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 Research ACW US War Dept. Official Records HTML Ser. I, Vol. 1, Ch. IV–Reports.

THE
WAR OF THE REBELLION:
A COMPILATION OF THE
OFFICIAL RECORDS
OF THE
UNION AND CONFEDERATE ARMIES.

{p.331}

CHAPTER IV.
OPERATIONS IN FLORIDA.
January 6-August 31, 1861.
(Secession)
–––
REPORTS, ETC.

SUMMARY OF THE PRINCIPAL EVENTS.

January 6, 1861.– United States Arsenal at Apalachicola seized by State troops.
7, 1861.– Fort Marion, Saint Augustine, seized by State troops.
10, 1861.– Ordinance of secession adopted. U. S. troops transferred from Barrancas Barracks to Fort Pickens, Pensacola Harbor.
12, 1861.– Barrancas Barracks, Forts Barrancas and McRee, and the navy-yard, Pensacola, seized by State troops. Surrender of Fort Pickens demanded.
14, 1861.– Fort Taylor, Key West, garrisoned by United States troops.
15, 1861.– Second demand for surrender of Fort Pickens.
18, 1861.– Fort Jefferson, Tortugas, garrisoned by United States troops. Third demand for surrender of Fort Pickens.
24, 1861.– Re-enforcements for Fort Pickens sail from Fort Monroe, Va.
February 6, 1861.– U. S. steamer Brooklyn arrives off Pensacola with re-enforcements for Fort Pickens.
March 11, 1861.– Brig. Gen. Braxton Bragg, C. S. Army, assumes command of Confederate forces.
21, 1861.– Seizure of the sloop Isabella.
April 7, 1861.– Re-enforcements for Fort Pickens sail from New York.
12, 1861.– Re-enforcements from Fort Monroe, and detachment of marines, landed at Fort Pickens.
13, 1861.– Bvt. Col. Harvey Brown, Second U. S. Artillery, assumes command of the Department of Florida.
17, 1861.– Re-enforcements from New York arrive at Fort Pickens.
August 5, 1861.– The Alvarado burned off Fernandina, by the U. S. steamer Vincennes.

REPORTS.

No. 1.–Ordnance Sergeant E. Powell, U. S. Army, of the seizure of U. S. Arsenal at Apalachicola.
No. 2.–Ordnance Sergeant Henry Douglas, U. S. Army, of the seizure of Fort Marion, Saint Augustine.
No. 3.–Lieut. A. J. Slemmer, First U. S. Artillery, of the transfer of his command from Barrancas Barracks to Fort Pickens, and subsequent events (to February 5, 1861) in Pensacola Harbor. {p.332}
No. 4.–Capt. John M. Brannan, First U. S. Artillery, in reference to occupation of Fort Taylor, Key West.
No. 5.–Bvt. Maj. L. G. Arnold, Second U. S. Artillery, of occupation of Fort Jefferson, Tortugas.
No. 6.–Capt. E. Yuell, assistant commissary subsistence, C. S. Army, of the destruction of the Alvarado by the U. S. steamer Vincennes.

No. 1.

Reports of Ordnance Sergeant B. Powell, U. S. Army, of the seizure of U. S. Arsenal at Apalachicola.

CHATTAHOOCHEE, January 6, 1861.

The arsenal has been taken possession of by the State this morning, 7 o’clock. My forces too weak to defend it. I have refused keys of magazine and armory. Answer, with instructions.

E. POWELL, U. S. Arsenal.

Captain MAYNADIER, Chief Ordnance Department.

–––

U. S. ARSENAL, CHATTAHOOCHEE, FLA., January 6, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor herewith to inclose a copy of the order given to Colonel Dunn, the commander of the troops which took possession of this arsenal. I telegraphed this morning to you.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. POWELL, Ordnance Sergeant, U. S. Army.

Capt. W. MAYNADIER, Chief of Ordnance, Washington, D. C.

[Inclosure.]

STATE OF FLORIDA, EXECUTIVE CHAMBER, Tallahassee, January 5, 1861.

SIR: Reposing special confidence in your patriotism, discretion, and integrity, I hereby authorize and empower you to raise a company of picked men and proceed to the Apalachicola River and seize and possess the arsenal, arms, ammunition, stores, buildings, and other property now in the possession of the General Government, and retain the same subject to my orders. You are requested to act with secrecy and discretion. You are further authorized to call out the Seventh Regiment Florida Militia for all aid in its power to render that you may deem necessary to retain occupation of said arsenal.

M. S. PERRY.

By the governor State Florida:

T. S. VILLEPIGUE, Secretary of State.

–––

QUINCY, FLA., January 6, 1861.

SIR: I beg leave to state that I telegraphed this morning from Chattahoochee, and finding that I could get no answer, I came to this place and thought probably I might get an answer from you by writing from here. I informed you that the Florida troops had taken possession of the arsenal, and my force being so weak I was unable to offer any resistance. {p.333} I mailed a copy of the governor’s order, &c., this morning at Chattahoochee, but finding that it would not be forwarded on account of the excitement-they have taken all the public property in spite of all I could do-I refused giving up the keys, but the governor telegraphed to the commanding officer to insist on the delivery of the same, and I was compelled to give them up. I would be pleased to receive advice as to what disposition I shall make of myself and men.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant

E. POWELL, Ordnance Sergeant, U. S. Army.

Capt. W. MAYNADIER, Washington, D. C.

–––

No. 2.

Report of Ordnance Sergeant Henry Douglas, U. S. Army, of the seizure of Fort Marion, Saint Augustine.

SAINT AUGUSTINE, EAST FLORIDA, January 7, 1861.

SIR: I am obliged to perform what is to me a painful duty, viz, to report to the Chief of Ordnance that all the military stores at this place were seized this morning by the order of the governor of the State of Florida. A company of volunteer soldiers marched to the barracks and took possession of me, and demanded peaceable possession of the keys of the fort and magazine. I demanded them to show me their authority. An aide-de-camp of the governor showed me his letter of instructions authorizing him to seize the property, and directing him to use what force might be necessary.

