« PreviousContinue »
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WEST FLORIDA,
Barrancas, March 4, 1864. Brig. Gen. CHARLES P. STONE,
Chief of Staff, Department of the Gulf: GENERAL: I have the honor to submit, in connection with my report of February 23,* No. 86, the following additional information in regard to affairs in my neighborhood, received from refugees and deserters :
There are at present 12,000 to 15,000 rebel troops at Mobile, including those who fell back from Meridian, with about 1,000 cavalry. General Maury was urging non-combatants to leave the city at once. General Polk's men decline to fight longer in Mississippi, and are deserting in large numbers. The trains on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad are only running 33 miles beyond the city to a place called Citronelle. The people of Mobile seem to be prepared to surrender as soon as the railroad communication with Montgomery is cut off. The rebel iron ram Tennessee succeeded in getting over the Dog River Bar in the Mobile Harbor, and as it becomes thus one of the possibilities in prospect that this formidable vessel, aided by others of similar power, may pass our blockading fleet and attempt an entrance into the Pensacola Harbor, I issued, at the suggestion of Admiral Farragut, the inclosed Special Orders, No. 40, directing the commanders of Forts Pickens and Barrancas to prevent the entrance of any vessel at night until its character is satisfactorily ascertained, requesting at the same time Commodore Smith, commanding the navy-yard, and Captain Gibson, senior officer afloat here, to secure for the two ports a seasonable information of the approach of any vessel of suspicious appearance.
In the rebel Camp Gonzales, 15 miles above Pensacola, there were on the 1st instant not more than 250 to 300 infantry (Tennessee troops) and 100 cavalry, but the garrison at Pollard was increased last Sunday to 3,000 in anticipation of a raid from here on the Mobile and Montgomery Railroad.
The Tennessee troops stationed at the camp between Blackwater and Escambia Rivers have been relieved again by Mississippi troops, paroled at Vicksburg. Their officers say they are exchanged.
Col. W. Miller, of the rebel conscript bureau for the Southern District of Florida and Alabama, intends to make a raid on East Bay with 300 cavalry, for the purpose of gathering up all deserters and refugees secreted in the woods and abandoned farms, and I have no means to prevent it. Union sympathizers in Florida and Alabama are organizing in bodies to meet the rebel cavalry parties who infest the country.
The Montgomery Daily Advertiser, of February 20, admits that 100 of those men (called tories) entered Pikeville, Ala., on the 11th of February, killing, wounding, and capturing several of the Confederate garrison.
Refugees and deserters are continually coming into our lines, although the facilities I can afford are very limited.
The number of the Florida recruits has already reached 300, but they have no horses, no arms, and no equipments, although proper requisitions were forwarded in time to department headquarters, Neither have I funds to pay the first installment of $25 of the regular bounty, and I would respectfully refer to my application for such funds submitted on January 21, Sub-No. 38.
* See Part I, p. 489.
One of the small expeditions started from here on the schooner Buchanan up the Santa Rosa Sound and Choctawhatchee Bay to Point Washington, Washington County, Fla., to collect recruits, met, after some success, with a reverse, the 2 officers concerned having exceeded my distinct written orders.
I beg to inclose copy of my instructions given to Captain Galloway, recruiting officer, authorizing him to receive those officers and men of the Confederate army who had expressed through delegates the desire to return to the old flag as friends; also copy of special order* to Lieutenant Ross, Seventh Vermont Volunteers, directing him to proceed to and encamp at Washington Point, at the head of Choctawhatchee Bay, with his company and receive, protect, and bring down to Barrancas all refugees willing to join the Florida cavalry, distinctly enjoining him to use all precautions necessary in face of the enemy and be vigilant day and night. But the eagerness of those officers to accomplish brilliant success by daring deeds induced them to penetrate, with the small force of 17 men of the Seventh Vermont and some refugees, about 15 miles into the enemy's country to capture Floyd's rebel company of infantry, encamped at Boydton's Bluff on the Choctawhatchee River. They succeeded in surprising and capturing, on the night of the 8th of February, the whole company, numbering 50 men and 3 commissioned officers, with all their arms and supplies. But on their return to Washington Point on the following morning they were overtaken by two companies of rebel cavalry under Captains Jeter and Milton, who retook the captured rebel company, with Lieutenant Ross and 11 men of the Seventh Vermont Infantry and Captain Galloway, with 5 of the refugees who accompanied the party. t The inclosed Montgomery paper gives a fair statement of the affair. A full report with list of officers and men taken will be forwarded by the next steamer.
