Oct. 16, 1862
(Boys of '61)
In the early part of September a meeting of the citizens of St. Augustine, male and female, from the age of fourteen years and upwards, was ordered, by Gen. Saxon, to assemble at the Presbyterian Church. The meeting being assembled at the appointed time, Col. Beard, of the Provost Guard, opened his address as follows: "I do not know whether to address you (alluding to the ladies present), as ladies or women, as all Broadway crinolined women are called ladies!" It was soon ascertained, from the speaker's remarks, that the object of the meeting was to have the oath of allegiance to the United States administered. A guard was stationed at the door to prevent any from leaving. Those who refused to take the oath were required to go in the galleries--some two to three hundred men, women and children. The others were furnished with certificates and allowed to depart. Those from the galleries were then called down to receive, as Col. Beard termed it, their "benediction." They were forced to register their names, together with the number of their respective residences. This having been gone through with, he told them that when he was ready he would give all the women and children among them who had relatives in the Confederacy "a free ride across the lines."
He then gave orders to the guard to permit the ladies to pass to their homes. Their residences were duly labeled, and about a week after the meeting, wagons were sent for their baggage, and these banished people were taken on board a transport. The steamer left for the St. John's river with some fifty families--about 150 women and children huddled together, without a bed to rest on, or any accommodations whatever, and kept two and a half days outside without food or water save what they took with them, and in their sea sickness were refused even water to drink. Fearing to enter the St. John's, as our informant supposes, they were taken back to St. Augustine, and when near that place it was ascertained that the vessel was leaking badly, having some four feet of water in the hold. It was supposed on board that the negros [sic] had attempted to scuttle the vessel in order to drown the "Secesh."
Our informant, who was among the sufferers, having been furnished a pass which had been some time previously promised here, was placed with her young charge and her baggage in a cart and taken across the country to the St. John's River. The cart having broken down several times on the way, they were forced to walk and seek shelter in a negro cabin, with nothing but the naked floor to sleep upon--their feet and limbs sore and bruised, and their dresses torn by briars. Arriving at St. John's, they were taken across to a small boat, where they procured another cart and reached the railroad at Trail Ridge. They were, after severe suffering, some ten days in their trouble to get to our lines.--Taking the railroad, they came by way of Lake City, and reached this city, to the great joy of themselves and their friends, Saturday last.
Gen. Mitchell sent notice from Hilton Head to St. Augustine, previous to her leaving, that he would send a boat to that place and take all the ladies who had refused to take the oath to Jacksonville.
She states that the poor of St. Augustine are regularly furnished by the Federals with rations; but it was reported they intended soon to stop the supply. The troops are respectful to the ladies in passing them in the streets, and are very orderly. . . . No articles of silver or gold will be allowed to leave St. Augustine in the baggage of those who are sent away, which is regularly searched, in order to prevent them getting into the hands of Confederates to be coined into money. Groceries of all kinds are selling at very low figures, for gold or silver only. She saw no paper currency in circulation.
Elkridge, August 31.
. . . Don't believe Butler's lies about "Union sentiments" and loyal citizens there. If there is a place where the Federals are most detested, it is here in Louisiana. In New Orleans the ladies never go out of their houses if they can help it, and then are always armed as, in all parts of the State exposed to their inroads, the women are. I believe I am the only woman in this community who has not arms and does not know how to use them, and I think I could shoot too on an emergency, only I have such a distaste to weapons that I think I would rather be killed than to kill anybody. I would not shoot in defence of life, but I would of honor. . .