This Memoir of James M. Dancy recounts his life before, during and immediately after the Civil War [or as he called it - the war of states' rights]. It was written in June 1933 when James Dancy, then 88 years old, was living in Brevard, North Carolina. Mr. Dancy's Memoirs were provided by Edgar L. Crossett of Atlanta, Georgia, his great grandson, who states that they originally were typed by his Aunt. Mr. Crossett writes, "My father, who is still alive and 80 years old, lived with Mr. Dancy when he was a child, and has vivid memories of tales of his Civil War experiences."
In an introductory letter to the memoirs, James Dancy writes, "This is written to show to my children and grandchildren my firm belief that my Heavenly, Almighty, and Everlasting God is ever present with us if we will
only call upon Him in Spirit and in Truth."
As with many accounts written by participants, even shortly after a battle, the following has some historical inaccuracies. However, the personal recollections of James M. Dancy are an invaluable account of one young
man's experiences in pre-war and war-torn Florida. As such, I felt it necessary to reproduce here the entire memoir and not just the portion relating to the Battle of Olustee. The following is reproduced exactly as
typed by Mr. Crossett's aunt in 1933. Typos that I have identified are followed by "[sic]". - Thomas R. Fasulo - Webmaster
James M. Dancy's Memoirs
June 30, 1933
Life reminiscences of James M. Dancy, who first saw the light of day at Buena Vista on the east bank of the St. Johns River, on the 15 day of January, 1845; son of Francis L. and Florida F. Dancy; now at this date
eighty-eight and one-half years of age, writing this without glasses.
My father came to Florida as a United States Officer (a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in the class of 1828) after his marriage to Florida F. Reid, daughter of Judge Robert
R. Reid of Augusta, Georgia (afterwards territorial Governor of Florida from 1839 to 1842) (was stricken in Tallahassee, Florida, with two of his daughters, Elizabeth and Rosalie, with yellow fever).
My father had as his mechanic an elderly man, who used a pit saw. This saw was about nine feet long and perhaps twelve inches wide at the handle and, tapering down to a point. It had to be used by hand to saw logs into boards in a pit; thence the name. These boards were used for door and window casings for our residence.
This residence was constructed of hewn 1ightwood sills upon lightwood blocks about three feet high. The walls were pelled cypress logs. This residence is fifty feet in length by twenty feet in width with a ten-foot hallway and a twelve foot piazza, front and back. This entire structure was put up without nails. All casings were put in with wooden pegs. This building was erected in the year 1844 and is still standing at this date, as sound as ever.
Our carpenter constructed the corn-sheller — a large, solid wheel with flattened heads of nails driven in rows across the entire face of the wheel. A frame was built for the wheel to revolve on; a trough was erected the length of the width of this wheel, close enough so that when an ear of corn was dropped into this trough and the wheel turned, it would take the grains of corn off the cob. The grains would fall into a
receptacle. Then he made a solid bed of sawed timber twelve inches thick, out of which he cut a circular center for two stone rollers to fit in. These stone rollers were about three inches thick; the top one had a
hole in the center to put the gain in, and a small hole for a spike to fit in on the edge of the stone. This heavy frame was set on legs and placed between two posts, on top of which was a heavy piece of timber with a hole out through it. A pole with a spike in the upper end of it was put through the hole. The spike end was then placed in the hole in the upper round stone. Shelled corn was inserted in the receptacle; the hand
organ was turned, and corn, crushed into grist and meal, would begin to flow into a receptacle below.
After the war of states' rights, we used a different hand organ to make our grist and meal. This was a hopper machine with two handles, and, oh, how I did hate for grinding time to come. But we had to eat then the
same as we do now. But now we can just step to the store and get what we want without the use of the hand organs.
Of course I was no different from any other boy. I tooka [sic] great fancy to the old carpenter, and he to me. I was always just at his heels. After he had supplied everything necessary at the home, my father gave him the task of putting up living quarters for the negro slaves at the farm. One night he came in and asked me it I did not want to accompany him next morning and spend a day or two with him. So of course I, as all children would be, was eager to go. I made the trip out all right. He, of course, was busy at his work all day; hence, he paid but little attention to me. But when he came in to get his supper, I did not want any. I felt sick, and began to cry to go back home. He tried in every way to pacify me, but it was no use. So, while the wolves were howling along the road, he took me on his back, and with a light in his hand carried me back home. You may be sure he never did again ask me to go out to the farm.
My earliest recollection of school was a split board shack on the east bank of the St. John's R ver [sic] about one-fourth of a mile up from our home and about the same distance down from our nearest neighbor, Morecio Sanchez and his family of two sons, Emanuel and Henry, and three daughters, Panchita, Deloris, and Eugenia, as scholars. Our first teacher was a tall thin elderly woman, an old maid sister of, my father's, Elizabeth Dancy, from Tarboro, North Carolina. I do not recall how many years she remained our teacher.
The neat teacher was a large, stout Englishman, who had resided in Boston, Massachusetts, for some years. He was very fastidious about his eating, especially meat, it must be hung up in the shady air until he could begin to see it move about, then it was to be takes down and cooked. Of course no one but he would eat it. And poultry must be treated in the same way. They must be tied up by the tail feathers until they dropped out. I do not think he remained as teacher very long.
Our next teacher, a young New Yorker threatened with consumption, was just from college. In a short time he regained his health entirely. One night my father was awakened by loud singing and by the voice of some one leading in prayer out at the servant's quarters. He went out and found our teacher, Mr. Benjamin W. Thompson, having a prayer meeting with the serrvants. This was more than my father's hot Southern blood could stand. He broke up the meeting. Next morning at breakfast he informed the young man that he could pack up his belongings and leave. This he did. He went Fernandina, Florida, where he had friends, and obtained a position which retained until out war and secession was declared. He went back home to New York, where he went into a U. S. Volunteer army and was promoted to a brigadier generalship. After the war he sent to my brother Benjamin, for (he claimed) his name's sake, the first ten-dollars greenback we saw after the' war.
