Jasper Jackson Dykes Letter
"Provided by Robert M. McTureous"
Hello! My name is Jasper Jackson Dykes. I am part of the family of George D. Dykes and Mary Rosannah Hurst Dykes. I was born on January 12, 1841, one of 6 sons and 2 daughters in the family. When I was born, the family was living in Duval County, Territory of Florida. In 1843 or 1844 my family had moved to the western part of St. Johns County. My younger brother, Elbert Duncan Dykes was born on August 25, 1844 in the area of Benton County, named for U.S. Senator Thomas H. Benton, later to become Hernando County, Florida Territory. When Benton became an abolitionist, the county was divided into both Hernando and Pasco Counties. My youngest sister, Elizabeth, was born on February 18, 1846 in a complicated birth that resulted in the death of my mother.
By the time of the 1860 census, I was 19 years old and the family had moved to Welaka, on the eastern shore of the St. Johns River, South of Palatka. When we moved there, my brother Elbert Duncan and I tried to make a living both as farmers and in the shipping industry that was thriving along the St. Johns River. At this time there were only two railroads that served the sparse population of the State of Florida. The Florida Atlantic & Gulf RR linked the St. Johns River port of Jacksonville to the tobacco and cotton plantations near Marianna in the panhandle of Florida. This railroad ran through the pine barrens of North Florida. It connected Jacksonville with the State Capital of Tallahassee, Monticello, Quincy, Madison, Lake City and Baldwin. There was a spur south out of Tallahassee that linked up the Gulf of Mexico at St. Marks.
The other railroad was called the Florida RR that was developed by David Levy Yulee. Yulee was the first man of Jewish faith to be elected to the U.S. Senate. The Florida RR connected the port of Fernandina with Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico. It ran through Micanopy, Gainesville, Waldo, Starke and Baldwin, where it connected to the Florida, Atlantic & Gulf RR. This route moved two important products, cattle and the salt to preserve it, to the ocean terminals. The rest of the vast Florida interior was accessible only by riverboat up the St. Johns River to the lakes and the rolling sandy hills or Flatwoods of the central part of the State of Florida. These much sought after water routes started many enterprises along its remote and dangerous routes through a lawless, untamed frontier. Making a living off the waterway commerce, my brother Elbert Duncan and I, moved to the headwaters of the Oklawaha River to the south shore of Lake Griffin. A settlement started here around the steamboat landing on the narrow strip of land that ran between Lake Griffin and Lake Harris. There we settled down at a place called Silverton that was later to become Leesburg.
By this time the war talk was growing. On January 7, 1861, the Florida militia seized Fort Marion in St. Augustine. A U.S. Army ordinance sergeant named Henry Douglas surrendered an arsenal of 6 field pieces, 20 heavy cannon, 331 Springfield rifles, 98 Colt revolvers, over 147,000 rounds of ammunition & 15,000 percussion caps. The next day, another group of militia forced the surrender at Ft. Clinch of the garrison of US Army Corps of Engineers near Fernandina, Fla. A special session of the General Assembly adopted the Ordinance of Secession on January 10, 1861, in which they declared Florida as an independent nation and then joined the states of South Carolina and Mississippi in establishing a new nation-The Confederate States of America.
Meanwhile nothing much worth talking about happened for a few months. Toward the end of July, 1861, we hear of the great victory for our boys in gray, the great Yankee skedaddle near the railroad junction of Manassas, Virginia. This put happy smiles of joy on our faces. This victory and the victory over the Yankees at Wilson's Creek, Missouri, three weeks later, sent the morale soaring through our part of the country. In October of 1861, my brother Duncan and I enlisted in Captain Hopkins' company of independent mounted volunteers that was being organized at Flotard Pond, near Palatka, Florida. Our official enlistment was dated October 19, 1861 for a 12-month period. In the middle of November 1861, Captain Hopkins' mounted company was attached to the 4th Florida Volunteer Regiment. At this time the Quartermaster paid me $110 for my horse, $15 for my equipment. I was also paid an additional $18.80 for the use and risk of my horse. My brother and I, along with the rest of the 4th Florida Volunteers were ordered to Fort Clinch. Fort Clinch was a'~ brick & masonry constructed fortress located on the northern end of Amelia Island. It guarded the mouth of the St. Marys River, which was the strategic waterway access to the inland plantations on its shores of Florida and Georgia. I was present at the December 31, 1861 muster and was paid $18.80 for risk and use of my horse by Major Teasdale. With the Yankee naval forces threatening Amelia Island, our regiment and other confederate forces were forced to abandon Fort Clinch on March 3, 1862.
Within days the Federal navy sent an expedition up the St. Johns River to "examine the condition of things in Jacksonville, to confiscate or destroy any public property that may be of military importance to our troops." The Yankees re-occupied Fort Clinch the next day, and the fort remained in their hands for the remainder of the war. On March 12, the Yankees landed at and occupied Jacksonville and stayed there until April 9th. Lieutenant Thomas Holdup Stevens, the commander of the Federal naval forces on the St. Johns River, soon heard from frightened Unionist, that the sudden appearance of his little armada on the river had trapped two confederate vessels. They were the blockade running yacht AMERICA and the steamer St. Marys. The AMERICA was the celebrated winner of the 1851 challenge race against Great Britain and the namesake of the Americas Cup. Colonel J.C. Hemming and his son, Charles, to avoid their seizure, had towed these ships up the St. Johns River. They were scuttled south of Palatka. Stevens proceeded upriver and learned from a Federal sympathizer in Palatka, that the AMERICA had been scuttled in Dunns Creek, a tributary of the St. Johns River. Stevens determined to raise the yacht and, if possible, the ST. MARYS. The Confederates quickly realized Stevens' intentions and sent a company of cavalry under the command of Lt. Winston Stephens to confront the Federals at Dunns Creek. The plan called for our men to harass the Federals until infantry support could arrive. The infantry company, Oklawaha Rangers, under the command of Captain Pearson was ordered to fell trees across the mouth of Dunns Creek to bottle up the Federals and the AMERICA. Pearson arrived too late to carry out his part of the operation. Lt. Stephen's men had arrived while the Federals were laboring to raise the AMERICA. We were positioned to commence sniping at the Federals, but Lt. Stephens, at the time, lacked the "killer instinct." He reportedly told his troopers: "I can't shoot them, I just can't do it. It would be murder". Lt. Stephens' failure allowed the Federals to raise the AMERICA and by March 28th, the vessel was back in Federal hands in Jacksonville. Within months, the yacht was back at sea as part of the U.S. South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. On April 10th, we attacked the pickets of the 9th- Maine Cavalry, killing 1 Yankee trooper and wounding 4 others.
