon Collins, being
then in command of the United States steamer Wachusett, in the Bay of San
Salvador, Brazil, and manifestly within a marine league of the shore at the
port of Bahia, in said Bay of San salvador, did unlawfully attack and capture
the steamer Florida and a portion of her officers and crew within the
territorial jurisdiction of the Government of Brazil, then and now a neutral
This was signed by Gideon Welles.
The judge advocate called upon the accused, the said Commander Napoleon
Collins, to plead to the charge and specification preferred against him by
the honorable Secretary of the Navy, whereupon the accused to the said
charge and specification tendered the following plea:
Of the charge "Guilty"
Of the specification: "Guilty, excepting the single word "unlawfully""
Thereupon the court was cleared for deliberation.
After some moments spent in deliberation the court was opened, the accused
being in attendance.
Whereupon the judge advocate announced that the plea
tendered by the accused was received and ordered to be recorded.
The plea tendered by the accused rendering it unnecessary to call witnesses
for the prosecution, the judge advocate called upon the accused to adduce
such testimony as he might deem material in his defense.
Whereupon the accused responded that he had no testimony to offer, and
submitted to the court the following paper.
I respectfully request
that it may be entered in the records of the court as my defense that
the capture of the Florida was for the public good.
April 7, 1865
And the same having been read, the court was cleared for deliberation.
The court thereupon proceeded to the reading of the proceedings heretofore
had in this case and to the consideration of the charge and specification
preferred by the honorable Secretary ogf the Navy against the sccused,
the said Commander Napoleon Collins, and their finding upon the same
After full and mature deliberation on the premises the court doth find the
specification of the charge proved.
And the accused having pleaded
guilty to the said charge, the court doth sentence the accused,Commander
Napoleon Collins of the Navy of the United States, to be dismissed from
the Navy of the United States of America.
Gideon Welles then exhibited a display of hypocracy, and total disregard for
international law, by refusing to either accept the decision, or exact
the punishment. He wrote to Collins in September of 1866.
The CSS Florida sank at Hamptom Roads on November 28th 1864
There can now be little doubt that this sinking was the result of a
deliberate act, by person or persons unknown, on behalf of the U. S. Navy,
to prevent the return of the Florida to Bahia, Brazil, where she would
have been handed back to the Confederate Navy.
Officers & crew captured