THE FLORIDA EXPEDITION.
SEVENTH NEW HAMPSHIRE.
INDEPENDENT BATTALION OF MASSACHUSETTS CAVALRY.
8th UNITED STATES COLORED.
ELDER'S BATTERY, HORSE BATTERY B, 1st U. S. ARTILLERY.
LANGDON'S BATTERY, BATTERY M, 1st U. S. ARTILLERY.
Camp Finnegan, Near Baldwin,
Fla., Feb. 24, 1864.
You have doubtless, ere this, had some news of a severe engagement in Florida on the 20th, and probably of an exaggerated character, arriving as it necessarily did through rebel channels. Gen. Gillmore directs the correspondents to send no dispatches by the Fulton, and if any go, the direct disobedience of a very proper order issued by a General of whom no correspondent can justly complain, is sufficient to throw discredit on whatever statements they contain. Your
correspondent remains at the extreme front till this morning, in company with Mr. Oscar G. Sawyer, Special Correspondent of the New York Herald, and our news is consequently two days later than that of any other correspondent. We have availed ourselves of every opportunity to revise and extend our reports, and particularly to obtain a correct list of casualties.
The results of our observations and investigations is that our forces have been very badly used, but have not been defeated, or suffered in their morale, or had anything to dishearten them.
At your last previous advices the advance of our troops, under
Brigadier General Truman Seymour, was at Sanderson,
about forty miles north west of Jacksonville. The latter place, you
know, is twenty-five miles up the St. John's river. Subsequently our advance withdrew to
Barber's, nine miles back, and remained there on Saturday last, Feb. 20th.
On that day Gen. Seymour ordered an advance in force, which commenced at seven
o'clock in the morning.
Co. Guy V. Henry's brigade had the advance. It consisted of his own
regiment, the 40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry, under command of Capt. Jenkins, the
Independent Battalion of Massachusetts Cavalry, Major Atherton H. Stevens, and Elder's Battery,
Horse Battery B, 1st U. S. Artillery.
DISPOSITION OF OUR FORCES.
Col. Hawley's Brigade,
consisting of his own regiment, (the 7th Connecticut,) and the
New Hampshire, had the right of the infantry column. It was found that the enemy were in force
on each side of the road, near where the railroad crossed it, with each flank protected by strong
entrenchments, some works in their center, and
three batteries of field artillery.
They had a strong
cavalry force, and at this time it is supposed they had in the engagement from twelve to fifteen
thousand men, a superior force to ours, in their own chosen position. - The 7th Conn., were sent
skirmishers on the right,
towards the enemy's left flank, which was protected by a
swamp and a small pond. They skirmished up with the cavalry, to near the enemy's main line,
which was ascertained by drawing their fire, and then the 7th N.H., deployed to the right in line of
U.S. Colored Troops deployed to the left, where the enemy's right flank was
protected by another marshy tract.
Battery, Battery M, 1st U.S. Artillery, and Elder's
Battery, had positions on each side of the road, in the center, and
John Hamilton's Battery
E, 3rd U.S. Artillery, were placed on the left, to be supported by the 8th Negroes. Elder's Battery
had the advance up the road, and
fired the first gun. This was the position of our forces, when the
battery commenced at three o'clock in the afternoon.
OPENING OF THE FIGHT.
Capt Elder ran his guns up
very close to the
enemy's center, and in an almost incredible
time had them playing effectively into their works with shell, solid shot, grape and canister. With a
quick comprehension of the emergency, the Captain backed up his limbers, instead of reversing
them, according to the ordinary tactics, so that before the enemy had time to recover from the
shock of his attack, he had withdrawn to a safer position, with astonishing
were doing good service as advance skirmishers.
A WARM RECEPTION.
Now the engagement became general on both sides. The rebels opened with their
batteries, a large force of sharpshooters picked off infantry officers and our artillerist, and
vollies of musketry were poured in with great accuracy and rapidity on our two front regiments. The rebel fire was quite low, so that our men were wounded in the feet and legs a good deal, but they were brought down and disabled as effectually as though shot in the head, and they toppled over
with most disheartening frequency. The rattling of musketry, the roar of artillery, the shrieks of
wounded horses, the groans of dying men, the defiant shouts of those engaged in the combat, the
dense smoke lighted up with flashes from the belching guns, tree-tops falling, grape shot flying,
companies and regiments depleted from the iron storm - these were the characteristic of the four
hours' scene which followed. To the soldiers it was exciting - to the mere spectators appalling.
