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y-five,--either of which would be a good post for us. General Hunter is expected every day,; and it is strange he has not come. The very next day came an official order recalling the whole expedition, and for the third time evacuating Jacksonville. A council of military and naval officers was at once called (though there was but one thing to-be done), and the latter were even more disappointed and amazed than the former. This was especially the case with the senior naval officer, Captain Steedman, a South-Carolinian by birth, but who had proved himself as patriotic as he was courteous and able, and whose presence and advice had been of the greatest value to me. He and all of us felt keenly the wrongfulness of breaking the pledges which we had been authorized to make to these people, and of leaving them to the mercy of the Rebels once more. Most of the people themselves took the same view, and eagerly begged to accompany us on our departure. They were allowed to bring their clo
J. M. Brannan (search for this): chapter 4
ulse,--all had a certain air of Southern languor, rather picturesque, but perhaps not altogether bracing. General Hunter received us, that day, with his usual kindliness; there was a good deal of pleasant chat; Miles O'Reilly was called in to read his latest verses; and then we came to the matter in hand. Jacksonville, on the St. John's River, in Florida, had been already twice taken and twice evacuated; having been occupied by Brigadier-General Wright, in March, 1862, and by Brigadier-General Brannan, in October of the same year. The second evacuation was by Major-General Hunter's own order, on the avowed ground that a garrison of five thousand was needed to hold the place, and that this force could not be spared. The present proposition was to take and hold it with a brigade of less than a thousand men, carrying, however, arms and uniforms for twice that number, and a month's rations. The claim was, that there were fewer rebel troops in the Department than formerly, and tha
s Department. I have not been made acquainted with the objects of this mission, but any assistance that you can offer Colonel Higginson, which will not interfere with your other duties, you are authorized to give. Respectfully your obedient servant, S. F. Dupont, Rear-Adm. Comdg. S. Atl. Block. Squad. To the Senior Officer present at the different Blockading Stations on the Coast of Georgia and Florida. and we were cordially received by Commander Duncan of the Norwich, and Lieutenant Watson, commanding the Uncas. Like all officers on blockade duty, they were impatient of their enforced inaction, and gladly seized the opportunity for a different service. It was some time since they had ascended as high as Jacksonville, for their orders were strict, one vessel's coal was low, the other was in infirm condition, and there were rumors of cotton-clads and torpedoes. But they gladly agreed to escort us up the river, so soon as our own armed gunboat, the John Adams, should arr
Ponce Leon (search for this): chapter 4
all anxieties vanished; I transferred my quarters on board, and at two the next morning we steamed up the river. Again there was the dreamy delight of ascending an unknown stream, beneath a sinking moon, into a region where peril made fascination. Since the time of the first explorers, I suppose that those Southern waters have known no sensations so dreamy and so bewitching as those which this war has brought forth. I recall, in this case, the faintest sensations of our voyage, as Ponce de Leon may have recalled those of his wandering search, in the same soft zone, for the secret of the mystic fountain. I remember how, during that night, I looked for the first time through a powerful night-glass. It had always seemed a thing wholly inconceivable, that a mere lens could change darkness into light; and as I turned the instrument on the preceding gunboat, and actually discerned the man at the wheel and the officers standing about him,--all relapsing into vague gloom again at th
L. Meeker (search for this): chapter 4
atisfied that they have not strength to dare it, and the worst they could probably do is to burn the town. But to-night, instead of enemies, appear friends,--our devoted civic ally, Judge S., and a whole Connecticut regiment, the Sixth, under Major Meeker; and though the latter are aground, twelve miles below, yet they enable one to breathe more freely. I only wish they were black; but now I have to show, not only that blacks can fight, but that they and white soldiers can act in harmony toget in great danger. I never shall forget the delight of that march through the open pine barren, with occasional patches of uncertain swamp. The Eighth Maine, under Lieutenant-Colonel Twichell, was on the right, the Sixth Connecticut, under Major Meeker, on the left, and my own men, under Major Strong, in the centre, having in charge the cannon, to which they had been trained. Mr. Heron, from the John Adams, acted as gunner. The mounted Rebel pickets retired before us through the woods, kee