Upon reflection I decided that the only alternative for me was to deliver the keys, under protest, and demand a receipt for the property. One thing certain, with the exception of the guns composing the armament of the water battery, the property seized is of no great value. The gentleman acting under the governor’s instructions has promised to receipt to me for the stores.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

HENRY DOUGLAS, Ordnance Sergeant, U. S. Army.

Col. H. K. CRAIG, Chief of Ordnance Department, U. S. Army.

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No. 3.

Reports of Lieut. Adam T. Slemmer, First U. S. Artillery, of the transfer of his command from Barrancas Barracks to Fort Pickens, and subsequent events (to February 5, 1861) in Pensacola Harbor.

BARRANCAS BARRACKS, FLA., January 8, 1861.

SIR: There are rumors that the citizens of Florida and Alabama intend taking possession of the fortifications in this harbor. They have already taken those at Mobile and Savannah. I am stationed with one company (G, First Artillery) at Barrancas Barracks, having also Fort {p.334} Barrancas in charge. There are no accommodations for troops in the fort. Fort Pickens (unoccupied) commands the harbor, and should that work be taken possession of, our position would be useless as far as any protection to the harbor goes. Please furnish me with orders for my direction in the case before me. I have already telegraphed to the same effect.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

A. J. SLEMMER, First Lieutenant, First Artillery, Commanding.

Col. S. COOPER, Adjutant-General U. S. Army.

–––

FORT PICKENS, FLA., January 10, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor to report that on this date, I removed my command from Barrancas Barracks, Fla., to Fort Pickens, under special instructions received the previous day from the General-in-Chief.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

A. J. SLEMMER, First Lieutenant, First Artillery, Commanding Post.

Col. S. COOPER, Adjutant-General U. S. Army.

–––

FORT PICKENS, FLA., February 5, 1861.

SIR: Having heard rumors that the forts and other public property in Pensacola Harbor were to be seized by troops under the orders of the governor of Florida, and having been advised of the seizure of the forts in Mobile Bay, I deemed it proper, having received no instructions from Washington, to endeavor to prevent, by all the means in my power, a like seizure here.

On the morning of the 7th ultimo, accompanied by Lieutenant Gilman, I called upon the commander of the navy-yard, Commodore Armstrong, to consult with him in reference to some plan to be adopted to insure the safety of the public property. We bad a similar consultation on the evening of the same day and on the morning of the 8th. The commodore, in the absence of any orders, deemed it inexpedient to cooperate with us.

On the morning of the 8th I removed all the powder from the magazine in the Spanish battery of Fort Barrancas to the inner magazines, because, from its exposed position, it was liable to seizure at any moment. I also caused all the batteries to be put in working order, and at night placed a sergeant’s guard in the fort with the drawbridge raised. That night a body of men (about twenty in number) came to the fort with the evident intention of taking possession. The corporal of the guard caused the alarm to be given, upon which the assailants retreated precipitately. The guard was immediately strengthened by half the company, but nothing further occurred that night.

On the morning of the 9th I received through the mail a letter, of which the following is a copy:

HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington, January 3, 1861.

First Lieut. A. J. SLEMMER, First Artillery, or Commanding Officer Barrancas Barracks, Fla.:

SIR: The General-in-Chief directs that you take measures to do the utmost in your power to prevent the seizure of either of the forts in Pensacola Harbor by surprise or assault, consulting first with the commander of the navy-yard, who will probably have received instructions to co-operate with you.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. W. LAY, Lieutenant-Colonel, A. D. C.

{p.335}

Immediately on its reception, accompanied by Lieutenant Gilman I called on Commodore Armstrong to consult with him. He had received orders to co-operate with me. We decided that with our limited means of defense we could hold but one fort, and that should be Fort Pickens, as it commanded completely the harbor and the forts, and also the navy-yard, and, in case of necessity, could be more readily re-enforced than either of the others, and presented the best means of defense. In order to act on this decision, the commodore, promised to send the U. S. steamer Wyandotte at 1 o’clock p.m. to take us over, to give us all the men he could possibly spare, and to allow the steamer Wyandotte and the storeship Supply to anchor under the guns of the fort, in order to protect the land approach.

At 10 o’clock a.m. I came with the greater part of my command, Company G, First Artillery, to Fort Pickens to mount guns and make necessary preparations for defense, leaving Lieutenant Gilman at Barrancas Barracks with the remainder to make the necessary arrangements for removal. At 1 p.m. Lieutenant Gilman, seeing no signs of the promised assistance, called to see the commodore, and was informed by him that the only assistance he could afford would be to furnish some provisions and take the command over, which fact Lieutenant Gilman reported to me at Fort Pickens. I immediately stopped all work, sent the men back, and with Lieutenant Gilman went to see the commodore. I stated that I had been deceived by him; that he had promised me men and the co-operation of the two vessels of war, besides the mere fact of giving us provisions and taking us over; that with my command, only 46 strong, I should never dream of defending so large a work, calculated for upwards of 1,200 men; that I had been at work on that promise, and had thus lost a day’s time in the preparation of Fort Barrancas for defense; that be had distinctly promised me what I asseverated. The commodore then sent for Commander Farrand, Lieutenant Renshaw, and Lieutenant-Commander Berryman, and gave instructions for carrying out the original design.

