Return to Dr. Bronson's St. Augustine History
Union Does It Own Raids
Sergt. Major Henry James, Third USCT
by Gil Wilson
Hilton Head,
April 12, 1865.

On March 7, 1865, a party of colored soldiers and scouts, thirty in number,
commanded by Sergt. Maj. Henry James, Third U. S. Colored Troops, left
Jacksonville, Fla., and penetrated into the interior through Marion County. They
rescued 91 negroes from slavery, captured 4 white prisoners, 2 wagons, and
24. horses and mules; destroyed a sugar- mill and a distillery, which were used
by the rebel Government together with their stocks of sugar and liquor, and
burned the bridge over the Oclawaha River. When returning they were attacked
by a band of over fifty cavalry, whom they defeated and drove off with a loss of
more than thirty to the rebels. After a long and rapid march they arrived at Saint
Augustine on March 12, having lost but 2 killed and 4 wounded. This expedition,
planned and executed by colored men under the command of a colored
non-commissioned officer, reflects great credit upon the brave participants and
their leader. The major- general commanding thanks these courageous soldiers
and scouts and holds up their conduct to their comrades in arms as an example
worthy of emulation.

By command of Maj. Gen. Q. A. Gillinore:
W. L. M. BURGER, Assistant Adjutant- General.

Bates, Samuel P.
History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg,
On one occasion, a body of twenty-nine enlisted men of the Third, and one
private of another regiment, all under command of Sergeant Major Henry
James, proceeded about sixty miles up the St. John's in boats, rowing by night,
and hiding in the swamps by day, marched thence thirty miles into the interior,
gathered together fifty or sixty contrabands, besides several horses and
wagons, burned store-houses and a distillery belonging to the rebel
government, and returned bringing their recruits and spoils all safely into camp.

On their return, they were intercepted by a body of cavalry, which was beaten
off after a brisk fight, and they succeeded in crossing the St. John's without
loss, carrying with them their wounded. The courage and good conduct
displayed by the party in this affair, composed as it was, entirely of colored
soldiers, were highly creditable, and were commended in an order by the
General commanding the Department of the South. It was somewhat
remarkable, that the regiment never lost a man as prisoner, though raiding
parties not unfrequently were beaten, and driven by superior numbers. The
general feeling among the men seemed to be, that immediate death was
preferable to the treatment likely to be experienced as prisoners, On one
occasion, a soldier who had been surrounded and driven into the river,
stubbornly refused repeated calls to surrender, and was killed on the spot.

- - -
The St. Augustine version:
Twenty five Colored men from Col. Tightman's regiment stationed in
Jacksonville went out on a raid last week in this state, and brought in to this City
seventy contrabands. They were the most destitute objects I ever saw. Many of
them almost entirely naked. The teachers of the F. A. Ass. having some money
resulting from the sale of books and other means which we could raise have
been very busy this week in making up clothes for the women and children; and
we shall soon have them in a comfortable condition to remain here on ? when
as government may see fit to dispose of them. They (raiders) also brought in
some fine horses and mules.

They would have brought more people and more booty had they not been
betrayed by a girl on a plantation where they had killed the overseer, burned the
sugar mill with a quantity of sugar syrup and whiskey and the body of the
overseer in the sugar house.

This betrayal brought upon them, a portion of Dickinson's guerella army about
seventy, with which they had a fight before they reached here on the Sab.
following. They killed the capt and 27 of the men wounded eleven and captured
four whom they brought in with them, making forty three out of seventy of the
rebels and lost of their own number only the guide who was captured. Doesn't
this show Negro valor?

And they claim a little humanity as they say they left several of the rebels ?
wounded and alone (as their companions had fled they thought it their duty to
go back a few of them and finish them. They say when the parties met they
charged upon the rebels in the name of Fort Pillow.

Dickinson, the John Morgan of this Guerella band, is highly enraged and
determined to have these Col men if possible so the Tues night following the
Sab. after they came in, at two o'clock we were awakened by the report of a
heavy gun at the Fort and a cry from the guard "two o'clock and alarm in the
Camp." It was found that several of the rebels had crossed the river about a half
mile in the rear of the City and others were on the way in their "dug-outs" but
they were scattered leaving their boats behind. We are about being reinforced
and shall not probably fall into their hands.

H. B. Greeley to Whipple AMA March 18, 1865.

The Times
March 18 ,1865
A party consisting of a detachment of the 3rd and 35th USCT left Jacksonville
on Thursday the 7th inst., on a expedition into Rebeldom. They landed on the
morning of the 8th at Orange Mills. The party here divided, a portion going by
boats and a portion by land to opposite Pilatka. Here they again united and
proceeded up the river to Fort Gates where they landed and struck out into the

They soon reached the plantation of Mr. Mason. Here they found two rebel
soldiers planting whom they made prisoners. They also secured five stands of
arms. They next visited the plantation of Mr. Marsh. Here they captured two
more soldiers, one horse, one mule, and six stand of arms. At the plantation of
Mr. Williams they captured two contrabands and one horse. They then struck
the bridge over the Ocklawaha River where they encountered two pickets
belonging to Capt. House's company, who fled to Col Marshes' plantation where
they were overtaken and shot.

At this place they made a haul of 21 horses and mules with their equipments
and 75 contrabands, and burned 75 hogsheads of sugar, 350 barrels of syrup,
400 barrels of whiskey, and the still and sugar works. This was accomplished
by three men. The rest of the party had been left to guard the bridge. The
expedition then set out on its return. At Lake Church Hill they were overtaken by
Captain House's cavalry, numbering some 32. A fight took place which lasted
about two hours.

The rebels were defeated with 26 killed and two wounded. The loss on our side
one killed and two wounded. The casualty on our side was occasioned by the
treachery of a rebel who had surrendered and afterwards fired upon his captors
killing one and wounding another. The party succeeded in crossing  the St.
Johns River and reaching St. Augustine on Sunday the 12th, with all their booty
except five mules and two prisoners, who were lost in the fight; having marched
over 300 miles. No official report has been received at headquarters as yet, of
the affair. When the official report is received more particulars will probably be

March 25, 1865
Should have been the 24th not the 35th

In the end
Sgt Joe Benn of Company B 3rd USCT killed.
Israel Hall, scout, captured
Henry Brown, scout, wounded.
Ben Gant, civilian, captured.
2 more men wounded.
Some unlisted captured.

20 confederates dead.
4 prisoners
74 liberated slaves
1 wagon
6 horses
9 mules