Today in Levy County History: Civil War shipwrecks, sailors in Florida

-A A +A

By Toni C. Collins
Levy County Historian
“Ships, Sailors and Shipwrecks of Civil War Florida” is the theme of the current exhibit at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee. Visitors are offered a glimpse into several aspects of the war previously undocumented. The exhibit contains a collection of artifacts recovered from Florida wrecks and also the items on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and Florida Division of Historical Resources.
Levy County residents visiting the exhibit may be surprised to view two little known artifacts directly tied to our area which are included in the exhibit. On display are two of the four cypress burial markers that once marked the graves of the Union sailors buried on Seahorse Key.
One of the men, William M. Robinson was serving onboard the supply vessel USS Union in 1864 when he died from injuries due to a fall. The second man, Ephraim Hearn was serving aboard the USS Fort Henry when he died in 1863 of a concussion. When the men were buried on the island, a cypress board resembling a tombstone was etched with the name, date of death, and vessel on which the deceased was serving at the time of death.
Of particular interest to those who are curious about underwater archaeology is the exhibit of the Maple Leaf, a Union army transport ship which was sunk in the St. Johns River after striking a Confederate torpedo mine. The vessel and her contents have been on the river bottom until re-discovered and partially excavated in 1984.
The Museum of Florida History’s permanent exhibit also is of interest. The exhibits show Florida’s development and the roles that Floridians have played in national and global events.
This exhibit is well worth the trip to Tallahassee to view. The Museum of Florida History is located on the lower level of the R.A. Gray Building, 500 Bronough St.
The ships, sailors and shipwrecks exhibit will be on display through Aug. 5 and can be viewed between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday; 10 a.m.  and 4:30 p.m. Saturday; and noon and 4:30 p.m. Sundays and holidays. Admission and parking are free.
To travel to the Museum, take U.S. Highway 19 North from Levy County to Tallahassee and continue on the Apalachee Parkway. (US 19) to the Florida State Capital. Turn right onto South Monroe Street and immediately left onto West Pensacola Street. Go three blocks and turn left onto Bronough Street, go one block and the parking garage
adjacent to the Museum is on your right. This garage has height restrictions but
there is roof top parking at another parking garage across the street.
For more information, call 850-245-6400 or visit www.museumoffloridahistory.com