Evening and Ben Deford again, thank God!
Captain Clifton of the John Adams was shot through the head and died instantly. The Major's [J. D. Strong] head escaped by about two inches.
Strange to say no other accidents occurred in this nor in the subsequent firing from the bluffs on the Florida shore. The first attack was from the Georgia bluffs. They were both desperate, but of short duration. One fellow actually jumped on the flat-boat in tow, and was immediately shot by one of our soldiers. I afterwards asked Robert Sutton what he himself was about during the conflict, and found that he was deliberately shooting from the pilot house, with two guns, having a man to load one while he fired the other. But now I will go back to the sunrise. As I was saying, the pickets and skirmishers were so placed that there was no escape for the white families at Alberti’s Mills. The Colonel had gone ashore and a little after sunrise sent for me to go off and take with me some copies of the President's proclamation. I found a little village, all included in the A. estate, and the mansion was occupied by Madame A. and her family. She was a New Yorker by birth and her deceased husband was a native of Philadelphia. Mr. B., former business partner of his - A.'s was at the house on a visit, ill with chronic bronchitis. He, being an important person, must be made prisoner, unless too feeble to be removed from the house. I found, on examination, that he could be taken with us without danger to himself. Madame A. spent much time trying to convince me that she and her husband had been wonderfully devoted to the interests of their slaves, especially to the fruitless work of trying to educate them. The truth of these assertions was disproved by certain facts, such as a strong slave jail, containing implements of torture which we now have in our possession, (the lock I have), the fact that the slaves have “mostly gone over to the Yankees,” and the yet other fact that Robert Sutton, a former slave there, said the statement was false. The statement of a black man was lawful in Dixie yesterday. I called Madame A.'s attention to a former slave of hers, whom she remembered as “Bob,” but never before knew as Robert Sutton, corporal in the army of the United States. Robert begged me to forgive him for breaking through my order that he should not exert himself at all till the danger of inflammation of the brain should be averted. The white bandage about his head was conspicuous at the points of danger through all the twenty-four eventful hours of our expedition. It finally devolved upon him and Sergeant Rivers1 to examine the persons of our six rebel prisoners, for concealed weapons of defense. This last process was so very anti-slavery, that I fancied the rebels enjoyed it somewhat less than I.
I am told that thirteen riderless horses went back to camp after that fight in the woods the other night; that the lieutenant [Jones] in command and five others were killed and many others wounded. Could our party have known the exact state of affairs, the camp might have been destroyed and many prisoners taken. But it was safer and wiser for infantry not to follow cavalry in the night. Our comrades on the Ben Deford greeted us heartily and the Provost Marshal was in readiness to take charge of our prisoners. We shall probably take Mr. B. to Beaufort with us. He is a wealthy and influential rebel and may become a very important hostage when Jeff Davis begins to hang us. We brought off two or three negroes, and rice, corn, sheep and other valuable things, strictly contraband of war. I wanted the Colonel to take a piano already boxed, and in a store-house at the wharf, but we had no room for it. I thought it would especially please Miss Forten to have it in her school.
1 Prince Rivers.SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 352-4