Initial Report from Brigadier General
Commanding Officer, U.S. Forces, District of Florida.
early skirmishes in Florida
Baldwin, February 11, 1864—7 a.m.
Major General Gillmore
SIR: Colonel Henry was at Sanderson at 6 o'clock last night. He was opposed at Saint Mary's South Fork by about 150 men (infantry), and had some 25 killed and wounded, inflicting but slight loss upon the enemy, who disappeared in the woods unmolested. He is pushing on toward Lake City this morning as far as he can with safety. The One hundred and fifteenth is at Saint Mary's South Fork, and the Forty-seventh, Forty-eighth New York, Seventh New Hampshire, and two guns are en route from here. We shall be at Sanderson to-night. The stores at Sanderson were destroyed by the enemy. I am convinced that a movement upon Lake City is not, in the present condition of transportation, admissible, and indeed that what has been said of the desire of Florida to come back now is a delusion. The backbone of rebeldom is not here, and Florida will not cast its lot until more important successes elsewhere are assured. I believe I have good ground for this faith, and as much has been done here already, and handsome trophies can be shown of success, I would advise that the force be withdrawn at once from the interior, that Jacksonville alone be held, and that Palatka be also held, which will permit as many Union people, &c., to come in as will join us voluntarily. This movement is in opposition to sound strategy, and is not directed, I understand, by General Halleck, who would doubtless have not advised it. Many more men than you have here now will be required to support its operation, which has not been matured, as should have been done. As far as I can learn yet, Lake City will be defended by more artillery and infantry than I have with me. To be thwarted, defeated, will be a sad termination to a project, brilliant thus far, but for which you could not answer, in case of mishap, to your military superiors, and Stickney and others have misinformed you. 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, because victories must be decisive elsewhere before Florida can be won back by hearty devotion. By all means, therefore, fall back to Jacksonville, which you are now bound to hold, but can hold with a small force, and use the Saint John's as a base for your operations into the middle of the State by detachments of cavalry, instead of frittering away the infantry of your department in such an operation as this. I believe I am not alone in these views. My movements forward will therefore be entirely dependent upon what I can ascertain to-day of the ability of the force concentrated at Lake City to defend it, and I shall not risk much at that point. An immediate answer is requested, which I shall be glad to receive to-night, and I regret being compelled to go beyond the Saint Mary's South Fork with my infantry, only to return, but shall certainly do so if my information is confirmed by to-day's intelligence from the front.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Copied from The Official Records of the War of Rebellion.
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