The want of adequate rolling stock on the Georgia and Florida railroads, and the existence of the gap some 26 miles between the two roads, subjected the concentration of my forces to a delay which deprived my efforts to that end of full effect. The absence of General Hill making it injudicious for me to leave this State, I directed Brigadier-General Taliaferro to proceed to Florida and assume the command, he being an officer in whose ability field experience, and judgment I had high confidence, not knowing at the time that Brigadier General William M. Gardner, commanding in Middle Florida, his senior, had returned from sick-leave, and was fit for field service, and had gone to General Finegan's headquarters with the troops of his district. Apprised of this, I directed General Gardner, on the 21st ultimo, to assume command and organize for a vigorous offensive movement preliminary to the arrival of General Taliaferro; but subsequently the victory at Ocean Pond having taken place, in which it was supposed General Gardner, though not in immediate command, had taken an active part, I directed that officer to assume the chief command, and dividing his forces into divisions, to assign General Taliaferro to one of them; soon after which, however, I was advised by the War Department of the assignment of Major General J. Patton Anderson to the command of the forces in the State of Florida.
General D. H. Hill having arrived at these headquarters on the 28th ultimo, I left for Florida the same evening. Although that officer was unwilling for personal reasons, to assume the duty at once I had desired to intrust to him (the immediate command of the troops in the State of South Carolina), he promised to repair to any point threatened or attacked by the enemy and give the officer there in command the benefit of his experience and assistance.
On the 2nd instant, I reached Camp Milton, General Gardner's headquarters, in rear of McGirt's Creek, 12 or 13 miles distant from Jacksonville, where I found our troops in position. The day preceding our advanced pickets had been thrown forward to Cedar Creek, within 6 or 7 miles of Jacksonville.
On the 3rd, Major General J. Patton Anderson also arrived at Camp Milton, and assumed command on the 6th instant of the forces, now about 8,000 effectives, of all arms. In the mean time it had been ascertained from reliable sources that the enemy occupied Jacksonville with at least 12,000 men; that the position, naturally strong, had been much strengthened since the battle of the 20th ultimo, and that four or five gun-boats in the Saint John's effectually commanded the approaches to the place. Under these circumstances it was determined not to attempt to carry the position by assault, as in effect instructed by your telegram of the 4th instant.
Everything indicates that the route of the enemy at Ocean Pond, or Olustee, was complete; nevertheless, the fruits of the victory were comparatively insignificant, and mainly because of the inefficiency of the officer commanding the cavalry at the time, in consequence of whose lack of energy and capacity for the service no serious attempt was made to pursue with his command, while the exhaustion of the infantry, so gallantly and effectively handled and engaged, and our want of subsistence supplies and ammunition, made an immediate pursuit by them impracticable. Unless our present forces should be considerable increased and amply supplied with means for a regular siege of Jacksonville, our operations in that quarter must be confined to the defensive-that is, to prevent-