At present I have a recruiting officer on the extreme end of the Santa Rosa Island, with facilities to bring refugees across East Pass and the sound, as well as down from Washington Point.
In regard to movements of Federal troops it is reported from rebel sources that Sherman has destroyed the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, with a large additional amount of rebel property, without much interference from Confederate troops ; that Grant and Johnston have been engaged heavily at Dalton, and that a portion of Gillmore's command, after successfully landing in East Florida, on the Saint John's River, at Jacksonville, has advanced toward Lake City, on the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad, which extends from Jacksonville through Tallahassee to Quincy.
Thus, it seems that Union forces of four departments, the Gulf, Tennessee, Cumberland, and the South, are co-operating against Alabama and Florida in a lengthwise half circle, the center of which is Mobile, and it is quite hard for me to be left inactive, although the nearest to this center. I hope, therefore, that the commanding general will kindly forgive me when, repeating once more my former request. I respectfully ask a chance to participate, in behalf of the Department of the Gulf, in the combined contest and contribute my humble part, at least within the limits of the District of West Florida, which I have the honor to command, so much the more so as Barrancas offers undoubtedly the best and safest base of operations.
Two steamers, as already ordered by the commanding general, of not more than 4 feet (raught, and one regiment of cavalry and two of infantry would enable me, under the above combined movements, to enter and control the Perdido, Escambia, Blackwater, Yellowwater, and Choctawhatchee Rivers, to destroy the rebel force at Gonzales Camp, to cut off the railroad communication of Mobile with Montgomery, capture all the isolated rebel camps this side the Mobile Bay, thus deprive the garrison of Fort Morgan of land support and of the possibility to escape Admiral Farragut's iron grasp; also prevent all further re-enforcements and supplies for Mobile from Johnston's army, send starvation to that city, and open the way for thousands of starving Union sympathizers in West Florida to return to their old flag and join the Union army.
At the present juncture the Mobile and Montgomery Railroad becomes the most valuable line of communication in the Confederacy, and its destruction appears not less important for us than the destruction of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, just accomplished at Meridian, while it would require only a few regiments instead of as many army corps.
In case the combined movements above alluded to should prove a mere stratagem, calculated to avert the enemy's attention from another field of operation, and should thus Sherman's army withdraw from Alabama and Gillmore's forces from East Florida, then the necessity of the re-enforcements asked for would become only more urgent, as the rebel troops now concentrated at and around Nobile, relieved from the large opposing armies, would no doubt avail themselves very soon of the good chance to make a diversion upon the Pensacola navy-yard (probably in concert with the iron ram Tennessee) and a desire to strike the long-aimed blow upon my small command. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
[Inclosure No. 1.] SPECIAL ORDERS, HDQRS. DISTRICT OF WEST FLORIDA, No. 46.
Barrancas, Fla., March 2, 1864.
IV. It being one of the possibilities in prospect that the iron ram Tennessee, which the rebels have succeeded in getting over Dog River Bar, in Mobile Harbor, may pass, with aid of other smaller vessels, our blockading fleet off Mobile, and attempt an entrance into Pensacola Harbor, the commanding officers of Forts Pickens and Barrancas will stop all vessels approaching the harbor during the night until their character is fully ascertained. By order of Brigadier-General Asboth:
E. T. SPRAGUE.
[Inclosure No. 2.)
Burrancas, Fla., January 28, 1864. Capt. J. L. GALLOWAY :
CAPTAIN : It appears from your official report of yesterday that Lieutenant Talford and Private Carrol, from Floyd's and Curry's companies, of the Confederate army, deputed by their associates, have pledged their word of honor to avail themselves of the amnesty of the President of the United States, and to return with their whole battalion, including horses, arms, equipments, &c., on 5th February, at Point Washington, at the head of Choctawhatchee Bay, to the old flag of the United States, in order to join the First Florida Cavalry, under organization here, in support of the Union.