My next schooling was during the early stages of our war in 1862. My father took me by Savannah, where he had to get a permit from the commanding officer to take me on to Athens, Georgia, where I was left at a private school managed by a principal, A, M. Scudder. I was there for eight months. This was really the only schooling I ever received.
I returned by way of Augusta, where, on the sand hills nearby where the MaLaws lived (relatives of my mother) I saw General Lafayette MaLaws in his Confederate uniform. He was a mayor general then, assigned to Gen.
Joseph E. Johns 's [sic] army then in Tennessee. I spent several days there with his family.
On my arrival at home near my eighteenth birthday I took one of our woods-raised ponies and rode into Capt. J.J. Dickinson' camp at Rallston on the banks of the St. Johns River six miles above our home, and enlisted in his company. They were then preparing to move camp across the river by Sweetwater Branch back of Palatka, where we made camp. Next day we had Inspection of horses and equipment. I was notified that I would have to have a heavier horse, as the one I had was too light for service, and that I must get another as soon as possible. I was called to picket duty next morning with the squad and was ordered to repair to a landing at the Rosignol place near the mouth of Rice Creek, five miles below Palatka.
About Midday a fews [sic] days later, the man on look out reported a Federal gun boat steaming up the river about twenty miles below. This was reported to headquarters, and we were instructed to hold ourselves in
readiness to return to camp and prepare for action in the event of an attempt of the Federal fleet to land their troops at Palatka. Our company was divided into two detachments: one located to the right, up the river on a bluff, under the command of our Captain J. J. Dickinson; the other, in which I was, was under First Lieutenant McCardle and was located in a ditch down the river, back of Teasdale and Reid's wharf and warehouse. All night as we lay in this ditch we could hear, across the river, workmen, constructing a temporary wharf for the purpose of taking on the one thousand negro troops with white officers which had been landed at Federal Point, Cornelius Dupont's wharf.
This expedition was sent out from the Federal headquarters in Jacksonville for the express purpose of capturing my father, F. L. Dancy.
Fortunately for him, he had decided the day before to move his family and servants from the old home on the bank of the river to the plantation two and one-half miles back. As soon as the Federal gun boat approached this wharf, Cornelius Dupont, a neighbor living there, mounted his horse and rode as fast as he could to the plantation, where he notified my father of the landing of the troops. My father sent little William Dancy (later Dr. Dancy) and one of the small negro boys to the top of a corn house nearby to watch the road to the river, and to notify him when the troops came in sight. Instead, the boys became busy at play and forgot their
mission. Father was talking to Mr, Dupont, who was still on horseback, when the latter looked up. There in full sight were the glistening rifles of the oncoming troops. Mr, Dupont put spurs to his horse and dashed off
back through the swamp on a road by which he had come. My father, terrified, of course, called to the boys, who lost no time in getting down and running to the negro quarters, where dinner was, being prepared. Father gathered the two families, white and black, who then ran across the open field. Just as they reached the back fence near the wood, the Federal troops reached the quarters and opened fire upon the fleeing family. My father was the last to enter the woods to safety.
The enemy did not pursue, but stopped at the quarter where the dinner was ready and soon made an end to that . They next caught all the poultry ducks and chickens, pigs, etc., and loaded them upon an old mule, which we called Buster. Very soon, however, even with the bayonet's prodding, they could not make him keep up. Accordingly, they killed him, and loaded the plunder upon the men.
My father had left one of our able-bodies [sic] men slaves as a picket. The troops had avoided him in coming out but took him as they went in. In.a few weeks he was enlisted in the Federal Army.
They marched up to where the wharf had been constructed that night. Next morning, just at daylight, the gun boat steamed up to Teasdale and Reid's dock, put out lines, made fast, and began to run out cannon on
gangplanks. Several men, not soldiers, came out in the street in plain view of us. Of course they did not see us in the ditch. Of a sudden there was a report of small arms from J. J. Dickinson's detachment. The men ashore ran for their lives. Capt. Dickinson could see cannon being unloaded; consequently, he decided to put a stop to this and opened fire. Hawsers were chopped in two on board ship. Engines began to turn, and the ship moved out into the channel. The next moment, shells began to explode. Capt. Dickinson's squad, after firing, started for our camp. We were the last to pass under the shell fire, one shell exploding under a corner of the building behind which we took refuge. About half way out to our camp a twenty inch shell struct [sic] a large pine tree about thirty feet from the ground, exploded, and tore that tree to splinters. That was the last shell fired, and we were safe in our camp.
I received word from my father that he and the family had safely crossed the river on a flatboat from Forester's Point on the East side to a place called Number Ten directly opposite on the west bank, and that he
wished me to join him on the intersection of the river road with the road that would carry him west to Starke. As my horse was too light for calavery [sic] service, I had no trouble in getting permission from my company commander for a thirty days leave of absence in which to obtain a heavier horse. Accordingly, next day I met my father with his teams at the intersection named, and we proceeded on our way to Columbia county. All the men, both white and black, were walking with heavily loaded teams, both horses and mules, and often it was slow going.
