U. S. STEAMER NORWICH,
Off Jacksonville, Fla., February 11, 1864.
Rear-Admiral JOHN A. DAHLGREN,
Commanding South Atlantic Blckading Squadron:
SIR: In obedience to your order I have the honor to make the following report:
While getting under way on the morning of the 6th instant, at 5.40, a stemaer was reported in sight to the northward. At 5.45 she came up, and upon being hailed, reported as the army steamer Island City, with Major Brooks, of General Gillmore's staff, on board, from Fernandina, bound to Saint John's in a hurry. I told the captain to follow me in. At 5.50 got under way, stood to the southward to bring the ranges on, and at 6.20 corssed the bar. At 7.05 anchored in the Sint John's River, off Mayport. The Island City anchored a few minutes sooner. After breakfast I visited the Ottawa, and then first learned of ane expedition to arrive that day for the purpose of taking Jacksonville, &c. In company with Captain Breese I met Major Brooks on shore. Captain Breese proposed that pickets should be stationed so as to prevent news of the expedition being carried inland by the people on shore. At 9.30, by order of Captain Breese, an officer and 2 men, armed, were sent on shore from this ship to do picket duty on the Mayport side of the river. Captain Breese proposed to send the Norwich up the river at once to blockade the Saint Mary's, in McGirt's Creek, should she attempt to escape up the river. Major Brooks opposed such a movement, as he thought it might intefere with the plans of the general. Major Brooks hired 4 men, refugees, to go inland on Saturday night to cut the telegraphw ire and burn a railroad bridge. He asked for arms, rations, and a quantity of spirits of turpentine, which were furnished by the Ottawa and Norwich. At 6.30 the Island City, with the 4 men on board and a canoe in tow, proceeded up the river to Trout Creek. At 6.45 sent a picket-boat up the river as usual. At 9.15 the Island City came down the river and anchored.
At daylgiht on the morning of the 7th, the vessels were seen off the bar. At 6.20 the Ottawa made signals to this ship to send pilots outside; executed at once. Between 7.30 and 8 o'clock three transports came in and anchored. At 8.50 the Maple Lefa, with a general on board, came in and anchored. At about 9.15 I visited the Ottawa and met General Seymour on board that vessel. It was arranged that the Norwich should proceed up the river some distance ahead of the transports. My orders were as follows, given verbaly by Captain Brese: Furnish the Maple Leaf with a pilot; then get under way; proceed up the river to Mr. Palmer's place; communicate with Mr. Palmer and learn from him what force is in Jacksonville. If a force has ben thrown into town to oppose the landing ifnorm the general. After a landing should be effected by our troops proceed up the river and anchor off the mouth of McGirt's Creek to prevent the Saint Mary's from escaping up the river.
At 10.10 got under way and proceeded up the river. When about 6 miles up the river saw the transporots under way coming up. At 2.05 p. m. stopped off Mr. Palmer's place and communicated with Mr. Plamer. Learned from him that only 20 men were int won and that the expedition was not expected. At 23.45 started ahead. At 3.05 went to quarters. At 3.20 arrived off the town, the