The fight grew hotter as it continued - the charges got desperate. Those who had trembled with
fear at first, trembled with solicitude now, and neglected entirely the dangers which it was
impossible to avoid.
New Hampshire went into the fight under very unfavorable circumstance.
Through no fault of its officers, the regiment is not what it was when the heroic Col. Pitman led it
over the parapets of Fort Wagner, where hundreds of its brave men fell with their gallant
commander. Its reduced ranks had been partially filled with unwilling conscripts and mercenary
substitutes from Canada, and the Lord and the brokers only know where else. The bulk of the
regiment, with an esprit de corps dating from Wagner, well disciplined as it is possible to have a
volunteer regiment, went into the fight with perfect confidence and valor.
But an unfortunate circumstance was that the left wing had been deprived of their Spencer
seven-shooters, by an exchange with a portion of the
40th Massachusetts for unserviceable
muskets, many of which were without ramrods, some without locks, and all without bayonets.
The regiment marched up to
take their position in column by division, left in front, bringing the
left wing first under the enemy's fire which was a hot one and totally unexpected, as the 7th
encountered no advanced skirmishers, and got their first notice of proximity of the enemy in a
tremendous volley of musketry, and a continuous and deadly fire from sharpshooters. The men
tried to return the fire, but wavered as their muskets proved unserviceable, and finally retreated in
disorder, in spite of Col. Abbott's exertions to hold them steady. This retreat confused the rest of
the regiment and they retired some distance.
On the left, the 8th Negroes were met with a deadly fire which rapidly thinned out their ranks and soon caused them to retreat, with a heavy loss. A part of the cavalry were disposed so as to stem the tide of retreat. It is doubtful if either of the regiments in the first line did much damage to the enemy, covered as they were by their works.
Left thus unprotected, the artillery suffered severely. Every man was picked off some of
the guns, and a great many horses were killed. But the batteries were fought with credit, even to
the regulars who worked them, and no signs of flinching.
A SECOND LINE.
Gen. Seymour now ordered the 54th Massachusetts in on the left, to replace the 8th U.S., and
Barton's brigade, consisting of his regiment, (the
47th N.Y.,) the 48th N.Y., and the 115th
N.Y., to advance on the right. The 1st N.C. (colored), was placed on the extreme right, and Henry's brigade of cavalry protected both flanks.
A BLOODY FIGHT.
All these troops went into the fight in fine style. The 54th Massachusetts sustained the reputation they earned at Fort Wagner, and won the commendation of all who saw their splendid behavior. They fought like tigers, and so did Barton's brigade, and so did the 1st North Carolina,
and so, never shrinking, never cringing, even, did the artillerists, in spite of the fearful havoc which
was made in their ranks. Once a rebel double column closed en masse was deploying to form in line of battle for an attack on Elder's battery, in which the sharpshooters were making much havoc and which was temporarily unprotected, Elder brought his guns to bear on them diagonally, and mowed them down in heaps. They rallied several times, and then they ran like sheep, and this from a small battery, surrounded with dead and dying, in an almost unprotected position. It was sad to witness such terrific havoc even among our enemies. But the repulses were not all of the enemy. Sometimes they would drive us slowly back, then we would make them retreat to their works, but we could not take them. - The rebels fought splendidly, but not better than our own troops, after the first repulse. Their battle cry "Hi-hil" was responded to with defiant shouts.
But our ammunition began to run short after a fours' hour combat,- the men were wearied
with their seventeen miles' march, and their afternoon of hot fighting under the warm sun. So at 7
o'clock they began to fall back, from pure exhaustion and lack of sufficient ammunition. They retreated a short distance and there formed another line, but the enemy did not follow
us at all. Capt. Hamilton was wounded early in the fight, and so many of his men killed that two of his pieces had to be left from sheer inability to take them off.
