Showing posts with label Guerilla Warfare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guerilla Warfare. Show all posts

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his daughter Dolly, January 30, 1863

ALBERTI's Mills, 40 miles from FERNANDINA.
January 30, 1863. 

This river is rebellious to the last degree. It is very crooked and sluggish and black and got us aground so many times in the long, sleepless night that rebel pickets might have picked off many of our men and officers. Again and again we had to turn points at right angles and we were never more than two rods from one or the other shore. Often the sides of our boat were swept by the boughs of the mournful looking trees. The shores are generally low and marshy, and the moss droops so low as to give the appearance of weeping willows. It is now eleven, A.M. and we are starting homeward. Oh, it is a queer night, so queer that more than once I laughed outright, when I thought of the curious fact that T. W. H. and I were so industriously trying to get a peep at real rebels, while they would undoubtedly do something to get a peep at us. In my time I have seen considerable mismanagement of one kind and another, but do not remember that I ever dreamed that so much of that article could be employed in one night on board a steamboat. Among the boat's officers there was no mutual understanding, and it is fortunate for us that the rebels did not know it. But at daylight we did reach Alberti's Mills, and then came for me an hour of fitful, dreamy sleep. I had made three vigorous efforts to sleep during the night, but enjoyed the calm moonlight and strange scenery and spice of danger too much for drowsiness. We passed picket fires and felt the possibility that our return might be obstructed, or greatly harassed. Very few officers have voluntarily dared such a responsibility as that resting on our Colonel, but he patiently and vigilantly met all the obstacles and had his pickets and skirmishers so arranged. . . .

Evening and Ben Deford again, thank God!

 I had written thus far when the rebels began firing from the shore and I found myself among our soldiers, who replied with spirit and precision that sent more than one poor fellow to the dust.

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.

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1 Prince Rivers.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 352-4