Navy & Marine Units

USS Ft. Henry

Lt. Lew Zerfas

Ord. Sgt. Dave Ekardt
(2nd in Command)

Location:  Based in the Tampa Bay area, because of the uniqueness of the unit, members come from all over the state.


Unit Website:

Unit History:  The USS Fort Henry served along Florida's Gulf coast from May 1862 until April 1865, and was manned by sailors and marines. Shore expeditions were common as the sailors and marines moved in shallow water in the ship's surf boats. Originally a New York City ferry boat, it was purchased by the U.S. Navy in New York and converted into a gunboat and patrolled off the West Central coast of Florida. At 519 tons, the Fort Henry was armed with two IX-inch Dahlgrens and four 32-pounders.

On the 11 of June, 1863, a boat from the USS Fort Henry manned by 6 of the Fort Henry's guard under the charge of Sergeant Nugent went to the Withlacoochee and reconnoitered 6 miles up the Crystal River. A log breastwork attracted Nugent's attention, he landed with 4 men and drove a guard of 11 rebel soldiers into the swamp. One shot was fired by the confederate officer in command, which hit the sergeant's waist pouch. The fire was not returned by the guard, the sergeant's gallantry not permitting it, as there was a woman among the fugitives. Because of his bravery, Marine Orderly Sergeant Christopher Nugent was awarded the Medal of Honor for action at Crystal River, Florida.

The aggressive crew of the USS Fort Henry was feared by many of the confederates along the coast. Two sailors from the ship are buried on Sea Horse Key, at the mouth of the Crystal River.