Journal of Rensselaer William Foote
1841. Journal 1841.
Inft. U.S. Army
Rensselaer Wm. Foote.
1841. 1841 1841.
[p. 1] Pelatka, Fla. Dec 25, 1840.
Arrived here from N York on the 25. We had a short and pleasant passage. Left N York, Dec 16, for Savannah, in ship Liverpool, Capt Lyon. We were only four days to Savannah. And here I am again in Florida for the 2d time—and on Christmas too, which I would rather have spent north. It has been a fine day, and I have spent it in fishing, smoking, riding horseback, &c. had a good dinner of venison and oysters. I live with D. H.—a good jolly fine fellow.
The day I left N York I had the blues horridly—at the idea of leaving so much comfort, but my duty required it. My two particular friends (Tyler & Fields,) went over to Governor’s Island, with me to see me off, but I returned to the City <with them>, and took leave of them in Wall street. We had some agreeable ladies on board ship, and spent our time pleasantly. Mrs. Merrill, with her husband, who board at the Astor House, going to the South for his health, made us drink, champagne every day for sea sickness—a very agreeable medicine, truly. Looking over the side of the vessel one night I lost my cap overboard. At Savannah we had a fresh shad, the first said to have been caught this season. We left Savannah for Pilatka in a steamboat, with half a dozen passengers, ladies & gentlemen: John King, a retired lawyer & daughter and niece, and Dr King, of the Army. <He> Mr. King was on a visit to his daughter who lives <on the St Johns river>, in Georgia. She is the [p. 2] same Mrs. Nightingale, who was so miraculously saved from the wreck of a steamship near N York, some years ago. We played whist and had hot punch on board. Passing up the St Johns we were hailed by a small boat which put off towards us from the shore, near which lay a schooner at anchor, and on shore, a fire and tent pitched. The boat contained Col McIntosh (a brother-in-law of Gen Clinch) who requested us to wait long enough for two gentleman who had a little affair of honor to settle—but we did not wait for them.
Dec. 28, 1840—Left this place in company with Col Riley, Capt McKensie, Lieut McKinstry, and 10 mounted men, about 2 o’clock, Pm for ^Fort^ holmes, distant 16 miles. Our baggage in a train of wagons with Lieut Anderson, and upwards of 100 <new,> recruits left some hour or two before. Lieuts Darling Rodgers, and Dr Hammond rode with us to the five mile pond, where they left us to return. Soon after we heard the report of what appeared to us a musket, and some half an hour after the Col exclaimed— “There’s a red skin, I’m damned,”—we saw two crouching along through the bushed that line the edge of the hammock, with white blankets on their backs, some 300 yards from us. We approached them some hundred Yards, waving white handkerchiefs, and shouting to them, but they took no notice of us. The col did not think it prudent to go any nearer, but seek two men farther on the road to the Hammock, who soon re- [p. 2] turned, and reported a man dead in the road. Riding on we found one of the teamsters stretched out on his back, in the middle of the road, shot with a rifle ball through his heart. A little farther on we found one of the teams brought up against a log, and another a little distance out of the road, at the edge of the hammock. The Col and myself lost some of our baggage. We found our things scattered about in all directions. Riding through the palmettoes I found my trunk drawn into the bushes fortunately they had not got it open, and thus I saved <the> many valued little articles of importance to myself. Among the rest Mrs. C’s needlecase, which I promised to keep, until is wore out, unless the Indians got it. They had been interrupted in their plundering, by the advance of a citizen going to Pelatka, who fired at them, and retreated. He saw us, and came up. He said he saw three of the rascals, one of them appeared to be a negro. He left us in a few minutes for Pilatka, distant about 9 miles. The Col desired him to call on Darling, directing him to send out a scout immediately, although there is a truce at this moment with the Indians. The Col sent Lieut. McKinstry in advance with a file of men, to bring back the recruits, and to proceed to Fort Holmes to turn out another scout, whilst we collected the things together, and proceeded on with the <teams> train (carrying the dead man) to fort Holmes. This affair resulted from the carelessness of some one—the teamsters were to blame. After starting with the [p. 4] recruits, they went back to obtain some trifling things for themselves, and thus, when they started again were some 2 or 3 miles behind the soldiers—but then there should have been a rear guard, which would have prevented this. It was after dark when we met the scouts coming from Fort Holmes. I had some difficulty to keep the mules in the road—they were unruly—and zizzagged from one side of the road to the other and bringing up every few minutes against a pine tree. I had got out of all patience with them, and riding along with my coat buttoned up, was met by Lieut ____ with the scouts. He took me for the train master—and I took him for a private, as he was dressed like one. “Are You the wagon master? I replied “No,” sharply, and turning my horse says to him— “Who the h--l are You<?> Sir?” “Who are You?” Emphasizing the last word and fronting me. “I’m Lieut F”— “Ah ‘how do You do,” says he, “I’m Lieut W,” and we shook hands and apologised at our mistake. He told me to take possession of his bed and quarters at Fort Holmes. We arrived about 9 o’clock Pm and had a good supper at Capt Smith’s.— The next day the scouts returned, but brought no news of the Indians.
