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Doc. 92.-escape of the Florida.

Report of Commander Preble.

United States sloop-of-war St. Louis, Funchal roads, Madeira, March 1, 1 1/2 A. M., 1864.
sir: The Florida has succeeded in getting to sea. I shall follow at once, though hopeless of catching her out of port. Nelson said, the want of frigates in his squadron would be found impressed on his heart. I am sure the want of steam will be found engraven on mine. Had the St. Louis been a steamer, I would have anchored alongside of her, and, unrestricted by the twenty-four hour rule, my old foe could not have escaped me. The Governor, true to his declared intention, would only allow her to take on board twenty tons of coal, sufficient to take her to the nearest port. Her commander plead for sixty tons, next forty, asserting that he needed that much to ballast his vessel. The Governor told him, at the suggestion of Mr. Bayman, that he came in without it, and he thought he could go without it; but if ballast was needed, there was plenty of stone on the beach that he might take.

As it was supposed that she would go to sea during the night, and certainly in the morning, and I had an intimation, that, in passing us, she might pour in a broadside, I shotted and cast loose my guns, and had men to man them; got a slip-rope on the chain, and stationed lookouts all over the ship and in the tops; cautioned the officers to extra vigilance, and was repeatedly on deck myself to watch and see that my orders were executed. The night was dark and squally. The Florida lay close into the beach and under the highland, with all her lights covered, and, notwithstanding all this vigilance, she crept out, unseen, to the eastward, and her departure was not discovered until the morn rose, a few minutes since. A blockade-runner, the Julia, which arrived in the afternoon, reports the Kearsage as having left Cadiz three days ago, destination unknown. The Florida gave out that they were going to Cadiz for coals; but I think not, and shall go direct to Teneriffe, hoping, if I do not find her there, to put the Sacramento on her track.

The prevailing winds would not permit me to get to Cadiz from Madeira in season to do her any injury, even if I thought that port her destination.

The authorities here have done all they could to hasten her departure and prevent her full supply, and I do not imagine that the island will be troubled by the presence of the rebel vessels-of-war very soon again. I waited on the Governor, to inform him of her intention to ship men to complete her crew. He assured me that it should not be allowed, though it might be done clandestinely, which he could not help. I have reason to believe that she made no addition to her crew, and know from the statement of my gig's crew, that three of the men she brought with her, deserted. Her crew is described to me as made up of Spaniards, Frenchmen, and Portuguese, with a few Englishmen, and but one American. Her First Lieutenant is Thomas A. Dernin, formerly a midshipman in our service.

I notice no change in the appearance of the Florida since I last saw her, except that now she has yards on her mainmast: then she had none, and she has changed her billet-head for a shield surrounded by scroll-work, in which is borne the arms of the rebel States. My men have been wild to fight, and I drew the shot from my guns the day she came in, fearing that in their excitement they would fire into her without orders, and break the neutrality of this port. One thing is certain, the Florida does not intend to fight unless the chances are largely in her favor, for she skulked away from the old St. Louis.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Geo. Henry Preble, Commander U. S. N. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

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