Captain Berryman, of the steamer Wyandotte, promised to be ready to leave his wharf at 5 p.m., at which time all should be in readiness at the Barrancas wharf for removal. I immediately returned to Barrancas Barracks to make preparations. As time was very limited all means were used to place the public property on the wharf for removal. Night came, and yet no signs of assistance. The company labored until 12 m., when a heavy fog coming in rendered it highly improbable that the steamer would come that night. At 8 a.m. on the 10th a flatboat was sent to the wharf, which was loaded, as well as all the small boats which could be had. We were landed at Fort Pickens at about 10 a.m. On the way over, Captain Berryman turned over to me thirty ordinary seamen from the yard, without arms or equipments of any kind. We labored all day until night carrying up the stores to the fort, and arranging for its defense. I directed that all the powder in Fort Barrancas should be taken out and rolled to the beach, for transportation if possible; if not, for destruction. Nearly all the powder and all the fixed ammunition for the field battery was brought over that day. All the guns bearing on the bay were spiked by my orders, in position, as I had neither means nor time to dismount them. The provisions required were, by agreement with the commodore, to be drawn from the Supply as they were wanted, instead of sending them from the yard; yet almost the instant we landed the master of the yard came with some small stores in a barge, bringing with him an order from Commodore Armstrong to land the stores immediately and proceed to anchor off the {p.336} center wharf of the yard. As I was not ready to receive the stores, the Supply remained at her anchor that night.

On the morning of the 11th I was informed by Captain Walke that he had received another order from Commodore Armstrong to deliver the stores and return to the navy-yard. Captain Berryman also told me that he expected to sail that evening or the next morning for the south side of Cuba. I immediately caused the following note to be addressed to the commodore by my acting adjutant, Lieutenant Gilman:

FORT PICKENS, FLA., January 11, 1861.

Commodore JAMES ARMSTRONG, U. S. Navy,

SIR: I understand that it is your intention to withdraw from this fort the protection of the U. S. steamer Wyandotte and the storeship Supply, contrary to the agreement between you and myself day before yesterday. I again have the honor to state, as I did to you in presence of several officers at our last interview, that without the aid of those vessels it will be utterly impossible, in my opinion, for me to protect this harbor, and I shall therefore, in case this assistance is withdrawn, instantly relinquish all hope of defending the place, and report the state of affairs immediately by a messenger to Washington. I most respectfully request an immediate answer as to whether the assistance above referred to is to be withdrawn or not.

I am sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

(By order of A. J. Slemmer, First Artillery, U. S. Army, Commanding Fort Pickens:)

J. H. GILMAN, Second Lieutenant, First Artillery, Acting Adjutant of the Post.

To which the commodore replied as follows:

COMMANDANT’S OFFICE, U. S. NAVY-YARD, PENSACOLA, Warrington, January 11, 1861.

Lieut. A. J. SLEMMER, U. S. Army, Commanding at Fort Pickens, Fla.:

SIR: In reply to your communication of this date, I have to state that the U. S. storeship Supply was sent to Fort Pickens by my order merely to convey the provisions you required and to return to this navy-yard. The Supply is not a vessel of war, and having been sent to this station on the special service of conveying stores and coal to Vera Cruz for the vessels of the home squadron stationed there, it is my duty to dispatch her to that port at the earliest moment practicable, in conformity with the orders I have received from the Navy Department, from which orders I cannot deviate further.

The steamer Wyandotte may be retained, for the purpose of co-operating with you, until further orders.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES ARMSTRONG, Commandant.

The Wyandotte and Supply remained at anchor under the fort that night, Captain Berryman sent me during the evening thirty muskets and bayonets to arm the ordinary seamen, which he had procured after some difficulty from the navy-yard. He also had for me some musket cartridges which were promised me from the yard, as my supply was limited.

On the morning of the 12th, Captain Walke, of the Supply, showed me a communication to him from the commodore, saying that the yard was besieged, and that when attacked the Supply must immediately proceed to Vera Cruz. I received no information from the yard whatever of the fact. I immediately addressed a note to the commodore, to this purport:

Commodore JAMES ARMSTRONG, Commandant U. S. Navy-Yard, Warrington, Fla.:

SIR: I am informed that the navy-yard is besieged. In ewe you determine to capitulate, please send me the marines to strengthen my command.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. J. SLEMMER, First Lieutenant, First Artillery, Commanding Fort Pickens.

{p.338}

To which I received no reply. Several hours after this the United States flag was lowered from the navy-yard. The Supply was towed outside by the Wyandotte, and both vessels remained anchored at a distance of about five miles. That night Captain Berryman told me that his orders of the previous evening were to co-operate with me, but especially that he must not fire a gun unless his vessel was attacked. He could offer me no assistance in case I were assaulted. Left thus entirely to depend on ourselves for defense-eighty-one men, including officers, active preparations were made for flank defense, the guns being loaded with grape and canister, and the embrasures closed as well as possible.

On my arrival I found that there was not a single embrasure shutter in the fort. I caused some to be constructed, and others to be taken from Fort McRee to supply the deficiency. Just after retreat four gentlemen (three in military clothing) presented themselves at the gate, and demanded admittance as citizens of Florida and Alabama. They were told that by order no person was permitted to enter the fort. They then asked to see the commanding officer. I immediately went to the gate, accompanied by Lieutenant Gilman. Mr. Abert, engineer of the yard, presented Captain Randolph, Major Marks, and Lieutenant Rutledge. After a pause, Captain Randolph said, “We have been sent to demand a peaceable surrender of this fort by the governors of Florida and Alabama.” To which I replied that I was here under the orders of the President of the United States, and by direction of the General-in-Chief of the Army; that I recognized no right of any governor to demand a surrender of United States property; that my orders were distinct and explicit. They immediately withdrew.

At 12 o’clock at night the men were paraded and told off to the different batteries in anticipation of an attack, slow-match lighted, with lanyards and port fires in hand ready to fire. No signs of an attack; night very, dark and rainy. We still labored on the 13th strengthening our position, and at night threw out sentinels beyond the glacis. Men stood at the guns as on the night previous. Night very dark and rainy. On the night of the 13th a body of some ten men were discovered evidently reconnoitering. A shot was fired by them, which was returned by the sergeant. They then retreated. Nothing more could be seen of the party that night. On the 14th nothing of interest transpired. Men by this time almost worn out with labor, standing guard, and at the batteries day and night, for we anticipated an attack at any moment.