Langdon lost three guns from the same cause. The enemy would not let us recover them,
nor could they get possession of them themselves, up to the time when we finally withdrew. After
holding this line about half an hour it was deemed advisable to retreat back to the mill beyond
Sanderson. The retreat was in just as good order as the advance, and in successive lines, the mounted infantry and cavalry covering the retreat in splendid shape.
BEHAVIOR OF OUR TROOPS.
The 40th Mass. Mounted Infantry and the Independent Battalion of Mass. Cavalry did splendidly all through the fight, and covered the retreat in fine shape.
Col. Henry, who had command of this force, was at first reported killed, and the
announcement of his death cast a gloom over the whole Department, for no officer in it is more
beloved, and his popularity is deserved. Born in the army, educated in the army at West Point,
identified with the army all his life, and without a blot or a blur on his record, the 40th have great
reason to be proud of him, and they are proud of him and he is proud of them. Major Stevens and
his command also deserve and received a great deal of credit. They have been complimented on
all sides, and it is fortunate that our cavalry on this occasion was composed of such splendid
material. It is the remark of Gen. Seymour and all officers I have heard express an opinion, based
on the best knowledge, that all the Massachusetts troops behaved splendidly.-
The 7th Conn. did nobly, as they always have done. Barton's Brigade had a very dangerous and delicate duty to perform and they did it well. It seemed a cruel thing to place men under a direct and destructive fire from a covered foe only one hundred yards off, and retain them there, but it was a necessity, and they understood it, for had our right wing been turned, we should have been cut to pieces and the remnant of our forces gobbled up. The First North Carolina fought with great pluck and stubbornness, and at one time attacked a charging force of the enemy and drove them clear into their works. All the troops, in fact, have received great commendations, except the 7th N.H. and 8th U.S., and their conduct is explained satisfactorily, I believe, above. The latter had their Colonel killed, early in the fight. Officers of Gen. Seymour's staff, and one (at least) of Gen. Gillmore's, with whom I have conversed on the subject, are very loud in their praises of Col. Abbott, of the 7th Regiment, who showed great pluck, energy and coolness.
THE REBEL FORCE.
The following Confederate forces were opposed to us, and possibly others of which we
did not learn: - 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th Florida Infantry; 1st and 2nd Florida Cavalry; Clinch's Cavalry; 1st Battalion of Florida Artillery (Gamble's); 64th, 6th,
32nd and 19th Georgia Infantry;
4th Battalion of Georgia Cavalry; 1st
Georgia Regular Infantry; 1st Regiment of Confederate Infantry, (regular army); and another battalion of Regular Artillery. We captured a few prisoners, and one deserter has come in, all of whom report the enemy badly used, with an immense number of casualties. That they were considerably used up is evident from the fact that they made no attempt to follow us up on our retreat, when, determined attack might have resulted in a total rout.
The troops were held exceedingly well in hand, and perfect control of them was generally
General Seymour, always brave, cool, quick in his perceptions and in forming his
judgement, stands higher than ever with his troops. Through the fight he was in its midst,
never excited while his officers and men were falling. That he got out of a very bad scrape
exceedingly well, is admitted by everyone. Gen. Seymour never shirks responsibility, and I believe
that he does not divide them in this case at all. At any rate General Gillmore is not responsible for
the disaster, I understand that he disapproved of the advance, and I know that when he learned it
was contemplated, he sent his Chief of Staff down with instructions forbidding it, but he arrived
the evening of the battle.
That Gen. Seymour did what he considered his duty, no one who knows him and
appreciates him will question, or that he is an officer of great ability. Whether this move was a
fault or misfortune, it is not my province to decide, but I know all intelligent and patriotic people
will sympathize with him in either case, in whatever light the affair is viewed Gen. Gillmore's
superior ability is more than ever apparent. I judged that this reverse will soon be redeemed, for I
know we have the Generals and the troops to do it if there is the least opening. One thing is
clearing shown - that the Florida Loyalist will not be in the least serviceable till the rebel troops
are whipped completely out of the State and then they will come out openly and anqualinedly
Union all over the State.