Our first night camping out was on a stream out of Kingsley's Pond, as it was then called. Not accustomed to taking such tramps, I was chafed so badly that I took my clothes off and waded out into the water, where I
stayed for an hour or more. On my return to camp my Mother had some cornstarch (or meal) ready for me to apply to my chafe. Of course I slept soundly after my experience of two nights and days in Palatka. My chafe next morning was gone, and, though I tramped with the teams two days more before we reached our destination in Columbia County, I was not troubled any more.
We were located there on a large plantation, which included a dwelling house, out houses for slaves, barns, and a lot for stock. As soon as spring opened, the crops were planted, and real farming was begun.
My thirty-days' leave would soon expire. Since my Father had no money with which to purchase a larger horse, I had to look to some other branch of the service. I heard in Lake City that Capt, Joe Dunham of
Appalachicola was dividing his command with his first lieutenant, Capt. Able. The command was then in camp at Three-mile Branch on Price's Farm, near Jacksonville, Florida. My father and I took a train at Lake City to see Capt, Dunham, who at one accepted me as a member of his artillery company. There followed a transfer from Dinckinson's Cavalry to Dunham's artillery, where I served to the end of the War.
Before entering upon my War record, I shall go bask to the effect of that Federal expedition which caused my Father and family to break up their home. In the year 1858 my Father was appointed by President Buchanon United States Surveyor General of Florida, with headquarters in one wing of the United States barracks in St. Augustine, Florida. My brother next in age older than I, Robert F. Dancy, was selected by my Father as chief clerk in his office, while a nephew, Edwar Foxhall, of Tarboro, North Carolina, was chosen as draftsman to make up maps of surveys as made by U. S. Deputy surveyors in the field (the latter were sent out by contracts with the then Surveyor General). In the general election of 1860 the Democratic candidate for President was defeated, and Abraham Lincoln, Abolitionist, was elected President. This administration, headed by Abraham Lincoln, who was assisted by William H. Sewar [sic] and E. M. Staunton (the then Secretary of War) — all the bitterest enemies of the South's advancement and wealth — would listen to no arbitration of the question of disagreement. Instead, they forced a war by ordering an army to capture Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Did they capture it? No! The loyal citizens of that state, the very first to secede from the Union, arose in arms and defended that fort to the last. However, it was demolished. A lthough [sic] my Father was holding a Federal office, he was a true Southern gentleman. He saw no way other than secession, in which he believed and for which he fought. At one [sic], despite the protest of the U. S. Custodian of the barracks, he turned over the United States Surveyor General's office to the Commission of Lands of the State of Florida, and offered his services to Jefferson Davis, the President of the Thirteen Confederate States. For this act my Father was the mark aimed at when the expedition of the thousand colored troops with white officers was sent up the St. Johns River from Jacksonville to capture him. But it was not to be his fate. As shown in after years, Reast [sic] Butler, the commanding official in New Orleans, was allowed to place our President Jefferson Davis, in irons in a dungeon of Fortress Monroe, Virginia.
My Confederate War Services.
My artillery service began in camp at Miles Price's Farm on Three-mile Branch, west of Jacksonville. In this encampment was the largest part of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan's Florida army, consisting of artillery, infantry, and cavalry. About five thousand men were called a brigade.
We had been there only a short time when Able's Battery of four twelve-pound guns received orders to join Gen. Joseph E. Johnson's army, then stationed at Murphreesboro, Tenneeee. The train to convey them was at White House station on what is now the Seaboard Railway. The men and guns were already loaded on the cars when one of the Picket family appeared at the officers' car and insisted upon boarding the train. The guard called Capt. Able, who was in command. The latter told Mr. Picket that it was against military orders to allow a civilian to ride on a military train. Picket insisted on boarding the train, putting his foot on the car steo,; whereupon, Capt. Able ordered the guard to put him off. As the order was executed, Picket cursed the officers. The train pulled out for Lake City, where it was to spend the night. Picket rushed to his stable nearby; where his horse was, saddled the beast, mounted, and rode at a gallop to Lake City. The train had. arrived, and Capt. Able had
gone to the Cathy Hotel to get his supper. He was sitting in the drawing room, waiting to be called, when Picket entered the door, with a cowhide in one hand and a pistol in the other. He cursed Capt. Able and told him he had come to get satisfaction for having him put off the train. Advancing with the cowhide in his hand, he raised it to strike the Captain. As Able was unarmed, he reached back and caught the chair he had been sitting in to defend himself. Before he could use the chair, Picket shothim [sic] five times in his body, and, walking up to the body where it fell, cursed, and kicked it. Then he tuned and walked out, mounted his horse, and rode leisurely back to hom [sic] home at White House sixty miles away.
Naturally, the commanding officer was notified. Incensed, he ordered Picket to be arrested and tried by military court. Upon his arrest he was brought to Lake City, then the headquarters of the Florida Confederate Army. Picket, a civilian had wilfully premeditated and carried out the murder of a Confederate army officer. He took the advantage of waiving hasty trial, employing a civilian attorney to defend him in what he claimed [sic] a personal insult. As a result, he never went to trial, for thereason [sic] that Gen. Finegan's Brigade, which included Capt. Able's company, was ordered to join the army of Tennessee. Capt. Able's body was taken in charge by his brother-in-law, Thomas Roots, and buried at Appalachicola, Florida, their home.
