There are large quantities of bittersweet and sour oranges at various places, which, when the means are afforded, I will collect and forward for the use of troops in hospital, to whom they would be invaluable. I would in this connection call the attention of the brigadier-general commanding to the fact that there are said to be 500,000 sweet oranges near New Smyrna, which could be obtained if a boat was sent from Saint Augustine for them.
A scouting party whose statement I deem reliable this morning discovered, at a point some 6 miles in our front, a considerable force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, there being some twelve pieces of the latter. Earth-works were also reported. Strange as it may seem I think there is every reason to believe the above statement correct. A number of scouts are now being sent out to investigate fully as to the reliability, and I will report further by first opportunity.
I am exceedingly crippled by lack of horses for my outpost, scouting, and other duty. The battery horses, being on duty constantly, are fast breaking down. Cannot at least 50 horses be sent me at once with equipments? I should prefer this to having cavalry, and assure the brigadier-general commanding that I will make them pay for themselves very soon. No saddles have as yet been received.
I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. BARTON,
Colonel Forty-eighth New York Vols., Commanding Brigadier
Captain P. R. CHADWICK,
Assistant Adjutant-General, District of Florida.
MARCH 16, 1865.-Skirmish near Palatka, Fla.
Report of Colonel William B. Barton, Forty-eighth New York Infantry, commanding brigade.
HEADQUARTERS BARTON'S BRIGADE,
Palatka, Fla., March 17, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I had the honor to receive the communication, 16th instant, of Brigadier General T. Seymour, commanding District of Florida. All the directions therein contained shall be carefully carried out, and if any time an exigency should require any change, district headquarters will be immediately notified.
The Ottawa has not yet made her appearance. The Hunter went down nearly to Picolata, but could see nothing of her. She has not coal enough on board to make a second trip, but will tow her over the flats if she meets her on the way down to-night. The Columbine had not yet returned, but as she is in good hands I do not as yet feel any anxiety in regard to her.
The scouting party about being sent out at the time of my last writing has returned safely, but were unable to penetrate beyond the enemy's advance, which consisted of cavalry, perhaps a regiment (Georgia and Florida troops). I am inclined to think that the force of infantry and artillery referred to in my last were not overstated.
At 1 p.m. yesterday my outlying (mounted) pickets were attacked by a considerable cavalry force of the rebels and driven in, 2 of them