John's River, information that a body of about 15 men and 1 officer had been captured by the enemy, who had crossed the river and surprised their post.
On the morning of the 21st, I sent to Colonel Noble a communication, in which I ordered him to withdraw his guards from the river opposite Volusia and Saunders.
On the night of the 21st, I received another communication from Colonel Noble, stating that a force smaller in number than that at Welaka had been captured, and that the enemy, reported to be 400 strong, was said to be pushing northward on the east side of the river. I received the last communication at about 11 at night. In an hour I started for the nearest point to that threatened. I carried with me in the steamer Charles Houghton 200 men from this garrison. At my request Captain Balch ordered two gun-boats-the Ottawa and the little steam-tug Columbine-to accompany me. At Picolata I added to my force six companies of Colonel Beecher's regiment, and all the available force of the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Regiment, numbering in all about 650 or 700 men. I was obliged to use the naval boats as well as the Houghton to transport the troops.
On Sunday, the 22nd instant, I arrived at the landing opposite Palatka. My movements had been slightly delayed by time expended at Picolata in filling sand-bags, no cotton or hay bales, save one of the latter, being available, to render the little tug Columbine less vulnerable. I designed running the tug up the river to Volusia to protect that position if threatened, which I could not doubt from the report of Colonel Noble.
Although my march was lengthened by disembarking opposite Palatka, I did not deem it prudent to convey troops farther up the Saint John's. The Ottawa was to continue to the mouth of Dunn's Creek to afford all possible protection to the Columbine. The Columbine was ordered to proceed immediately to Volusia, and afford all possible assistance to the force at Volusia. The Houghton was to await further orders, meanwhile keeping near the Ottawa for her protection. I directed my march toward the road from Saint Augustine to the crossing of the Haw Creek, thence to Volusia.
I had sent on the evening of the 21st a dispatch to Colonel Noble, saying that I should move for this position, and directing him to push forward to the same point, and beyond, if practicable, all his available infantry and cavalry.
I have thus stated all the movements ordered and commenced from Saturday night at 12 o'clock until Sunday at 4 p.m. Before the Columbine started I placed on board of her, at the request of Commander Breese, of the Ottawa, a guard of 25 men and 2 officers, of Colonel Beecher's regiment. I informed her commander that I should press forward with my troops in the direction in which she was going; that I would afford him all assistance as soon as I could reach him; that I should not consider the discharge of his artillery as an indication that he was in danger. This was assented to by the commander of the Columbine, who said he would throw up a rocket if he required assistance. My march was prolonged into night. I accomplished about 9 miles, and encamped on the north side of Haw Creek, which I found impassable without boats. I heard a great deal of firing from artillery in the direction of the mouth of Dunn's Creek, but saw no rocket and had no dispatches. I presumed the firing to be the ordinary shelling of the woods by the gun-boats.