Dunham's Battery was not included in the order to go west and before Finegan's Brigade left the state the army of invasion stationed in Jacksonville (Seymour's army) had made an unsuccessful raid on Gainesville and had been repulsed. Retreating to Baldwin twenty miles out of Jacksonville, they added reinforcements amounting to about twenty-five thousand men and prepared to go to Tallahassee by way of Lake City, our Headquarters. Our company was ordered to mobilize with our army of defense at Olustee. The entire force included these troops from Georgia: Col. Colquett's Brigade, the 32nd and 64th Infantries, cavalry under Gen. H. R. Jackson and Duncan Clinch, and Dunham's and Bruice's Light Artillery; the following Florida troops: Finegan's Brigade, Smith's Infantry, Dickinson's Chamber's, and Scott's Cavalry. The commander of the Georgia troops was Gen. Colquitt; the commander of the Mississippi troops, Gen. G. P. Harrison. I will state here that a detachment of one hundred and fifty men of the First Georgia Regulars, sent from the army of Virginia under command of Major McGill, with company commander Capt. Cannon and Second Lieut. R. F. Dancy, were in line of battle at Olustee, Florida. The last named lieutenant was selected by Gen. George P. Harrison on his staff. My father, then in Lake City as C. S. Commissary Collector of the tax in kind, furnished the horse for him to
ride to the battle field. The Gen. and his staff were assembled nearly a mile from the enemy's front line. The enemy opened fire with twelve-pound shell artillery, and almost at the first fire a shell exploded in their
midst, and my brother, Robert F. Dancy, was struck in the left side b [sic] a piece of shell about the size of my fist, and was instantly killed, falling from his horse. His body was sent to the rear and taken in charge by his body servant, George, and brought to Lake City. His Captain Cannon was later killed in action, and both bodies are in one grave in Lake City, Florida.
The Federal Army, repulsed by our forces, threw away their arms and everything that would impede their hasty flight down the railroad to Baldwin, where the main body of their defeated army had assembled to await
Schuyler's. On their front line of battle at Olustee was a picked regiment of one thousand colored troops under white officers. Of this regiment only twenty-seven soldiers were captured and brought into the hospital in Lake City. The rest fell before their pickets could notify them to unstack their arms to defend themselves. The opening fire of the gallant 32nd Georgia Regiment, the finest body of men I ever saw in line, and the short distance between the forces, were so effective that very few escaped instant death. This repulse was the last attempt of the Federal commander to reach Tallahassee.
After this we were moved West on the outskirts of Lake City to camp in Ross's field. In this enclosure were all species of farm and domestic animals — cattle, sheep, hogs, etc. I had a colored boy as body servant and cook. One morning he came to tell me that our mess cheat was too full of meat for thecover [sic] to shut down. I went to see what the trouble was. There I saw at leat [sic] one-half of a large hog. I was told by one of my mess to be quiet. He explained that a raiding party had been out that night and had killed and cleaned one of Ross's fattening hogs. Several days after, it appeared that the Confederate Commissary supply department was located in an old storage warehouse near the railroad depot. The train would being in cars loaded with government supplies. The commissary captain would ask for a detachment of the men in camp to unload these cars. Part of this detachment was of our company. They found while they were storing supplies in this warehouse that the only fastening to the back door was a bar from one casing across to the other, placed behind loops, leaving a crack between the doors wide enough to insert a chisel and lift the bar out of the loops. As the door was wide open, they could easily load a wagon with just such supplies as they wished. One of my mess assisted in doing this. One morning my servant came to me with the same complaint about the mess chest. I went to it and found it was as full of sides of bacon, hams, etc., as it had been before. Very soon the commissary captain discovered the thefts and put bolts above the bar at each end to keep it from being lifted.
About this time we received notice that a Federal expedition was going up the St. Johns River. The purpose was to locate four or five river steamers that had been taken up the St. Johns to Dunn's Creek, a stream flowing into Lake Crescent (in old times called Dunn's Lake). A stream emptying into this lake was called Haw Creek from the fact that it flows from a large haw bush prairie. The creek at its mouth is very deep, and the steamers were sunk in the deep water. Our one gun battery under command of Second Lieut. Mortimer Bates was ordered to Palatka. We took train to Waldo and arrived there in the afternoon. We were ordered to walk, as the road part of the way was heavy sand. When the command started, I did not move from the railroad platform (I had been suffering with my feet and did no feel that I could undertake a walk of forty miles), expecting my sergeant to order me to do so. He went off without coming near me. As it was past the dinner hour, and I had eating nothing, I got my body servant to hunt up a colored cook in town to bake us a pone of corn bread (we had plenty of meal). He did so, and we ate heartily.
About that time the train for Lake City by Baldwin came along, and we took that back to Lake City. As Dr. A. S. Baldwin was our surgeon in charge of the hospital there, I reported to him next morning and was assigned to bed. After my feet were examined, I was put under treatment for a few days. Next morning a messenger came to me from headquarters with a note saying that Lieut. Bates had given notice that I had deserted my command and that I had better get busy and join it at once. I got my discharge from the hospital and took the train to join my company at Palatka. I left Lake City with my body servant by train.
On arriving at Waldo in the afternoon I found Mr. Bunnell, my Father's man, in charge of teams that were engaged in collecting supplies of all kinds from the farmers — corn, fodder, hay, pork, bacon, and all
products of the farm, for the use of our troops. My Father, F. L. Dancy, was commissioned as captain, stationed in Lake City, and put in charge of this tax in kind in the commissary department. There teams were unloading the wagons and loading the cars when I arrived. I went to Mr. Bunnell and told him I wanted to ride on one of his wagons as far as the Orange Springs intersection with the Palatka road, as he had told me that he was going to Orange Springs that night. We put our luggage on the wagon. It was late in the afternoon when we started, and in the night, when the driver told me he was at the road intersection and pointed out the direction we should take to get to Palatka, we found the road plain to follow in the moonlight. After walking some distance we decided to camp on the road side until morning. At daybreak we woke and by roll call were
at our company camp on the Five-mile Pond west of Palatka.
