Camp 7th C. V. [Connecticut Volunteers] Fernandina, Fla. Feb 18th 1863
My Dear Friends,
There is a steamer signaled as coming from the South. She will stop here I see also by
the signal, and will probably take a mail. It becomes me therefore to write. I have already
promised you to write something about my trip to St. Augustine, which I told you was a
very pleasant trip. It was Tuesday morning about 11 o'clock that we started out in the
Delaware. But who constitutes the we? you ask. Well, there was myself to begin with,
there was Mrs. Hasby and her sister Miss Forth [?], there was Dr. Corta [?] and his wife
and Capt. [Captain] Dennis's wife, also Lieut. [Lieutenant] Burns and wife from the Head
[Hilton Head], and several other gentlemen. It is only a run of 60 miles to St. Augustine,
but the bar is so difficult to cross that steamers often have to lie outside several hours
waiting for the right tide or for a pilot, in rough weather vessels do not try to enter. But
we arrived at a good time of the tide, got a pilot without much delay and passed the bar
although the boat struck two or three times on account of missing the exact channel by a
few feet. We were drawing only about 7 feet. We got up to the city before dark. I did
not go ashore until the next day. St. Augustine lies on the main land close by the waters
of the Matanzas river, near the junction of the North & Matanzas river. The Matanzas
flows from the South, just below the town the Sebastian river empties into the Matanzas.
The Sebastian flows Southerly thus making a peninsula on which St. Augustine is
situated, the city being about 3% of a mile in length and 14 in width. Along the water's
edge is a sea wall, started many years ago by the Spanish government but furnished &
supplied [?] by our government. This wall is the fashionable promenade of the people of
St. Augustine, although it is not more than 4 feet in width. At the North end of the city
and close by the water is Ft. [Fort] Marion, formerly called St. Marks. It was commenced
by the Spanish government sometime in 1600 and was completed about 1750. It is nearly
square with bastions at the angles, in one of these bastions is a lookout and on all the
others a sentry box, which looks like a pepper box. The fort is constructed of coquina,
formed by a volcanic eruption mingling lava with shells. It is quarried out on the low
islands between the Main land and the sea. This fort is an interesting relic of the Spanish
rule. The walls are quite thick- Under the bastions are dungeons. One of them was
accidentally discovered some 30 years ago, and in it was found a lantern, a bottle of
water, a boot, and human bones. This dungeon was closely walled up, with no chance for
a ray of light or a breath of air from without. What horror, what wild despair must have
settled upon the unhappy victims of Spanish cruelty, that were then found [?] shut out
from the world. In one of the casements Osceola or Wild-Cat was confined during the
Indian War, but he with several of his followers escaped through an embrasure of only 14
inches in width and some 14 feet from the floor. Outside the fort originally there was a
mote [moat]. Indeed the mote still remains but it is not filled with water. The guns are all
mounted on [???]. There is a water battery, made of the same material on which the
rebels had guns mounted to prevent our approach, which I am informed they claimed
would be sufficient to keep out the navies of the world, but you remember they left this
work without firing a gun. From the fort there was formerly a wall running westerly to
the Sebastian river. So that the city was once a walled city, the only one in the United
States. The greater portion of one of the Gates is still remaining, but the wall is entirely
gone, used up I presume for building purposes. The city itself is unlike anything I had
ever before seen. It is a Spanish town, with here and there an American house. The
houses [Tabby houses] are many of them built of the concrete or coquina, the concrete
being manufactured by shells and lime. The houses are not large generally having a
narrow piazza in front. The streets are very narrow, so narrow that in driving a coach the
driver must go zig zag to avoid the piazzas. A street of 15 feet would be considered very
wide. Formerly no vehicles were allowed to go through the streets, which was their
purpose. The oldest house in the United States stands near the water in about the center
of the town. It is supposed to have been the Spanish Governor's house, it must be near
300 years old. The place was first settled in 1563. This town is built of coquina. A
Yankee a few years since gave our government $300 for the wood work about the house.
The fence and heavy timbers were Africa, of a very hard wood which I can pronounce
but would hardly dare attempt to write. This Yankee then set up a turning lathe and in
turning canes and other trinkets for the visitors at St. Augustine turned himself a
handsome fortune. On the North side of the Plaza de la Constitution, is the Spanish
Cathedral which was built in 1795, cost $16000 of which the Spanish Government gave
$15000. It has a chime [?] of bells one of which was cast in 1600 something. On this
square of about 12 acre is a monument in honor of the Spanish Constitution of 1812,
supposed to be the only one left standing. In the lower part of the town are the U.S.
Barracks- now occupied by our troops. The 7th N.H. [New Hampshire] is stationed at St.
Augustine. These barracks were built during the Florida War- the British formerly had
barracks near the same ground, large enough it is said to accommodate five regiments.
Near the point of the peninsula and beyond the city is the old powder house belonging to
the fort. Just south of the barracks is a grave yard belonging to the U.S. Government in
which is buried the wife of Gen. Hardee [General William J. Hardee] (rebel), formerly Lt.
