News from the War as Reported in the New York Times, 1862
From The New York Times, Tuesday, March 18, 1862:
Gen. Hunter to Command a New
Military Department, Including
South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida
New Military Department
A new Military Department has been created, composed of the States of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and Major-Gen. Hunter has been assigned to its command. The headquarters are at Beaufort. Gen. Hunter will rank Gen. Sherman, but this is not considered in a military sense as a supersedure of Genl. Sherman.
From the New York Times, Thursday, March 20, 1862 (Vol. XI - No. 3273)
FROM THE SOUTHERN COAST
Arrival of the Atlantic from Port Royal, and the Marion from Fernandina.
More Important Captures in Florida.
Surrender of Fort Marion, St. Augustine and Jacksonville.
Flight of the Rebel Troops Without Firing a Gun.
The Old Flag Run Up in St. Augustine by the Town Authorities.
Affairs at Port Royal and Below Savannah.
Washington, Wednesday, March 19.
Dispatches received at the Navy Department from Flag-officer Dupont announce that the flag
of the United States floats over Fort Marion, at
St. Augustine, Fla. The town was surrendered without fighting.
The town authorities received Commander Rogers in the Town Hall, and after being assured that he would protect the loyal citizens, they raised the flag with their own hands.
The rebel troops evacuated the place the night before the appearance of the gunboats. This is the second of the old forts taken.
Jacksonville, Fla., was also surrendered in like manner.
The Governor of Florida has recommended the entire evacuation of East Florida.
THE REPORT OF COMMODORE DUPONT
Flag-ship Wabash, off St. Augustine, Fla.
Thursday, March 13, 1862
Sir: Having on the 7th dispatched a Division of my force to hold Brunswick, consisting of the Mohican, Pocahontas and Potomska, under Commander Gordon, I shifted my flag from the first-named vessel to the Pawnee, and organized another squadron of light vessels, embracing the four regular gunboats: Ottawa, Seneca, Pembina, and Huron, with the Isaac Smith and Ellen, under Lieutenant-Commanding Stevens, to proceed without delay to the mouth of the St. Johns River; cross, if possible, its difficult and shallow bar, feel the forts if still held, and push on to Jacksonville; indeed, to go as far as Pilatki, eighty miles beyond, to reconnoitre and capture river steamers. This expedition was to be accompanied by the armed launches and cutters of the Wabash, under Liets. Irwin and Barnes, and by a light draft transport with the Seventh New Hampshire Regiment. After arranging with Brig.-Genl. Wright our joint occupation of the Florida and Georgia coasts, including protection from injury the mansion and grounds of
Dungenes, on Cumberland Island, originally the property of the Revolutionary hero and patriot, Gen. Greene, and still owned by his descendants, and leaving Commander Percival Drayton in charge of the naval force, I rejoined this ship waiting for me off Fernandina, and proceeded with her off St. Johns, arriving there on the 9th. The gunboats had not yet been able to cross the bar, but expected to do so the next day, the Ellen only getting in that evening. As at Nassau, which was visited by Lieutenant Commanding Stevens on his way down, the forts seemed abandoned. There being no probability that the Huron could enter, I dispatched her off St. Augustine, where I followed her, arriving on the 11th. I immediately sent on shore Commander C. R. P. Rogers, with a flag of truce, having reason to believe that, if there were any people on this coast likely to remain in their houses, it would be at St. Augustine. I inclose Commander Rodgers' most interesting report, which I am sure the Department will read with satisfaction. The American flag is flying once more over that old city, raised by the hands of its own people, who resisted the appeals, threats and falsehoods of their leaders, though compelled to witness the carrying off of their sons in the ranks of the flying enemy. This gives us possession of a second National fort of strength and importance.
Since writing the above, I have received by the Isaac Smith a report from Lieut.-Commanding Stevens of his operations in the St. Johns River, giving details of great interest.
From Lieut.-Commanding Nicholson, I learn with regret of acts of vandalism on the part of the rebel commanders, (not the people) in setting fire to vast quantities of lumber, and the saw mills in that region, owned by Northern men, supposed to have Union sympathies.
In all this varied and difficult service, having to contend with surf shores, dangerous bars, and inland navigation in an enemy's country, I think it due to the officers and men under my com- mand to say that they have on all occasions dis- played great spirit and ability, fully coming up to my requirements and expectations. Very respectfully,
(signed) S. F. Dupont, Flag-Officer.
To Hon. Gideon Wells, Secretary of the Navy.
ST. AUGUSTINE AND JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, AND FORT MARION.
The Town of St. Augustine, of which our troops have just taken peaceful possession, is the most ancient settlement in the United States, and has a history of romance and wonder unequaled by any place situated on the continent. It is a place of 2,000 inhabitants, situated on the northeastern coast of Florida, two miles back from the Atlantic shore, on the south point of a peninsular, connected with the mainland by a narrow isthmus, protected from the swell of the ocean by Anastasia Island, not sufficiently high to obstruct the sea breezes and a view of the ocean. It is in the form of a parallelogram, fronting east on Matanzas Sound, forming a harbor sufficient to contain a large fleet in safety. The city is one mile long and three-fourths of a mile wide. The streets are narrow, and some of them very crooked, and the houses are generally built of stone, two stories high. It contains a splendid Roman Catholic Church and other houses of worship, and on the east is a fine large square, which forms a charming orange grove. The place is extremely salubrious, and has always been a favorite resort for consumptive and other invalids from the North. Fort Marion stands at the north end of the town, and completely commands the harbor. Regular steam packets have always ran between St. Augustine and Charleston.