On arriving I at once reported to my commissary sergeant for duty. He said that I could not answer at roll call for the reason that I had been reported to the commanding officer as a deserter from my command without leave. He would notify Lieutenant Mortimer Bates, in command of his detachment, and I could go to my companion's tent and await orders. I did so. First, having had no breakfast or supper the night before, I sent
my body servant to the commissary sergeant to draw some rations. He soon returned and prepared some breakfast. Very soon after breakfast the corporal of the day guard called for me and said Lieut. Bates ordered me put under arrest for ten days. I would not be called to answer roll call or do any camp duty, but my punishment would be to take all the small arms belonging to the company and clean them up bright for inspection. This my body servant did while I looked on —not very heavy punishment for me.
I was told by my mess mate that our detachment had been under fire from a Federal gun boat. An expedition had been sent from Federal headquarters in Jacksonville — one man of war and one small steamer, the
"Tender", — up the St. Johns River and Dunn's Creek into Dnnn's Lake, now Crescent Lake, and from thence to the mouth of Haw Creek, a large stream. The owners of the river steamers had selected this deep water in which to sink their boats, five or six in number. The Federal expedition was to raise the boats for their use. With the "Tender" leading the way, they approached Horse Landing. Capt, Dickinson in command had been notified,
and he had ordered Lieut. Hates with his detachment and guns to proceed to Horse Landing and to conceal his gun on an elevated bluff on the bank of theriver [sic] . As the "Tender" came within range a double charge of twelve-pound canister fire was opened upon it, with the result that the rudder chain was shot in two and the steering gear was helpless. The "Tender" was drifted by the current onto a sand bar in the middle of the river. Our guns, both cannon and Springfield rifles, were making it too hot for those steamboat men. Then [sic] concluded that as the water was so shallow, they could escapte [sic] by going overboard and wading to safety on the opposite shore. After going overboard they found a deeper chancel then [sic] the one the boat was in. Many of them were drowned in this attempt. The captain and the remainder of the crew, seeing their situation, very soon ran up a white flag of surrender and were soon prisoners of war. The man of war, after firing several heavy shall — none of them near the mark — retired down the river. The prisoners, which included the captain and about thirty men, were conducted under guard to Capt. Dickinson's tent, and relieved of everything of value in their possession, It was reported that Capt. D. relieved the boat captain of five hundred dollars in greenbacks, but of course this could not be verified. Under heavy guard these prisoners were sent to the Confederate prison camp stockade at Andersonville, Georgia. The expedition having been turned back in their objective, the sunken steamers remained where they were until after the close of the War in 1865.
Our battery detachment vas ordered to Orange Springs. After remaining there ten days, my time of punishment being over, I was admitted to duty and roll call. We were ordered back to Lake City, and from there
to a point on the Suwannee River near the mouth of the Santa Fee [sic] River, where one of our blockade runners was unloading quartermasters' supplies — clothing, shoes, etc. Teams were there hauling them to Lake
City storage warehouses and returning loaded with cotton, which was being loaded on this steamer. The steamer in spite of the strict Federal blockade of all the Gulf ports had evaded the enemy and run in and out, but on the second attempt it was captured.
From here were ordered to Shell Point, near St. Marks, on the Gulf, to guard Confederate salt works making salt by evaporating Gulf water, and to guard fisheries where fish, principally mullet, were being caught and
dry-cured. One day in one haul of the seine I saw as many as forty barrels taken. I myself put up a wuantity [sic] for our family use at home. One morning what should appear close in but a blockade craft, a sail sloop, and anchored within less than a mile of the shore. Our commanding officer, Lieut. Bates, having no orders to fire upon them, dispatched a courier to Tallahassee ten miles away to get orders. The courier did not get back until late afternoon; said he got lost (which was not so). The wind sprang up; the blockade [sic] put up sail and moved out of reach. If we had had orders we could easily have sunk or captured that craft.
We were relieved from that duty and ordered to Chattachoochee, Florida. The Federal forces at Appalachicola had sent an expedition as high up the river as Ricoe's Bluff, captured our pickets there, destroyed bee gums and everything they could lay their hands on, and returned down the river. We were ordered to go down there and get the picket horses and bring them up to our camp. It was a bitter cold night. We rode down to a large creek we had to cross and found it out of its banks. We did not relish having to swim for horses, but we had orders to go, so in we went. We reached the opposite bank soaked to our skins. I never but once after came so near freezing to death. After riding for twenty miles near the bluff we came to a large pile of shavings made from juniper shingles. Without orders we got off our horses as best we could, struck a match, and soon had a glowing fire by which to dry. We remained by it until sunrise that morn before we mounted and rode to the bluff. As we approached we were warned by the humming bees, collected on broken gums, that they had
been disturbed enough. Our officer called to an old woman standing in her door, to know where the captured picket horses were. He [sic] reply was that she had them locked up in her lot and did not expect to give them to any rebel. Our officer told her he must take them to headquarters. She told him he would do so over her dead body. He placed her under arrest. The lot fence was taken down, and the horses haltered. No saddles or
bridles could be found. We took our way back to camp.
From that time on to the disbanding of our company, April 5, 1865, the most disagreeable service I was called upon to render was hunting deserters. Two Jackson County men in our company deserted and went home not far across the river from Chattahoochee. I was detailed with four others to capture them at night if possible. We would cross the river, ride out to near their homes, surround the house, knock on the door, and and [sic], when a light was secured (we generally carried light with us), see that no one was secreted in it. On one occasion as I approached the front of the house a very fierce dog came for me, I raised my gun with its iron ramrod and brought it down. The dog rurned [sic] back, but the rod went on and I have not seen it since.
