FORT TAYLOR, FLA., May 4, 1861.
J. P. BALDWIN, Esq., Mayor, Key West City :
MY DEAR SIR: I proposed on yesterday to print an address to the citizens of the United States on Key West. The address was delayed, and I take the opportunity to say to you, in continuation of the conversation had a few days since, that from circumstances brought to my attention direct, and from reliable sources, it is my opinion that there will be a strong effort made to distress the inhabitants of this key. Isolated and shut up by the water of the Gulf, should what I hear prove correct, the distress would be extreme upon the inhabitants of the island. It is in your power to aid in avoiding this contingency, which, whether near or remote, will be terrible when it comes. I have served in Florida during the early wars, and remember the distress of the inhabitants of Saint Augustine, to whom the government had to furnish subsistence. It is probable that such may be the case on the key. The government determining to hold it will be responsible for its loyal citizens; and should the necessities referred to arise, it will be necessary to discriminate, and those who do not belong here should be so notified.
It is also essential that it should be generally known that the functions of the commanding officer on Key West, ex officio, embrace during the present crisis all the military, including citizens desirous to bear arms for the preservation of life and property. It will be necessary for me, in order to combine them with those of the government, that a muster-roll according to the form prescribed should be supplied to these headquarters by any military organization now existing.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
WM. H. FRENCH,
Brevet Major, U. S. Army, Commanding.