now, temporarily in command of the post at Marianna; also copies of telegraphic communications from Luke Lott, esq. a respectable citizen of Calhoun County.
I should have regarded the information from Mr. Lott as unimportant, and attributed it simply to the design which has been so frequently manifested by disloyal men to excite the public mind by false reports, and thus to create discontent, encourage desertions, and deter better citizens from entering the military service. I did not believe, nor could I reasonably suppose, that any considerable numbers of deserters could be in Jackson County and near Chattahoochee River, but I am to-day informed that about 43 deserters surrounded and disarmed at night a part of a cavalry company not more than 8 miles above Chattahoochee, the principal military depot where the arsenal is situated. The next day Captain Milton marched with a force in pursuit of them, but they had escaped by crossing the river into Georgia.
The suspend the habeas corpus by State authority, in compliance with the suggestion of Colonel McClellan, would not produce, in my judgment, decisive and beneficial results. The Executive has the constitutional right to suspend the habeas corpus, but it might be questionable whether the right to the habeas corpus from the judge of the Confederate court (and he resides and Marianna) could be controlled by State authority; but unless something shall be done, and that promptly, to free that portion of the State from traitors and deserters, it will be in the possession of the enemy, and the lives and property of loyal citizens will be sacrificed. The body of deserters alluded to by Mr. Lott are 75 miles above the obstructions and defenses on the Apalachicola River, and from the Apalachicola to Choctawhatchee River there are many in separate bodies. In connection with the plan suggested in my letter of the 29th ultimo, the declaration of martial law in the counties therein named, with a suitable officer in command, until by proper military movements that portion of the State shall be relieved of deserters and traitors, may be the only practical plan of success. This is matter, however, which deserves the most serious consideration, and if, in your judgment, the facts stated justify or make necessary the declaration of martial law and the movement of troops as suggested, will it not be advisable for you to submit copies of my communications and your views to the consideration of His Excellency the President of the Confederate States, who may alone perhaps be authorized to declare martial law and order the co-operation of troops from different military departments? Unless something shall be done before the opening of the spring campaign by the enemy it may then be too late.
While the troops from Florida have most nobly vindicated the true character of her citizens generally, it is extremely mortifying to me that any portion of the citizens should be disloyal, and that I have no means at my command to clear the State of deserters and tories.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully,
Governor of Florida.
P. S.- The suspension of the habeas corpus would not prevent traitors from availing themselves in the civil courts of quibbles and technicalities and the aid of sympathizers.