On our next expedition a captain was sent with us with trained bloodd [sic] hounds to track the deserters down. We arrived before daylight in the vicinity of their homes. The dogs were released, and in passing an old mill house on the bank of a stream they struck a trail and dashed down a road leading from the mill house. With the captain in the lead we dashed after them. Very soon the dogs began to bay as though they had overtaken the object of their pursuit. They had. There with grave dug was a burial group ready to lower a body into a grave. Well, it any one could have seen the faces of those deserter hunters. With downcast heads we turned and made a bee line back to camp.
That was our last trip with dogs, but not the last for the captain and his dogs. The Federals had made a raid and driven in some [sic] our scouts further up the coast. The captain and his dogs were sent there, but, notified by deserters of his coming, the Federals had prepared a trap for them. They had his [soc] surrounded on all sides but one, and that they considered an inpentrable [sic] river swamp that no horseman could enter. It was impossible for horse, but not for man. When he saw the body of Federals coming, he opened fire upon them, turning his dogs loose. Leaving his horse, he called his dogs, entered the "impentrable" [sic] swamp, and concealed himself, his dogs still howling after him. There he remained until night. The. Federals, giving up the chase, returned without him to their quarters, He came out with one faithful dog. His horse gone, he made his way back on foot to his camp. All this time without food.
We were still in camp at Chattachoochee. About the 4th of April, 1865, our First Lieut. Rambo was ordered to join our calvalry [sic], then on picket duty at Newport on the St. Marks River. They went. Very soon reports came that the Federals were launching troops at the mouth of that river for the purpose of going to Tallahassee. From that point they would have to come over an extensive marsh with deep streams to get to highland at New port [sic], Scott's, Simmons', and other calvalry [sic], with some infantry, new issue (men from fifty-five to sixty-five years of age and boys from fourteen to eighteen years of age), were the troops to meet this Federal expedition. Our Lieut. Rambo reported afterward that the Federal troops could be plainly seen coming steadily on, throwing up a passage and building bridges across this marsh. He had his gun in position ready to open fire at the moment he was ordered to do so. He never received orders at all. The infantry, and calvalry [sic] left him. The enemy was then near enough to open fire orb him with shall [sic] arms. he [sic] ordered his men to rush in. limber [sic] up the gun, and get out. They got out, fortunately with the limber and all the ammunition.
That branch of our army moved across St. Marks River at the Natural Bridge. We in came received orders to join them late one afternoon. Under command of Second Liet. [sic] Bates, We [sic], our three guns, and equipment, were loaded on trains at Chattachoochee late one afternoon, and, arriving at Tallahassee early next morning, we unloaded our guns and equipment. We were ordered to rush to the Natural Bridge, fifteen miles southeast from Tallahassee. On arriving we found the line of battle already formed. Our three guns were placed to the right of Bruice's Light Artillery; Bates' two guns immediately in front of the opening of the Natural Bridge road; Hines' gun to our right, which was supported by one company of dismounted calvalry [sic] and new issue directly under the command of Brigadier General Miller, the commander of the Confederate forces in this engagement. Very soon after our arrival our gun sergeant was ordered to load our guns, three in number, with double charges of
twelve-pound canister shells, and to be in readiness for the Federal advance, for our pickets were beginning to come in sight. Soon the Federal calvalry [sic] were seen. As soon as our pickets could get out of the range of our guns we opened fire. Of course the Federals, upon seeing our line of battle, wheeled their horses back without firing a gun. Capt. Simmon's [sic] calvalry [sic] company on our left charged after them. We heard some small-arm shots, and very soon some men came in sight with Capt. Simmons' body on a litter, said he had been shot in the charge. It was said afterward that he had been shot in the back by his own men.
We were watchful waiters. On our extreme right down the river a company of dismounted calvalry [sic] and a battalion of new issue were formed in line. The Federal pickets on the opposite bank of the river opened fire upon our flag and bearer. This flag was shot from its staff twice and replaced twice. The line was ordered to fall back, all under command of Gen. William Miller.
Many amusing incidents occurred on the new issue line. The new issue boys were armed with old smooth, bore muskets, iron ramrod, shooting a ball and three buck shots. I has amused at four of these boys behind a small tree, the front one with one of these muskets along side of the three, and the other three playing tag at his back. He fired the musket, which kicked him back, knocking those behind him down backward. All arose astonished; two of them ran off and the other two stayed to reload the musket. They did not attempt to fire it again.
About that time the Federals advanced their line, and we were called into action. For a short time they made it hot for us with small-arm fire and a seacoast howitzer, a six-pounder with shells. At times I was ammunition carrier from limber to gun. If I had put my hat out (but I did not wear one) I could have caught a hatfull of bullets, but I managed to escape every one, for which I was then and have been ever since very thankful. We silenced the gun and after the Federal retreat found that one of our solid twelve-pounders had struck the axle of the gun carriage and thrown it bottom-side-up in the mud.
A sharpshooter in a tall cypress got the range of Lieut. Hines' gun and with a globe-sighted rifle fired point blank three shots. One struck the axle; one struck the face of the gun; the third shattered the left arm
of the gunner, George Griffin. Our gun sergeant with his glass had located this sharpshooter by the puffs of smoke from a large cypress tree about a quarter of a mile away in the river swamp. He trained our gun, loaded with a twelve-pound solid shot, about fifty feet from the ground. After the report, no more shots were fired. After the retreat of the Federals some of our men went into the swamp and found the top of the cypress. Our solid shot had passed through the sharpshooters body, cutting it nearly in two. This proved what accurate gunners can do.
