HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF FLORIDA, Fort Pickens, May 14, 1861.
Lieut. Col. E. D. TOWNSEND,
COLONEL: Since my letter of yesterday I have dispatches from Major French, commanding Key West, and among other reports that he has suspended the writ of habeas corpus at Key West. When I was there on my way to this place I left in the hands of Major French a proclamation, to be published when a contingency requiring it should arise. He considers that it has done so. I inclose his letter (A) to me and my answer (B).
The Water Witch, which was dispatched to Havana for sand bags, has returned with some, with which we can finish our defenses.
I was misinformed as to there being 10-inch sea-coast mortars at Tortugas. There are none there or at Key West.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major, Second Artillery, Colonel, Commanding.
HEADQUARTERS TROOPS AT KEY WEST,
May 8, 1861.
Capt. GEORGE L. HARTSUFF,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Hdqrs. Department Florida:
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 2d instant this 10 a.m. There have been no secession flags flying since my peremptory order on the subject. The military organization called the “Island Guards” has disbanded, in consequence of my directing the mayor to furnish me with the muster roll, which he did. The newspaper called the “Key of the Gulf” I suppressed, because it was uttering treasonable and threatening language against the judiciary and other United States officers. I directed the mayor to inform the editor (a Mr. Ward) that he was under military surveillance, and that the fact of his not being in the cells of this fort for treason was simply a matter as to expediency and proper point of time. To enable me to meet such cases with promptitude, I published on the 6th instant Colonel Brown’s proclamation suspending the writ of habeas corpus. At this date I have not deemed it advisable to follow it with any restrictions upon the municipal authorities or the citizens of the town. As cases have arisen they were at once met, and I will continue this gradual enforcement of the power of the U. S. Government, thus allowing loyal citizens aid and support in their duties and pursuits.
I have the gratification to know that my course has the approval of the judicial officers here, and has given universal satisfaction to the Union-loving citizens, besides others whose interests are compromised by the acts of secessionists.
There will be no difficulty hereafter in procuring coal or other ships’ requirements. All will be supplied upon the usual terms.
The U. S. consul, Mr. Shufeldt, at Havana writes to me that he has funds for the purchase of coal, but that none is at present to be had there. Should any arrive later he will purchase and ship it to this place.
Judge Marvin has not resigned. The district attorney, marshal, and clerk are performing all duties which do not require a jury. There is no grand jury, therefore no presentments. In consequence, it has devolved upon me to use my own judgment in the summary processes I have previously mentioned, and afterwards received the approval and support of Judge Marvin and Mr. Boynton, district attorney.
Lieutenant Commanding Craven, U. S. Navy, has put the harbor under blockade. I inclose a copy of his order. (Not republished)
No State court has been held here. I doubt whether it will be. The instructions of the colonel commanding will be strictly observed.
The inclosed number of the New Orleans Picayune (May 3), (not republished) sent to me by the consul at Havana, shows that no troops can be relied on as coming from Indianola, Tex. This unparalleled act of treachery, violating the stipulations made by their own convention to assist the troops to evacuate the territory, gives no hope from that quarter. The ordnance and stores required, I regret, are not here, except a few 10-inch shells. I have directed one hundred with sabots and straps to be sent. This fort is daily growing in strength. The barbette guns on the face fronting the town are all in position. I am proud to say that the officers and men are in a high state of discipline and subordination, and, although another soldier might never come, I doubt whether even a lodgment could be made on the island.
We have had a fine rain, replenishing the tanks. Nearly three months’ water is on hand, independent of the wells at the head of the bridge. The health of the command is very good.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
WM. H. FRENCH,
Brevet Major, Commanding.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF FLORIDA,
Fort Pickens, May 13, 1861.
Bvt. Maj. W. H. FRENCH,
Commanding Fort Taylor, Key West:
MAJOR: The colonel commanding entirely disapproves your action in sending Ordnance Sergeant Flynn away from your post without his authority. The fact that he was not ordered to Washington, nor to any other place except your post, was proof in itself that it was neither the colonel’s intention nor desire that he should go anywhere else, because if so the order would have been issued from these headquarters. The colonel considers that in this case you have not only exceeded the limits of your authority, but that you have no excuse for so doing, as there was both time and opportunity for communicating with him. The matter did not demand immediate attention and no interest of the service was in the slightest degree injured by delay.
The colonel commanding directs that hereafter you will in no case, except when the necessities of the service can be shown to be absolutely imperative, assume the responsibility of ordering men under your command out of the department without his authority.
As the colonel has only your own letters and not the replies nor the special reasons for your action, he cannot judge of the immediate necessity for suspending the writ of habeas corpus, but having the approval of Judge Marvin and of the district attorney, it has his. He desires that you send here all the papers in the case.
The island being under martial law, all its citizens must acknowledge allegiance to the Government. While the colonel wishes you to be perfectly firm and decided in upholding the laws and suppressing rebellion, he desires that it may be done in a spirit of kindness and conciliation, so that if possible they may be led from error rather than be driven into it by an undue exercise of authority. If, however, any prove incorrigible and refuse allegiance to the Government, they must be sent from the island immediately, without respect of persons.
The colonel does not approve of any removal of troops to Tampa or elsewhere from Key West, nor will any be made unless in case of extreme urgency. Key West is of paramount importance, and must not be weakened for any contingent service; neither does he think it at all expedient for the Crusader to leave Key West for any such purpose. He intends to address Captain Adams on the subject.
The colonel is much gratified to learn the falsity of the report that a secession flag was permitted to fly from the court-house. He commends your zeal, and is pleased to learn of the soundness of your officers.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
GEO. L. HARTSUFF,