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Doc. 23.-naval operations in Florida.


Rear-Admiral Bailey's reports.

United States flag-ship San Jacinto, Key West, December 28, 1863.
Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy:
sir: I have the gratification of reporting a very important service performed by the blockading force at St. Andrew's Sound, under command of Acting Master William R. Browne, in destroying a very extensive and valuable quality of salt-works, both at Lake Ocala and in St. Andrew's Bay. The circumstances are as follows:

On the second of December, a boat was despatched from the bark Restless, then lying at St. Andrew's, bound to Lake Ocala, some twenty miles to the westward, where Acting Ensign James J. Russell landed with his men, and marched some five miles inland to Kent's Salt-Works, consisting of three different establishments, and utterly destroyed them. There were six steamboat boilers at this place, cut in half lengthwise, and seven kettles made expressly for the purpose, each holding two hundred gallons. They were in the practice of burning out one hundred and thirty gallons of salt daily. Beside destroying these boilers, a large quantity of salt was thrown into the lake. Two large flat-boats and six ox-carts were demolished, and seventeen prisoners were taken, who were paroled and released, as the boat was too small to bring them away.

On the first of December, Acting Ensign Edwin Cressy arrived at St. Andrew's Sound, from the East Pass of Santa Rosa Sound, with the stern-wheel steamer Bloomer, and her tender, the sloop Carolina, having heard of the expedition to Lake Ocala, and placed his command at the disposal of Acting Master Browne for more extensive operations near St. Andrew's; and accordingly three officers and forty-eight men were sent from the Restless to the Bloomer, and she proceeded to West Bay, where the rebel government's salt-works were first destroyed, which produced four hundred bushels daily. At this place there were twenty-seven buildings, twenty-two boilers, and some two hundred kettles, averaging two hundred gallons each, all of which were destroyed, together with five thousand bushels of salt and some storehouses containing some three months provisions — the whole estimated at half a million of dollars. From this point the expedition proceeded down the bay, destroying private salt-works, which lined each side for a distance of seven miles, to the number of one hundred and ninety-eight different establishments, averaging two boilers and two kettles each, together with a large quantity of salt; five hundred and seven kettles were dug up and rendered useless, and over two hundred buildings were destroyed, together with twenty-seven wagons and five large flat-boats.

The entire damage to the enemy is estimated by Acting Master Browne at three million dollars.

Thirty-one contrabands employed at those works gladly availed themselves of this opportunity to escape, and were of great service in pointing out the places where the kettles were buried for concealment. In the mean time, while these operations were going on, Acting Master Browne got under way in the bark Restless, and ran up to within one hundred yards of the town of St. Andrew's, which had been reported by deserters to him as being occupied by a military force for the last ten months, and commenced shelling the place and some soldiers, who made a speedy retreat to the woods.

Selecting the weathermost houses for a target, the town was fired by the third shell, and thirty-two houses were soon reduced to ashes. No resistance was offered to our people throughout the affair. Acting Master Browne speaks in high terms of Acting Ensigns James J. Russell and Charles N. Hicks, and the forty-eight men from the Restless, as also of Acting Ensign Edwin Cressy and the six men belonging to the Bloomer, for the prompt manner in which they carried out his orders.

Respectfully,

Theodorus Bailey, Acting Rear-Admiral Commanding E. G. B. Squadron.

U. S. Flag-ship San Jancinto, Key West, Dec. 28, 1863.
Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy:
sir: It gives me great pleasure to call the attention of the department to a very important service performed by the schooner Fox, a tender of the San Jacinto, under the command of Acting Master George Ashbury. The circumstances are as follows:

On the twentieth of December, a steamer was discovered in the mouth of the Suwanee River, apparently at anchor or aground. The Fox immediately beat up toward her until, when within about three quarters of a mile of the steamer, she grounded in eight and a half feet of water, and opened upon her with the howitzer, at the same time sending an armed boat in to capture the steamer. An attempt was made to intimidate our people by mounting a piece of stove-pipe on a chair, to represent a forecastle gun, and a log of [281] wood on a camp-stool for a stern gun, but this device of the enemy failed in its object; and Acting Ensign Marcellus Jackson boarded the steamer, from which every body had made their escape to the shore. She proved to be a side-wheel steamer, painted lead-color, with black smoke-stack, two masts, and a walking-beam engine. Neither cargo, personal effects, papers, nor any thing to indicate her name was found on board, but from the description, she is supposed to have been the Little Lila, formerly the Nau Nau, and before that the Flushing. The water was found running rapidly into the engine-room. None of our people were competent to stop the leak or work the engine. The channel was exceedingly intricate and narrow, and night was rapidly coming on. Under these circumstances, Acting Ensign Jackson set fire to the vessel, agreeably to orders from Acting Master Ashbury, and in returning to the Fox, pulled up all the stakes by which the channel was marked out, for about a mile and a half.

Again, on December twenty-fourth, a vessel was discovered by the Fox standing in for the Suwanee River, and after a chase of two hours, and the firing of several shells, she hove to. Being ordered by Mr. Ashbury to send a boat on board, the stranger put his helm up with the intention of running the Fox down, and came down upon the starboard quarter, carrying away the boat-davits, but doing little damage, as the Fox was immediately kept away.

While his vessel was passing off, Mr. Ashbury directed a rifle-shot to be fired for the purpose of intimidation; but a heavy sea was running at the time, and the bullet took effect upon the captain of the strange vessel, who was at the wheel, passing through his leg, but without touching an artery. The vessel was then boarded and found to be the British schooner Edwin from Havana, bound to the Suwanee River, with a cargo of lead and salt, and was accordingly seized as a prize. In addition to these achievements, I would remind the department that the Fox was one of the three tenders that assisted the Honduras in the capture of the British steamer Mail.

Respectfully,

Theodorus Bailey, Acting Rear-Admiral Commanding E. G. B. Squadron.

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