After Captain Hopkins was killed at a skirmish at the Brick Church, about a mile from Jacksonville, Lt. Winston Stephens was promoted to Captain and became the commanding officer of the independent cavalry that was re-organized at Horse Landing, into Confederate service, on May 13, 1862. We were renamed the St. Johns Rangers. My brother was promoted to Corporal. That day I was paid $24.00 for risk of my horse. On June 30th, I got paid again. I received a $72.00 bounty for my horse, plus $24.00 for use and risk of my horse. I was paid again on August 31, 1862. I got $48.80 from Major L'anson. On September llth and again on the 17th, the confederate battery at Yellow Bluff was shelled and attacked by the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. The confederates left behind several cannon and 60 well supplied tents. The advancing Federal briefly re-occupied Jacksonville on October 7th. Other Yankee troops and sailors going up the St. Johns River on gunboats briefly occupied Welaka on October 8th and Palatka on October 9th.
Meanwhile the local civilians were getting news of Florida boys being killed and wounded on far away battlefields of Tennessee, Virginia & Maryland. In November of 1862, the Rangers were desperately trying to keep the Yankees on the east side of the St. Johns River. Special Order 1487 issued by the East & Middle Florida headquarters on December 4, 1862 formed the 2nd Florida Cavalry from the St. Johns Rangers and 9 other independent mounted companies. We became Company B of the 2nd Florida Cavalry Regiment. My enlistment was changed to 2 1/2 years or the war. For the months of September and October, I was paid $125.00 for my horse and $30.00 for my equipment. Company B was paid again for the months of November and December; I got $48.40 for my horse. During this time my brother and I were on picket duty up & down the St. Johns River.
On March 9th, 1863, a detachment of the 2nd Florida Cavalry skirmished with federals at St. Augustine. The next day, US colored troops of the 1st and 2nd South Carolina Regiments recaptured Jacksonville, on March 13th, while advancing on Fort Peyton, the 7th New Hampshire Regiment was attacked by Captain Dickison and his company and captured 5 of the Yankees. On March 25, 1863 we saw action near Jacksonville. At the end of the Jacksonville operation on March 31st, one of the companies was transferred back to the Middle Florida District. This left only four companies to defend East Florida. Yankee troops moved up river on the St. Johns, occupied and fortified Picolata, Florida in April 1863.
On April 30, 1863, the 2nd Florida Cavalry was assigned to the District of East Florida, Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. I was paid $125.00 and $30.00 for equipment. Major Teasdale then paid me $24.40 for use and risk of my horse.
On May 30 we had a grand review of the military at Camp Finegan for General Finegan and about 50 ladies and gentlemen guests. After General Finegan inspected us, we were given the order to "RIGHT WHEEL". While our band was playing a lively tune, our column passed in review before the General and guests. First came the cavalry, then the artillery, and then the infantry bringing up the rear. Company B was in the front. On June 6, we had another review, this time it was for General Beauregard, himself, along with Gen. Finegan with over 100 ladies and gents were checking us out. We gave a 9-gun salute from Dunham's Artillery & Cos. B, C & F formed an escort. General Beauregard said if the war continued, he would like to lead us himself into battle & we would beat the federals. On June 20, Co. B gets the word by telegraph that Gen. Lee & his army was on the other side of Chambersburg, Pa.
On June 30, 1863, the 2nd Florida Cavalry was re-assigned with 5 companies setting up garrisons in Homosassa, Crystal River. Company K was at Camp Cooper, Company H was sent to Palatka. Company B was stationed at Camp Finegan, west of Jacksonville, with Company C and Company F. For the next 3 months, I was on picket duty along the St. Johns River.
In July, we got a double-dose of bad news from other parts of the South. On July 1 to 3, the grim and deadly Battle of Gettysburg had ended General R.E. Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania by the Army of Northern Virginia. On July 4th, after a 47-day siege by the Yankee army under Yankee Gen. Grant, the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi surrendered. This opened up the Mississippi River to the Yankee navy and cut off the western part, the Trans Mississippi Department of the Confederacy, from the East.
On July 23, Company B moved from Camp Finegan to Camp Cooper, Camp Cooper is just north of Yulee along the railroad that ran from Fernandina to Baldwin. We get a little more to eat than we did at Camp Finegan, but the water was better at Camp Finegan. We hear of the draft riots up in New York City & all of the killing and destruction that is going on up there. If this kind of trouble keeps continuing up North, then they will break off this war. We will be able to go home and live our lives the way we want to live them. Ain't this why we are fighting this war, to be free from tyrannical federal central government. Major Harrison tells Captain Stephens that our company could be increased to 150 men or more. We are getting recruits & can have several transfers if Gen. Finegan would allow it.
