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  Week 15   Various Topics   Program Menu
  Program 71 Salt Works

During the Civil War, salt production in Florida was vital to keeping the Confederacy supplied with long-lasting sources of perishable food, such as meat and fish.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, with Unearthing Florida…

The Union strategy of cutting off supplies from the north and blockading southern ports deeply impacted the Confederate governments’ ability to import salt. By 1863, production was left to the coastal state of Florida.

With government incentives, salt work operations sprang up quickly along the state’s coastline. In response, the Union navy was given the task of shutting these salt works down. But, the job proved impossible, because as soon one such operation was destroyed, it simply relocated to a different spot along the vast coast and resumed production.

An archaeological survey in 1977 uncovered the remains of a typical Civil War salt work on Salt Island in Cedar Key along Waccasassa Bay. The discovery by Archaeologist Martin Dickinson included furnaces and five iron kettles. 

  Program 72 Blockade Runners  
      Confederate vessels that slipped cargo past U.S. naval ships blocking Florida’s seaports were called blockade runners. They faced a constant threat of capture or destruction.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Two such vessels, discovered in the Hillsborough River near Tampa, highlight the risks these smugglers took.

In the early morning light of October 17, 1863, two ships used as Confederate blockade runners—the Kate Dale and Scottish Chief --burst into flames after a federal raiding party slipped into the shipyard and set the two anchored vessels ablaze.

“Billy Ray” Morris and his team of underwater researchers found the charred remains of both vessels one year apart as part of an archaeological survey.

Excavations of the Kate Dale revealed the remains of a badly burned shoal draft sailing vessel, but little else. However, Morris and his team did locate structural remains, coal, and iron assemblies of the Scottish Chief still resting at the bottom of the Hillsborough River.
  Program 73 Windover  
      In the summer of 2010, archaeologists investigated a Civil War cannon emplacement in Florida’s Torreya State Park along the Apalachicola River.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense with Unearthing Florida…

In 1862, the Confederate government of Florida made it a priority to defend the Apalachicola, which led to the manufacturing heart of the south at Columbus, Georgia. To accomplish this, obstructions were placed in the river and a series of defensive gun emplacements, with massive cannons, were set up.

One of these gun batteries was at a site called Hammock Landing. Here archaeologists have found a wide variety of remains from this gun emplacement, including a heavy floor timber -- with a large iron spike driven into it. This spike was probably used to pivot the gun.

Also found were the still-intact wooden walls built to support the magazine, where gun powder was kept, along with several smaller artifacts associated with firing the cannon.
  Program 74 DeSoto Winter Camp  
      Florida’s Spanish presence dates back to the rugged conquistadors who trail-blazed the European path through its swamps, forests, and rivers in the 16th century.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, and this is Unearthing Florida…

Hernando De Soto, who assisted in conquering the Incas in Peru, led an expedition to Florida in the summer of 1539.

He made landfall at Tampa bay on May 25th.

De Soto marched his expedition inland and soon battled with Native American tribes, enslaving and sowing destruction along the way. They made their first winter encampment at the main town of the Apalachee Indians, at what is today the site of the Governor Martin house in downtown Tallahassee.

It was here - in 1987 - that archaeologists first found (and identified) traces of De Soto’s path. State archaeologist Calvin Jones and his team discovered vestiges of De Soto and his men including fragments of olive jars, coins, iron crossbow bolt tips, and beads. He also discovered a cooking pit and a cistern.

You can now retrace De Soto’s Path, with a trail guide (and kiosks) provided by the National Park Service.
  Program 75 Urca de Lima  
      In 1715, a Spanish fleet of 11 ships sailing from Cuba was struck by a hurricane off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida. Only one was spared-the Urca de Lima.

I’m Dr. Judy Bense, with Unearthing Florida…

The other ships in the fleet broke apart in the storm, but the Urca de Lima was washed ashore, but generally left intact. The Spanish were quick to salvage what they could from the grounded ship and then burned it to the waterline to keep it from falling into the hands of the English, Spain’s enemy at the time.

The wreck site was rediscovered when 16 cannons and 4 anchors were recovered in the 1920s. Over the next few decades modern salvage operations recovered one silver bar, two silver wedges, and five iron cannons. Other artifacts recovered from the Urca de Lima included a swivel gun, bar shot, and a large piece of copper ingot.

State archaeologists fully recorded the site in 1985 and designated it as Florida’s first underwater archaeological preserve two years later.

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