Report from Lt. J.C. Howell, U.S. Navy Gunboat Tahoma to Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy on the death of cousins John and Scott Whitehurst
Location: Egmont Key, Florida
Report of Lieutenant Howell, U.S. Navy, regarding an attack by guerillas upon Union refugees.
U.S. Gunboat Tahoma
Tampa Bay, September 3, 1862.
Sir: I have the honor to report that on the 26th August, ultimo, while three of the refugees who have been for some months at the light-house on Egmont key under the protection of the United States were on the main land endeavoring to procure potatoes, beef, etc., from their own farms near Old Tampa for the support of themselves and families, two of them, John and Scott Whitehurst, while shoving from the shore in their boat were barbarously set upon by guerrillas, and Scott Whitehurst was immediately killed and John Whitehurst mortally wounded. The latter had strength enough to pull the boat out of fire, then fell and laid two days in the boat exposed to the rays of an August sun, and was at last discovered by another refugee named Clay and brought to this place. The third man, named Arnold, is supposed to have been murdered during the day.
All these men were Union men, and only a short time ago John Whitehurst offered to raise a company of loyal Floridians if he could be assured it would be accepted.
I sent a boat and recovered the body of Scott Whitehurst and buried it. John Whitehurst died last night [Sept. 2, 1862], and was decently interred by us this morning. His dying request was that his three sons should be received into the United States naval service. I have no vacancies for them, but will take them on board and ration them (which I shall be obliged to do under any circumstances) until I receive permission to ship them, which I am confident will be granted. The boys are quite young--the eldest, I should think, about 12 years of age, the youngest about 7 or 8.
These guerrillas are scouring the woods, looking after deserters and conscripts; they rob, murder, and steal indiscriminately, if the reports of the refugees are to be credited; Union men they threaten to hang, and do shoot, as we have lamentable proof.
It is said that every man capable of bearing arms has been forced to join the rebels in this part of Florida.
No vessel has attempted to run the blockade at this port.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. Gideon Welles,
Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D.C.