The work upon the fortifications at Baldwin has been materially retarded by the heavy rains, preventing in great measure the work from progressing, as it had to be done in water, which stands in many places along the line of the works; second, by the withdrawal of engineer troops to work on the railroad; third, by want of tools; fourth, by failure of the proper officer to supply by impressment a sufficiency of slave labor. The cause of the latter failure has not yet been ascertained, but will be inquired into as soon as these officers return from the counties to which they were sent for the purpose of obtaining the slaves. They may have been delayed by the damage to the roads before mentioned.
Three deserters yesterday from the enemy report in substance only about 5,000 troops in Jacksonville of all arms, the same force which was repulsed at Ocean Pond. They say that 20,000 re-enforcements reached Jacksonville a few days after the battle, but only remained two days, returning to Hilton Head, Beaufort, and other points north of this. I hope to learn more definitely on these points very soon, when action can be taken accordingly.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DISTRICT OF FLORIDA,
Camp Milton, March 30, 1864.
Brigadier General W. M. GARDNER,
Commanding Sub-District No. 1.:
GENERAL: The major-general commanding directs me to acknowledge the receipt (by the hands of Captain Gibbs) of the official report of Lieutenant Colonel H. D. Capers, commanding forces recently operating in Taylor County, Fla., accompanied by a copy of your proclamation, dated Mosely Hall, March 18, 1864; also an original communication from W. W. Strickland, leader of a band of outlaws and deserters now infesting that region, to Lieutenant-Colonel Capers, together with the oath and roster of his band, and a copy of your communication of the 28th instant to Lieutenant-Colonel Capers in regard to these papers.
I am also directed by the major-general commanding to say that he does not regard any oath these deserters may have taken to the Government of the United States, of the character disclosed, as at all obligatory. By the written [statement] of Strickland, the leader, most, if not all, of these men are deserters from the armies of the Confederate States, and it cannot be admitted for a moment that by any act of their own, without the consent of their Government, can they absolve themselves from the obligations they are under to serve in those armies and conform their acts and doings to all the requirements of the laws of the Confederate States, the orders and regulations of the War Department, and the proper military authorities acting under them. To admit the right of soldiers to retire at pleasure from the army and take up such occupation as to them may be agreeable is too plainly preposterous to be entertained for a moment. To make an exception in the case of men who persist in declaring their unwillingness to return to military duty would establish a precedent destructive of all subordination, discipline, and