Major General Gillmore
Commanding Officer, U.S. Forces, Department of the South
questions Brigadier General Seymour's intentions in Florida
and lists his own aims for the Florida Expedition


Headquarters, Department of the South
Hilton Head, S.C. February 18, 1864

Brig. Gen. T. Seymour,

Commanding District of Florida, &c.:

I am just in receipt of your two letters of the 16th and one of the 17th, and am very much surprised at the tone of the latter and the character of your plans as therein stated. You say that by the time your letter of the 17th should reach these headquarters your forces would be in motion beyond Barber's, moving toward the Suwannee River, and that you shall rely on my making a display upon the Savannah River, with "naval forces, transports, sailing vessels,' and with iron-clads up from Wassaw, &c., as a demonstration in your favor, which you look upon "as of great importance." All this is upon the presumption that the demonstration can and will be made; although contingent not only upon my power and disposition to do so, but upon the consent of Admiral Dahlgren, with whom I cannot communicate in less than two days. You must have forgotten my last instructions, which were for the present to hold Baldwin and the Saint Mary's South Fork, as your outposts to the westward of Jacksonville, and to occupy Palatka, Magnolia, on the Saint John's. Your project distinctly and avowedly ignores these operations and substitutes a plan which not only involves your command in a distant movement, without provisions, far beyond a point from which you once withdrew on account of precisely the same necessity, but presupposes a simultaneous demonstration of "great importance" to you elsewhere, over which you have no control, and which requires the co-operation of the navy. It is impossible for me to determine what your views are with respect to Florida matters, and this is the reason why I have endeavored to make mine known to you so fully. From your letter of the 11th instant, from Baldwin (a very singular letter, by the way, and which you did not modify or refer to at all when you afterward saw me), I extract as follows:
I am convinced that a movement upon Lake City is not, in the present condition of transportation, advisable, and, indeed, what has been said of the desire of Florida to come back now is a delusion. This movement is in opposition to sound strategy, &c.
And again:
The Union cause would have been far more benefited by Jeff. Davis having removed this railroad to Virginia than by any trivial and non-strategic success you may meet. By all means, therefore, fall back to Jacksonville.
So much from your letter of the 11th; and yet, five (six) days later, you proposed to push forward without instructions and without provisions, with a view to destroying the railroad, which you say it would have been better for Jeff. Davis to have got; and furthermore, you say in your letter of the 16th:
There is but little doubt in my mind that the people of the State, kindly treated by us, will soon be ready to return to the Union; they are heartily tired of the war.
As may be supposed, I am very much confused by these conflicting views, and am thrown into doubt as to whether my intentions with regard to Florida matters are fully understood by you. I will therefore reannounce them briefly: First, I desire to bring Florida into the Union under the President's proclamation of December 8, 1863; as accessory to the above, I desire, second, to revive the trade on the Saint John's River; third, to recruit my colored regiments and organize a regiment of Florida white troops; fourth, to cut off in part the enemy's supplies drawn from Florida. After you had withdrawn your advance, it was arranged between us, at a personal interview, that the places to be permanently held for the present would be the south prong of the Saint Mary's, Baldwin, Jacksonville, Magnolia, and Palatka, and that Henry's mounted force should be kept moving as circumstances might justify or require. This is my plan of present operations. A raid to tear up the railroad west of Lake City will be of service, but I have no intention to occupy now that part of the State.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, Commanding.

Copied from The Official Records of the War of Rebellion.

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