On the 15th Colonel Chase, commanding the forces of Florida, accompanied by Commander Farrand, late of the U. S. Navy, asked for a consultation, at which Colonel Chase read me the following letter:

HEADQUARTERS PENSACOLA DISTRICT, January 15, 1861.

Lieut. A. J. SLEMMER, U. S. Army, Commanding Fort Pickens, Harbor of Pensacola:

SIR: I have full powers from the governor of Florida to take possession of the forts and navy-yard, &c., &c., in this harbor. I desire to perform this duty without the effusion of blood. You can contribute toward this desirable result, and, in my judgement, without sacrifice of the honor of yourself or your gallant officers and men. Now, as commissioner on the part of the governor of the State of Florida, I request the surrender of Fort Pickens and the public property it contains into my hands, to be held subject to any agreement that may be entered into between the commissioners of the State of Florida and the Federal Government at Washington. I would not counsel you to do aught that was dishonorable; on the contrary, to do that which will secure for you the commendation of all Christian gentlemen; and if you refuse and hold out, for whom do you consent that blood shall flow-the blood of brethren? Certainly not for the deadly enemies to the assaulters, for they are not such, but brethren of the same race. If the Union now broken should be reconstructed Fort Pickens and all the {p.338} public property passes peacefully under Federal authority. If a Southern Confederacy separates itself from the Union would it not be worse than folly to attempt the maintenance of Fort Pickens or any other fortified place within its limits?

Listen to me, then, I beg of you, and act with me in preventing the shedding the blood of your brethren. Surrender the fort. You and your command may re-occupy the barracks and quarters at Barrancas on your simple parole to remain there quietly until ordered away, or to resume the command of the harbor should an adjustment of present difficulties in the Union be arrived at.

All the baggage and private property of any kind belonging to yourself, officers, men, and their families shall be preserved to you. Consider this well, and take care that you will so act as to have no fearful recollections of a tragedy that you might have averted, but rather to make the present moment one of the most glorious, because christianlike, of your life.

I beg of you to receive this communication in the same spirit in which it is offered. I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WM. H. CHASE.

I asked, “How many men have you?” The colonel answered, “Tonight I shall have between eight and nine hundred.” I then said that I would consider his letter, and would give my answer the next morning. I also desired to consult with the captains of the Supply and Wyandotte, which vessels were lying off the navy-yard under a white flag. The colonel said he would make arrangements for their coming to the fort, and would see them as he passed. I made this request for two reasons-first because thereby I would gain more time for resting my men (who were completely exhausted), and, second, because I deemed it but courtesy on my part to consult them with reference to anything which would affect our common flag, and because one of them was in name co-operating with me. They did not come, however. I afterwards learned that the permission came in such a form that they could not accept it.

The next morning I saw with surprise both vessels under way going out of the harbor. I immediately sent a boat with Lieutenant Gilman to learn the cause of the movement. Captain Walke desired Lieutenant Gilman to go on board the Wyandotte-that he would join him there. On Lieutenant Gilman’s representations Captain Walke ordered the Wyandotte to stay and render us assistance, and take us off if necessary on being overcome by a superior force. The following letter was then sent to Colonel Chase at the navy-yard:

FORT PICKENS, FLA., Pensacola Harbor, January 16, 1861.

Col. W. H. CHASE, Commissioner for the State of Florida:

SIR: Under the orders we now have from the War Department, we have decided, after consultation with the Government officers in the harbor, that it is our duty to hold our position until such a force is brought against us as to render it impossible to defend it, or until the political condition of the country is such as to induce us to surrender render the public property in our keeping to such authorities as may be delegated legally to receive it.

We deprecate as much as you or any individual can the present condition of affairs, or the shedding of the blood of our brethren. In regard to this matter, however, we must consider you the aggressors, and if blood is shed that you are responsible therefor.

By order of A. J. Slemmer, first lieutenant, First Artillery, commanding:

J. H. GILMAN, Second Lieutenant, First Artillery, Act. Post Adjt.

Captain Berryman took this letter to the yard, and then ran out of the harbor.

On the 17th I mounted one 12-pounder gun and one 8-inch sea-coast howitzer on the northwest bastion. I had previously mounted three 32-pounders in the southeast bastion, and rendered effective the 24-pounder {p.339} flank-defense howitzers, besides placing my field battery on the ramparts for effective service.

On the 18th the steamer Wyandotte came again in sight. Received another letter from Colonel Chase, of which the following is a copy:

HEADQUARTERS PENSACOLA DISTRICT, January 18, 1861.

Lieut. A. J. SLEMMER, U. S. Army, Commanding Fort Pickens, Pensacola Harbor, Fla.:

SIR: With additional re-enforcements to my forces, arrived and expected, I would again request the surrender of Fort Pickens, referring you to my first letter on the subject, and offering the same terms as contained therein.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. H. CHASE, Colonel, Commanding Forces of Florida.

Which was answered as follows:

FORT PICKENS, PENSACOLA HARBOR, January 18, 1861.

Col. W. H. CHASE, Commanding Forces of Florida, &c. :

SIR: Before I can answer your communication of this date, it is necessary that I communicate with Captain Berryman, of the U. S. steamer Wyandotte, co-operating with me. The result of such conference I will make known to you to-morrow morning.

By order of Lieut. A. J. Slemmer, First Artillery, commanding Fort Pickens:

J. H. GILMAN, Second Lieutenant, First Artillery, Act. Adjt. of Post.

A gun was fired to attract attention, and signal made to send a boat ashore. The steamer came to anchor off the southeast bastion of the fort. On the morning of the 19th the following reply was sent:

FORT PICKENS, FLA., January 19, 1861.

Col. W. H. CHASE, Commanding the Forces of Florida, &c.:

SIR: In reply to your communication of yesterday I have the honor to state that as yet I know of no reason why my answer to your communication of the 16th should be changed, and I therefore very respectfully refer you to that reply for the answer to this.

