The peninsula of Florida, presenting as it does quite one-half of the coast of the Confederate States, affords great opportunities for evading the enemy's blockaders, and bringing in supplies for the Government. Many deserters from the armies of Virginia and Northern Georgia, as well as from the troops of Florida, are collected in the swamps and fastness of Taylor, La Fayette, Levy, and other counties, and have organized, with runaway negroes, bands for the purpose of committing depredations upon the plantations and crops of loyal citizens and running off their slaves. These depredatory bands have even threatened the cities of Tallahassee, Madison, and Marianna.
It is very desirable to complete the railroad connection between Live Oak, in Florida, and Lawton, Ga., thus uniting the Florida system of railroads with that of Georgia. To procure the iron for that purpose it is absolutely necessary that we hold Baldwin, which is at the crossing of the road from Fernandina to Cedar Keys, and the road from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. the enemy now hold that position, which is fortified on all sides. The force of the enemy, as obtained from reliable sources, is about 2,000 at Baldwin and 1,500 at Jacksonville. All the troops that I have been able to concentrate amount to
. These consist of reserves, dismounted cavalry, and artillery acting as infantry, with a few cavalry, and six pieces of artillery. There are other troops of all arms, amounting to about 180 men, under the command of Captain Dickison, in the neighborhood of Gainesville, acting as a corps of observation and for protection. In order to concentrate the force I now have, and which is stationed on the South Fork of the Saint Mary's River, I have been obliged to strip Middle and West Florida of all force, even for their defense against raids of deserters and negroes. I do not deem it prudent to attack the force at Baldwin, with the available mixed command now at my disposal, with all the odds of numbers and position against me. Yet I deem it all important that the enemy should be dislodged from Baldwin. To effect this desirable end, I think that a force of 5,000 men, of whom a considerable portion should be veterans, should be concentrated at or near the Saint Mary's trestle. I specially request that of this force the three regiments that were ordered to accompany me to the south, namely, the Fifth, Forty-seventh, and Sixty-fifth Georgia Regiments (the latter of which was styled in the order the Fifty-fifth Regiment), shall constitute a part. The Fifth and Forty-seventh Georgia Regiments are now at Charleston, S. C. The Sixty-fifth Georgia Regiment is in the Army of Northern Georgia. I also recommend that power be granted to me to extend pardon to deserters, and to organize them into a command, the officers of which shall be appointed by the President. They occupy the same portion of country which was held for so many years by the Seminole Indians, and without a force which cannot be spared from other quarters, they cannot be dislodged. I believe they are repentant and disposed to return to allegiance to their Government. As the policy of severity has been practiced toward them heretofore without success, I recommend this lenient course. I also recommend that the Governor of Florida be called upon to furnish all the militia at his disposal for the defense of the State, and that they be organized under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel McDonald, with appropriate rank, to report to me. With this force, these powers, and the proper disposition, I think the enemy can be driven back to Jacksonville, at least; the