PRIVATE.] HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
Hilton Head, S. C., June 17, 1864.
Commanding District of Florida:
GENERAL: I wrote you a private letter a few days since about making an effort to destroy the trestle-work on the railroad west of Baldwin. My information is to the effect that the enemy's force in Florida is very small and mainly militia. I trust you will undertake the operation if, in your judgment, the chances are in favor of success. The plan must be formed by yourself. I would only suggest that you make the movement past Baldwin, destroying the trestle-work, and then either turn on Baldwin and taken it, or take a little]sic], whichever promises most success. I wish you also to give great attention to the drill and discipline of the colored regiments. They should be practiced in the firing, both blank and with the ball at a target. Incompetent officers must be eliminated.
The rebel General Samuel Jones, commanding on the other side, has place 5 general officers and 45 field officers, U. S. prisoners of war, in Charleston under our fire. I have sent to Fort Monroe to get an equal number of rebels to expose to their fire. No further news.
J. G. FOSTER,
Off Morris Island, S. C., June 17, 1864.
Major General J. G. FOSTER,
Commanding Department of the South:
GENERAL: My attention has been drawn to the inclosed article,* purporting to have been written by a correspondent in Hilton Head. It is asserted therein that the only person who escaped from the Water Witch gives information that not a shot was fired in defense. Now, the fact is that the person alluded to makes no such statement, but just the reserve. He says that there was hard fighting for half an hour, and that he noticed the captain (Pendergrast) three times on the quarter-deck encouraging his men, who were fighting briskly. He also says that the rebels came in on all sides. It was also known that the Savannah papers admitted a loss of 7 men killed and 12 wounded. The same article is equally wide of the truth in stating that the Water Witch was 1.300 tons and carried three 100-pounders and three 12-pounders, and was one of the fleetest and most valuable vessels for blockade in the squadron. The Water Witch was a small steamer of 378 tons and carried only one 3-pounder and three 12-pounders, such as are used in boats. Her full crew only amounted to 82 men, and of this small number she was 14 men short when taken, which would not have been the case if the quota of men expected from the troops of this department had been supplied: whereas not a man was received until you took command, and now only 50 to this date, which will not begin to fill deficiencies. She was a convenient vessel on account of her draught, being less than 10
* Not found.