By order of First Lieut. A. J. Slemmer, First Artillery, commanding Fort Pickens:

J. H. GILMAN, Second Lieutenant, First Artillery, A. Post Adjt.

On the 20th a party of sailors from the steamer Wyandotte came to assist us to mount a 10-inch columbiad. They labored that day and part of the next with imperfect materials, but at last succeeded in placing it in the trunnion beds. On the 22d and 23d nothing of importance transpired. We have had almost continued rain since the occupation of the fort.

On the 24th, thinking it time that better feelings should exist toward us, I sent a boat under a white flag to the navy-yard, in order to obtain, if possible, the mail matter which had accumulated now since the 9th instant. It was refused by the authorities at the post-office. I then addressed the following note to Colonel Chase:

FORT PICKENS, FLA., January 24, 1861.

Col. Wm. H. CHASE, Commanding the Forces of Florida:

SIR : I have the honor to request that you will permit Captain Berryman to procure, or have procured for him, the mail matter, letters, papers, &c., which may have accumulated for me and my command at the Warrington post-office. My mail matter has been refused me from the office, and I therefore make this request of you as commander-in-chief of the forces, and from a knowledge of your personal character.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. J. SLEMMER, First Lieutenant, First Artillery, Commanding.

{p.340}

Colonel Chase not being present at the yard, Captain Randolph, commandant, ordered my mail matter to betaken to his office. On the 26th I received the following communications:

HEADQUARTERS NAVY YARD, January 26, 1861.

Lieut. A. J. SLEMMER, U. S. Army, Commanding Fort Pickens:

SIR: I have this moment received your communication of the 24th instant. I have been absent at Montgomery, which will account for the delay. I will immediately inquire at the post-office about your mail matter, and attend to your request. I also inform you that you may be supplied with fresh provisions daily if you desire. I will communicate with you again.

In haste, respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. H. CHASE, Colonel, Commanding.

HEADQUARTERS NAVY YARD, January 26, 1861.

Lieut. A. J. SLEMMER, U. S. Army, Commanding Fort Pickens:

SIR: I have given strict orders this morning that no citizen or soldier should be permitted to pass from this side towards Fort Pickens, or to land on Santa Rosa Island, and I now inform you of the fact, and also that I shall use every effort to have my orders executed. I have just been informed that some four or five men started on a fishing excursion on the island, and as they must have been ignorant of my orders just issued, I would request that if they have lauded on the island they maybe sent back.

Any collision growing out of persons going over to the island or near Fort Pickens would be most unfortunate in the present state of affairs, and I would request you to join me in preventing it; and to this effect I would also request that persons in boats may be warned off, and if any should land, they should be ordered to re-embark. This should be done in a way to prevent angry feelings between the parties.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WM. H. CHASE, Colonel, Commanding Forces.

To which I replied as follows:

FORT PICKENS, FLA., January 26, 1861.

Col. W. H. CHASE, Commanding Forces:

SIR: Your communication in answer to mine of the 24th instant is before me. I have directed Lieutenant Gilman to proceed to the navy-yard and consult with you with reference to supplies of fresh provisions and the mail facilities of my command.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. J. SLEMMER, First Lieutenant, First Artillery, Commanding.

FORT PICKENS, FLA., January 26, 1861.

Col. W. H. CHASE, Commanding Forces of Florida:

SIR: It gives me much pleasure to learn of your order with reference to the passage of boats and men to Fort Pickens and Santa Rosa Island from the yard and vicinity. I have given strict orders to allow no boats to land, and in all cases of boats approaching the island I am notified of the fact.

This morning I was informed by my sentinels that a boat with four men was approaching the island above the fort and from the navy yard. I immediately sent and had them apprehended, saw the men myself, and directed that they be re-embarked for the navy-yard, which was done, I believe, without any ill feelings being engendered. I will, rest assured, do all in my power to prevent any collision growing out of boats landing on the island, and sincerely hope that your orders and vigilance may prevent any from coming over without your permission and flag.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. J. SLEMMER, First Lieutenant, First Artillery, Commanding Fort Pickens.

Later in the day the mail for myself and command was brought over from the yard with the following note:

HEADQUARTERS PENSACOLA DISTRICT, January 26, 1861.

Lieut. A. J. SLEMMER, Commanding Fort Pickens:

SIR: I send over your mail. The mail will be delivered to you in future without delay.

Respectfully, &c.,

W. H. CHASE, Colonel, Commanding Forces, &c.

I cannot close this report without saying a few words with reference to my command. From the first to this day they have nobly vindicated {p.341} the honor of the American Army. Through all the toil and excessive labor by day and standing by the guns at night, for ten days wet to the skin, without adequate sleep or rest, not one word of complaint has been uttered, but the most cheerful obedience readily given to all commands. Had we been attacked during those days dreadful would have been the havoc, and we were menaced every day and night, from the 12th to the 26th, by the increasing number opposite us, numbering at one time over 2,000 men. All that prevented, I am confident (for such was the pitch to which their mad folly had carried them), was Colonel Chase’s knowledge of the strength and means of resistance within the fort, and our steady and firm adherence to the course determined on from the beginning, not to allow ourselves one moment to think of surrendering unless absolutely overpowered by numbers.

I would recommend especially to the favorable notice of the General-in-Chief, First Sergeant Alexander Jamieson, Sergeant Boyd, Corporals Caldwell and O’Donnell, of Company G, First Artillery, for especial coolness and activity in their several stations.

Of Lieutenant Gilman I have only to say that during the whole affair we have stood side by side, and if any credit is due for the course pursued be is entitled equally with myself.

I have descended into particulars in many places, but I did so to show the difficulties thrown in our way in the execution of our orders, and by persons, too, who had it, in their power to render us the greatest assistance.

