Capture of the Fashion
The Union raid passed nearly
45 miles up the Apalachicola
River in May of 1863.
Capture of the Fashion - Apalachicola River, Florida - Capture of the Fashion, Florida - Capture of the Fashion, Florida
Capture of the Fashion
An 1863 Union raid into Florida's Apalachicola
River produced unexpected results.
Union Raid on the Apalachicola
On May 24, 1863, a party of fewer than 50
officers and sailors of the U.S. Navy pushed
45 miles up Florida's Apalachicola River and
made off with the sloop
Fashion. A minor raid
as such events went during the Civil War, it
resulted in the unexpected destruction of a
powerful Confederate warship - without the
firing of a shot.

The raid began on May 23, 1863, when
Lieutenant Commander George Morris of the
Port Royal, then engaged in enforcing
the blockade of the port of Apalachicola,
ordered Acting Master Edgar Van Slyck to
lead a boat party up the Apalachicola River to
capture a sloop said to be loading with cotton
for a planned attempt to run the blockade.
Taking a total force of 41 men, Van Slyck set
off in ship's launch and first cutter.

Aware that a Confederate force then held old
Fort Gadsden, an earthwork built about 30
miles up the river by Andrew Jackson during
the First Seminole War, Van Slyck and his
men waited until dark to pass the fort. The
strategy worked and the Union sailors
slipped by without alerting the Confederate

The rowed almost 45 miles to a point almost
to within sight of a Confederate artillery
battery erected to defend the river during the
previous winter, but without detecting any
sign of the reported sloop. Turning around,
they started back down when they spotted a
barge of the type used in bringing cotton
down from upriver plantations.

Turning up Brush Creek, Van Slyck found the
Fashion tied up to the bank about two
miles up from the river:

...Owing to the heavy rain at that time, our
surprise was complete. After one discharge of
the 12-pounder howitzer, we immediately cut
her lines and vigorously towed her from the
creek to the river, where we burned the barge
and proceeded on our return

Passing Fort Gadsden on the way back
down, the sailors fired a round of canister
into the fort, but received no reply from the
Confederate soldiers stationed there. They
made it back to their ship at 7 o'clock the next
morning, just in time to avoid being caught in
small boats in a severe early hurricane that
lashed Apalachicola Bay in coming days.

The incursion caused alarm throughout the
Apalachicola valley on Lieutenant J.J. Guthrie
of the C.S.S.
Chattahoochee ordered his
men to make steam. Moving downriver in
hopes of catching the raiders before they
could reach the bay, he was forced to halt his
pursuit at Blountstown, Florida, on the night
of May 25th due to shallow water.
The next morning, as the Chattahoochee
prepared to turn back to her home port at
Chattahoochee Landing, her engineers sent
water pouring into boilers that were already
overheated. A massive explosion buckled the
decks and superheated steam scalded men
to death where they stood. As hurricane
winds and rains lashed the river, the
Chattahoochee sank in the muddy river.

Van Slyck and his men had played a part in
the destruction of the most powerful
Southern warship in Florida without firing a
shot in her direction.

Several points of interest connected to the
Fashion raid can be visited today. Fort
Gadsden is now a historic site maintained by
the National Forest Service and is located off
State Highway 65 just south of Sumatra,
Florida. The park preserves the earthen walls
of Fort Gadsden, as well as the remains of
the "Negro Fort," a fortress destroyed by U.S.
forces in 1816.

The C.S.S.
Chattahoochee was raised and
repaired by the Confederates, but then
destroyed by them in 1865 to prevent her
capture by Union forces. A portion of her
wreck was raised during the 20th century and
can be seen today at the
National Civil War
Naval Museum in Columbus, Georgia. The
museum also houses other exhibits on the
Chattahoochee as well as on both the Union
and Confederate navies during the Civil War.
Apalachicola River
A barge spotted on the lower
Apalachicola gave way the
hiding place of the
C.S.S. Chattahoochee
The stern section of the ill-
fated Confederate warship
can be seen today at the
National Civil War Naval
Museum in Columbus,
Fort Gadsden Historic Site
The ruins of Fort Gadsden
can be seen today at a
historic site maintained by the
National Forest Service.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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