Some of our soldiers, native, knew of a foot-log below the Natural Bridge. The Federals had fallen back to the outside of the swamp on the road and had begun to throw up breastworks. About one hundred men were detailed under command of officers to dislodge the enemy. It was getting late in the afternoon when we heard an insistent roar of small arms across the swamp. We knew that our men had successfully crossed, but of the result of the firing we did not know. We had not long to wait. A courier from the commander came in and notified us that our men had come up in the rear of the Federal breastwork and after emptying their guns the Federal troops had fled in disorder, leaving their dead in our hands. We must make all haste in pursuit of the enemy. It was sunset the [sic]. On arriving at the breastwork where the dead lay, we saw about one-half mile in front of us the enemy's guns, glistening. It was said that our calvalry [sic] had cut off their retreat, and as a last resort they had formed a square in defense. As we drew nearer we saw this square dissolve; and the enemy went marching down the road. The calvalry [sic] commander said that he was too hard pressed and had to withdraw and let them go. All night we followed until about one o'clock, we bringing up the rear, until we reached Newport. The enemy did not halt even to relieve the pickets they had left there in the morning. We were exhausted from two nights and two days on the march — the train from Chattachoochee to Tallahassee, the unloading of guns, etc., a march of fifteen miles to Natural Bridge, the battle line and the enemy's fire all day, crossing the river at Natural Bridge, then until about one O'Clock A. M. the pursuit of the enemy. They took the one picket on duty at Newport and hastened their retreat fifteen miles to their gun boats. We rushed into a hotel at Newport and soon fell asleep. About daylight I was awakened by a bustle in the room; concluded it was our men and time to be on the move again.
To my surprise I saw Bluecoats going out of the open door and knew at once that we had been sleeping in the same room with the Federal Pickets. They, awakening, had discovered us. Fortunately, on our arrival our commanding officer had ordered pickets put on duty. The Federal Pickets did not know this and made a break to escape, but were fired upon by our picket. One was seriously wounded and surrendered with three others, who later proved to be deserters from one of our calvalry [sic] companies, Blocker's, then in our army and then with us. They were recognized by the men of their company. The colored sergeant had succeeded in getting across the picket line before he was seen running for his life by our cavalry. A detachment ordered after him
chased him for ten miles. He outran the Florida Cavalry ponies, but was finally run into a marsh where he had to surrender. He was the tallest Louisiana mallato [sic] I ever saw, over six feet tall. He was sent to
the rear, and that was the last I ever saw of him. The enemy had escaped. we were in complete possession of this entire expedition by the repulse of the Federal Army.
A military court martial was organized that same afternoon. These three Confederate deserters taken in Federal uniforms were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be shot at sunrise next morning. This was the most harrowning [sic] execution of military Justice that I ever witnessed. At daylight next morning all of our army there present, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, was formed into a hollow square. The three prisoners, under guard and blindfolded, were led out in front. Stakes or post were planed in the ground. The men, bound with stout cords, were tied to these posts. An officer distributed twenty-four rifles to a detailed detachment of twenty-four men from the army. Every other rifle was loaded with a fullcharge bullets [sic]; the other twelve with blank shells. At-the words "One, Two, Three, Fire!" they discharged their guns. The smoke cleared away. The man on the left crumpled, his head bowed limp in death. The next had pitched up, and he and his post lay still on the ground. The third in his dying moment was full of curses against all men. This was the closing event of my military career. I do trust that no one who is near and dear to me will ever witness this experience.
On our return to Tallahassee we were informed of Gen. Lee's surrender at Appommattox Court House, Virginia. On arriving at our camp at Chattahoochee we found our captain gone. Our First Lieut. Rambo did not return when he learned at Tallahassee that Lee had surrendered. Lieut. Bates, my commander, stopped at Quincy. Lieut. Hones was the only commissioned officer on hand. He told my mess mate and me that we could ride one of our horses to Tallahassee and there turn it in to the Federal forces occupying the capital. This I did. My mess mate, J. V. Baily, was from South Georgia. He therefore took my horse and the one he was riding to his farm there. It was years after before I again saw him, in Jacksonville, Florida. I had him sign my application to the state pension department for a pension.
I went from Tallahassee by train to Lake City, where my Father was stationed at the Confederate tax in kind commissary department. I found that he and his superintendent had his teams all ready to turn over to the proper authority.
It was not many days before I received word from the then Federal Headquarters that I, with all Confederates, must appear there and sign a paro [sic] and oath of allegiance to the United States. My train
entered the Lake City depot at the same time as the train from Tallahassee arrived, bearing white troops from Ohio with five provost guard. Almost at once the train from Jacksonville came in with one thousand colored
troops, white officers, colored band playing and flags flying from every coach. As the train came to a stop, the negro soldiers began to swarm off but were ordered back. Several made an attempt to board the Tallahassee
train over the white guard but were forced off, not before a rock of brick had been thrown at the white guard, one of whom was seriously hurt. They and their train pulled out and quiet was restored.
One coach was added to the train in which I was a passenger for Tallahassee. At every station from Lake City to Tallahassee the train was stopped and an announcement made through a megaphone to the negroes living on the plantations which lined the road that President Lincoln had declared them free and equal citizens with their white masters, and that as soon as possible the lands of their former owners would be divided into forty-acre tracts and given with a mule to the heads of all families.
After an all day's experience of this harangue we arrived late in the evening at Tallahassee. As far as I know I am the only survivor of this occasion. Next morning I appeared before the proper officer, M. D. Stearn, afterwards Carpet-bag Governor of Florida, for four years. When Harrison Read was appointed Governor, Stearns was appointed by the President of the United States Surveyor General of Florida.