a reconnoissance, in the deepest darkness, and there were alarms all night. The next day the Sixth Connecticut got afloat, and came up the river; and two days after, to my continued amazement, arrived a part of the Eighth Maine, under Lieutenant-Colonel Twichell. This increased my command to four regiments, or parts of regiments, half white and half black. Skirmishing had almost ceased,--our defences being tolerably complete, and looking from without much more effective than they really werhe town meanwhile be attacked from some other direction, it would be in great danger. I never shall forget the delight of that march through the open pine barren, with occasional patches of uncertain swamp. The Eighth Maine, under Lieutenant-Colonel Twichell, was on the right, the Sixth Connecticut, under Major Meeker, on the left, and my own men, under Major Strong, in the centre, having in charge the cannon, to which they had been trained. Mr. Heron, from the John Adams, acted as gunner
t, but soon let out the secret, and witticisms abounded for a day or two, the mildest of which was the assertion that the author of the alarm must have been three sheets in the wind. Another expedition was of more exciting character. For several days before the arrival of Colonel Rust a reconnoissance had been planned in the direction of the enemy's camp, and he finally consented to its being carried out. By the energy of Major Corwin, of the Second South Carolina Volunteers, aided by Mr. Holden, then a gunner on the Paul Jones, and afterwards made captain of the same regiment, one of the ten-pound Parrott guns had been mounted on a hand-car, for use on the railway. This it was now proposed to bring into service. I took a large detail of men from the two white regiments and from my own, and had instructions to march as far as thefour-mile station on the railway, if possible, examine the country, and ascertain if the Rebel camp had been removed, as was reported, beyond that dista
signal, all rose again, like Roderick Dhu's men, and the green wood appeared suddenly populous with armed life. At a certain point forces were divided, and a detachment was sent round the head of the creek, to flank the unsuspecting enemy; while we of the main body, stealing with caution nearer and nearer, through ever denser woods, swooped down at last in triumph upon a solitary farmhouse, where the family-washing had been hung out to dry! This was the Rebel camp ! It is due to Sergeant Greene, my invaluable guide, to say that he had from the beginning discouraged any high hopes of a crossing of bayonets. He had early explained that it was not he who claimed to have seen the tents and the Rebel soldiers, but one of the officers,--and had pointed out that our undisturbed approach was hardly reconcilable with the existence of a hostile camp so near. This impression had also pressed more and more upon my own mind, but it was our business to put the thing beyond a doubt. Proba
Roderick Dhu (search for this): chapter 4
afternoon, and met the returning party. Poor fellows! I never shall forget the longing eyes they cast on us, as we marched forth to the field of glory, from which they were debarred. We went three or four miles out, sometimes halting to send forward a scout, while I made all the men lie down in the long, thin grass and beside the fallen trees, till one could not imagine that there was a person there. I remember how picturesque the effect was, when, at the signal, all rose again, like Roderick Dhu's men, and the green wood appeared suddenly populous with armed life. At a certain point forces were divided, and a detachment was sent round the head of the creek, to flank the unsuspecting enemy; while we of the main body, stealing with caution nearer and nearer, through ever denser woods, swooped down at last in triumph upon a solitary farmhouse, where the family-washing had been hung out to dry! This was the Rebel camp ! It is due to Sergeant Greene, my invaluable guide, to say
f the black soldiers all their favorite imagery of the Judgment-Day; and those who were not too much depressed by disappointment were excited by the spectacle, and sang and exhorted without ceasing. With heavy hearts their officers floated down the lovely river, which we had ascended with hopes so buoyant; and from that day to this, the reasons for our recall have never been made public. It was commonly attributed to proslavery advisers, acting on the rather impulsive nature of Major-General Hunter, with a view to cut short the career of the colored troops, and stop their recruiting. But it may have been simply the scarcity of troops in the Department, and the renewed conviction at Headquarters that we were too few to hold the post alone. The latter theory was strengthened by the fact that, when General Seymour reoccupied Jacksonville, the following year, he took with him twenty thousand men instead of one thousand,--and the sanguinary battle of Olustee found him with too few.
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