I have a full list of the casualties prepared and revised at the different headquarters last
night, with the exception of those in Col. Hawley's Brigade (7th Conn. And 7th N.H.) Which is ? On our extreme right, (this command had fifteen horses shot during the fight, and the list of
casualties in which had not been prepared at my last communication with it. As the list is very lengthy and his report is designed principally for New England readers, I shall only sent the complete list of casualties in the following Massachusetts regiments, being all the New England ones except the two above mentioned.
INDEPENDENT BATTALION OF MASS. CAVALRY.
Co. A - James A. Barns, gun-shot wound in face, serious.
Co. B - John H. Lamson, shot in right leg and missing.
Co. C - O.D. Pratt, wounded in left hand, slightly; F.E. Willis, bugler, compound fracture of arm, and wound in side, mortal.
Co. D - George S. Bowman, gun-shot wound in face; J.A. Earle, bullet in leg.
FORTIETH MASS. REGT. (Mounted Infantry.)
Co. A - Lieut. Chas. B. Lathe, and Sergt. A.R. Durham, wounded.
Co. B - Sergt. Chas. Pickett, Corps, Samuel Davis and Park, Brennan wounded.
Co. C - Private Michael Welch, wounded.
Co. E - Corps. A.M. Perkins and Edward Hoxie, and Private George Hinckley, wounded.
Co. F - Samuel Richardson and Wm. B. Oliver, wounded.
Co. G - Daniel E. Bendix, W.H. Hodgkins, Theo. H. Buck, H.M. Call, wounded.
Co. H - Wm. H. Rogers, Edwin H. Lane, E.A. Freeman, - Hanlin, wounded.
Co. I - Private Frank Alger, Killed; Corporal Walter W. Flanders and B. Manimon, wounded.
Co. K - Corp. Charles H. Henderson, killed; Corps. J.W. Ferguson and George Glidden, Privates, Samuel O. Cratis, F.W. Howland, John Brown, A.M. Spiller, Ephraim Hathaway, wounded.
This regiment had 31 horses killed.
FIFTY-FOURTH MASSACHUSETTS (8 Companies.)
Co. B, Killed - Corp. Geo. Morris, Wounded - Sergt. Jay, in right hand; Corp. L. Glasgow, in neck; Corp. Anderson, in left arm; Privates, Oscar Crozler, right hand; Goe. Brown, left hand; Thomas Cooper, left shoulder; Alexander Hammond, right hand; James Howard, do.; Wm. Vanalstyne, severely in back; Jeremiah Parker, left arm; Total, 1 killed, 10 wounded.
Co. C. Killed - Corporal James Gooding and Private Lewis C. Green. Wounded - Lieut. E.G. Tomlinson, severely in left foot; Sergt. A Williams, severely left hand; Privates, Joseph T. Wilson, abdomen, probably mortally; Joseph Evens, severely in left leg; Chas. Fennimore, severely in right ankle; Francis Murphy, very severely in right leg; William Scott, seriously in left hand; Charles Lennsalaer, slightly in right arm; Missing - James H. Buchanan. Total - 2 killed, 8 wounded, 1 missing.
Co, D. Killed - Wm. Thomas. Wounded- 1st Sergt. Albert D. Thompson, slightly in wrist; Privates, Peter Hopkins, severely in face; Wm. Nesbit, do.; Ira Hawkins, slightly in foot; Oliver Hazzard, slightly in leg; James Warrich, slightly in leg. Missing - Privates T. Delaney and Wyncoop. Total - 1 killed, 6 wounded and two missing.
Co. F. Wounded - Sergt. Steven A. Swailes, severely in right temple; Corp. H. T. Peal, severely in neck; Thos. Rice, severely in right hand; William Henry, do.; John Tucker, severely in right leg; Wm. Mitchell, legs broken and missing; Total - 6 wounded, and one of them missing.
Co. G. Killed - Privates Geo. H. Stuart and John Miller. Wounded and missing - Edward Johnson. Wounded - Corp. John L. Barker, slightly in right thigh; Privates - Jas. Anderson, slightly in right knee; Aaron Cummings, severely in right leg; Wm. A. Cunningham, contusion right breast; Geo. Ellender, contusion right breast; L. Howard, severely in right thigh; H. Jackson, severely in right shoulder; Geo. Reynolds, slightly in right hand; John Simms, severely in right knee; Samuel Smith, contusion of right knee and shoulder; John Sword, contusion right shoulder. Total - 2 killed, 11 wounded, 1 wounded and missing.
