Hunter, Fla., 9 miles from that town, on the Mobile Railroad, with headquarters of General [J. H.] Clanton, together about 3,000 strong, mostly mounted, with three smaller advanced camps, one between Escambia and Perdido Rivers, not far from Pensacola; one east of Escambia River, 7 miles above Florida Town; and the third, west of the Perdido River, near Nueneces Ferry, on the Blakely road. The encampment west of the Perdido, about 300 strong, is constantly scouting up and down the river, guarding all crossings and ferries, and aiding the rebel pirates, who captured, on the 14th instant, near the Perdido Bay, two of our coal schooner coming from New Orleans, and destroying one of them, the Norman, by fire. (See inclosed copy of my communication to Captain [Jacob] Mahler, assistant quartermaster of transportation, with several statement relating to it.*)
The encampment east of the Escambia River numbers only 120 to 140 cavalry, and has its pickets at Milton, Bagdad, Parces, and Florida Town, with the view to prevent the white and black refugees concealed in the woods from joining the Union forces.
I consider it must important to clear the Perdido and Escambia Bays, and break up and captured those three advanced rebel camps, but this can only be done successfully by boats.
My application for a light-draught side-wheel steamer, dated New Orleans, October 14, a copy of which is herewith inclosed,* was favorably indorsed at department headquarters, and I beg, therefore, to renew my application, with request that, in consideration of circumstances above alluded to, instead of one, two steamers, of not more than 3 1/2 to 4 feet draught of water, be ordered to this district.
I am confident that the result would be a success, securing our schooners in the Gulf against further annoyances, and enabling me to collect at once sufficient men for two Florida regiments, one white and the other colored.
It is essential that both expedition, on the Perdido and Escambia, be started simultaneously, and, as my cavalry numbers only 40 men, I would respectfully request that on the two small steamers two companies of cavalry be embarked, as a cavalry addition so much needed.
The re-occupation of Pensacola should be a consequence of those tow expeditions. It would encourage and bring in the Union service many men from the interior neighboring country of South Alabama and West Florida, and would give me a better basis to start from against the Mobile, Pollard and Montgomery Railroad, which passes through the best cotton and corn lands of the State of Alabama, with large plantations, now almost exclusively engaged in raising corn for the Confederates.
This road has been and is the most important military road the rebels have in the Southwest, it being their only reliable speedy route in transporting troops from the Mississippi east and vice versa. It was over this road that the rebels were re-enforced at Corinth in 1862, and General Johnston passed lately over this road with 30,000 men to Bragg's assistance at Chattanooga.
Under those circumstances, the commanding general will excuse my request for two efficient white infantry regiments and one light battery. They will not be idle, but will do good work.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,