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Doc. 55. Black water river expedition.


Lieutenant-Colonel Spurling's report.

headquarters Second Maine cavalry veteran volunteers, Barrancas, Florida, October 31, 1864.
General: I have the honor to respectfully submit the following report:

Pursuant to orders from Headquarters District of West Florida, I embarked, on the morning of the twenty-fifth of October, on steam transports at Barrancas, in charge of a force consisting of a detachment of the Second Maine veteran cavalry of one hundred men, one hundred dismounted of the First Florida cavalry, and a detachment of the Nineteenth Iowa infantry, Twenty-fifth, Eighty-second and Eighty-sixth United States colored infantry, and Company M, Captain Roberts, Second Maine cavalry, dismounted for battery purposes and in charge of two howitzers, the whole amounting, in the aggregate, to over seven hundred men.

Captain Stearns, of the Eighty-second colored infantry, was placed in charge of one of the transports, Lizzie Davis, with two hundred infantry, with orders to proceed up the Black Water river, to land a force eight miles below Pierce's mill, and distant from Millton thirteen miles, to raft logs, which are numerous along the shore, and by other and all his actions, endeavor to draw the enemy upon the narrow point of land or peninsula formed by Escambia bay on the west, and East bay and Black Water river on the east.

I proceeded with the other transport, the Planter, to Pensacola, remaining there till late in the afternoon, from thence up Escambia bay, and late in the night landed three hundred infantry, under charge of Major Mudgett, of the Eighty-sixth colored infantry, at Bayou-----, a point on the east point of Escambia bay, opposite Pierce's mill, with orders that he should march to the head of the bayou, and remain there till he should hear cannonading on the other side of the narrow point of land, when he would deploy his force across to Pierce's mill, thus cutting off the retreat of the enemy, whom I had expected, and had good reasons to believe Captain Stearns would succeed in drawing into the trap which I had prepared for them, inasmuch as they had, in considerable force, on a former occasion, attacked me while I was engaged in procuring logs at points seven or eight miles below the mill. After landing Major Mudgett I proceeded back with the Planter, and on the following morning, having rounded the point of the peninsula, was on my way up East bay or Black Water river. I did not find the other transport, the Lizzie Davis, eight miles below the mill. It soon became apparent that Captain Stearns had failed to conform to my orders. Instead of landing as he was directed, he had gone six or seven miles too far, and some time elapsed before I found the Lizzie Davis, anchored in a small cove a mile or two from the mill. Thus, the enemy was not induced to come as far down upon the point of land as I had designated, and as would have been the case had my orders been fully carried out, and as my report will clearly show.

On coming up with the Lizzie Davis Idirected Captain Lincoln, of the Second Maine cavalry, to relieve Captain Stearns of his command, to land with all possible despatch the two hundred men on board, and march direct to Millton. By eleven o'clock A. M., Captain Lincoln had landed the troops from the Lizzie Davis. I proceeded with the Planter to Pierce's mill, and landed the cavalry and battery, which I had been holding in reserve, and immediately moved toward Millton, soon coming upon Captain Lincoln, whom I found engaged with a force of the enemy's cavalry. It seems that Captain Lincoln, after landing, before he had hardly taken up the march, was met by a considerable force of cavalry, with which he became engaged. He drove the enemy to the mill and beyond it on the Millton road, where they made a stand under cover of some old buildings. On my arrival at this point the firing was quite rapid, and a brisk skirmish was going on, I immediately charged with the detachment of cavalry which I brought up, and drove the rebels from the old buildings. They fled in wild confusion on the Millton road. At the bridge they attempted to make a stand, but all to no purpose. I pursued them through Millton, and out on the Pallard road, a distance of over eight miles, capturing nine prisoners and wounding quite a number. Their rout was complete. Their arms and equipments, and everything that could impede flight, were thrown away. There were no casualties in my own force.

The enemy's force consisted of a detachment of between seventy and eighty of the Eighth Mississippi cavalry, and a small force of militia. Having kept up the pursuit as long as it was prudent, my horses becoming exhausted, and it growing late in the day, I returned to Millton, and leaving the cavalry to hold the place, went back to the Planter, which I ordered to move up to a place called Bag Dad, less than two miles from Millton, and here secured quite a large amount of lumber, about eighty-five thousand feet. I despatched a courier to Major Mudgett, with orders for him to move his forces from the bayou to Pierce's mill, and hold himself in readiness to embark at that point on the following morning.

On the following morning the pickets were taken in, and the Planter moved up the river to Millton, thus exploding, if not the torpedoes, the idea and belief that they are planted in the river to obstruct its passage by boats. Here [434] several flat-boats were secured, and the ferry across the river completely demolished. Quite an amount of commissary and quartermaster's property was found, among which was about two hundred bushels of corn and meal, and considerable ham and beef, and since there was no means of transportation by which it could be got to the boat, it was destroyed. Considerable surplus ordnance, accoutrements, and horse equipments, were also destroyed; several horses and mules were captured. Having brought off or destroyed everything that could be of use to the enemy, and having accomplished all that circumstances could admit of, I returned to Barrancas with my whole force, where I arrived on the morning of the twenty-eighth.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. B. Spurling, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding. Brevet Brigadier-General I. Bailey, Commanding District West Florida.

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