Co. H. Wounded - Sergeant Daniel Brown, left breast, slightly; Private Wm. H. Brooks, twice in right leg, severely; Silas Galloway, severely in right foot; John Johnson, left side severely; Richard Ridgely, neck, severely. Total - 6 wounded.
Co. I. Wounded and Missing - Corporal Robert J. Jones, dangerously, in back; Private Wm. Christie, arm and breast, severely. Wounded - Chas. Murphy, severely in left hip; Henry Hawkins, slightly in right wrist; Jefferson Teel, slightly in left hand; Stephen Terry, severely in right arm; Joseph Christie, slightly in head; George Morse, contusion right side; Thos. Bowman, slightly in left leg. Total - 9 wounded, 2 of them missing.
Co. K. Killed - Corporal Uriah Wilson; Privates, Joseph Artis, Jason Champlin, Wm. D. Morris, J.W. Winslow. Missing - Geo. Smith, Wounded - Capt. Richard H.L. Jewett, severely in right hand; 1st Lieut. Henry W. Littlefield, severely in right hand; Sergt. James C. Hewett, severely in right wrist; Corp. Ishmael Palmer, severely in right hand; Corp. Samuel Stevenson, slightly in chin; Corp. Thomas Hewett, severely in right wrist; Privates Wm. Barrett, slightly in head; Chas. H. Dorts, severely in left hand; Alexander Gaines, dangerously in head; Robert McJohnson, dangerously in left leg. Total - 5 killed, 1 missing, 12 wounded.
Unassigned Recruit - Emery Anderson, slightly in leg.
Total in Regiment - Killed, 11; Wounded and Missing, 4; Wounded, 3 officers and 64 men; Missing, 4; Total - 86. Three corporals were hit while carrying the State flag; 1 was killed and 2 wounded.
Below will be found lists of casualties among the officers of the 7th N.H. and 1st N.C., the latter of which I furnish because most of them are from Massachusetts.
SEVENTH NEW HAMPSHIRE.
Acting Adjutant Taylor, supposed killed; body not recovered.
Capt. Clifford, wounded in leg.
Lieut. Roberts, wounded and left on field.
Lieut. Arling, wounded badly in knee; feared mortally.
Lieut. Farley, taken prisoner; supposed wounded.
The lost of the 7th N.H. was about 150. The following are some of the names: - Dennis Shaw, A, thigh; H. Maynard, C, arm; John Van Vost, D, leg; John Burns, D, arm; T.H. Smithington, Sergt., B, right thigh; Corp. W.H. Hayes, B, back and hip; G.A. Curtis, D, ankle; C.D. Catlis, B, back; D.G. Higgins, F, head; Chas. Pyer, B; A.F. Hill, H, foot; W. Clifford, left side.
Surgeon W. W. Brown accompanied the regiment into the fight, took the best of care of the wounded, assisted in taking them back to Jacksonville and was then placed in charge of a large hospital, where he was unceasing in his care of his patients.
FIRST NORTH CAROLINA COLORED REGIMENT.
Major Archibald Bogie, Boston, killed; Capt. Charles A. Jones, Massachusetts, killed; Lieut. Col. Wm. N. Reed, New York, mortally wounded in head; Capt. Jaiam Gates, Worcester, Mass., seriously in right arm; Capt. Edward S. Daniels, Cambridge, Mass.; slightly in left leg; Capt. James E. Armstrong, Boston, Mass., buck-shot through upper lip, now on duty.
1st Lieut. And Adjutant Wm. C. Manning, Portland, Me., severely in right foot.
1st Lieut. John D. Mirick, Worcester, Mass., dangerously in right lung.
1st Lieut. Marshall N. Rice, Mass., slightly in left leg.
1st Lieut. Clark H. Remick, Chelsea, Mass., slightly in left leg.
2nd Lieut. Henry E. Burton, Hartford, Conn., severely in left leg.
2nd Lieut. Caleb B. White, Mass., slightly in left arm, now on duty.