On August 19th, 5 of my comrades were captured while manning their signal station at Yellow Bluff on the St. Johns River. Jonathan Drysdale got back into camp on August 19, after being captured by the federals in Jacksonville in March. He said that him & 3 other men were confined in a room 6' by 6', locked up all-night & thrown in a small yard to stand all day in the hot sun. Their diet was bread & water with a small piece of salt pork. They were abused by both white and black troops. A lot of the blacks were fed up with the federals and wanted to return to their masters. The yanks had a lot of black troops in irons, some of them were shot or hung for hardly no reason or trifling offenses. Some times the Negroes killed their officers, and then they were butchered. For the month of August 1863, the sick list of Co. B at Camp Cooper was about 20 or more. It appears that sickness in camp was taking more of a toll than Yankee bullets. On August 23, 1863, Isham Standley died at the hospital in Lake City. On September 19 - 20 1863, Gen. Bragg had his greatest victory at Chickamauga, routing the federals under Rosecrans. But Bragg failed to follow up on his success at Chattanooga & was defeated in November and driven back into North Georgia. On September 23, 1863, the 2nd Florida Cavalry was engaged in a skirmish at Magnolia, just north of Green Cove Springs. The end of September, the 2nd Florida Cavalry was again re-assigned to Cavalry, District of East Florida, Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. I was paid again at $125.00, $30.00 for my equipment. I was detailed to the Commissary Department, spent the next 4 months as a "cow-catcher", helping to supply the Army of Northern Virginia with Florida beef. The South had to use Florida beef because when the Mississippi River was opened up to the Yankees, by the surrender of Vicksburg, it was more difficult to transport Texas beef to the rest of the Confederacy. The Yankee Navy was patrolling the Mississippi. A "cow-catcher" was the Palmetto Prairies answer to the Texas cowboy. For this same period, Major Teasdale paid me $122.00 for use and risk of my horse. I also got $45.00 for clothing on October 4, 1863. It didn't take me long to find out that my horse was worth more than I, as a soldier was worth.
In late November, we picked up 15 federal deserters from Fernandina. They said that there were about 800 troops (150 black) & about 125 of them were ready to desert. In the middle of December 1863, the artillery was ordered from Camp Cooper back to Camp Finegan. If the federals should land at Jacksonville, the whole company will have to go back to Camp Finegan. Company B returned to Camp Finegan on the afternoon of December 21, 1863. We were told to get ready for another grand review on December 22. Co. B was the first company (Right company). We returned to Camp Cooper on Christmas Eve. In early January 1864, we were picking up as many deserters from the federal troops as we were losing from our side. Both sides were getting tired of war. Now supplies are getting short, especially clothing. Some men are "deserting". They are returning to camp later, saying that they went home "to take care of things at home". We notice in the northern newspapers, that the federal government proposes to throw 1 million men into service against the Confederacy for 90 days. If they get that many, I guess we will have to fight a little harder to whip them.
There was many pro-Yankee sympathizers in Florida, especially East Florida who wanted to start up a pro-union State government Florida had seen very little military, activity during this period and by January 1864, the unionists urged action and hoped that an increased Yankee presence would hasten the plan into action. The Yankee President Lincoln, wanting to take full advantage of the situation, because he was seeking re-election ordered Brig. Gen. Truman A. Seymour to re-occupy Jacksonville and sent along his personal secretary, John Hay, to accompany the expedition to administer oaths of allegiance to any turncoats. The mission of the campaign was to disrupt transportation and to deprive the Confederate Army of Central Florida beef. The transportation links were the St. Johns River and the 2 Florida railroads. The Yankee force set out to capture cotton, turpentine and timber, and to recruit black troops for the Yankee army. The Yankee troops were getting under way from Hilton Head, South Carolina in late January 1864. On February 3, 1864, Captain Dickison with some of his company captured a dozen Yankee musicians West of St. Augustine.
CO. B was ordered back to Camp Finegan on Feb. 6, 1864 and the camp was captured on the night of Feb. 9 by the federals. We put up a delaying action on Feb. 10, to Sanderson. On Feb. 11, we destroyed the supplies at Sanderson to keep the federals from capturing them & we made our escape while the federals were moving into Sanderson. Co. B was in Lake City on Feb. 13, 1864 & at Camp Beauregard on Feb. 18, 1864 we were intending to make a stand there, but the actual battle took place a few miles to the East of the camp.
General Seymour's force sailed south and put ashore at Jacksonville on February 7, 1864 with little resistance. Yankee cavalry advancing towards Baldwin captured 18 soldiers & 4 cannon from the Milton Light Artillery while a detachment of the 2nd Florida Cavalry skirmished at Ten Mile Run near Camp Finegan. Federal troops advancing towards Lake City on February 9, 1864 occupied Barber's Crossing and captured a bunch of supplies. The Yankees continued to advance the next day along the Florida, Atlantic & Gulf RR. They got an unpleasant surprise at the trestle over the South Prong of the St. Marys River. Pickets defending their posts killing 3 Yankees & capturing 10 others. The Yankee cavalry fell back to Baldwin two days later to await reinforcements. The Yankees began pouring out of Jacksonville on February 14, 1864. Meanwhile the 44th Mass. Mounted infantry advanced to Gainesville and briefly occupied the town. A detachment of the 2nd Florida Cavalry helped to evacuate the town.
In the meantime, our spies had noted the Yankee movement and our generals began to gather forces. Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan was in command of the Confederate forces in Florida. Being outnumbered, Gen. Finegan asked for reinforcements. General Beauregard sent Brig. Gen. Alfred Colquitt with his veteran Georgia troops and heavy artillery from Savannah to Florida. General Finegan, looking for the most defensible position, set up Camp Beauregard next to the tracks of the Florida, Atlantic & Gulf RR just east of Olustee Station. He picked the site in the Pine Barrens between a lake called Ocean Pond and the tracks on the north side of the impassible Big Gum Swamp. Troops soon began arriving until 5200 troops crowded the camp. The first of 2 brigades included the 6th Florida Infantry, and other troops from the siege of Charleston. They included the 6th, 19th, 23r&27th and the 28th Georgia Infantry Regiments. Also attached was the Chatham Artillery with its 30 pound Parrott. The 2nd brigade included the 1st Florida Infantry, 1st, 32nd, 64th Georgia Infantry Regiments and the Leon Light Artillery. The 2nd Florida Cavalry (3 companies) and the 4th Georgia Cavalry along with the siege train of the 28th Ga. Infantry Reg. Our mounts were in poor condition and there was only a dozen artillery pieces total. These shortfalls were compensated for by the recent combat experience of the Georgia troops. The units of the 2nd Florida Cavalry included parts of Companies A, B & K. The 5th Georgia Cavalry was sent as reinforcements, but didn't arrive in time to take part in the battle. The cavalry units under Col. Carraway Smith were to be held in reserve on both flanks of our lines.