Col. Hardee of the U.S.A. and in command at St. Augustine. Here are buried also the
victims of the Dade massacre of the Indian War. The inhabitants are Spanish, Minorcan,
and American. You remember that in 1767 Dr. Tumbull [Andrew Tumbull] of England
and some others of England succeeded in getting about 1400 emigrants from Minorca
and other Grecian Islands, settled them down the coast from St. Augustine, but he ruled
over them with such cruelty they were released from his rule soon after and they then
settled for the most part in St. Augustine. They are black haired, black eyed, short, well-
built people. The girls are many of them extremely pretty.
The soil of St. Augustine is not very good. It is too sandy- still oranges and lemons and
other tropical fruits grow in great abundance. The oranges however are mostly sour or
bitter sweet. The olive, banana, and date palms are found here, an[d] a variety of
beautiful flowers. The climate is delightful, the sea breeze coming in constantly. This
was formerly a great place of resort for invalids and pleasure seekers during the winter
months. But the glory of this town has departed. The streets are desolate, the inhabitants
of secesh proclivity [?] have been recently sent away. The same day that we arrived
about 80 left- more than half however were children. Some have left since. The first
lot were set over the lines from here. The men are mostly off in the rebel army. Such
imperfectly [?] described is St. Augustine. It's well worthy of a visit. I brought from the
old house a piece of the casement of a window- it is Spanish Cedar and I think I got the
last piece. This was partly covered by debris. I have also got a piece of the Spanish
Treasure Chest- This chest was made of mahogany. It had three different locks and three
commissioners. Each held a key, so in order to get into it all three of the commissioners
had to be present. We staid at St. Augustine until Saturday. The weather was not
pleasant all the time, but we had a good time. One day the party astonished the people by
riding through the town in a dilapidated old coach, with a footman, having two of the
party mounted and two more in a buggy, the mounted men did the skirmishes. We left
Saturday morning about 9, arrived here about 3 pm. Saw two whales coming up. I have
seen a whale blow and no blowing. I came home in excellent health and have so
continued. Everything is quiet here- We don't know anything about the outside world.
We have not heard from the North since Jan. 31st. We hope to hear soon that Vicksburg
is taken. Rosecrans [General William Starke Rosecrans] again victorious, Hooker [Major
General Joseph Hooker] in Richmond, &c [etcetera.]
Last night we had a negro minstrel performance which was first rate considering when
we are. It is sustained by members of the regiment and they certainly display
considerable musical talent. The stage too is got up in regular theatrical style. The
scenery is made of old tent canvas. Anything rational to release the monotony of camp
life is welcome. A debating society is held once a week, which affords plenty of
amusement as I understand. Next week the highly important question is to be discussed-
which is the happiest condition, single or married?
I am again engaged in a Court Martial- but it won't last long.
I will now enumerate some things which I want sent to me.
25 yds. of mosquito netting- for bed and windows.
One pair of shoes- I want them to come higher up in the ancles [ankles] then this that Les
Burt [?] made last.
One pair of white pants, and a white or buff single breasted vest- with connected buttons.
A summer suit- the coat to be frock of fine, dark blue, navy flannel if nothing better is in
vogue- the pants and vest light blue. (My blouse of last summer is still good). Needs [?]
of Hartford I suppose will be able to get them up the best.
A new case for my field glass made of stout leather and no paste [?] or glue.
100 pairs of white gloves, these I wish for the men, send separate bill of them. You may
send a half dozen pairs of fine ones for my own use.
A small lot of writing paper, about a ream a little legal cap with it- say two quires, three
packs of envelopes.
One small sewn pillow case.
Two pairs of light merino drawers.
Four pairs of white cotton stockings.
$1.00 worth of postage stamps.
De Hart on Military Law, if you can't find that get Bailey, ask Judge Case to buy this
work for me. Perhaps he will find "Bailey" to be the best. It is a new work and I have
never seen it- Judge Case will exercise his judgment the which to buy.
A pistol holster- mine is too short for my pistol- besides it does not go in to suit me.
The pistol should go on the right side with the butt pointing to the rear. Abram knows the
size of my pistol.
Played Out [deleted]
A military cap with the front piece stiff but not heavy. The cap I have is a good one, but I
think I need here a cap but you may send me a hat without Eagles or feathers- simply
the cord and bugle, unless there should not be much difference in the price, in which case
send all the trimming. [???] you may send [???] complete but I shant wear the feathers
often I assure you. Send me a good straw hat with a stiff brim.
A ribbon for a watch chain. Three white shirts & 2 dozen paper collars.
Well I guess I have called for enough for the present. I guess you think so too. If we lie
here this summer why we shall wish to dress in style you know.
I think what I send for will make quite a box. Please to start them as soon as possible, for
the mosquitoes began to come around already.
Feb. 19th. The boat is off today- I hope to hear from you soon. If I can think possibly
of anything more that I want I will send you.
Love to all
Transcribed by Nicole J. Milano, University of Florida, 2009