Wednesday, July 18, 2018
News Roundup

Hull of Civil War sloop likely found in Tampa river

TAMPA — Billy Ray Morris hovered in the water above his prize, the submerged hull of what may be the Kate Dale, a Civil War blockade runner.

“It’s a first for Florida if it’s the Kate Dale,” said Morris, a marine archaeologist who specializes in ship construction and interpretation. And he’s 90 percent sure.

Union troops burned the Kate Dale — loaded with cotton and ready to run a federal blockade — along with another boat on Oct. 17, 1863.

“She’s badly burnt and she’s exactly where she ought to be,” Morris said of the crumbling wooden frame. “Nobody else has found a blockade runner in Florida.”

The boat was probably 80 to 100 feet, Morris said. Its buried ruins stretch out 38 feet now, starting about 5 feet from Janet Stanley’s dock.

“There has always been this skeleton of a boat, and it’s been whittling down over the years,” said Stanley, who has lived on the river across from Lowry Park Zoo for 10 years. Low tide exposes nubs of the boat’s hull.

The underwater excavation is part of a larger project being carried out by Florida Aquarium volunteer divers through a $50,000 state grant.

Their goal is to find as many wrecks in the area as possible. Using sonar imaging, they’ve found ruins near Egmont Key and MacDill Air Force Base and in the Manatee River.

If this is the Kate Dale, their finds will include a blockade runner and the Union blockade ship Narcissus, which Morris said they mapped last year.

Construction features will tell the story, such as the size and type of wood and metal fasteners and the boat’s design. On Friday, Morris hopes to be 98 percent sure. When he’s learned all he can, the ruins will be covered over to rest in peace.

“If it came out of the water, it would deteriorate 1,000 times faster,” said Morris, who has explored more than 150 shipwrecks, many of them Civil War vessels.

Built in Louisiana, the Kate Dale was one of the boats operated by Capt. James McKay, a blockade runner.

The divers also had hoped to find McKay’s paddleboat, the Scottish Chief, in the riverbed. But Morris suspects its burnt hull was dragged back down to Tampa Bay and stripped.

McKay struck a deal with Union troops that allowed the Kate Dale to come and go through the blockade.

“They let him slip through,” said historian Canter Brown Jr. “He had been a prisoner of war, and he made an arrangement that Abraham Lincoln personally signed off on: If he were released, he would come back to Tampa and he would organize his cattlemen association to support the U.S. military takeover in Tampa.

“In fact he was a Unionist,” Brown said.

McKay shipped cotton to Cuba and brought back rum, medicine, food and other supplies to be sold dockside.

When the relationship became too obvious, Union troops were sent to burn his boats as a cover, Brown said.

The Union raid began with U.S. gunboats Tahoma and Adela shelling Fort Brook to distract the Rebels while troops landed at Gadsden’s Point in darkness.

They marched overland along the river, found McKay’s boats and destroyed them.

Now, 145 years later, the Kate Dale may no longer sleep in an unmarked grave.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Comments
Must-see golf history with Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome

Must-see golf history with Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome

Thursday is history.There is no way around it, even for Brittany Lincicome, who loves finding her way around it. That's just her. She played with boys growing up, neighborhood football and basketball, baseball — and golf. I remember when she wa...
Updated: 2 minutes ago
Want to have a one-night-only party in Hillsborough? Apply for a permit 30 days in advance.

Want to have a one-night-only party in Hillsborough? Apply for a permit 30 days in advance.

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners are taking the pop-up out of pop-up parties.If you want to have a one-night-only party in the county, you soon will have to apply for a permit 30 days in advance.That’s because of a rules change approved by c...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Pinellas deputies: Man charged with pregnant woman’s murder injures jail inmate

Pinellas deputies: Man charged with pregnant woman’s murder injures jail inmate

LARGO — The man accused of fatally shooting a pregnant woman while she was riding home from church with her family last year now faces allegations that he assaulted a jail inmate who has since died.Charles G. Allen Jr., 41, already faces two counts o...
Updated: 10 minutes ago

A stripper at a Pinellas County gentleman’s club was arrested Saturday after deputies said she stole $1,300 from a patron’s wallet while she gave him a private dance.Lidia Leon-Batueca Maria, 26, was arrested on a charge of grand theft and booked int...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Epilogue: Carolyn Nelson is remembered for her big heart, a love for education and a gift for guidance

Epilogue: Carolyn Nelson is remembered for her big heart, a love for education and a gift for guidance

For years as a guidance counselor at St. Petersburg High, Carolyn Harris Nelson helped scores of students navigate their way toward their next steps in life.One of them was Ryan Halstead, now an assistant principal at the school, who recalls that Mrs...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Vandals damage tombs at historic Tampa cemetery

Vandals damage tombs at historic Tampa cemetery

TAMPA — Vandals attacked multiple tombs at an historic local cemetery, possibly with a sledgehammer, Tampa police say.The police need the public’s help solving the vandalism as detectives work to develop leads. The damage occurred within the last two...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
New board members at CareerSource Pinellas press for answers

New board members at CareerSource Pinellas press for answers

CLEARWATER –– New board members at a troubled job placement center received a call for oversight Wednesday — something all but absent in recent years at the agency."Question, question, question," said CareerSource Pinellas board chair Jack Geller dur...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Career Q&A:

Career Q&A:

Q: One of my co-workers is lying about a task she was supposed to complete. "Dawn" is responsible for renewing everyone’s membership in our industry’s professional association. However, last year she had a problem with my password, so I processed the...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
After decades of sexual harassment, flight attendants are getting their MeToo movement

After decades of sexual harassment, flight attendants are getting their MeToo movement

It has been 17 years since Liza Sanchez got her first real taste of the pervasive sexual harassment that for decades has been accepted on airplanes.The flight attendant was in her early 20s, just starting out, when she pushed the drink cart up to Row...
Updated: 18 minutes ago