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Isilda

 

(Sch: dr. 8'; a. 124-pdr.)

 

Isilda, sometimes spelled Ezilda, was a Confederate blockade running schooner, claiming to be English, which sailed from Havana 26 September 1861, cleared for Matamoros, Mexico. She was captured and claimed as a prize by South Carolina 4 or 5 miles off Timbalier Light, La., 30 September. Isilda was fitted out as a tender and joined the Gulf Blockading Squadron to be assigned to South Carolina 1 November. For a short time she was on duty off the Mississippi Delta, but her most distinguished service was performed off the west coast of Florida.

 

Isilda fired a shot across the bow of an unidentified ship standing in for shore off Cedar Keys, Fla., 24 April 1862. When the vessel refused to heave to, Isilda gave chase until the runner slipped into shoal water and ran hard aground. Two days later as an armed launch from Isilda was pulling toward the schooner, a column of black smoke rose from the stern of the blockade runner and she blew up with a loud report. The plucky little tender scored again 10 June when she surprised steamer Havana, in Deadman's Bay, Fla., and forced her crew to put her to the torch to prevent capture. On 24 March 1863, with Wanderer, she chased Ranger, enabling Ft. Henry to take the sloop off Crystal River, Fla., with her cargo—so badly needed by the South—of salt, dry-goods, and gunpowder. This steady toll taken on Confederate shipping by Isilda and her fellow blockaders slowly but surely strangled the Southern economy and sapped the Confederacy's ability to wage war.

 

But her faithful service in the blockade was costly to the diligent little ship. In April 1863, after participating in an expedition which scoured the west coast of Florida from the mouth of the Suwanee River to the Anclote Keys, Isilda showed signs of serious wear and tear. She remained on station off Cedar Keys until 11 June when she finally sailed to Key West for repairs. There, when a survey found her too badly battered for economical repair, she was condemned, stripped, and sold at public auction.