In the mean time Lieutenant-Colonel Brevard had been diverted somewhat from his direct course to the southern coast for the purpose, if possible, of cutting off or punishing a raiding party of the enemy from Saint Augustine, who had made their way southward on the east side of the Saint John's, and were reported to be crossing over at Volusia, or a point not far above, for the purpose of driving off cattle and negroes from the settlement near Ocala and South of that place. As he has no cavalry (no forage in the country and too far to transport it) I do not anticipate any other results against these last-mentioned raiders than to cause them to return to Saint Augustine and Jacksonville. But it is believed that much good will be derived from the expedition generally, by reason of the protection which will be afforded by it to the agents of the Commissary Department engaged in the collection of beef-cattle in that region, as well as the confidence its presence will inspire in the loyal slave owners and planters, whose property and operations have been threatened. In any of these expeditions, however, upon the coast the most that can be accomplished with the means at hand is to drive the lawless bands from the mainland. When this has been done they take refuge on the innumerable islands and keys along the coast, from which, with the assistance of their small boats, and re-enforced from their blockading vessels, they can make descents on the mainland, whenever our troops are withdrawn, or at points impossible to be guarded. To remedy this I propose to construct boats of a light draught, suitable for the purpose, in which we can take the offensive against these island rendezvous. With half a dozen such crafts, carrying from 20 to 25 men, each convoyed by a larger one, but of light draught, carrying a boat howitzer, I am of the opinion the islands might in time be entirely cleared of the outlaws. The depth of water for some distance seaward does not allow of gunboats approaching within range of these keys, and but rarely could the enemy use his larger-sized launches efficaciously against such a fleet as I have described. I have therefore directed the quartermaster to procure the building of such boats, under the supervision of an able and skillful steamboatman, whose experience in matters of the kind is believed to be such as will insure success.
The cost to the Government will be trifling, compared with the results. As yet it cannot be definitely ascertained. Most of the work is being done by details of the army. It is believed, too, that great damage could be inflicted upon the enemy's water craft in the Saint John's River, if a torpedo-boat, such as I have learned has been tested in the waters of Charleston Harbor, could be procured to operate against them. There are now, and have been for more than a month, four gun-boats between Picolata and the mouth of the river. Innumerable creeks, bays, and lakes empty their waters into the Saint John's on its east side, which is in our possession. Several of these steamers are navigable by steamers drawing 5 and 6 feet water for several miles in the interior. From these, torpedo-boats could easily reach the river, perform their work, and return within our lines at any time in a few hours. Through Captain Chisolm, of General Beauregard's staff, I applied to Mr. Wagner, of Charleston (who I learned from Captain Chisolm had the control of one or two of these boats), for one to operate in the waters, and in the manner I have described, but was unable to procure it. Captain Lee, of the Engineers, temporarily of my staff, who is eminently practical and somewhat of a machinist and mechanic withal, thinks he can