The Yankee force set out from Jacksonville with 4 brigades: Barton's Brigade included the 47th, 48th and the 115th New York Infantry. Regiments. Hawley's Brigade: 7th Conn. Inf., 7th New Hampshire Infantry, 8th US Colored Infantry. Montgomery's Brigade: US colored troops in the 1st North Carolina and the 54th Mass. Infantry regiments. Henry's Brigade of 40th Mass. Mtd. Inf., Stevens Ind. Mtd. Inf, provided the cavalry, and artillery. The artillery units included the 3rd Rhode Island artillery, 3rd US, Battery E and Battery M of the 1st US for a total of 16 field pieces. We used pickets to draw the Yankees in between the swamp and the lake: which was Flatwoods with little underbrush. The Yankees were expecting to make short work of us. The women of Jacksonville said that they would be coming back faster than they were leaving. The stage was set for a day of incredible violence that none of us that survived would want to go through again.
About 8:00 am on February 20, 1864, we were ordered to form-up lines with rifle pits and felled trees so our visibility was about 1/2 mile. The infantry and artillery units were stretched out with the cavalry on both flanks facing east. We waited till about 2:00 pm, when the first shots were fired, telling us that the pickets were under attack. The advancing Yankees, tearing up tracks as they advanced, were surprised to see us in strength. They formed up into three lines. Our artillery opened up with balls, grape shot and canister. Soon the shells were flying back and forth, but the Yankee lines held and both armies were within 200 yards of each other. The special rail-mounted cannon, a 30 pdr. Parrott provided by Lt. Rainbo of the Milton (Fla) Artillery, the first to be used in combat, rained demoralizing havoc among the advancing Yankees, leaving death and destruction in its path. The 7th N.H. Regiment collapsed in confusion. The inexperienced 8th Colored troops followed them after their commander was killed by rifle fire from our sharp shooters, A moving battle then raged for the rest of the afternoon, while we pushed the Yankees back for 3 miles. As we walked across the battlefield later, my brother Duncan made a comment about the horror of the 30 pdrs work on the field. "As we advanced through the pine trees, there was blood raining from the needles, where men had been shattered by the heavy cannon." Later on in life, my brother had little to say about his war experiences.
The colored troops of the 54th Mass. Infantry bravely covered the retreat of the rest of the Yankee troops. According to 2 Georgia soldiers. J.M. Jordan of Company A, 27th Georgia Inf. And Henry Shackleford of Company A, 19th Georgia Infantry said that they fought well and probably reduced the number of Yankee casualties. Yankee prisoners were confessing to their captors to expecting cavalry and being surprised by the size of our force. The federals were also saying that in some of their letters home that they had described us as "murderous outlaws" and that the accuracy of our musket fire was much better than they had been led to believe. The fighting died down by 5:30pm that afternoon with the dead, dying and wounded, captured prisoners totaled nearly 3000 on both sides. The federals had lost 1,861 men: including 313 from the 47th New York Inf. and the U.S. colored troops lost 310. Our loss was about half that many, 946, including 164 from the 32nd Georgia Infantry alone. It was rumored that some of the black soldiers that were captured were shot by our troops, but I don't know of any such incidents, except for the black Yankee that was shot and killed by one of our black cooks in camp.
It is said that in war, "to the victors, belong the spoils". We captured a half dozen field pieces, over 3000 small arms, a bunch of canteens, oilcloths, knapsacks and watches. I hear that Captain Stephens wrote a letter home to his wife on captured Yankee writing paper and ink. The provisions left behind by the running yanks, supplied a feast for our boy in Camp Beauregard that night of coffee, sugar, ham and fresh bread. We ate well for once while he federals were running back to Jacksonville with their tails tucked between their legs. The Rangers followed them later with the goal of repossessing the railroad.
On Feb. 25 we were sent to Middleburg for 1 night & back to near Camp Finegan on Feb 26 & placed on picket duty. Our horses are getting worn out from 24 to 36 hours on the go without feed, but for a few ears of corn. Then we are back in the saddle again, on the move.
Near the end of the third year of the war, times were getting hard. With the Federal blockade, all the time, tightening its noose on our incoming supplies from outside the Confederacy, rations were getting shorter and our morale was starting to slip a little bit. It was still high, but not as high as in the earlier days of the war. I guess that the Yankees were eating pretty good and getting a steady stream of supplies to keep their bellies full. The grain for our homes and mules were starting to get to be a commodity worth its weight in GOLD. Our paper money was not worth too much and it took a lot of it to buy a barrel of flour and sugar was even higher priced. But through it all, we still remained true to the cause and on the ready to kill Yankees or at least to kick their butts back to where they came from. There was an occasional desertion. I guess that some of the boys were getting anxious to see their homes and families, but I cannot really blame them. But Duty is Duty, Honor is Honor and both of these ideals were high on a Southern soldier's list.
I was dismounted on March 1, 1864 and was detailed on picket duty at the railroad trestle over the South prong of the St. Marys River at Barber's Crossing. The 2nd Florida Cavalry Regiment skirmished with the enemy twice that day on the banks of McGirts Creek and at Cedar Creek about 6 miles west of Jacksonville. Company B was in pursuit of the Yankees when we met them at Cedar Creek that afternoon, with Captain Stephens at his usual position at the head of the column. As our boys were crossing the creek in pursuit, then the Yankees opened fire and a running fight started, before we sent them packing back to Jacksonville. Captain Stephens was hit with the first volley.
Captain Stephens was killed at Cedar Creek that afternoon. Losses were minor for the Yankees: 1 killed, 4 wounded and 5 captured. Our losses were 7 killed and 30 wounded. Lt. Gray was promoted to replace Capt. Stephens. Yankees going up river occupied Palatka on March 10, and the Yankee gunboat COLUMBINE captured one of our boats on Lake George on March 13, while the USS PAWNEE on the river near Deep Creek captured the HATTIE BROCK on March 14th.
The 2nd Florida Cavalry attacked the Yankees at Palatka on March 16th and again on March 27th. The Yankees left on their gunboats on March 31st. A picket post occupied by our troops at Volusia guarded the mouth of the St. Johns River at the south end of Lake George. On April 1, the 48th and 115th N.Y. regiments captured pickets of the 5th Georgia Cavalry at Fort Butler, across the river. Meanwhile a confederate mine sank the USS MAPLE LEAF with its cargo and crew of 4, as it was returning from Palatka near Mandarin Point.
