The fight at Santa Rosa — interesting letter from a surgeon.
The following letter, from a surgeon, who present in the fight at Santa Rosa
, written to his father in North Carolina
, appeared in the Petersburg Express
Camp Gladden, Fla., October 26, 1861.
You will see, from the heading of my letter, that we are again in camp.
We left the Navy-Yard
, I think, on the 8th, (the day previous to our expedition against Santa Rosa
) and are once more living in the woods.
Our winter quarters are now being built, and we hope in about a month, to exchange our tent for shanties.
You would, I presume, like to hear a direct account of the Santa Rosa
I will give you the best I can, althoug I am so much provoked and disgusted with the different newspaper statements I have seen, that I have almost resolved never to speak of it, all the credit being given to a few volunteers, in whose praise every little picayune newspaper writer in the South
is now squibbing, while men who did as much service, and suffered more, are not mentioned.
However, to the point.
The object of the expedition was to surprise and burn Billy Wilson
's Zouave camp, situated just opposite the Navy-Yard
, and about a mile above Fort Pickens
, to effect which, a thousand men, (consisting of Floridians, Georgians, Alabamians, Mississippians, and a detachment of 150 men from our regiment,) under command of Brigadier-General Anderson
, of South Carolina
, were selected.
I had the honor of being chosen as one of the surgeons, of whom there were five.
We embarked from the Navy-Yard
at nine o'clock, P. M., for Pensacola
, in a large Government steamboat, with lighters in tow, reaching there about 10½ o'clock. From there we re-embarked in smaller steamers and lighters for the Island
, (distance about five miles,) arriving about seven miles below the Fort
, at two o'clock A. M. Disembarking there, we moved up the Island
in three detachments; one on the bay side, another up the centre, and the third, which I was with, on the side next to the Gulf
, having first to cross the island — no small undertaking, I assure you, as it is full of holes and bogs.
After crossing, we marched down the beach for about 5 miles, in sand ankle deep.
When nearly opposite, and about half a mile distant from Billy Wilson
's camp, we encountered the principal picket of the enemy, consisting of about 60 regulars, who reserved their shots until we were within twenty yards of them, (they being behind a kind of a breastwork,) when they poured a most destructive fire into us, killing and wounding about 15 or 16 of our number.
This, of course, coming so unexpectedly, threw us, for a few moments, into confusion, while the enemy (who were mostly old regulars of the U. S. 3rd Infantry,) made a very orderly retreat.
Our men, however, soon rallied, and gave them a volley in return, lessening their number somewhat.
Our force then formed in line of battle across the Island
, and marched up to Wilson
's camp, which had been fired by the detachment on this side.
I was ordered to pick up the wounded, and convey them to a place of safety.
I succeeded in bringing off five, one of whom I had transported on a litter, the others being able to walk with assistance; and with a guard of six men, I took my way back to the boats, distant at least five miles, and day just beginning to dawn, and succeeded in reaching them about 7½ o'clock.
After the burning of Wilson
's camp, and as our men were preparing to return, having effected their object, three companies of regulars were sent from the Fort
against them, and for an hour or more a very hot skirmish was carried on. Knowing the Island
better than we did, gave them, of course, a decided advantage.
We embarked about 8 o'clock, and, having left the shore, we were exceedingly annoyed by shots from the Minnie
rifles of the enemy, losing several of our men, they being crowded together in open boats, while the enemy were protected by sand banks.
It was at this time that General Anderson
was shot, (whose wound I had the honor of dressing,) the ball passing through the arm and striking the chest, making, however, only a bruise.
I had my hands full, I assure you, being the only surgeon on hand, three having been captured, the other effecting his escape in a small boat.
The three who were captured were released on giving their parole to leave Florida
They can, however, serve elsewhere.
Our loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, was near a hundred; that of the enemy was, I suppose, more than double.
We took about 30 prisoners, amongst whom was Maj. Vodges
, second in command.
's camp was entirely destroyed, and his men scattered.
I send, as a memento, a piece of his flag, which was captured by one of our men.
T. R. M.