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The Historical Society Museum is filled with captivating collections, each telling its unique story. Journey through tales from long ago as we share the history behind museum exhibits online or visit and learn firsthand.
Cedar Keys were blockaded by Union warships during the civil war! Union forces sacked the Cedar Keys rail terminal and seaport in January 1862. For the rest of the war, to prevent desperately needed supplies from reaching the Confederate forces, the US Navy maintained a warship just off the Cedar Keys. One of these warships, the USS Fort Henry, was stationed at Cedar Keys from November 1862 through October 1863.
The USS Fort Henry was originally built in Brooklyn as a New York ferry, but was purchased by the US Navy before it saw service as a ferry. Fitted out as a warship she was sent to Key West to join the East Gulf Blockading Squadron. The U.S.S. Fort Henry, “The Terror on Florida’s Gulf Coast.” was named after the Union’s and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s February 1862 victory in the Battle of Fort Henry in Tennessee. Under its first commander, Lt. Edward Yorke McCauley, the U.S.S. Fort Henry patrolled between the Suwannee River in Dixie County and Anclote Key off of Pasco County. On July 20, 1863, a USS Fort Henry boat crew ascended the Crystal River in hopes of securing cotton
exporters upriver before they could attempt to run through the blockade. An ambush by 50-60 confederates killed two of her men. Their bodies were buried on Seahorse Key, in the Cedar Keys the next day. A grave marker for one of the sailors is in our museum. At the end of the war, she sailed back north to New York and was decommissioned on July 8, 1865. The
Long Island Rail Road purchased her at an auction on August 15, 1865, renamed her Huntington and used her as a ferry between Manhattan and Hunter’s Point Queens. After 2 ½ years in ferry service, she was destroyed in a fire at Hunter’s Point on February 22, 1868.
The Crystal River Boat Builders crafted a beautiful ship replica and donated it to the Cedar Key Historical Society, where it is on display at the museum in the Lutterloh Building.
Submitted by Bob Wooley
This exhibit is on display in the museum’s Lutterloh Building. Edward J. Lutterloh moved to Cedar Key from North Carolina, where he worked as an agent for the Lutterloh Steamship Company the Lutterloh Line. Before the civil war, it operated as one of the largest steamship fleets in the southeast, with hopes of bringing steamships to the Cedar Keys, which did not transpire due to the Civil War. CEdar Keys was invaded at the beginning of the war and under marshal law through out the duration. The Lutterloh family would become politics and merchants.
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