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[54] without doing any injury to the Confederates, 43 in number, who had so gallantly repulsed them. The next night our command returned to Palatka and was ordered to Jacksonville where they engaged in several hot skirmishes. Soon afterward being sent back to Palatka, they engaged the transport Mary Benton, with 500 negro troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Billings, March 27, 1863. This officer was wounded and about 75 killed and wounded, without loss on our side. The following day Jacksonville was evacuated. For several months afterward the company guarded all the country from St. Augustine to Smyrna. This duty being too heavy the command was reinforced by Company C, Capt. Wm. C. Chambers, and did good work protecting the landing of supplies from our blockade runners.

In the meantime the enemy's gunboats were concentrating in the St. John's river, and the Confederates, having neither naval forces nor batteries at the time on the river, could make no resistance. Jacksonville was in possession of the enemy, affording opportunity to land at pleasure a large army. Fernandina was held by them, a valuable stronghold, where they could concentrate troops and at any time advance with a force of 15,000 to 20,000 troops into the heart of the country, our forces having been greatly depleted by the call of troops to Virginia and the western army.

In the winter of 1863 Captain Dickison was ordered to Fort Meade to act in concert with Colonel Brevard, who was sent to take command of a battalion near that point as the enemy was in considerable force in the neighborhood of Fort Myers. At this critical time the enemy, learning of the scattered state of our troops and being strongly fortified by reinforcements from Hilton Head, made rapid preparations for an invasion of the State, anticipating an easy capture of Lake City, a permanent occupation of that region and a triumphant march on to Tallahassee, the capital, where they could be in

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