Dec. 30th. 1840.—Left for Fort Russell, distant 10 miles, where we arrived about 8 Pm. Saw the poet Patten and his beautiful wife—<took> dr<ank>inked their health, and eat some nice cake of Mrs. P’s making. Supped [p. 5] with the commanding officer, Capt <Barnard> Barnum, and stayed with [Albe/urte’s?] In the morning took command of some 30 recruits, and two teams, and started for Fort King, distant 27 miles, where I arrived the same night about 7 Pm. Mr. Anderson politely asked me to quarter with him. The weather is delightful, and last evening was a most enchanting moonlight.
Jan 1st: 1841.—Left Fort King for Fort Clinch, distant 45 miles, with an escort of 14 men, commanded by Lieut Westcott. It rained very hard for some two hours in the morning, and cleared off cold. The first seven miles is all hammock, with some little swamp land, followed by an open, piny country—with rolling land—near Fort Clinch it is swampy. We saw but little game the first day, though the second we came across a good many deer—
Jan 2d, 1841.—Arrived at Fort Clinch at about noon. this port is the head quarters of our Rgt. situated some 15 or 16 miles from the Gulf, on the Withber<chee> [Withlacoochee] river. Col Loomis had six companies with him, all living in the tents—
Monday, Jan 4, 1841.—Left for Annattectiga Hammock, in company with Maj. Hoffman,—distance upwards of 20 miles.
Friday, Jan 8, 1841.— Annatteclya—Again with my own company. There are four companies here commanded by Maj. Hoffman. Got my tent pitched, floor down, bed fixed, &c. and begin to feel comfortable. There is but little sickness here, and I have recovered my health [p. 6] Entirely, and got a good appetite.
Jan. 16, 1841.—Lieut Tho[nn?]ton, of the Dragoons, just arrived from Tampa, in command of an escort and 24 teams. He confirmed the news of the death of Lieut Sherwood, 7th July, and Mrs. Montgomery, near micanopy, killed by Indians. I brought out a letter for poor Sherwood from a brother in N York. Mrs. M. was a beautiful woman it is said. Col. Harry has taken some 30 or 40 warriors, women and children, and hung five of the men, and killed several in an engagement with them. His loss was 3 or 4 privates.
Jan 12, 1841.—It is a most delightful morning, and the birds are singing merrily. For some days the weather has been very warm. The thermometer one day up to 88 in a tent. Some Indians with their squaws are in camp this morning. They visit us most everyday—they are encamped a few miles from us. Uncle is holding another truce with them, in the vain hope that they will all come in, and they are very well satisfied to eat our provisions in the winter, and murder us in the summer. I would give a months ^pay^ to see them all hanging to some of the pine trees around us.
Jan. 13, 1841.—Another pleasant, sunny day has passed away calmly, and without anythings material taking place to interrupt the lazy quiet of Camp life. Yet time seems to slip along rapidly enough, although we lounge <and> about, gape, and wonder what o’clock it may be. [p. 7]
Sat. Jan 16, 1841.—Cloudy and warm, looks like rain. William Hoffman and Langdon Cheves Easton returned from a visit to Fort Clinch—report that Echo-mathla [called a "sub-chief in "The Five Civilized Tribes" Grant Forman, 1934], and some 30 or 40 Indians are in there, and are anxious to go to Arkansas. They bring some farther intelligence of the horrid murder of Mrs. Montgomery. Lieut Sherwood, and several privates. Had our usual weekly Inspection this afternoon at 3 Pm. I am temporarily in command of “F.” Compy. and the Adjutant gave me notice immediately after inspection that there would be a parade. I formed “F.” Compy on the right in line of battle, and was not aware of the object of the parade, until I saw the prisoner in front who was to receive 50 lashes for desertion, with <clo?> some other punishment. After the proceedings and approval of the Court Martial were read, the prisoner was tied to three muskets stacked, and received the 50 lashes on his bare back, inflicted with a small rattan by the Chief Musician. He twisted and yelled a good deal, but I think he got off cheap. This was the first flogging I ever saw —
Friday, Jan. 12.—Yesterday Col. L arrived here from Fort Clinch with some women and children and a few womens on their way to Tampa. Last evening we had a great dance which made a good deal of amusement. They left this morning for Tampa.
