One of the small expeditions started from here on the schooner Buchanan up the Santa Rosa Sound and Choctawhatchee Bay to Point Washington, Washington Country, Fla., to collect recruits, met, after some success, with a reverse, the 2 officers concerned having exceeded my distinct written orders.
I beg to inclose copy of my instructions give to Captain Galloway, recruiting officer, authorizing him to receipt those officers and men of the Confederate army who had expressed through delegates the desire to return to the old flag as friends; also copy of special order * to Lieutenant Ross, Seventh Vermont Volunteers, directing him to proceed to and encamp at Washington Point, at the head of Choctawhatchee Bay, with his company and receive, protect, and bring down to Barrancas all refugees willing to join the Florida cavalry, distinctly enjoining him to use all precautions necessary in face of the enemy and be vigilant day and night. But the eagerness of the officers to accomplish brilliant success by daring deeds induced them to penetrate, with the small force of 17 men of the Seventh Vermont and some refugees, about 15 miles into the enemy's country to capture Floyd's rebel company of infantry, encamped at Boydton's Bluff on the Choctawhatchee River. They succeeded in surprising and capturing, on the night of the 8th of February, the whole company, numbering 50 men and 3 commissioned officers, with all their arms and supplies. But on their return to Washington Point on the following morning they were overtaken by two companies of rebel cavalry under Captains Jeter and Milton, who retook the captured rebel company, with Lieutenant Ross and 11 men of the Seventh Vermont Infantry and Captain Galloway, with 5 of the refugees who accompanied the party.+ The inclosed Montgomery paper gives a fair statement of the affair. A full report with list of officers and men taken will be forwarded by the next steamer.
At present I have a recruiting officer on the extreme end of the Santa Rosa Island, with facilities to bring refugees across East Pass and the sound, as well as down from Washington Point.
In regard to movements of Federal troops it is reported from rebel sources that Sherman has destroyed the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, with a large additional amount of rebel property, without much interference from Confederate troops; that Grant and Johnston have been engaged heavily at Dalton, and that a portion of Gillmore's command, after successfully landing in East Florida, on the Saint John's River, at Jacksonville, has advanced toward Lake City, on the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad, which extends from Jacksonville through Tallahassee to Quincy.
Thus, it seems that Union forces of four department, the Gulf Tennessee, Cumberland, and the South, are co-operating against Alabama and Florida in a lengthwise half circle, the center of which is Mobile, and it is quire hard for me to be left inactive, although the nearest to this center. I hope, therefore, that the commanding general will kindly forgive me when, repeating once more my former request, I respectfully ask a chance to participate, in behalf of the Department of the Gulf, in the combined contest and contribute my humble part, at least within the limits of the District of West Florida, which I have the honor to command, so much the more so as Barrancas offers undoubtedly the best and safest base of operations.
+ See also Peck's report, Part I, p. 356.