On April 2, the 2nd Florida Cavalry made contact with Yankee troops from Jacksonville at Cedar Creek. Our boys drove them back to Jacksonville with 8 wounded. Another mine sank the USS GENERAL HUNTER on April 16th, near Mandarin Point on the St. Johns River. General Birney, in command of a Yankee raid in force up the St. Johns River all the way to Lake Monroe. They departed from Jacksonville in gunboats and disembarked from their transports at Welaka and marched south, collecting cattle, contraband, slaves and burning plantations and homes down to Enterprise. They crossed to New Smyrna and St. Augustine and sailed to Hilton Head, South Carolina on May 1st with about 1500 beef cattle and a few prisoners. I was present for roll call on April 30th and was paid $122.00 for use and risk of my horse, before I was dismounted, and $45.00 for clothing. The Yankees under Gen. Bimey occupied Welaka, after a raid south of Horse Landing. Another mine sank the USS HARRIET WEED at the now deadly Mandarin Point on May 9th. It took down a crew of 5. On May 19th, the 2nd Florida Cavalry captured the 19-man garrison, at Welaka, of the 17th Conn. Infantry and also captured pickets of the 17th Conn. at Saunders, Fla.
On May 21, 1864, Lt. Mortimer Bates and 1 section of artillery (a 12 pd. howitzer and a Napoleon) with 25 men from Captain Dunham's Battery reported to Captain Dickison's head quarters near Palatka. The next day the two of them rode off to the river, a distance of 3 miles. They were looking for the best place to engage the federal gunboats on the river south of Palatka. A courier from our pickets on the river dashed up with word that the river was full of federal gunboats coming up. Capt. Dickison ordered Lt. Bates back to camp and to bring up his artillery to a hill overlooking the fiver south of Palatka. He also ordered Capt. Grey, who was second in command to bring up all the cavalry to the same place. Soon the command was assembled and we marched into Palatka. We occupied the abandoned federal breastworks that were constructed when the federals were earlier in Palatka. We had hardly had gotten concealed when 2 gunboats and 4 transports showed up and proceeded to land 2 regiments on the east side of the river. The Yankees formed up and marched off. Very soon 1 of the gunboats, loaded up with troops, passed by going upriver. It wasn't close enough to engage with small arms, so we let it pass on by quietly. This was the gunboat COLUMBINE. Capt. Dickison ordered 50 men to follow him back up the hill, leaving Capt. Grey in command at Palatka to keep watch on the Yankee movements. Capt. Dickison and the 50 cavalry with the artillery would try to intercept the COLUMBINE 3 miles upriver at Browns Landing. Our boys were 5 minutes too late to catch the gunboat at Browns Landing, but Capt. Dickison was able to get behind a cypress tree about 50' away as it went past on upriver. Capt Grey sent a courier with word that the other gunboat, OTTAWA and 1 transport was moving upriver. The OTTAWA was the largest gunboat on the fiver, with 12 guns. Two of these guns were 200 pd. rifled guns. Capt Dickison ordered us to set up at the landing and to wait on the OTTAWA and the transport. At dusk, the boats were anchored not more than 200 yards from the wharf. Just as we were ready to open fire, the federals lighted up the boats, which made them a fine target for our battery. One gun was trained on the OTTAWA and the other was trained on the transport. When we opened fire, there was a great deal of confusion on the boats. We got off28 rounds before the federals returned fire. The transport was badly crippled by the time it hoisted anchor. It left without firing a shot. The OTTAWA was ready for action and each round poured into us a heavy broadside. The night was very dark and we could be seen only by the flash of our guns. Capt. Dickison ordered Lt. Bates to load up our guns and pull back. The injury to the OTTAWA was such that it didn't move for 30 hours. The report of her loss was several killed and wounded. No one was hurt on our side. On May 23, Capt. Dickison ordered Lt. Bates to be ready to move at the shortest notice. Capt. Dickison took 16 sharp shooters (4 from each company), 1 non-commissioned officer with him upriver 6 miles to Horse Landing. Capt. Grey was still in command at head quarters, keeping watch on the Yankees. When our guns were ordered up, they were set up at the wharf, horses and limbers to the rear. The sharp shooters were deployed to the left, behind trees. The COLUMBINE could be seen about 1/2 mile upriver. At 3 PM, when the gunboat was within 60 yards of our position, the artillery opened fire, putting the federals in great confusion. By the time the gunboat was opposite our grins, we fired again and this time we disabled the COLUMBINE. The gunboat floated down the river and struck a sand bar. The gunboat had 2 32 pd rifled guns and 148 men with small arms. The fight lasted 45 minutes when the COLUMBINE hoisted a flag of surrender. Only 66 men were found alive when Lt. Bates went aboard to accept the boats' surrender. All the officers were killed or wounded, except for the captain. We did not lose a man, but an exploding shell from the gunboat stunned one man. After removing the dead and wounded with the small arms. 1 of the 32 pd guns, we was ordered to bum the gun boat. The COLUMBINE was almost entirely new and considered a very fast and superior boat. We found the orders for the 2 federal regiments that were landed the day before, from Major General Foster. The 2 regiments were ordered to scour the east side of the river for Capt. Dickison's command because Capt. Dickison had crossed the fiver a couple of days earlier and had captured a couple of federal outposts and had returned safely. We tried to get the other 32 pd from the gunboat. If we had these guns mounted, we could do a lot of damage to the boats on the St. Johns River.
