bandits, who had been gathering and forming semi-organizations along the coast and in the southern and inaccessible portions of Taylor and La Fayette Counties, and who had become emboldened to acts of plunder and spoliation by reason of the withdrawal of troops from that region for the purpose of meeting the invasion by the enemy in the eastern portion of the State. South Florida, by reason of the same causes, was infested with similar bands. In each of these regions the enemy was known to be inciting the disaffected to deeds of disloyalty, plunder, and bloodshed, furnishing arms, subsistence, clothing, and encouragement to all who would desert the Confederate colors and resist the enforcement of the Confederate laws. In this way several planters in Jefferson and Madison Counties, bordering on the disaffected region of Taylor and La Fayette, lost a number of slaves, who were either enticed or taken by force away, and who found their way to the enemy's vessels along the Gulf coast between Saint Mark's and Tampa. Cattle were also stolen and carried to the enemy from those counties in South Florida whence has been drawn a large proportion of the beef supplied by our commissaries of subsistence.
Brigadier-General Gardner, in whose sub-district are Taylor and La Fayette Counties, was directed to take vigorous and prompt steps to suppress the lawlessness of these bandits within the limits of his command, and preparations were made to use like measures against those in South Florida so soon as a sufficient force for that purpose could be safely detached from our main force, then confronting superior numbers at Jacksonville. In the mean time, however, and about the 4th March, General Beauregard issued a proclamation offering pardon, on certain conditions, to those in South Florida who had deserted from the Confederate Army, or who were absent from it without leave, and to those who were evading conscription. On the 20th March, the Governor of the State issued a similar proclamation, approved by the general commanding, addressed to an affecting those similarly situated in Taylor and La Fayette Counties. Some availed themselves of the terms of this latter proclamation; how many, I am unable to state, though it is believed that the number was not large. A few also in South Florida embraced the terms offered them, but most of that few are believed to have either gone back to the enemy or are remaining at home, where it is difficult to lay hands on them. By the terms of the proclamation they were to report themselves to the agents of the Subsistence Department in that region, and were to be detailed to remain there as cattle drivers.
In the latter part of March, General Beauregard left Florida for Carolina, having first explained to me his views and instructions in regard to future operations. At this time our effective force operating near Jacksonville was as follows: Infantry, 6,290; cavalry, 1,568; artillery, 487; and that of the enemy in Jacksonville was estimated at 10,000 of all arms, with 1,500 at Palatka, and from 500 to 1,000 at each of the places Saint Augustine and Fernandina.
Having succeeded by the 1st of April, through the energy and skill of Captain E. Pliny Bryan, of General Beauregard's staff, in planting a number of torpedoes in the channel of the Saint John's River, about 15 miles above Jacksonville, by which the enemy's communication with his garrison at Palatka was rendered precarious, and deeming it probable now that another advance on his part was not contemplated, a vigorous assault upon Palatka which
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