Troops occupy Fort Barrancas, Barrancas Barracks, and Fort McRee. No guns are mounted at Fort McRee to my knowledge. On the 11th, Lieutenant Erben, of the storeship Supply, destroyed all the powder and the materials he could not bring over to Fort Pickens which would be necessary for the revolutionists to mount the guns, thus doing good service to the United States.

The present armament here, mounted and for service, is as follows: Fourteen 32-pounders, seven 12-pounders, one 8-inch sea-coast howitzer, one 10-inch columbiad, six field pieces, twenty-five 24-pounder howitzers-flank defense. Total, 54.

I have provisions for five months for my present command; also a sufficient quantity of water.

Nothing of interest has transpired from the 26th ultimo up to this date except the reception of orders by telegraph, and since by special messenger, with reference to the landing of troops, &c.

I would most respectfully request that a surgeon be detailed for the command.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

A. J. SLEMMER, First Lieutenant, First Artillery, Commanding Post.

Col. L. THOMAS, Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Army.

I have eighty-two men, all told-forty-eight, Company G, First Artillery, and thirty-one ordinary seamen (of these, seventy-seven are for duty); two ordnance sergeants, and one hospital steward-not enough for the ordinary garrison duty in the present emergency.* I have but {p.342} two reliefs for duty. They mount guard every other day. All the casemate flank-defense guns are in good order and serviceable. In barbette I have on the land approach nearly all the guns mounted and available. I have now more guns shotted than with my command in case of an attack I could use. There are no preparations now which look to an attack on the fort that I am aware of. Scaling ladders were prepared some time since in the navy-yard, and are now ready for any emergency. Sand batteries were in progress of erection immediately opposite, but I think more to keep the volunteers employed than for effective service. The distance is too great for breaching batteries unless heavy and rifled cannon were used, of which they have none now available. Shells could, however, be thrown into the fort from these batteries. The fort can be attacked on all sides by storming parties landing from the other side in boats under cover of the night, and with a small force it would be almost impossible to prevent its being taken.

Under present orders the vessels of the Navy ordered here could, in case of an assault, render me little or no assistance, as before they could land their forces the fort would be taken.

* The original of this paper is indorsed as follows:

“This paper was given me by Lieutenant Slemmer without names or date. It relates to Fort Pickens, and is respectfully submitted.

“H. S. PUTNAM, “Lieut. Top. Engineers.

“Col. L. THOMAS, Assistant Adjutant-General.”

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No. 4.

Reports of Capt. John H. Brannan, First U. S. Artillery, in reference to occupation of Fort Taylor, Key West.

FORT TAYLOR, KEY WEST, FLA., January 14, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor to report that in consequence of the recent seizure by unauthorized persons of several forts and arsenals in the Southern States, I have placed my entire command in Fort Taylor for the purpose of protecting it. I shall, until orders from the General Government to the contrary, defend it to the best of my ability with the scanty force (forty-four men) at my disposal. I inclose a copy of a communication I addressed direct to the Adjutant-General on December 11, 1860, to which I have received no reply; also a copy of a letter from Capt. E. B. Hunt, Corps of Engineers, in charge of Fort Taylor. As mail facilities have entirely ceased between Key West and the North, I would suggest that any orders for me be forwarded from New York City, via Havana, to the care of the American consul.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. M. BRANNAN, Captain, First Artillery, Commanding.

Lieut. Col. L. THOMAS, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Headquarters of the Army, Washington, D. C.

[Inclosure No. 1.]

KEY WEST BARRACKS, FLA., December 11, 1860.

SIR: The present condition of affairs in this State indicates very clearly that Florida, by the act of her people, will secede from the Federal Government. I have reliable information that as soon as the act is committed an attempt will be made to seize upon Fort Taylor. I therefore request instructions what I am to do-endeavor at all hazards {p.343} to prevent Fort Taylor being taken or allow the State authorities to have possession without any resistance on the Part of my command? These instructions are absolutely necessary now, as it may be too late after the State secedes to receive any, in consequence of communications being cut off from the seat of Government.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. M. BRANNAN, Captain, First Artillery, Commanding.

Col. S. COOPER, Adjutant-General U. S. Army, Washington City, D. C.

[Inclosure No. 2.]

FORT TAYLOR, KEY WEST, FLA., January 12, 1861.

SIR: In consequence of the disordered state of public affairs, of the reported seizure of various neighboring forts and arsenals, of my own lack of means for maintaining a secure guard of this most important fortification, and of the near approach of the discharge of most of my enrolled mechanics and laborers, I deem it my duty to call upon you to make [secure] the military custody of Fort Taylor, and to adopt such measures for its security as you shall deem proper. I shall heartily cooperate in my appropriate capacity as an officer of Engineers, and shall in a few days complete all the defensive preparations now required. I would, therefore, hereby ask you at once to assume the military command of Fort Taylor. I shall by letter of this date ask Captain Craven, of the Mohawk, to consult with you and give his aid for this object.

Very respectfully, yours, &c.,

E. B. HUNT, Captain, Engineers.

Capt. J. M. BRANNAN, First Artillery, Commanding Key West Barracks.

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FORT TAYLOR, KEY WEST, FLA., January 15, 1861.

SIR: In consequence of the secession of this State and the seizure of the forts and arsenals in other Southern States, I have moved my command to Fort Taylor, and shall defend it to the last moment against any force attempting to capture it. I have four months’ provisions and 70,000 gallons water, but we cannot stand a siege against any organized army, and therefore should be re-enforced immediately. Two vessels of war should be stationed here to protect the entrance to the harbor and prevent a landing beyond the range of my guns. Mail facilities having ceased through Florida, all orders for this post should be sent via Havana from New York through the American consul.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. M. BRANNAN, Captain, First Artillery, Commanding.

Maj. GEORGE DEAS, Assistant Adjutant-General, Dept. of the East, Troy, N. Y.

{p.344}

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FORT TAYLOR, KEY WEST, FLA., January 26, 1861.

