FLAGSHIP KEYSTONE STATE,
Fernandina, May 22, 1862.
DEAR SIR: I have received your communication of yesterday and the enclosed report of Lieutenant Commanding Nicholson, and must again express my approval of the judgment and activity exercised by you and the officers under your command in holding the control of the St. John’s River. I leave your future movements to your own discretion.
I have noticed the suggestion of Lieutenant Commanding Nicholson in reference to the destruction of the houses around Orange Mills, but for the present, unless the vessels are fired upon from that vicinity, I do not wish that there should be any destruction of property.
Since Sunday last I have been moving up and down the coast, visiting Charleston, Georgetown, and St. Simon’s, arriving here yesterday. I shall be at Port Royal again by Saturday evening.
You have probably heard of the bold exploit of a contraband pilot employed on General Ripley’s steamer, the Planter. The captain and engineer having gone on shore to visit their families, Robert Smalls before daylight quietly east off the hawser by which she was moored to the wharf in front of the General’s quarters, steamed past Fort Sumter, giving the usual signals and flying the Confederate flag until out of range, when he pulled it down, and hoisting a white flag brought the steamer safely out to the blockading fleet. The pilot is quite intelligent and gave some valuable information about the abandonment of Stone. At my instance Captain Marchand made a reconnoissance, and finding the statement true, crossed the bar on Tuesday last with the gunboats Unadilla, Pembina, and Ottawa. I have no doubt the Charlestonians thought their time had come.
The news from the Mississippi is very gratifying. The whole rebel fleet, nearly, is destroyed on the Lower Mississippi by Flag-Officer Farragut, and in the vicinity of Fort Wright by Acting Flag-Officer Davis, who is now in command, vice Foote, returned to the East on account of his wound. I send you a late paper or two. Please say to Lieutenant Commanding Nicholson that I have read his report with interest; am glad that he escaped so well.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. F. DU PONT,
Source: Navy O.R.– Series I–Volume 12 [S# 12]
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
From October 29, 1861, To May 13, 1862. pp. 802-end