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[187] towed down Apalachicola River, though it was necessarily slow work, as the rebels had scuttled the sloop on leaving her, and now she was slowly filling with water. Before arriving at the mouth of the river it was found necessary to take off about thirty bales of the cotton and tow them or raft then down the river to the gunboats. The rebel company had gone in advance of the sloop and our boats, and had secreted themselves behind an embankment and in the storehouses along the wharves in the city of Apalachicola. The rebels now fired another volley into our boats, slightly wounding several men, but killing none, although our enemies were but a short distance off and fired a number of times. Our howitzers were immediately turned upon our enemies, and whenever one of them was seen attempting to fire from behind a storehouse or fence, a discharge of canister and shrapnel was fired into their midst. A shell was fired which exploded in one of the buildings, blowing the roof from it and setting it on fire. Two or three more shells were fired, which set other buildings on fire, and by this time the rebels, having some killed and several wounded, concluded they were getting the worst of it, and stopped firing into the boats, and went to work extinguishing the conflagration which our exploding shells had enkindled.

Our men finally arrived safely on their respective ships, having captured a sloop with eighty bales of cotton and two prisoners. It was supposed that the rebel ram Chattahoochee, which is reported to be ready to come down to demolish the ships on the blockade here, would have appeared the same day. She would have had the advantage if she had attacked our boats when in the river. The Chattahoochee is commanded by Ap. Catesby Jones, who was second in command of the Merrimac at the time of the fight with the Monitor last spring. The crew of this rebel ram also belonged in part to the Merrimac. The gunboats are expecting this rebel steamer as soon as there are seven feet of water at the mouth of the river. She is said to have a heavy armament and to be partially iron-clad; but the gunboats Saga--more and Fort Henry are prepared to meet her. The rebel steamer will have to do some hard fighting when she comes down, and will find it a very difficult matter to run the blockade and get into the port of Nassau, N. P.

The United States steamer Somerset reports that they were fired into at Cedar Keys, Florida, and eight of their crew wounded, some of them severely. It seems that a guerrilla band enticed a boat ashore by displaying three white flags from the houses on shore. As soon as the men had landed they were fired upon from the windows of the houses — the flags of truce were flying all the time. The sailors got off in their boats with their wounded, and soon returned with a larger force and burned the town. It is reported that the Sagamore will be obliged to go to Key West in a few days. Her officers and crew hope the rebel ram will come down before they are obliged to leave this station. Lieut. Commander Bigelow has been detached from the Sagamore, and our Lieut. Commander (English) has been ordered to the command.

A flag of truce arrived from Apalachicola with a request that our naval surgeons should go up to the town and dress the stumps of some of the rebels who had their limbs blown off by the fragments from our shells. Drs. Stevens, Scofield, and Draper have volunteered their services as an act of kindness to our enemies.

Apalachicola was once the largest commercial town in Florida; but now every thing looks desolate. A small rebel steamer comes down the river from Columbus, Ga., about once a week, and supplies the inhabitants with corn-meal, as this is about the only food they have to keep them from starvation. The rebels in this State have supplied the rebel army in Virginia largely with salt beef, so that the cattle of nearly all the planters have been killed and packed in salt for the government. Large quantities of salt were of course required, and the rebels had erected salt-works all along the bays on the Gulf coast of Florida. The gunboat Sagamore demolished thirty-six of these salt-works in St. Andrew's Bay, about a month ago. We have demolished the works here in Apalachicola Bay, and the works at St. Mark's, Cedar Key, and at Tampa, have also been broken up. Should the rebels again fire upon our boats when they approach Apalachicola, it is the determination of our commanders to lay the city in ashes.

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