Total - 2 officers killed, 10 wounded; 27 enlisted men killed; 133 wounded; 70 missing. - Total Casualties - 242.
Capt. Jack Hamilton, Battery E, U.S. Artillery, wounded in arm and thigh; Col. Moore, 47th N.Y., in arm; Col. Seammans, 115th, severely in foot; Col. Fribley, 8th U.S. Colored troops,
killed; Capt. Dunbar, 48th N.Y., badly wounded in thigh; Capt. Arnold, 47th N.Y., killed.
The 7th Conn. Had a considerable amount of casualties, which I regret my inability to obtain.
Lt. Col. Jas. F. Hall, of Gen. Gillmore's Staff, Provost Marshal General, went into the fight on Gen. Seymour's Staff, and did efficient service, assisting materially by his coolness and intrepidity. He had his bridle-reins shot off, received a bullet through the skirt of his coat and escaped himself as if by a miracle. One of his body guard, Benj. F. Hoxie, of the 3rd N.H., wounded in thigh, fatally it is feared, and captured. One horse killed.
I could write a column of narrow escapes, thrilling incidents and miscellaneous paragraphs, but space forbids.
THE SANITARY COMMISSION.
I should not be doing justice if I omitted to mention the Sanitary Commission and its noble deeds. Mr. A.B. Day, the Agent at Jacksonville, rushed to the very front, and most assiduous in his attention to the wounded, regardless of danger or toil.
In company with Mr. Taylor, the head of the Christian Commission here, and Chaplain Haskell, of the 40th Mass. Regiment, who also deserves much credit, he remained behind, looking after the wounded, at the imminent danger of being captured; and they did not leave till every wounded man was started ahead of them.
At Ten Miles Run, the locomotive on the railroad broke down, and these gentlemen, with a detachment of the
faithful Mass. 54th, pushed the car containing the wounded, to Jacksonville,
ten miles. The Sanitary Commission cannot be to much praised, and that is the language of every one.
Their stores have made a poor wounded soldier comfortable and thankful. In this connection perhaps it is proper that I should remind the Boston branch of the commission that warm weather is coming on, and ice is much needed in the hospitals of this Department.
THE TOTAL LOSS.
The casualties of a serious character in the late fight, as reported officially, will amount to short of one thousand, a large proportion of whom are slightly wounded, and many of whom are still on duty. Many of the missing will come in.
SUMMARY EXECUTION OF THREE MASSACHUSETTS NEGROES.
Some days since three Negroes of the 55th Mass. Regiment committed rape on a white women living on the line of the expedition. Gen. Seymour summoned a drum-head court martial, the men were convicted on their own confession, and sentenced to be hung. The sentenced was executed the day after the offence was committed. I could not learn the names of the parties. One of them died a very hard death, but none of them got any sympathy. Two of the court who condemned them were officers of the negro regiments.
Hilton Head, S.C., Feb. 26. Most of the wounded have been brought here or taken to Beaufort, and the balance well provided for at Jacksonville. Dr. J.J, Craven, Medical Purveyor of the Department, put up several hundred on the steamer Dictator, and during the whole trip was
most assiduous in his attention to them. He dressed many wounds, and personally examined the case of every man on board. Capt. Blakeman, Commander of the steamer, deserves great credit for his conduct. Dr. Balkley, of the Cosmopolitan, also merits much praise. M.
The above article, is from the Boston Herald; March 2, 1864; pg. 4, col. 1.
It is made available here through the courtesy of Thomas Hayes.
Hayes is currently working on a historical reference work, "Letters of the Civil War," from the newspapers of the cities and towns of Massachusetts. He has researched the Boston Herald, Chelsea Telegraph and Pioneer, Dedham Gazette, Roxbury Gazette, Randolph Transcript, Worcester Transcript and the Malden Messenger. He says, "I have filed, by date, a little over 3,300 letters. These are from the Soldiers, Sailors, Nurses, Correspondents and Politicans. This project started out as a simple endeavor to find that one letter from my Grandfather, Walter A. Hewes, who served in the 1st Mass. Infantry and 4th Mass. Cavalry. To date, no luck, but I have about 30 more papers to research."
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