Confederate forces had to abandon the post at Volusia, and the Yankees occupied it off and on for the rest of the war. On May 31st, the 2nd Florida Cavalry was assigned to Jackson's Brigade, District of Florida, Department of South Carolina. Georgia and Florida. On June 2nd, a detachment of the 2nd Florida Cavalry, captured Camp Milton on the west bank of McGirts Creek between the Old Plank Road and the Florida, Atlantic & Gulf RR. While at Camp Milton, the tired troopers of the 2nd Florida Cavalry was able to get 6 weeks rest, before we met the enemy again on Trout Creek on July 15th. Two days later, the Yankees destroyed RR supplies in a raid on Callahan, while the 4th Mass. Cavalry burned a bridge on the Florida, Atlantic & Gulf RR south of Baldwin. When the Yankees commenced a raid on Baldwin on July 23rd, we conducted operations with them for 5 days. We beat them back, when they tried to cross Black Creek in Middleburg on July 24th. We met them again at Trail Ridge on July 25th. I was on picket duty at the RR Bridge over the South Prong of the St. Marys River on July 26th, when the Yankees tried to get across the fiver. I opened fire on them and the noise alerted the rest of the picket post detachment who came to help out. During the skirmish, I was wounded slightly in the face. The Yankees had 3 killed and 11 wounded. While I was recovering from my wound, my fellow troopers of the 2nd Florida Cavalry had a skirmish with the enemy at Black Creek, near Whiteside, Florida. About a week later, a couple of companies of the 2nd Florida Cavalry, under Capt. Dickison made a night raid on the Yankees at Palatka. This was August 2nd, and during this raid Sgt. Charlie Dickison, the Captain's son, was killed. He was the only casualty of the raid on our side.
On August 10,1864 the 3rd US Colored Infantry set out from Jacksonville, along the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf RR towards Baldwin, tearing up the track as they went. The 2nd Florida Cavalry met them and skirmished with them at Baldwin. Later that day, I was remounted as a cavalry trooper. I was real happy to be back in the saddle again. Two days later, we skirmished with them again near Baldwin, while they were tearing up the tracks. Turning south, the Yankees moved down the Florida RR towards Gainesville. On August 15, 1864 a force of about 5000 Negro Infantry, supported by artillery and about 400 cavalry was advancing through Lake Butler, to Starke. Here they plundered the town and panicked the citizenry, freeing many slaves before the infantry camped near the Boulware Plantation for the night.
The cavalry detachment moved on towards Gainesville, looting plantations and farm homes along the way. The Negro infantry division was to follow the next day, and after capturing Gainesville, was to continue on through Levy County to the Gulf of Mexico--effectively cutting Florida in half. Captain Dickison was encamped near Waldo with about 180 troopers of the 2nd Florida Cavalry. After a forced night march, Capt. Dickison's force caught up with the federal rear guard at mid morning on August 16th about 1 mile away from Gainesville. Seeing that the federals had control of the railroad depot, Capt. Dickison dismounted most of his men and, with artillery support attacked from 3 sides. After almost 2 hours of fighting and with nearly all of their artillery horses killed, the federals withdrew. Capt. Dickison's men kept up a hot pursuit and eventually scattered the survivors through out the woods for 15 miles to Newnansville.
Lining the streets of Gainesville were 52 dead federals, many more were killed during the retreat towards the St. Johns River; nearly 300 had been captured. We had only 8 wounded in one of the wars most one-sided "battles", and for the time being Gainesville-and most of Florida-was rid of yet another Yankee threat. On August 18, 1864 the 2nd Florida Cavalry attacked the Yankees near Palatka again.
The next 2 months brought a much-needed rest to me and the rest of Company B. We stood muster on the 31st of August and I got paid $8.40 for risk of my horse. I got so little because I was dismounted until August 10th. I did not know it at the time that was the last payday for me as a confederate soldier. We did not see any action to speak of until October 24, 1864, when detachments from Companies C and H skirmished with the enemy in the Big Gum Swamp area, East of Lake City, out near the Olustee battlefield. Also we met the Yankees again at Magnolia on the west bank of the St. Johns River. On Halloween, 1864, the 2nd Florida Cavalry was reassigned to Cavalry, Middle Florida District, Department of So. Carolina, Georgia & Florida and during November several detachments of the 2nd Florida Cavalry skirmished with the Yankees on Pine Barren Creek, off the Perdido River, near Pensacola, twice that month. We were reassigned to Miller's Brigade, Department of So. Carolina,. Georgia & Florida on November 20. 1864 and the regiment operated against the Yankee expedition from Fort Barrancas to Alabama from December 13, till December 19, 1864. For 3 days straight, the 2nd Florida Cavalry skirmished with the enemy, twice at Mitchell's Creek on December 15 & 16th, 1864 and again at the Little Escambia River on December 17, 1864. Re-organized on January 31, 1865, the 2nd Florida Cavalry was still in Miller's Brigade, but we were unattached companies to Department of So. Carolina, Georgia & Florida, with detachments spread out on three fronts: from Alabama in the west, Charlotte Harbor in the south and the Atlantic Ocean, in Volusia County in the east.
General Lee's army was under siege at Petersburg, Va. Sheridan had burned out the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia. Sherman had left Atlanta in ashes in November, marched and burned his way to Savannah. He captured Savannah in December 1864 and had turned his way north into the Carolinas. We did not know it at the time that we were living in the last weeks of our glorious Confederacy. Its funeral dirge was being heard throughout Dixie.
The first week of February 1865, a detachment of Company's B and H of the 2nd Florida Cavalry along with Company H of the 5th Florida Battalion, under the command of Capt. Dickison was in pursuit of a Yankee raiding party under the command of a Col. Wilcoxon of the 17th Conn. Volunteers. These Yankees were burning plantations, stealing cotton and other private property from the local civilians. Capt. Dickison had noticed that the yanks seemed to be very casual about their affairs lately. He had learned of the distribution of troops through his network of spies and was planning to attack the post at Picolota. On the evening of February 2, he had crossed the river near Palatka and moved towards Picolota. However when he got close enough to scout the fort he deemed it foolish to attack on Feb. 3rd and decided to swing wide towards Jacksonville and St. Augustine. On the 4th he came across a group of Yankees at the house of Solona and captured them, where he learned of the expedition that was gathering cotton and would be heading back to St. Augustine.
Braddock's farm was well known to Capt. Dickison and his men, as Braddock's teenage son rode with the unit. The group rode all night and arrived on the morning of Feb. 5th. From Capt. Dickison's own report to Headquarters, the following facts are known.