It was at this place that Ponce de Leon landed when in search of the fountain of youth, three hundred and fifty years ago, and here that he took possession of the whole country for the Spanish crown. Sometime afterward it was settled by a colony of French Protestants, but they were all subsequently massacred by a body of Spaniards, dispatched from Spain for that purpose. The latter gave the place the name of St. Augustine, in the usual manner of the early voyagers, because they had arrived on the coast on the day dedicated in the calendar to that great Saint. They established a fort at the town, which they held until 1586, when it was captured by Sir Francis Drake. This is not, of course, the place to relate the subsequent wars which raged at St. Augustine, between Spaniards, Frenchmen, Indians and Englishmen, nor to recount the different kingdoms and governments to which it belonged, until, finally, in the early part of the present century, Florida was acquired by the United States. Those who are curious upon the subject will find an extremely interesting historical sketch of the place in a volume published in this City by George R. Fairbanks; from which, to give an idea of the town, now that it has assumed a new interest, we will quote a few sentences:
"St. Augustine was the first permanent settlement of the white men, by more than forty years, in this Confederacy; here, for the first time, the civilization of the Old World made its abiding-place, where all was new and wild and strange. This now so insignificant place was the key of an empire; upon its forts rested the destiny of a nation; its retention decided the fate of a people; it was a vice provincial court, boasted of its adclantadas, men of the first rank and note of its royal exchequer, its public functionaries, its brave men at arms; that its name conferred by its proud monarch, "La siempre fiel Ciudad de San Augustin," -- stood out upon the face of history; here the cross was first planted; from the Papal throne itself scripts were addressed to its Governors; the first great effort at Christianizing the fierce tribes of America proceeded from this spot; the martyr's blood was first here shed; within these quiet walls the din of arms, the noise of battle, and the fierce cry of assaulting columns were heard for centuries. Who will not feel that we stand on historic ground, that an interest attaches to the annals of this ancient city?"
Mr. Bryant, who visited the city some years ago, described it in a few words: "The old houses, built of a kind of stone which is seemingly a pure concretion of small shells, overhang the streets with their wooden balconies, and the gardens between the houses are fenced on the side of the street with high walls of stone. Peeping over these walls you see branches of the pomegranate and of the orange tree, now fragrant with flowers, and rising yet higher the leaning boughs of the fig, with its luxuriant leaves. Occasionally you pass ruins of houses. You meet in streets with men of swarthy complexion and foreign physiognomy," &c.
Such is the pleasant new quarters for our troops at St. Augustine.
This fort, over which now waves the Stars and Stripes, is, as already mentioned, at the north end of St. Augustine, commanding the harbor. It is a very ancient work, having been built by the Spaniards over two hundred years ago, and was completed in 1756, under Governor and Captain-General Don Alonzo Fernando Herera, in the reign of Don Ferdinand VI. An old writer describes it as a casemated fort, with four bastions, a ravelin, counterscarp, and a giacis built with quarried shell stones, and constructed according to the rudiments of Marechal de Vauban. Another describes it as above half a mile in length, regularly fortified with bastions, half bastions and a ditch. It had also several rows of the Spanish bayonet along the ditch, which formed so close a chevaux de frize, with their pointed leaves, as to be impenetrable -- the northern bastions built of stone.
The whole work remains now as it was in 1756, with the exception of the water battery, which was reconstructed by the Government of the United States in 1842-43. The complement of its guns is one hundred, and its full garrison establishment requires one thousand men. "It is considered by military men as a very credible work; its strength and efficiency have been well tested in the old times for it has never been taken, although twice besieged and several times attacked. Its frowning battlements and sepulchral vaults will long stand after we and those of our day shall be numbered with that long past, of which it is itself a memorial; of its legends connected with the dark chambers and prison vaults, the chains, the instruments of torture, the skeletons walled in, its closed and hidden recesses -- of Coachoucrea's escape, and many another tale, there is much to say; but it is better said within its grimm walls, where the eye and the
imagination can go together in weaving a web of mystery and awe over its sad associations to the music of the grating bolt, the echoing tread and the clanking chain." It was formerly called San Juan de Pinos -- then St. Mark's -- and when taken possession of by the United States, Fort Marion.
Jacksonville, also possessed by our troops, is a town of 2,100 inhabitants, situated on the northwest side of the St. Johns River (Fla.). It is the terminus of a railroad which runs about half way across the State to Alligator, and is a good point from which to conduct certain operations into the interior.
NEWS FROM FERNANDINA
The United States transport steamship Marion, Capt. James D. Phillips, from Fernandina, March 9, and Port Royal, March 16, consigned to Col. D. D. Tompkins, Quartermaster, United States Army, arrived at this port yesterday morning.
No important event had occurred since the recent capture and occupation of Fernandina, St. Mary's, and Jacksonville, Fla., by the navy, under Flag-Officer Dupont, and the troops commanded by Gen. Wright.
The health of the troops is generally good.
On the 18th inst., at 5 A.M., passed steamship Illinois, bound South.