received information from Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick, commanding forces at Camp Finegan, of the arrival at Jacksonville of five gunboats and transports, and the landing of a large number of Abolition troops, said to be negroes. I immediately issued orders by telegraph and express trains for the concentration of all the troops which I could reach within the space of four or five days at the camp in the immediate vicinity of Jacksonville, prepared to check any movement of the enemy by land into the interior. To do this I am compelled to leave with entirely inadequate protection many important points on the coast whence negroes may escape in large numbers to the enemy and where they have easy access to the interior.
On the same evening I proceeded to the camp, arriving there near midnight. I here found that the enemy had landed from five gunboats and transports, and he had occupied the town with so much celerity and secrecy as to have surrounded it with his pickets before the people generally were aware of his presence.
The next morning I made a reconnaissance in person, with the cavalry companies of Captains Stephens and Chambers, of the Second Florida Cavalry, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick, of the same regiment, and directed Major Brevard, commanding First Battalion Partisan Rangers, with the companies of Captains Mays, Bird, J. Q. Stewart, and Asa Stewart, numbering 200 men, to advance to the immediate vicinity of the town, and cut off, capture, or kill their other pickets. The cavalry detachment under command of Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick, which I accompanied, advanced into the suburbs of the town, where we found the enemy posted in strong picket force. We were fired upon by their first pickets without effect, except the disabling of 1 or 2 horses, and drove them into the town. Preceding farther, we encountered a stronger force, which I estimated to be about two companies of infantry, drawn up in line of battle and advantageously posted. These opened on us unexpectedly, firing alternately by platoons and by file, with some degree of regularity. Our men, at great disadvantage of position, returned their fire with effect and drove them in haste and confusion from their position, killing 2 of whom we are certainly advised and wounding 4 or 5, and we have 43 some reason to believe inflicting on them a severe loss. In this skirmish we lost a valuable life in Acting Surgeon Meredith, who accompanied the expedition, and was killed in the second skirmish with the enemy. At this point I had expected to meet the infantry detachment under command of Major Brevard, and with them to have retired from the town, capturing such pickets as were posted still farther out. The road taken was shorter than anticipated, and the two skirmishes with the enemy had accelerated our progress, so that we arrived at the place in advance of the infantry. Being under the range of the enemy's five gunboats and of his field pieces, we withdrew, bringing off the body of Surgeon Meredith.
Later in the day Major Brevard, commanding the infantry detachment, making his way into the suburbs of the town, encountered in the vicinity of the same place one or two companies of the enemy drawn up in line under cover of the trees and a house. Feeling the party with skirmishers, he then opened on them with his entire command, when they broke and fled in confusion, having first, however, returned his fire. Major Brevard then withdrew his command, and, although the enemy opened on them with shell from their gunboats, escaped without loss, having inflicted, as we believe, some loss on the enemy. We have ascertained from the reconnaissances and other sources of information