HEADQUARTERS SOUTH FLORIDA FORCES WALDO, EAST FLORIDA, FEBRUARY 9, 1865
Major: I have the honor respectfully to report that on the morning of the 1st of February, I left this encampment with the following detachment of my command: Company H, 2nd Florida Cavalry, 64 men, commanded by Lieutenants McCardell & McEaddy; Company B, of the same regiment, 33 men, commanded by Lieutenant McLeod; Company H, 5th Fla. Battalion, 23 men commanded by Lieutenants Hays, Branttley, and Halle. On the evening of the 2nd, I crossed the St Johns River at Palatka and moved in the direction of Picolata. When within a mile of the post I found it impractical to make a successful attack. I then made a flank move in the direction of St. Augustine & Jacksonville, where I captured 17 prisoners, including a captain and lieutenant, with an ambulance. I then learned that a raiding party had left St. Augustine for Valencia. Dividing my command into 2 parties, sending one by the Kings Road toward Pellicier Creek, the other by Cowpen Branch, my advance met a small party of the enemy and captured one of them. We continued our march and met the enemy at Braddock's Farm, where I engaged them, taking 51 prisoners (including a Lt. Col. And 2 captains), killing 4 men (including the adjutant), also 18 deserters & tories, 10 wagons & teams with seed cotton (about 9000 pounds), and a number of small arms and horses. I recrossed the river on the 6th of February without the loss of a man.
My officers and men behaved most gallantly, & deserve the highest praise for their conduct & Obedience to orders. The march was very hard & fatiguing, having undergone hard travel both day and night to accomplish my design. I sent in all 68 Yankee prisoners and 18 deserters. All of which is respectfully submitted. I am, Major, yours, respectfully, J.J. Dickison Captain, Commanding Forces Major H.C. Goldwaite, Assistant Adjutant General
Also on the 5th of Feb. Another detachment of the 2nd Fla. Cavalry skirmished with the Yankees twice at Dunns Creek, Northeast of Welaka.
On the night Capt. Dickison returned from his expedition on the east side of the river, he got a dispatch from Capt. E.J. Lutterloh from the outpost near Cedar Keys. The federals had landed in force on the coast and were marching inland on the road to Levyville. Later he got another dispatch that the Yankees were at Levyville and were heading for Lake City. He sent a wire to Tallahassee and got orders to move by tram to Lake City and then march overland to meet the enemy. Capt. Dickison took with him 52 men from Co. H under command of Lt. McCardell and Lt. McEaddy, 18 men from Co. B (Lt. McLeod) and 20 men from the 5th Battalion of Cavalry (Lt. Halle and Lt. Haynes), 1-12 pd howitzer commanded by Lt. Bruton.
We had little rest from our 10 march over the river, we were almost broken down-tired. When duty called, no one faltered, but was ready to march to drive back the ruthless invaders of our land. We moved on as fast as we could. When we got there, a scout had told us that the federals had hastily retreated from Levyville. Pressing on, Capt. Dickison was within a few miles of their rear. Just about sundown the federals had reached Station No. 4 near Cedar Keys. We were about 4 miles behind them and we had to halt for the night. We put out a strong picket so the Yankees would not surprise us. At daybreak on Feb. 13th, the following troops reported to Capt. Dickison--Capt. Lutterloh with 18 men from the outpost. The militia of 37 men (under Capts. King, Dudley, Price and Waterson) making our force 160 men and artillery. A courier brought a dispatch that Gem Millar was 50 miles in our rear on the road from Lake City. At a council of war, it was decided to attack the federals, consisting of 2 regiments of white and Negro troops (about 600 to 700 men) in a strong position along the railroad. Capt. Dickison placed a strong picket force of 18 men on the right to keep the federals from flanking us. Moving forward cautiously with the force of 142 men, the Yankees fired into us, we returned fire and charged them. The federals gave away and in a few minutes, we held the road. The fight became general and the artillery was shelling them at a furious rate. Lt. Dell informed the captain that the enemy had been reinforced and were crossing the railroad trestle to flank him on the right. Our left was well protected by the men of the 5th Battalion of Cavalry. Our center was holding it's own, Capt. Dickison called for the artillery (1 gun and 10 men) to follow him to the trestle. They were soon at the place pouring shot into the Yankees. Every time the Yankees tried to get across the trestle, they got some grape shot and they would back up. Soon our ammunition was running low. The artillery had only 4 more rounds left. Capt. Dickison ordered the artillery to the center, leaving Lt. McEaddy and 10 men at the trestle. As Lt. Bruton was brining up his gun, the enemy was making a desperate charge. At short range, he gave them a round of grape shot. They fell back in confusion. There stood Lt. Bruton until his last shot was fired. "Captain," he said, "I have fired my last shell, what shall I do?" "Remove your gun" was the answer.
As the captain was riding along the firing line, he learned that many of us had shot our last cartridge; no man had more than 3 rounds. Having about 200 rounds in his satchel, he distributed them down the line. In a few minutes every round was fired. He ordered us back which was done in good order about 600 yards in view of the enemy. We reformed and remained for some time, the enemy making no effort to renew the attack. Just then a courier came up with word that the wagons were within 6 to 8 miles with ammo for artillery and small arms. it was after dark before they reached our camp. Setting a strong picket to guard against any surprise, we camped, waiting and eager to renew the contest. The next day we advanced and found the federals had left in great contusion. They didn't even take all of their dead from the battlefield. Had our ammo come up in time, we could have bagged the whole bunch. Before we got on the scene, the Yankees had advanced some distance into the interior, plundering the unprotected citizens, and were so insulting and brutal in their threats, that the bravest hearts among our fair women trembled, and sweet lips grew pale at their approach. The slaves, horses and several hundred head of cattle, with other stolen property, were recaptured and returned to the owners. The enemy's loss was 70 killed and captured. Nobody was killed on our side, but 6 was severely wounded, none mortal. On our return to headquarters at Waldo, we met Gen. Millar and his command at Gainesville. The noble matrons of the town gave us a most kindly welcome, and richly rewarded us with a very sumptuous dinner, which they had prepared in anticipation of our arrival.
Eight days later, my brother and I and the rest of Company B, under the command of Capt. Dickison, along with Company H, saw action at Station No. 4 on the Florida RR near Cedar key on the Gulf.
