Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    The CSS Florida was a sloop-of-war in the service of the Confederate States Navy... one of the Civil War's most famous "Raiders" along with the CSS Alabama. On September 8th, 1862, the U.S. Wachusett was designated flagship of a special "Flying Squadron" under Commodore Charles Wilkes. This Squadron included 7 ships and was deployed to the West Indies under orders to destroy the Florida.

    This archive includes:

    Letter from Admiral Wilkes
    CDV Photograph of Admiral Wilkes
    Letter from Commander Thomas H. Stevens, USS Sonoma
    Letter from R. W. Shepherd, U.S. Consulate General, Havana, Cuba

    Legal size Letter Signed. Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes is writing to Commander T. H. Stevens on board the Sonoma:
    Flag Steamer Wachusett Off Auguilla Cay

    "Jany 28th, 1863

    Proceed to Cardenas. Ascertain if the Brig "Veritas" has arrived there. Telegraph to the Counsel General, and then proceed up the Old Bahama Channel where you will meet me or one of the vessels of the Squadron: If you should not meet us by the time you reach Lobos lighthouse, then proceed through the Tongue of the Ocean. Ascertain if the Oreto [the Florida] has entered or has been heard of at Nassau. If not, return to the Old Bahama Channel by the way of Car and Ragged Island, where you meet either the San Jacinto or Wachusett. Telegraph the Consul General if he has heard anything from Cienfuejos, relative to the Santiago de Cuba and R. R. Cuyler.

    I am very respectfully
    Your Obdt. Sert.
    Charles Wilkes
    Rear Admiral
    Comdg. West Ind. Sqdr.

    T. H. Stevens U. S. N.
    Comdg. Str. Sonoma
    West Ind. Squadron"

    CDV by Fredericks & Co. N.Y. of Admiral Wilkes standing view, sharp corners, some staining

    ALS by Commander Thomas H. Stevens writing to the US Consul in Havana, Cuba. Headed, "USS Sonoma at Sea, February 3rd, 1863". Great content:

    U.S. Steamer Sonoma at Sea

    "Feb. 30, 1863

    The US Steamer Sonoma chased the Rebel Privateer Florida or Oreto for 36 hours on the 1st & 2nd of February, first discovering her in the Queen's channels at the foot of the tongue of the ocean and lost sight of her the night of the 2nd. Hole in the Wall bearing W. I. W. distant 100 miles. The Florida then standing to the Eastward.

    T. H. Stevens
    To the
    U.S. Consul"

    Condition: Some staining, nice dark ink, you can judge by the look that this was written while sailing at sea... a great historic piece.

    ALS from R. W. Shepherd, U.S. Consulate General, Havana March 8th, 1863. Writing to Commander T. H. Stevens, U.S.N.

    U. S. Consulate General.

    Havana, March 8, 1863.

    To Commander T. H. Stevens, U. S. N., etc., etc.

    "Sir. I send for your information the following facts: The Bark "Sarah A. Nichols" from Buenos Ayres went into Barbados on the 24th ult. in company with the Confederate Str. "Florida." Left her there and arrived in St. Thomas on the 26th, where he found Admiral Wilkes who immediately hoisted his flag on the "Vanderbilt" and sailed for that Port. The "Florida" had burned the N. Y. Ship "Jacob Bell" loaded with tea. She would be permitted by the Authorities of Barbados to coal, etc."

    Also by letter from our Consul at Kneriffe, "I learn that the Eng. Steamer "Georgiana", Capt. A. B. Davidson, left that port on the 13th ult. for Nassau. The Consul fears that she is an armed vessel intended for a Confederate privateer. She is a powerful screw steamer of 40 tons, 1,500 horse power, two masts & square yards on both bows put and jib boom, painted black, one smoke stack, very fast."

    Also by letter from our Consul at St. John's P. R. of March 2nd, "I learn that an Eng. Steamer called the "Aries" had arrived on the 13th ult. at " Naquabs" on that island laden with cotton from Charleston and sailed on the 23rd for St. Thomas, Nassau and Havana with a few bags of coffee. From the fact that this vessel is owned by a Spanish Subject contrary to British laws, our Consul and Admiral Wilkes think that she would be a legal prize whenever caught. The "Aries" is represented as long and narrow, very swift, painted white. Her owner who is on board is named D. Malva, a subject of Spain, but for many years a resident merchant in Charleston, S. C.

    The "Wachusett" and "Oneida" steamed from St. John's on the evening of the 23rd ult. The Admiral was received in Puerto Rico in the most cautious manner. He was aware of the character of the "Aries" and I presume that some of his vessels are watching for her.

    By letter from our Consul at Vera Cruz, I am informed that the French began their march from Onzaba for Puebla on the 24th ult.

    We have no mail from the North since your departure. Should one come tomorrow, I will write you again.

    I am Respectfully
    Your Obedient Servant
    R. W. Shepherd
    Consul General"

    The Consul General did a wonderful job in keeping Commander Stevens up to date. Eventually in October 1863, the Florida was finally caught in Bahia, Brazil. The new Commander of the USS Wachusett violated British sovereignty... but got the job done. Shepherd's letter is 2-pages written in nice dark ink and has some staining along with an old tape stain (tape has been removed).

    A wonderful, historic archive of chasing the CSS Florida around the world. From the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection.

    Auction Info

    Bidding Begins Approx.
    17th Tuesday
    Auction Dates
    6th Sunday
    Proxy Bidding Begins Approx.
    17 Days
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: N/A
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 50
    Auction Type
    Signature®:  Heritage Live®:After Internet bidding closes, live bidding will take place through Your secret maximum bid placed prior to the live event will compete against the live bids. To maximize your chances of winning, enter realistic secret maximum bids on our site. Many of our proxy bidders are successful at winning lots in these auctions, and usually below their secret maximum. You can also place last minute bids directly with us by e-mailing or calling 1-866-835-3243. (Important note: Due to software and Internet latency, live bids may not register in time, so enter realistic proxy bids.)

    Signature® Floor Sessions
    Proxy bidding ends ten minutes prior to the session start time. Live Proxy bidding on Heritage Live starts 24 hours before the live session begins and continues through the session. During the live auction event, bidding in person is encouraged, and Heritage Live includes streaming audio and often video during the event.
    Track Item