from Colonel Noble informed me of the loss of the tug Columbine, and capture of most of those on board. Colonel Noble writes me that some (he does not say how many) of the Thirty-fifth colored had made their way to Haw Creek, and had given this information. They say that on Monday night, the twenty-third, opposite Horse Landing, the Columbine was opened upon as she was coming down the river; that she was disabled by the enemy's artillery, and was captured by two hundred of the enemy. It was on Tuesday, the twenty-fourth, at four o'clock P. M., that I communicated with the Ottawa, then lying at the mouth of Dunn's Creek, and within five miles of Horse Landing. The Ottawa had been here since Sunday, and yet she knew nothing of the report. This morning my cavalry captured a prisoner, who says that Dickerson (rebel) says he has captured a “little boat and two small guns;” that he has “burned the boat.” It seems, therefore, that this firing on Sunday night was by the enemy's artillery. This fact was not communicated to me until Tuesday afternoon, too late to do anything for the Columbine, if, indeed, anything could have been done for her. I deem it fortunate that I did not attempt to run farther up the river than Picolata with my troops. I will submit further facts in relation to the loss of the Columbine and the capture of the two posts at Welaka and Saunders as soon as received. While regretting the losses, and condemning whatever there may have been reprehensible in the conduct of the commanders at Welaka and Saunders, I feel keenly the disaster to the Columbine and her gallant crew, resulting, as it did, in the attempt to relieve my command. My reconnoissance to the front, of the twenty-fifth, has developed the fact that there is no enemy at Camp Finnegan. I captured a prisoner this morning, who confirms the fact. The force in Florida is as follows: At Camp Milton, of the Second Florida cavalry, Colonel McCormick, (effective men,) six hundred (600;) artillery, two (2) small pieces. Camp Milton and McCurth's Creek strongly fortified. At Baldwin, no troops, strong fortification, two pieces of artillery. At Trestle, across the St. Mary's, being fortified at this time by negroes. State troops raised for state defence--three companies expected daily at Milton, and two thousand (2,000) in all looked for. Captain Dickerson's cavalry has two hundred (200) effective men stationed at Pilatka. Dunham's artillery of light pieces on St. John's River, near Welaka, Saunders. and Horse Landing. I am, Captain, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Report of rear-admiral Dahlgren.
flag-steamer Philadelphia, Port Royal harbor, S. C., June 4, 1864.Sir: I enclose herewith a report from Commander Balch, senior officer present in the St. John's River, Florida, from which there seems to be little doubt of the capture of the Columbine. As the officers and crew are probably prisoners, it will be impossible to have any investigation at this time. There is always more or less risk in passing these light steamers through narrow streams, where they are liable to be fired on without any warning from the densely wooded banks, and cannot turn readily or manoeuvre, while their armament is too trifling to be of much account. Still, when the operations of the land forces require such aid, it is necessary to give it and do as well as we can. I have the honor to be, Very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Report of Commander G. B. Balch.
Admiral: I regret to have to report the capture of the Columbine by the rebels on Monday, the twenty-third instant, and under the following circumstances: By the enclosed communications you will perceive that two of our posts on the east side of the St. John's, left by General Birney, were captured by the enemy; and another, consisting of fifty men at Volusia, was in imminent danger of being captured. Information was received by General Gordon, at 11.40 P. M. of the twenty-first instant, who immediately asked my assistance in trying to save the post at Volusia. Upon consultation with the General, it was deemed by us advisable to send the Ottawa and Columbine up the St. John's — the former to go as far up the river as the depth of water would admit, and the latter to proceed to Volusia with all despatch, to assist the troops at that point, and also to prevent the enemy from recrossing to the west bank of the St. John's. General Gordon embarked his troops in the Charles Houghton, and without delay proceeded to Picolata, where he put aboard the Ottawa and Columbine an additional force, and, together, proceeded up the river to a point near Pilatka, where he disembarked his troops and marched at once for Volusia. The Ottawa and Columbine left for the purpose of carrying out the plan as agreed upon — the Ottawa anchoring at Brown's Landing, distant twelve miles, by the river, from Pilatka; the Houghton in company, for greater protection, by order of General Gordon; the Columbine proceeding without delay to Volusia bar, which she reached at eleven P. M. of the twenty-second instant. I herewith transmit the report of Lieutenant-Commander Breese, of the Ottawa, detailing an account of the attack made on his vessel and the Houghton by a rebel battery. You will be pleased to learn from the report of Lieutenant-Commander Breese that the battery was soon silenced, and much to the credit of the officers and crew of that