Doc. 89.-occupation of Jacksonville, Fla.
Report of Lieut. Stevens.
U. S. Gunboat Ottawa, off Jacksonville, March 18.sir: I succeeded in crossing the bar with this vessel, the Seneca and Pembina, the day before yesterday, about four o'clock, having no water to spare under our keels. The Smith arrived half an hour afterward, and crossed without a pilot, as it was necessary to make arrangements to land a company of soldiers for the protection of the guns, before leaving the entrance of the river. I found it too late to move up to this place. That evening, near ten o'clock, I discovered large fires bearing west-north-west from the anchorage, which proved to be, on my arrival here, the burning of mills, houses, and property belonging to Northern men with suspected Union proclivities, burnt by order of the rebel commander. I left Mayport yesterday, with the vessels named, for this point, ordering the Ellen to stop at John's Bluff and take on board the guns and munitions of war at that point, and afterward to rejoin me here, which mission was successfully accomplished. We succeeded in reaching Jacksonville without difficulty, and at every house, save one, found evidences of peaceful demonstrations and returning reason. On our arrival at this place, the corporate authorities, through S. L. Burritt, Esq., came off with a flag of truce, and gave up the town. From conversation with intelligent citizens, I find that the inhabitants are seeking and waiting for the protection of our flag; that they do not fear us, but their own people ; and from the occupation of this important point, I am satisfied, if our opportunities are improved, great results will follow. Many of the citizens have fled, many remain, and there is reason to believe most of them will return. I have just heard the municipal government has been restored. Very respectfully, etc.
To Flag-Officer S. F. Du Pont, commanding South-Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
To Flag-Officer S. F. Du Pont, commanding South-Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Philadelphia press account.
Jacksonville, Fla., March 17, 1862.On Wednesday, the twelfth inst., at seven A. M., signals were made by the Ottawa to get under way, and in fifteen minutes we were steaming up the St. John's, bound to Jacksonville. The weather was rather inauspicious — sun obscured, air damp and chilly, and wind prophetic from N. N. E. Yet withal the trip was not unpleasant. As we left Mayport astern, the vessels took their regular positions in line of sailing: Ottawa (acting flag-ship) leading; Seneca, Pembina, Isaac P. Smith, and Ellen, following. The latter steamer was detached soon after to take aboard and bring up some captured guns. Owing to a comparative ignorance of the channel, which is exceedingly intricate and difficult of passage, we were obliged to proceed very slowly. About four miles above Mayport, on St. John's bluffs, (the site of the old Spanish fort, Caroline) bold highlands that rise perpendicularly thirty feet from the water, the rebels had cleared away a considerable space, and commenced to erect a battery and barracks for troops. The location is a splendid one, and could readily be converted into a miniature Gibraltar, but their force was insufficient for the work, and it was abandoned after mounting a gun or two, and partially completing the quarters. Four guns were brought hither by the Darlington, (rebel steamer captured near Fernandina,) on the second inst., from Fort Clinch. Some are said to have been submerged at the foot of the bluff. How true it is, we know not. Passing this point, we continued on up the stream, and were everywhere greeted with cheers or waving of handkerchiefs. Men, women, and children, of all colors, turned out en masse, and gave us a grand and unexpected ovation. From almost all the houses white flags were displayed, and in some instances waved by the ladies. Very few residences, and those the property of rabid secessionists, were deserted. Between ten and eleven A. M. we passed the ashes of the Panama Lumber-Mills, a few minutes later the St. John's Mills, and as we drew near Jacksonville, smouldering ruins presented themselves on every side. Nothing but the massive columns of dark pitch-pine smoke, smothered flames, and blackened piles remained of the huge saw-mills that had existed twenty--four hours previously. Such vandalism we have never witnessed. Eight immense mills, and hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of valuable lumber, destroyed in a single night by the ruthless villains — guerrillas, recognised by that lovely government, the Southern Confederacy! The principal sufferers by these incendiaries are  Messrs. Gilchrist, Fairbanks, Hartridge, Moody, Wilson, Buckman, and Allsop, all Northern men. Only two mills hereabouts have escaped. The owner of one of these claimed British protection, and hoisted the red ensign. At noon, we anchored off Jacksonville, less than a hundred yards from the wharf. Our reception was anything but enthusiastic. Several large squads of men collected on the wharves, but evinced no manifestations of joy; in short, “they looked as if they could not help it.” Several pow-wows and confabs were held by the scribes, who at last came to the conclusion to “turn Union” and make the best of it; conclusions that were much facilitated by the yawning mouths of our big, black “babies,” (eleven-inch Dahlgrens.) Capt. Stevens communicated with the shore, and at one P. M. commenced landing the Fourth New-Hampshire regiment, Col. Whipple, in the launches and cutters, to take possession of and occupy the town. This was accomplished quietly and rapidly, and in less than two hours pickets were posted and quarters selected from the deserted houses and stores. This city was one of the most flourishing in the South, and the most important commercial town in Florida. It is located on the northern bank of the river, twenty-five miles from its mouth, and contains, in all, three thousand inhabitants. Of these, at least one half are, or were, originally “Yankees;” and, excepting a few valetudinarians, were all engaged in mercantile pursuits. Many having grown wealthy, and adopted this as their home, have joined in the secession movement and become the most violent of rebels. Others anxious to leave in the beginning of the troubles, but unwilling to relinquish so much valuable property, remained to protect it, hoping for a speedy solution of the unhappy difficulties. These men, few in number, are the loyal men of Florida. By far the majority, however, are avaricious Yankees, mercenary tories, who, clinging to the side that happens uppermost, no matter which it may be, ask only for trade, showing us a slight preference, because we pay in gold instead of shinplasters. I have had unlimited opportunities of observation and conversation, and do not believe there are ten reliable Union men in the town. When accused of “secesh” sympathies, they reply, in extenuation, that it was compulsory, and that they will join us if we will protect them from the guerrillas and soldiery who are bent upon burning the “Yankee town.” One of the most prominent Union men now was packing beef for the C. S. A. one week ago. Versatile people! Of four hundred families that were here ten days since, not more than seventy remain. The rest fled into the interior, carrying all their portable property with them. The young ladies still here are quite entertaining to the “gold bands,” and the children and “niggers” are much interested in “de sogers,” but the men generally are sullen and unsociable. An improvement, however, is noticeable, and I hope to give a better account of them ere long. We have learned since our arrival that the confederate gunboat, that was being built here, was burned last Sunday morning. She was being constructed by contract, of live oak; was one hundred and fifty feet long, and twenty-seven feet beam, resembling very much our new gunboats. The planking outside was nearly completed, and in a few weeks she would have been launched. The engines, which were also destroyed, were built here especially for her. In order to raise funds for the prosecution of the work, they were obliged to issue promissory notes, value twenty-five and fifty cents, which were circulated as currency in large quantities, and called “Gunboat money.” Another variety of shinplasters was issued by the confederate packing-house — an institution conducted by Col. Titus, of Kansas notoriety, and a “Union man” previously alluded to. The denominations were five, ten, fifteen, and twenty-five cents. The “Judson House,” one of the largest hotels in the State, built, owned, and occupied by Northern men, was burned by the guerrillas, an independent association of gentlemanly scoundrels, numbering nearly sixty, on Tuesday night In the afternoon, Major Hopkins, commanding the battalion stationed here, assured the proprietor that his property was safe; but his authority was not regarded by the bandits, who are the terror of the people. To the credit of the rebel soldiers, it is said they refrained from all such acts.