MARCH 31, 1864.-Skirmish at Palatka, Fla.
Report of Colonel William B. Barton, Forty-eighth New York Infantry, commanding U. S. Forces.
HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES,
Palatka, Fla., March 31, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have had the honor to receive the communication of Lieutenant R. M. Hall, acting assistant adjutant-general, under date of March 30, which I presume to have been written by direction of the brigadier-general commanding the district, although there is nothing therein to indicate this with certainty. In compliance with its directions, I am having the ground surveyed for the erection of a small intrenchment on the heights. In my judgment, however, it will be rather a disadvantage than otherwise. If placed sufficiently near the river on the left to render its not being surrounded certain the line for its garrison will be a difficult one.
My scouts returned yesterday, having learned that it is the general belief among the troops in our front that it is designed to attack this place at an early day with an infantry force of some 8,000 men and all the artillery that can be spared, and that the forces for this or some other purpose are being massed upon the Micanopy road. Statements to this effect I have also received from several other sources. I am inclined to doubt their correctness, but, of course, shall act in my preparation for defense as if they were entirely authenticated. The woods and underbrush are being rapidly cleared away wherever they can afford cover to the enemy, and everything possible is being done to strengthen our line of works. I have taken the responsibility of directing that the houses in front of our left be so prepared that they can be destroyed in a moment if it becomes necessary, and this destruction will do away with a serious objection to that part of the line. Inclosed I send, for the information of the commanding general, copy of a circular issued yesterday detailing more fully than I had previously done my disposition for defense. I have added the re-enforcements ordered to report to me to the reserves. In my judgment at least one additional gun of not less range than 30-pounder Parrott should at once [be] sent here. The artillery I now have, with the exception of the 18-pounder, is light, and I am laboring under difficulties with respect to ammunition for them, which I have requested Captain Langdon, chief of artillery, to explain on arrival at headquarters. If the enemy should bring artillery of corresponding range I should be in a position to fight them with the same. Not less than 100 more axes should also be sent at once. A requisition has been sent by this mail for coal, for the reason that vessels habitually come here with but one or two days' supply. The Hunter, for instance, has only sufficient to last for two days, and in case of difficulties between here and Jacksonville would be of little use. The gun-boat may also run short from the same cause. The arms called for should, I think, be sent up to-morrow night. I should be glad if the five companies of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers now at or near Jacksonville could be ordered to rejoin their regiment here. Colonel Hartwell is exceedingly anxious to have his regiment together, and I would like to have it all here. In expectation of a dash by the enemy's cavalry upon our pickets, I yesterday and to-day ambushed