Letter from Lt. Oliver Norton
8th United States Colored Troops

Jacksonville, Fla.,
Thursday, April 14, 1864.

Dear Mother:

Any news of special importance is simply out of the question. The rebels, after taking out of Florida all they cared for, have abandoned the state to the Yankee invaders. Only a few roving bands of cavalry remain.

This morning two regiments left us for the Army of the Potomac. Rumor said that all the white troops in this district were to be sent there, but I believe that is one of Madam's incredible stories. Certainly no others have orders yet.

The court-martial, which has been in session the last six weeks, was broken up by the departure of the judge advocate, who went with his regiment, but I hear it is the intention to appoint another to fill his place and continue the court.

Judging from appearances, it is not the intention to abandon this place soon. The general is having the streets replanted with shade trees in places where the fire killed them. Fatigue parties have been at work draining the swamps in the immediate vicinity, and they have succeeded well. A high signal tower has been erected to communicate with vessels outside the bar at the mouth of the river.

Jacksonville was before the war as large or larger than Jamestown, and built mostly of brick. Sutlers are doing a heavy business in the stores which survived the general wreck. Everyone is occupied and there are two eating places in operation. I notice one good thing - no liquor is sold in the town. Neither officer nor solider can get a drop. As a consequence nobody gets drunk, a very satisfactory state of affairs.

Beyond this there is little to say. The regiment, so far as I can judge by observation (having had nothing to do with it for the last six weeks), is improving rapidly. I think another fight will give them a different story to tell.

We have received a list of our wounded in the enemy's hands and find that quite a number supposed and reported to be dead are alive, and some left alive have since died. The furnishing this list was the act of Major General Patten Anderson, "Commanding Confederate States Forces in Florida," and was entirely of his own free will, and shows a disposition that I wish was more general.

Mr. Rockwood is the only useful chaplin I ever saw in the army. He is doing the regiment much good. Besides preaching he is furnishing the men books, teaching and encouraging them to read, and working as hard as any other officer to improve the regiment. He is very much liked, or at least respected in the regiment.

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Army Letters, 1861-1865 - by 1st Lieutenant Oliver Willcox Norton

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