On February 20, 1865, a detachment of the 2nd Florida Cavalry saw action in the attack on Ft Myers, Fla. With the rest of the regiment in action to repel the Yankee invasion near St. Marks below Tallahassee, during the last week in February and the first week of March 1865. This invasion ended with the battle of Natural Bridge. During this time, I was on picket duty again along the St Johns River. In that capacity, I was involved in the Confederate operation against the enemy expedition from Jacksonville during the second week of March 1865. I remained on sentry duty while the rest of the 2nd Florida Cavalry conducted operations against the enemy from Fort Barrancas to Mobile Bay during the last 11 days of March 1865.
We got word in the middle of April, 1865, that General Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at a place called Appomattox Court House on Palm Sunday, April 9. 1865. For some reason the spirit of Easter did not seem to be a happy in the year of 1865. A couple weeks later, we received word from North Carolina, that General Johnston had surrendered his army to Sherman on April 26, 1865. Boy! the morale of the troops was at rock bottom. We had heard of desertions by some of the troops for months now, but it seems to be sinking in now that the war is finally winding down and maybe some day soon we will get to go home.
On May 10, 1865, Major General Sam Jones surrendered the forces under him in Florida to a Brig. General Vogdes of US Volunteers in Tallahassee. I laid down my arms and was enrolled on a list of prisoners of war 10 days later. On May 20, 1865 according to the military convention made on April 26, 1865, at Bennett's House near Durham Station, North Carolina, between General Joseph E. Johnston CSA and Major General Sherman, USA and was approved by Lt. General Grant US Army, commanding. The great personal dishonor or humiliation of being surrendered as prisoner began at Waldo, Fla. I was paroled immediately upon taking an oath of allegiance, and I returned to Lake Griffin settlement, no longer a private in the Confederate Army, but a private citizen in occupied Florida.
I returned to Silverton, renamed Leesburg, to help identify the steamboat cargo for the Lee family, pioneers of Lake and Sumter County. My brother Elbert Duncan, according to family lore, went over to Palatka from Waldo, and took the steamboat from Palatka to Volusia Landing. He then took the old Indian trail across Spring Creek & across country to Poinciana, then a thriving community of several hundred people. He saw a young woman plowing in the field near a house. He told her if she would fix him something to eat, he would finish the plowing. She did, he did and on September 6, 1865--He married Jane Elizabeth Kirkland, a native Floridian born on the Cooper Plantation, Nassau County on August 9, 1850. Together they had 10 children. Jane was the daughter of Robert L. Kirkland and Martha B. Conner Kirkland.
I met and later married Sarah Ellen Robertson. We lived in Fort Mason and my Father; George D. Dykes joined me and my family there. There on the shore of Lake Eustis, Sarah and I raised our family. Sarah was born on December 24, 1850. Our children were: George Dykes Susie Dykes Lassiter Caroline "Carrie" Dykes Dorothy, born 2/25/1874 Mary Jane Dykes Palmer, born August 25, 1869 Lee Dykes Vincent Florida Dykes Favor Lizzie Dykes Bethea Louise Dykes Cook
Sarah Ellen died September 6, 1883 and I buried her in the old Fort Mason Cemetery. Daddy died on December 9, 1884. I was raising citrus in groves in the area between Lake Joanna, Altoona and Paisley. I guess I was doing pretty well at this farming work, being an innovative horticulturist. I grafted my orange trees into the hearty Florida Sour Orange tree stock until the big freeze of 1894 - 1895 wiped out my groves.
My daughter, Mary Jane married a Federal veteran and Baptist preacher named Daniel Palmer, Sr. on March 14. 1889. Palmer was born on November 5, 1834 up in Canada. He was in the 88th Illinois Infantry as a corporal. He was discharged in 1863, due to disability, from a head wound received at Murfreesboro, Tennessee in the big winter battle there. After he quit being a preacher, he and Mary Jane opened up a store in Altoona. They raised a family: Edna Dixie Palmer Clark, born 12/1/1889 Nellie Palmer Shores, born May 6, 1891 Bessie Palmer McTureous, born 12/11/1892 Daniel Palmer, Jr., born March 22, 1895 Mahion Jasper Palmer, born 3/1/1899 Triplets: Lewis Palmer, born June 4, 1902 Louise Palmer Clark, born June 4, 1902 Lula Palmer born June 4. 1902 and died on June 11, 1902 Clara Bell Palmer Treen, born on January 23, 1905.
Leaving my family behind, with the rest of the Dykes clan, I packed up my horse and two mules, moved to Dade County. When I got established, I sent for my family and we lived in a tent while I established my business.
The City of Miami was founded in 1896. I and my family watched as the pine trees were removed for clearing what is now Flagler Street. My business prospered as Henry Flagler brought the Florida East Coast RR to the port of Miami. I built a house on stilts to protect my family from high water, snakes and gators. At that time, the Seminole Indians were friendly with my family & the Indians would come and get under the house on stilts when the South Florida storms would blow through. His team killed my brother, Elbert Duncan, when they pulled a loaded wagon over him in 1911.
I returned back to Lake County, and in the meantime, my granddaughter Bessie had married a man from Charleston, South Carolina and had started a family. She and her husband, Robert M. McTureous Sr., had a son named Basil Palmer McTureous that was born on February 22, 1913. At the time of my death on August 18, 1913, I was once again living in Altoona. This old Rebel was laid to rest at the old Fort Mason Cemetery, next to my wife and the Mother of our children.
The rest of the story is being told to you by my great, great-grandson Robert M. McTureous as it was passed on down to him through the family history. My great-grandfather, Daniel Palmer had suffered from horrible migraine headaches that was a result of his head wound that he had received in the War Between The States. He suffered from these headaches so much that he would have to leave the store and go upstairs and lie down in his darkened bedroom until it eased. My great-grandfather died on November 5, 1916 on his 82nd birthday. My great-grandmother died on May 6, 1926. My grandparents raised a God-fearing family of four children three of which reached adulthood. My grandfather was at one time the Justice of the Peace in Altoona, and retired from the Post Office in 1950 at Altoona. My father's youngest sibling, Robert Miller McTureous, Jr. was born on March 26, 1924, who also later went on to become Lake County's only native son to win this nations highest military decoration for bravery .... THE CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR for actions against the Empire of Japan at Okinawa, during World War II.