city and Fort Sumter to be increased a little. Our troops upon these islands are well posted for security, and are, generally, quite healthy.
In the District of Florida I found it necessary to make some changes with the view of concentration and mutual support. Before my arrival General Gordon had performed a handsome feat in turning, by a rapid night march, the enemy's camps called Camp Milton and Camp Finegan, situated, respectively, 10 and 6 miles from Jacksonville. The enemy, finding a force in front and rear, took to their heels and escaped. The camps were completely destroyed. The enemy fell back on Baldwin, which is strongly fortified. The Milton was also a strongly fortified position against a front attack. The line of well-constructed bastions, rifle-pits, and block-houses extended nearly 2 miles.
Brigadier-General Birney is now in command of this district in obedience to your orders. I would have preferred General Hatch as commander there, for several reasons, but did not, nevertheless, fail to carry out your order at once. I have ordered a regiment to be organized in Florida from the loyal whites and all men able to bear arms in district, as well as all others, to be enrolled, officered, and drilled as militia, to be called into service, in case of an emergency, like that of an offensive movement, in which case they are to be used to garrison the posts from which the veteran troops are taken. I have ordered a school of instruction for those colored regiments that required drill and discipline to be established at Hilton Head, where they will receive constant instruction in regimental and brigade drill and in the firings. Brigadier-General Potter is to be in immediate command, under the general supervision of General Hatch, commanding the district.
Steps have been taken to preserve the healthfulness of the commands in the various districts of the department. Fresh vegetables and fruits are to be brought each week from Florida to the troops on Morris and Folly Islands, and an ice-house is being constructed for their further benefit. The exposure and labor to which these troops are constantly subjected fully entitles them to these attentions to their comfort.
The court of inquiry in the case of General Birney's expedition and the loss of the steamer Boston has concluded its labors, and attach the blame to Colonel Bayley, Ninth U. S. Colored Troops. The evidence shows that General Birney did not take two necessary precautions, viz, to send the pilot that was to take the Lewis and the Boston up under the guard of an officer or soldier to prevent his failure to perform his duty; second, to post a boat opposite the point of disembarkation to prevent the steamers passing it in the darkness.
I have ordered a court-martial to try Colonel Bayley. This expedition was planned by General Hatch, and, with every chance in its favor, should have succeeded.
On the 22nd and 23rd of May a strong demonstration was made on the enemy's line on James Island. They were found to be too formidable to risk an attack in front.
I shall continue to make full reports by each steamer.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. FOSTER,
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff.