Headquarters Sub - District No. 1

Mosley Hall. March 18, 1864

 

To All Whom It May Concern:

   The commanding general is prepared with ample forces and means to enter the counties of Taylor and Lafayette and visit prompt punishment upon the deserters and others who may be found offering resistance  to the military authorities of the Confederate States or doing violence to persons or property of their loyal fellow citizens. He feels assured that many soldiers have been persuaded  by the inducements  and influences of designing men to absent themselves from their commands and finally even band together with the ruffians  who by their deeds have finally attracted the attention of the government to them.  To these a full pardon and restoration to their commands is extended, provided they voluntarily report at these headquarters or to the conscript camp at Madison, Florida, before the 5th day of April next. To those deserters or others who may be deaf to the clemency offered severe punishment will be administered. All those who may be found with arms in their hands will be shot without mercy. The families of deserters and the disloyal will be sent into the interior, their property destroyed and all the cattle, horses, and hogs will be driven away or shot. It is to be distinctly understood that there will be no suspension of military operations from this day to the 5th of April.

W. M. Gardner

Brigadier - General, Commanding

 

The following is an account of the removal of the families of the deserter and dissident bands of Taylor and Lafayette counties. It is taken from the book " Through Some Eventful Years" by Susan Bradford Eppes. She was born March 8, 1846, north of Tallahassee, Florida, at Pine Hill Plantation.

Susan Bradford Eppes, 1864

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/26279

Photographer - Charles P. Walker

* We did not know when we saw double - pen log houses going up just out side Tallahassee, for what manner of encampment these houses were intended. We counted nine as we rode by, each of the nine had two large rooms with chimneys of " stick and dirt"  and a passage way between the rooms. There were doors and windows, no glass but comfortable shutters. The planters had been called upon to erect these houses but no questions were asked; nor could we guess the use to which they would be put. To add to the mystery several wagon loads of firewood were hauled in and deposited in easy reach of these  houses. It was a nine -  days wonder and then came the solution. Wagons were sent down to the god forsaken country, of which we have told you, each house was visited. The women were told to get their belongings together and pack them in the wagons. If they chickens, pigs or cows, the men in attendance would drive them after the wagons. Some of the women sullenly obeyed, some raved and cursed and refused to obey and when this happened the drivers did the packing and they moved on.

   A body of troops accompanied the wagons, and when each house had been empted of contents and occupants, the torch was applied and the troops remained until each filthy cabin was in ashes. Four counties were traversed by " The Wagon Brigade" as it was termed. The work was well planned and, in spite of distance and danger, they did so well that ere midnight of that day the nine double houses were filled and an additional tent was pitched to accommodate the over flow.

   The weather was warm and pleasant; these families had brought with them everything they owned; the houses were far more comfortable than those they left behind. It was "potato digging time" and the people of the surrounding country saw to it that there was no lack of" yams and cubas" and, besides this, meal, vegetables, milk and sometimes meat found their way to "The Deserters Camp". They could have not been more kindly treated but a guard was stationed around the camp. This was necessary for the protection of our own people.

   Many of the women were sulky, a few were smiling and pleasant. Some were violent, using the worst language possible to imagine and making dire threats of what their men would do; but these threats did not trouble us much, for while the "Wagon Brigade" was at work these same men were nor far distant, just out of sight, and yet they made no attempt whatever to come to the rescue.

 

 

* Florida Governor John Milton shows in some of his correspondences that he felt the removal of the deserter and dissidents bands families and the destruction of their homes, as well as some homes of loyal citizens was a mistake.

Governor Milton to Secretary of War James A. Seddon :

June 30, 1864:

   Sir: Your attention is respectfully invited to the enclosed correspondence between Major General Patton Anderson and myself relative to the destruction of the property of citizens of this state and their imprisonment by the military authorities of the Confederate States.  In execution of an order for the destruction of the property and the removal of the families of deserters issued by Brigadier General Gardner  while commanding this military district, not only the dwellings of deserters, but those of good and loyal citizens, together with all their property were destroyed. Thus worthy citizens who at the time had, and now have, sons absent from the state in the military service of the Confederate States, and some parents whose sons  have nobly fallen in battle for the defense of the state, have no only been reduced to beggary, but without a scintilla of evidence against their loyalty are confined in jails as criminals, or are in camp near this place under military guard in company with a  number of women and children, the mothers and wives, and children of deserters. Such lawless and cruel violence increased the number of deserters and prevented many from returning to their command who otherwise  would have availed themselves of an offer of pardon which has been published and distributed in the disaffected region. The unoffending and loyal citizens who have thus been wronged have a just claim upon the Confederate Government for indemnity, and their losses should be promptly and legally ascertained  and established by commissioners  appointed for the purpose by the Confederate Government.

 

Governor Milton to Major General Patton Anderson :

May 5, 1864;

   General: Your attention is respectfully invited to a letter received from Mr. John Darling, of which the foregoing is a copy. Mr. Darling is an intelligent, patriotic,  and reliable citizen. There is another subject to which I would respectfully invite your attention, via, the destruction of the property of persons who are deserters or skulkers, or supposed to be. I am not convinced that any benefit has resulted from it: on the contrary, it has made many women and children homeless and exposed them to disgrace and suffering.  Some of these women and children are the mothers and helpless brothers and sisters of patriotic and brave men who are soldiers in the armies of Virginia and of the West. I must respectfully  request that you will issue and order to prevent in the future the destruction of dwellings and other property necessary to the support and comfort of women and children.  Already much difficulty is experienced in preventing the starvation of soldier's families in different parts of the state and in supplying the necessary subsistence and forage to sustain our troops in the field. The destruction of property in Taylor and Lafayette counties has caused many women and children to be dependent upon the Government who were able to support themselves. While I believe the deserters and skulkers no longer entitled to mercy, yet I am unwilling that any of the women and children of the state shall be deprived of legal protection and denied humane consideration. I cannot  approve of a warfare upon women and children. Is it not unworthy of our arms and the cause in which we are engaged.

 

 

* On July 7, 1864 the deserter's wives that were at Camp Smith south of Tallahassee, wrote Governor Milton a letter asking to be released to a blockading vessel.  The governor had earlier objected, but after receiving their letter he gave in and allowed them to go.

   To His Excellency John Milton

   Governor, State of Florida

         We the undersigned families of Taylor and Lafayette Counties have the honor to petition your Excellency that you withdraw  your objection to our being sent to the Blockading Vessel, to seek our fathers, husbands and brothers.

      ( 1) However much they may be to blame in having left the Confederate States, we are their wives and daughters are, eternally united with them, and situated as we are , we prefer to follow their fortunes. We know that most of them are still on the coast and believe that we  could soon be reunited with them.  Indeed, your Excellency, we have a show justice in our petition. We are most houseless and homeless and we should certainly  now be allowed the privilege of going to the Federals who are mainly instrumental  in offering such inducements to our male protectors as to induce them to leave us. The Military Authorities offered us the privilege of going through the lines, as a matter to be  accepted or rejected by us, and now we humbly petition your honor to leave us a free choice, and even to assist us to go where we can be better taken care of.

   We subscribe ourselves as representing each one her family.

      Yours Most respectfully

 

(1) Taylor County History and Civil War Deserters by W. T Cash, p.55                           

2013 - 2015 William C. Wright

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