First, Second, and Sixth [Florida] Battalions left here on the 17th, and the Fourth is supposed to be in motion before this. It was stationed in West Florida, and most of the companies were at stations on the Choctawhatchee Bay, and all distant from railroad or steam-boat transportation. It has orders to take steam-boat on the Apalachicola River for Columbus, and thence by rail to Richmond.
Bonaud's battalion was in South Florida at the time the order was received. It had to march considerably over 100 miles, and will not reach the Gulf Railroad at Quitman for several days to come. It is expected to get to Gainesville (the nearest point where it can take rail), in East Florida, by the 21st.
The major-general commanding is aware that this taken all the infantry force out of this district, leaving the Second Florida Cavalry, Fifth Battalion Cavalry, Hood's battalion cavalry, Campbell's company siege artillery, Tiller's light battery, Villepigue's light battery, and a section of Dunham's light battery, as the whole effective force at my command. Abell's light battery is complete, except about 40 horses; Dunham's lacks about 30 horses. Under these circumstances, I have deemed it proper to remove district headquarters, at least temporarily, to Lake City, and will eventually remove further west, say to Madison or Tallahassee, for the purpose of being more accessible to all portions of the district, and for greater convenience in organizing the reserve forces, upon which we will have to depend in great measure for the defense of important localities. It will not be practicable to carry on offensive operations, either against the regular organized force of the enemy within the district, or the deserters and disloyal who infest certain remote localities.
The best that can be done will be to defend points of greatest importance. With this view I have disposed the cavalry as follows: Hood's battalion and three companies Fifth Florida Battalion, in Middle and West Florida, to picket the coast and operate in the disloyal neighborhoods; the Second Florida Cavalry and four companies Fifth Battalion Florida Cavalry, in East Florida, in front of Jacksonville, and up the Saint John's, on the west side, as high as Forth Butler, for the purpose of keeping observation on the enemy's force in that vicinity. It will be readily perceived that this force is wholly inadequate to the protection of the country, should the enemy see fit to move out from under his gun-boats. From any point on the upper Saint John's he can make raids into Marion, Sumter, and Alachua Counties at pleasure. A large negro population and an exaggerated estimate of the supplies in those counties are the inducements for him to visit them. The injury he can inflict by breaking up the operations of our commissary agents in supplying beef-cattle from South Florida will be a serious one, and one which should not be overlooked by the Government. I would respectfully call the attention of the major-general commanding to this matter in particular. From the language of the dispatch from the Adjutant and Inspector General at Richmond, ordering the infantry out of the district, I think it is evident there must be some misapprehension there as to the available force in Florida.
It will be perceived that to protect this beef interest in South Florida it is absolutely necessary to prevent the enemy from reaching Baldwin, which is only 20-miles from Jacksonville, where he now has 2,000 troops or more. It is also necessary to prevent him from crossing over from Saint Augustine (where he has from 500 to 1,000 troops) to the east side of the Saint John's at points above the mouth