SIR: I have to report that no demonstration has been made upon this fort to this date. There is no apprehension from the population of Key West, but I have no doubt that a force will soon appear at any moment from the mainland. If my company was filled up to a hundred men, and a sloop of war stationed in this harbor, there would be no danger of any successful attack, or even an attempt at present. The defenses are improving daily.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. M. BRANNAN, Captain, First Artillery, Commanding.

Col. S. COOPER, Adjutant-General U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.

P. S.–I have received no communication from the Department in answer to my letter of December 11, 1860.

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FORT TAYLOR, KEY WEST, FLA., January 31, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt on the 26th instant of a communication [following] from the headquarters of the Army, dated the 4th instant, ordering my whole company to this fort. I had anticipated the order some time ago. This is the only dispatch I have received from the Department on this subject. There are about sixty men, mechanics and laborers, on the work, who are willing to take the fate of it and assist in defending the same. I require at least fifty more muskets for these men. If my company was raised to a hundred and a sloop of war stationed here there would be no apprehension of an attack at present. The powder is not the best, and the supply of ammunition is limited except for heavy guns. It is very necessary that the Ordnance Department should attend to it immediately. I have sent a requisition direct to Colonel Craig. The fort is being put in a very good state of defense by Captain Hunt, and will be in a short time able to stand an attack very successfully. With a vessel of war in the harbor a landing could be easily prevented.

I transferred to Major Arnold six 8-inch columbiads, with seven hundred shells; two 6-pounder and two 12-pounder howitzers, with a small supply of ammunition for the latter; 10,000 pounds of powder. He has all of his guns mounted and in position, and is really stronger than I am, as he cannot be attacked by land. We have communication with each other every few days.

In about a week I shall have ten 8-inch guns on the gorge or land front, which will enable me to prevent the establishing of breaching batteries without considerable difficulty. The General-in-Chief may rest assured that this work will not be taken without a severe struggle.

The Macedonian passed Key West on the night of the 29th instant for Tortugas. The Brooklyn arrived in the harbor this morning and will sail to-morrow night. All well on board.

I would suggest that a paymaster be ordered here to pay the troops. Last, payment to October 31.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. K. BRANNAN, Captain, First Artillery, Commanding.

Lieut. Col. L. THOMAS, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington, City, D. C.

P. S.–I send this by the U. S. steamer Mohawk.

{p.345}

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HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington, January 4, 1861.

SIR: It is the direction of the General-in-Chief that you transfer the whole of your company to Fort Taylor. Be on your guard against surprise or assault, and do the utmost in your power to prevent the seizure of your fort. Consult with the commander of any United States man-of-war in the harbor, and invite his co-operation. Such commander will probably have received orders (if they can be got to him) to act in concert with you.

Major Arnold with his company is ordered from Boston, to proceed by steamer, if possible to garrison Fort Jefferson. There is some apprehension that an expedition is fitting out in Charleston to take one or both of the forts, Taylor and Jefferson. It is hoped that Captain Hunt may, with his workmen, be able to give you some assistance in defending yourself. If necessary for that purpose you may take one or two boxes of the muskets shipped in the Water Witch intended for Captain Meigs.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. W. LAY, Lieutenant-Colonel, and A. D. C.

Capt. John M. BRANNAN, First Artillery, Commanding Key West Barracks, Fla.

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FORT TAYLOR, KEY WEST, FLA., February 6, 1861.

SIR: Nothing has occurred at Key West since my last communication to disturb my relations with its citizens. It is very doubtful now if any attempt will be made upon this fort. I have transferred seven more 8-inch columbiads to Major Arnold, which will give him additional strength if ammunition is furnished him by the Ordnance Department. My powder is very bad; also friction tubes. A supply should be sent here immediately.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. M. BRANNAN, Captain, First Artillery, Commanding.

Lieut. Col. L. THOMAS, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Headquarters Army, Washington City, D. C.

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No. 5.

Reports of Bvt. May. Lewis G. Arnold, Second U. S. Artillery, of the occupation of Fort Jefferson, Tortugas.

HEADQUARTERS FORT INDEPENDENCE, January 10, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor to report that, I embark with my command this afternoon on board the steamer Joseph Whitney for Fort Jefferson, Fla. Orders of the General-in-Chief by telegraph. Strength of command, four commissioned officers and sixty-two enlisted men.

Names of officers: Bvt. Maj. L. G. Arnold, commanding; Surg. A. {p.346} N. McLaren, First Lieut. Henry Benson, First Lieut. M. M. Blunt, A. A. Q. M. and A. C. S.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. G. ARNOLD, Brevet Major, U. S. Army, Commanding.

Lieutenant-Colonel THOMAS, Asst. Adjt. Gen., U. S. Army, New York City.

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HEADQUARTERS FORT JEFFERSON, TORTUGAS, January 18, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor to report that I arrived at Fort Jefferson to day with my command; garrisoned and assumed command of the post, in accordance with the instructions of the General-in-Chief, dated Washington, January 5, 1861. Strength: four commissioned officers and sixty-two enlisted men, Bvt. Maj. L. G. Arnold, commanding; Surg. A. N. McLaren, First Lieut. Henry Benson, A. A. Q. M. and A. C. S.; First Lieut. Blunt. I would respectfully inquire if Fort Jefferson is a double-ration post? If not, I request that it be announced as such in orders from the War Department, from the 18th instant.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. G. ARNOLD, Brevet Major, U. S. Army, Commanding.

Col. S. COOPER, Adjt. Gen. U. S. Army, Washington City, D. C.

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HEADQUARTERS FORT JEFFERSON, TORTUGAS, January 23, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor to report for the information of the General-in-Chief that I found on my arrival here, notwithstanding the energetic, well-directed, and highly-commendable efforts of Captain Meigs, the Engineer in charge, that Fort Jefferson could not be successfully defended from a judiciously-planned and concerted attack with a formidable force without having each front of the work and each bastion armed with artillery.