Next day I took took [sic] the return train for Lake City. This train, more than thirty-two cars long, was full of Confederate soldiers from the army of Tennessee, Johnson's army. Men were-packed in coaches, in box ears with the sides knocked out and on top. I took my chance on top. Before we reached the Suwannee River bridge an [sic] trainman stopped the train and told us we would have to get off the top of the cars, as the roof of the bridge was too low for us to remain up there. We all crowded inside until the bridge was crossed. Then the train was stopped, and we climbed up on top again. Late that afternoon we slowed down for Lake City station. The family of one of the returning soldiers lived quite near the railroad. They were sitting on the piazza fronting the track. The soldier, seeing them, did not wait for the train to stop but dumped off, fell under the train, and was crushed to death in their sight.
My father met me at the station with a team and drove me out to our temporary home, the Olds Plantation in Columbia County, Florida. As it was about the middle of April, the crop had been planted. The slaves, notified of their freedom, entered into an agreement with my father to remain and make the crop for one-half the yield after harvesting.
My father had put the mules that he had in use as commissary man, in a high, fenced lot with stable buildings. One night he heard a disturbance among the mules. He went out but could see no cause. Hearing, several horses going off down the road, he hailed, and a rider came up to him. He explained that his friends had caused the distrubance [sic]. They had come to run the mules and sell them, as they would soon be turned over to the Federal government. My father told them that he was under oath to deliver them to the government and that they could not have them. They rode off with the expressed purpose of coming back again. My father had locks put on the lot gates, and that night the gates were locked. He stationed me and one of the negro boys about my age upon the stable roof, which was flat, to guard the mules with loaded guns. If any attempt was made by any one to enter the lot, we were to fire at them or into the ari [sic]. I do not know how long we remained awake, but we heard no one trying to get the mules.
When the crop was well made, my father wished to get things in shape at the old home, Buena Vista, on the St. Johns River. He selected me, my body servant, John Reid, and a negro man, Fortune Hill, to go down to
prepare the building for corn, etc., to be housed. In due time the crop was gathered, and the teams began to bring in the grain, mostly corn, of which we had enough to last us two years.
Of my life at the old home during the eleven years of Carpetbag rule and during the Reconstruction of the South, I have already written. My desire now is that my immediate family, children and grandchildren, shall
be informed of my opinion of the direct cause of the Civil War, as it was called by most writers. Not so. It was a war which could have been averted.
The presidential election in 1860 resulted in the victory of Abraham Lincoln, the bitterest enemy of. the South and of State's Rights, a right, guaranteed to each state by the makers of our Constitution. May [sic] of
the South's noblest were then representatives to Congress. Every effort was made by them to hold a joint conderence [sic] with the men then composing the power — Abraham Lincoln, President, Wm. H. Seward, Attorney General, E. M. Staunton, Secretary of War — and settle there the differences that then existed. Nut [sic] what did this Abolishionist [sic] Cabinet do but order the Secretary of War to send an army and naval
force to take and occupy one of the largest forts, of the South, Fort Sumter, at the entrance to Charleston harbor. Did they occupy it? No. Of course they could demolish it - which they did. But never could they
occupy it, for South Carolina and the South felt the indignity, and resisted this insult with much smaller forces and equipment to the last ditch. I think this move brought on the Secession of the thirteen Southern states, which, with Jefferson Davis President, were confederated at Montgomery, Alabama.
The first insult offered the South by our honorable President, Abraham Lincoln and endorsed by his cabinet was the Emancipation of our slaves. I say ours. Slavery was not a product of the South. We of the South, seeing the advantage of slavery in making a profit on our products, bought slaves from the North with good lawful money (mostly gold), paying millions of dollars into the northern coffers. Emancipation thus
confiscated in one swoop millions of dollars in property for which the North had received cash. They then enlisted and payed [sic] a fifty-dollar bounty to this freed property, forming an army of thousands of well armed men to desecrate Southern property and to give them the spoils. Poor ignorant colored folks.
The second insult was the confiscation of all Southern property, especially the seizure of six years' cotton crops in storage in Southern warehouses, amounting to millions of bales. A tax of one dollar and fifty
cents was exacted by the government. A tag was inserted in each bale before it could be shipped north on any transportation steamer. The writer has himself inserted hundreds of these tags which stole from the South millions of dollars of the only money product of the South. They repudiated our currency. It took years to grow any other product to get greenbacks with which to by [sic] necessities. I often say, until I believe it [sic] that this confiscated cotton was the beginning of millionaires in this America. Manufactures of cotton goods bought this cotton at their own price and sol [sic] the product at prices to make millions.
The writer has lived through this period. I sit and wonder when some one says bury the hatchet and let bygones be bygones. I wonder really how my South, my home and birthright, has attained the position we now occupy in this United States of America. Nothing but the indomitable will of a brainy people could attain it.
James M. Dancy
I am requested by my granddaughter, Elise Davis, to give before I close this, a more detailed account of my brothers and sisters. My parents, Francis L. Dancy and Florida. R. Dancy.
First child a girl, Lucy Anna Dancy
Second, two boys, twins; lived nine months.
Third, son. Edwin C. Dancy; died August, 1904.
Fourth, girl, Janette E. Dancy, spinster; lived to be eighty.
Fifth, son, Robert F. Dancy; killed February 5, 1864. [actually February 20, 1864 at Olustee]
Sixth, son, James M. Dancy, writer; eighty-eight
Seventh, son, David Yulee Dancy, died at sixty-nine
Ninth, son, Lafayette E. Dancy, died 1889, of yellow fever [He has skipped the eighth ???]
Tenth, son, Edward Dummet Dancy, still living, 1933
Eleventh, girl Lucy A, Dancy. L8Engle [sic], living.
Other Letters from Olustee
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