The Battle of Tampa was a minor engagement of the American Civil War fought June 30 – July 1, 1862, between the United States Navy and a Confederate artillery company charged with protecting the ports of Tampa, a small but notable trade hub for the Confederacy, now facing a full-scale Union naval blockade along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
By the summer of 1862, plans were in place in Washington to further tighten this blockade by capturing major ports throughout the Confederacy, à la New Orleans, which was captured in April 1862, as well as other towns along the Mississippi River (most notably Vicksburg). It was common knowledge among the Union's chief military strategists that the sooner the blockade could effectively seal off the Confederacy from any level of commerce, the sooner the import-dependent Confederates would quickly be forced to surrender, lacking the materiel necessary to sustain a war of attrition, as the Union infantry would ultimately have to attempt to put on the Confederacy at various points in the war.
On June 30, a Union gunboat came into Tampa Bay, opened her ports, and turned her broadside on the town. The gunboat then launched a dispatch carrying 20 men led by Lieutenant A. J. Drake under a flag of truce demanding the surrender of Tampa. The Confederates refused, and the gunboat opened fire. Drake then informed the Confederates that shelling would commence at 18:00 after allowing time to evacuate non-combatants from the city. Firing continued sporadically into the afternoon of July 1, when the Federal gunboat withdrew.
The Battle of Tampa could be called a Confederate victory, but ultimately one of little or no consequence. As it turned out, the Union had relatively little trouble defeating the disorganized Rebel forces in the Western Theater, and within a year of the Battle of Tampa, the capture of Vicksburg, MS, cemented Union control of the Mississippi River, severely compromising the Confederacy's already limited infrastructure far more than a successful Florida Campaign ever could.
The Battle of Fort Brooke was another small fought in Tampa the following October. In this engagement, Union forces landed and destroyed Confederate blockade runners hidden up the Hillsborough River.
- Inconclusive, but Union gunboat withdrew
- National Park Service battle description
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