By the advice of Captain Meigs I dispatched the steamer Joseph Whitney, with Captain Meigs, Engineers, and Lieutenant Benson, Second Artillery, to Key West, where there is an abundance of guns and munitions, with a letter to Captain Brannan, commanding Fort Taylor, directing him to confer with Captain Meigs, and to send me such guns, &c., as Captain Meigs might deem necessary for the immediate defense of Fort Jefferson, in order that the honor of the Government and the defense of both forts might be maintained.

I am happy to report that Captain Meigs has returned from Key West in the steamer Joseph Whitney with six 8-inch columbiads and four field pieces and an ample supply of ammunition, which, with the two field pieces I brought from Fort Independence, will enable me as soon as they are in position to make a strong defense, most probably to hold this important position-the key of the Gulf-against any force that is likely to be brought against it.

I herewith inclose a copy of Captain Meigs’ report, and I will here {p.347} take occasion to express my high sense of the services of Captain Meigs to render this fort defensible.

I am, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

L. G. ARNOLD, Brevet Major, U. S. Army, Commanding.

Lieut. Col. L. THOMAS, Asst. Adj. Gen., U. S. Army, Headquarters Army, New York City.

[Inclosure.]

ENGINEER OFFICE, FORT JEFFERSON, Harbor of Tortugas, U. S., January 23, 1861.

SIR: I have to report that I returned this morning on board the steamer Joseph Whitney, towing the Horace Beale, loaded with guns and ammunition, which I obtained from Fort Taylor. Lieutenant Benson, in whose charge you had placed the steamer, rendered me valuable assistance in embarking the heavy materials. Captain Maffit, of the U. S. steamer Crusader, to guard against every possible contingency, kindly convoyed us from Key West.

I recommend that one 8-inch columbiad be placed in the first right-curtain casemate on the right and left of bastions A, C, and E; one flanking gun in the casemate next the curtains in each bastion.

The artillerymen will be able to disembark and transport the guns and ammunition, and from the laborers of the Engineer Department all needful manual aid will be afforded. Two mules belonging to the Engineer Department are also at your service, if useful. A casemate gun and sling cart are on board the brigantine. A truck and Wheelbarrow are in the Engineers’ park. The guns, I believe, can all be in place by to-night.

The Mohawk, which at my request came here on our arrival at Key West, will, I doubt not, if you desire it, remain here until the guns are in place; after which it would hardly be necessary to detain her, so far as the safety of this work is concerned, if she has other duties of importance to look after. Her presence, however, would, if she is not urgently needed elsewhere, be only a prudent and proper precaution.

I am, very respectfully and truly, your obedient servant,

M. C. MEIGS, Captain, Engineers, Eng. in charge of Fort Jefferson.

Maj. L. G. ARNOLD, Commanding Fort Jefferson.

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No. 6.

Report of Capt. E. Yuell, assistant commissary of subsistence, C. S. Army, of the destruction of the Alvarado by the U. S. Steamer Vincennes.

FERNANDINA, FLA., August [6], 1861.

SIR: On yesterday morning the town was thrown into commotion by the report that two vessels were on the coast, one of which was fleeing to secure an entrance over our bar, the other in pursuit to effect a capture. The whole of our people armed, and proceeded to the beach, about two miles from town. A company from the post at Fort Clinch, with a 6-pounder, was also dispatched to the beach, which, in addition to another 6-pounder from town, made the whole of our defensive and offensive armament. When I arrived in view of the vessels I found a {p.348} bark stranded at one and one-half miles from shore, with her sails set and abandoned by her crew, who had just landed, and in the offing was a large United States man-of-war, which I have since learned was the Vincennes. The bark was one of the prizes of the Jeff. Davis privateer, seeking a harbor, and which she very nearly effected. After much maneuvering the man-of-war anchored, sent out her boats, which, finding it in vain to try to save the vessel, set fire to her, and she is burned to the water’s edge. Our 6-pounders were unavailing, and I take occasion to say that we have not a military company at this post capable of service as artillerists. Few of our volunteers have ever seen anything larger than a musket before coming to this station. The enemy can at any moment land here and take possession without much hinderance from our defensive works. We are entirely at his mercy. After setting fire to the vessel the man-of-war left our shores, and has not since been seen till late to-day. I learn she was seen this afternoon again in the offing. The name of the prize vessel is the Alvarado, owned in Boston, commanded by G. C. Whiting. She left Cape Town, Table Bay, in Africa, on June 3. Her cargo was wool, sheep and goat skins, old copper and iron, and some crude medicines, and was valued at $70,000. She was taken by the Jeff. Davis on July 21, in latitude 25˚ 30´ and longitude 61˚. Cargo owned by Isaac Taylor, of Boston, Mass. Captain Whiting and wife, with a negro steward, were on board of the prize sent home by Captain Coxsitter, of the Jeff. Davis. Whiting and his wife have been landed on our shores, with no other apparel than that they had on. I had them sent to a boarding house, and shall communicate with the Confederate States marshal, and put them under his charge. The ladies with great philanthropy have raised enough money to clothe our enemies. They will, therefore, be provided for. The prize crew are all safe, and were glad to escape in a boat from the stranded bark.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. YUELL, Captain, and A. C. S.

Hon. SECRETARY OF WAR, Richmond, Va.

Library Reference Information

Type of Material: Book (Book, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Corporate Name: United States. War Dept.
Main Title: The War of the Rebellion:
a compilation of the official records of the
Union and Confederate armies.
Prepared under the direction of the Secretary of War
by Robert N. Scott.
Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1880-1900.
Published/Created: Washington : Government Pub. Off., 1880-1901 (70 v. in 128).
Description: 70 v. in 128. 24 cm.
Subjects: United States. Army--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources.
Confederate States of America. Army--History--Sources.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories.
LC Classification: E464 .U6