Today in History:

Florida (1862-1864)

CSS Florida, a steam screw cruiser of about 700 tons, was built in England in 1862 under the name Oreto. Secretly purchased by the Confederate States Navy, she sailed in March 1862 for the Bahamas in the guise of a merchant ship. After her arrival, she was fitted as a naval vessel and commissioned in August 1862, commanded by First Lieutenant John Newland Maffitt. With her crew largely disabled by yellow fever, Florida went to Cuba and, on 4 September 1862, ran the Federal blockade into Mobile, Alabama. After completing her outfitting, Maffitt took his ship back out through the blockade on 16 January 1863.

Operating in the Atlantic and West Indies over the next eight months, Florida captured twenty-two prizes, striking terror in the United States' merchant marine and frustrating the U.S. Navy's efforts to catch her. In August 1863, she went to Brest, France, remaining there until the following February, when she again got to sea past watching Federal forces. Under the command of First Lieutenant Charles M. Morris, Florida took another eleven prizes between then and October 1864, when she arrived at Bahia, Brazil.

While anchored in that port on 7 October, Florida was attacked, captured and towed to sea by USS Wachusett, in violation of Brazilian neutrality. After being taken to the U.S., her return to Brazil was ordered by the courts. However, before this could be done, on 28 November 1864 Florida was accidently sunk off Newport News, Virginia.

This page features views of CSS Florida and provides links to additional images of that ship's actions.

For pictures of Florida's actions, see: CSS Florida (1862-1864) -- Actions and Activities

Wachusett's commanding officer's report of his seizure of CSS Florida is reproduced in the Documents of the Civil War section as Capture of CSS Florida by USS Wachusett, 7 October 1864.

Photo #: NH 54157

CSS Florida (1862-1864)

Oil painting, probably depicting her arrival in the Bahamas in 1862. She had been purchased secretly in England and sent to the Bahamas for fitting out as a warship. This may explain the absence of visible armament on the ship.

Courtesy of Miss Grace Tully, formerly private secretary to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who gave her this painting.

Photo #: NH 54154

CSS Florida (1862-1864)

19th Century photograph of an artwork depicting the ship at St. George's, Bermuda, 1863.

Photo #: NH 49994

CSS Florida (1862-1864)

Photograph taken at Brest, France, circa August 1863-February 1864.
Printed on the reverse of the original carte de visite is: "L. Cigon ... 56 Rue de Siam ... Brest".

Photo #: NH 57835

CSS Florida (1862-1864)

Wash drawing by Clary Ray, December 1894.

Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC.

Photo #: NH 54155

"Confederate War-Steamer"

19th Century lithograph, purporting to represent CSS Florida (1862-1864).
This image bears no real resemblance to that ship: Florida had two smokestacks, not one as shown here; a battery that included pivot guns, not an exclusively broadside armament; and a bark rig, not that of a ship; among other differences from the vessel seen in this print.

Collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936.

For pictures of Florida's actions, see: CSS Florida (1862-1864) -- Actions and Activities