(From the Boston Journal.)
It is not often that a rebel Letter which falls into the possession of our advancing armies, contains more news or gives a more vivid description of the state of affairs in rebeldom that the following. This letter obtained at Jacksonville, by an officer in Commodore Dupont’s squadron, who forwarded it to a friend in this city. It will be seen that the writer, notwithstanding Florida has been entirely abandoned by the Confederate Government, according to his statement, still hugs the fond delusion that the rebel cause will succeed, and that Florida will again be linked to the Southern Confederacy by negotiation:
MULBERRY GROVE, March 7.
MY DEAR SISTER: I expect by this time you have the letter I wrote Buddie a few days ago. Here I am, almost at a loss what to do next. I came up from town last night with a boat load of our negroes. Since the attack and capture of Fernandina, the Confederate Government has seen fit to abandon East Florida; and yesterday an order came from the Secretary of War for the Confederate troops to abandon the whole of Florida, and every troop in the State, together will all the cannon, arms, ammunition, stores, &c., are being removed, working day and night to do it before the Federals get entire possession of the State. Our government has signified its inability to hold Florida, and therefore the troops here have gone to assist in breaking the cordon from the Cumberland river in Tennessee to the Chattahotie river, and there is still the additional number of 2,600 called for from the State by the Government; but the men will not enlist now, as the Government gives us no aid, and expects every man in this State to leave his home and interest, and go fight abroad.
It has been blowing a gale for the past three days from the West, which has blown all the water out of the river and prevented the enemy from coming over the bar; but we will see them here as soon as the wind changes. The Town Council and the military heads of the militia (for we have no Confederate troops now) met yesterday and concluded to quietly submit to the yoke or destiny that may await us, as we have neither men, arms, nor ammunition.
The Federal congress has passed a bill commanding the heads of their military not to return or send to their former owners any slave who may come to them, unless such slave returns of his own free will. If they continue to execute this law, as ‘tis said they have done it at Fernadina, our negroes may be lost; but I have most of them here, and will wait until I see what they do with those they get in Jacksonville. If there be any danger, then I will start a wagon to carry the women and children that can’t walk, the men walking and go from here to Orange Springs, and stop there, if the enemy do not intend to go to the interior, but if they do, then I will go on South to the Everglades, where my cattle are, and I can get something to feed them with and keep them there until it be save to remove them. I have but twenty-eight dollars in pocket, and I know I will have to beg provisions before I get there. I am going with our negroes whence I take them, as they are mine and your and all of us only resource for living.
The postmaster is going to leave Jacksonville, and I presume the mails will soon be in the hands of the Federals, and no telling when you will hear from me again; but I will continue to write as long as I can. The only money that I presume I can get is some uncle John owes me about $100, and this I will send you soon if he will pay me; but if I am not able to send it, show this letter to uncle, and tell him I beg him to provide all things for you there until I am free from this bondage. Keep an account of expenditures, and I will pay him back every dollar with interest.
A scene of the wildest confusion exists here. Masters are running and leaving their negroes with no one to look after them. I have taken the wives of two or three of our men, to keep them contend and prevent their running back should I start. All through the interior the lines of the railroads are thronged with the refugees and bread is sold to them at $1 per loaf. Some of them have no place to go and are starving in the woods. I have some corn here, and will make them catch fish for meat, as I have no money to buy with. Some ten or twelve families are all that are left in Jacksonville. If I was able or had the means to get out of this State, I should do it forthwith, but I have not. I do not think we will be under the Confederate Government again until after peace is made, and then I hope the other Confederate States may get us back from the United States by treaty.
I have written in haste, but tried to state what I intend doing. Much love to all the household. God keep you all for his sake until I get you.
– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 5, 1862, p. 1