This report, emanating from you, I feel bound to receive with full confidence. I have accordingly made proper arrangements to receive Lieutenant Talford, with all the officers and men of his battalion, at the time and place given by himself, and I will welcome them all in the name of the Government, the people, and Army of the United States, as friends, and give them all opportunity to unite once more their destinies with ours. I confidently hope that the example of Lieutenant Talford and his associates will be followed by many others, and that Western Florida will be in the Union very soon, not by conquest, but of her own free will and accord. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HDQRS. DEPT. OF S. CAROLINA, GEORGIA, AND FLORIDA,
March 4, 1864. Brig. Gen. T. SEYMOUR,
Commanding U. S. Forces, Jacksonville, Fla.: GENERAL : In further reply to your communication of the 25th February, 1864,* I have the honor to forward through you, to the widow of the late Colonel Fribley, an ambrotype supposed to be the one referred to in the memorandum accompanying your communication. Traces have also been discovered of his watch, a letter from his wife to himself, and his diary, and steps have been taken to recover possession of them; if successful the two former articles will be forwarded. That I may not be misunderstood, it is due to myself to state that no sympathy with the fate of any officers commanding negro troops, but compassion for a widow in grief, has induced these efforts to recover for her relics which she must naturally value.
I have the honor to call your attention to the following report of an officer commanding an outpost of this army: That at about 4 p. m. on the ed instant, some 15 of the enemy, mounted, approached his advanced vedettes with a flag of truce, apparently. When within about 600 yards they threw out skirmishers, advanced about 100 yards, withdrew their flag, a white one, and then dashed forward ; his vedettes fired upon them and retired, when, his reserve coming up, they retired. This statement unexplained, involves an act of perfidy in prostituting to base purpose one of the humanizing features of all civilized warfare. I have the honor to ask a full and satisfactory explanation of this act, and whether the same was perpetrated by and with the consent and approbation of the commanding general. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. M. GARDNER, Brigadier-General, Commanding. * See Part I, p. 493.
HDQRS. DISTRICT OF FLORIDA, DEPT. OF THE SOUTH,
Jacksonville, Fla., March 4, 1864. Brig. Gen. W. M. GARDNER,
Commanding Confederate Forces, East Florida : GENERAL : I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of this day, with an ambrotype supposed to be that referred to in a memorandum previously forwarded, and for which, in behalf of Mrs. Fribley, you have my thanks. And certainly no kindness you can show in this connection can be construed otherwise than affecting those whom on both sides at all times we desire to shield from sorrow.
With respect to the circumstances reported by you as having occurred on the afternoon of the ad instant, that a party of some 15 men of my command advanced under cover of a flag of truce, which was withdrawn and from which party fire was then opened upon your vedettes, due inquiry will be made, and extreme punishment administered in the usual manner of military justice, if the report be confirmed by investigation. But I believe that there must be an error in the statement, arising, probably, from the guidon of the company having been indistinctly seen. That such an act as is referred to could have been perpetrated by my “consent and approbation” is a suspicion not justified by any conduct of mine, and is unworthy of reply. And I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. SEYMOUR, Brigadier-General, Commanding.
HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES,
Fort Pulaski, Ga., March 5, 1864. Col. J. B. HOWELL :
SIR : I have the honor to report that a blockade-runner ran ashore during the night of the 3d instant, on the east side of Tybee Island, was discovered by the pickets yesterday morning at 6. She proved to be a schooner of about 35 tons. Her cargo consists of alcohol and coffee. I shall take out her cargo to-night, as she cannot be got off. I have placed a guard on board, and await further orders. The crew consists of Capt. John Wicks, Supercargo C. W. Hawes, Mate Henry Caserdy, and 2 seamen, John Thomas and William Sands. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAS. E. BAILEY, Major Third Rhode Island Heavy Artlliery, Comdg. Post.
HEADQUARTERS HILTON HEAD DISTRICT,
Hilton Head, S. C., March 6, 1864. Respectfully forwarded, for the information of the major-general commanding
I respectfully further state that the prisoners are here, and in the custody of the provost-marshal's guard.
JOSHUA B. HOWELL, Colonel, Commanding District.