Wednesday, Jan. 27, 1841.—It rained last night and all this forenoon, but has now cleared up, and looks pleasant [p. 8] again. The weather continues warm. There is no scouting to do just now, and encamped as we are in the pines woods, the scenery is not very picturesque, or interesting—one dull monotonous series of pine trees all around and relieved by no varying hill and dale, mountain or valley, blooming with northern verdure, dotted with cheerful and comfortable dwellings, giving evidence of a civilized and happy people. none of this scenery to gratify the eye and cheer our spirits. Laziness is creeping over me, and I cannot help it, as there is nothing under heavens to do, but eat, smoke, lounge about the fire or flinging myself on my bed read myself asleep. We all live in tents with sheds of Palmetto leaves to cover them. Our little camp with its different streets has something the appearance of a country village. On the principal street the Broadway of our small town are ranged in some order the officers quarters and offi<cers>ce. The other streets branch out from this at right angles on either side, and are lined with the men’s tents, which however romantic they may seem, are not so pleasant for those who live in them. They are not more than half as large as an officer’s tent, and occupied by from 3 to 4 men. In the morning we are awakened at the break of day by Reveillé—and throughout the day the frequent sound of the fife and drum, announcing the different calls, orders and duties, serves to break the spell of the otherwise dull monotony of Camp life.
February 1st 1841...January has passed away as calm and pleasantly a many a day of sunny brightness in s[___ ___] off at the North, and February is ushered in here without any semblance to the manner it show itself at the North, with jingling of Sleigh bells, and the bright and joyous merry and jovial countenances, that go skimming over the whitened earth wrapped in Buffalo robes, or gracefully cutting over the polished surfaces of lake and river—with their [___] braces by the keen air—alas! none of these bright scenes here—nothing but one dull routine of bright, dazzling sun, or occasionally half misty rain. What a consummate fool a man can make of himself—to choose to be Kicked about the world—half starved at times, worn down with fatigue and disease at others, and all for a mere living—which might get at home, with the addition of happy and pleasant faces around him—but n’importe, so goes the world—one half crazy, who think themselves knowing and keen sighted, the other half fools, who fancy themselves wise.
February 3d—Nothing wonderful happened to day—nothing to stir up the dull blood, or drive off ennui.—The Sun rose as usual, and has set behind the everlasting pine trees,—and the Moon is now shedding its soft and gentle rays upon us, occasionally obscured by some passing cloud which impudently thrust itself before her face. All that is soft and gentle is one, romantic and tender—will show itself, if ever, on such a soft lovely moonlight night as this is.— [p. 10] Occasionally the notes of a flute come wafted to our ears from the quarter of the soldiers mingled with the song and merry laughter of ^many a^ reckless son of Mars. Here is a group of them squatted round <a.> one who seems to be engrossing their attention with tales of hobgoblins, witches, ghosts, and wonderful scenes in which he himself has acted no mean part—he is eloquent, as you may see by their silent attention only interrupted at intervals by an exclamation of surprise or wonder. A little farther on another group may be seen whom frequent shouts and peals of laughter, are evidently occasioned by some witty jest, or stage buffoonery of the oracle of their little circle. The soldier is the same the world over, as soon as enlists he throws dull care away, and becomes a reckless, thoughtless, light hearted being—thinking of nothing but the p[r]esent, and regardless of the future. But, now tatoo has beat, and quietness will reign till we are aroused by the Reveillé.
Sunday 7, 1841 b For the last two days we have had a most plentiful supply of rain. Although perfectly clear until one o’clock last night, Yet, at daylight this morning it was pouring down in torrents: about noon it cleared away a little, but now (evening) it is raining most vigorously. An Indian gave me a sour orange this morning which he got in the hammock near us, (in which he says there are large quantities) measuring 11 inches [p. 11] in circumference. Many of them are larger than this. Our Express informed us last night that they have about 200 Indians in at Tampa Bay.
Friday, Feb. 19, 1841.—Left here last Friday with a command of 30 men for Tampa, to escort back a train of wagons loaded with supplies. Tampa is distant 46 miles to the southward of us. One half of my men were mounted—started them off at daylight with a Sargeant, leaving a Corporal and 9 men to wait until I started. I left about an hour after, and soon caught up with my command—The first dozen miles is piny woods, occasionally interspersed with hammocks and Swamps, then some 3 or 4 miles of beautiful undulating Country—after which the land is low and Swampy, filled with ponds and large lakes. We marched 26 miles the first day, and halted at night at a beautiful spot with a fine pond of water. One of my men killed a large wild cat. I saw a wolf in the road which I mistook for a dog, and whistled to him, but he turned tail and fled. After posting my Sentinel, having a fire built, and a palmetto shanty raised, I seated myself down on my saddle, and was soon busily engaged in discussing my supper, with a good appetite, which consisted of Coffee broiled ham, and bread an butter. Finishing my meal I took a smoke, and was soon wrapped in a very desultory meditation on every subject. The night was cold, but cloudless sky and a cheerful fire dispelled Ennui.— [p. 12]
Started the next day at daylight, and arrived at Tampa about H 12 o’clock—I encamped my men on this side of the river, and walked over to attend to my business. Tampa is quite a bustling place—the head quarters of the comdg General and of the Eighth Infy, but there are no persons settled there who are not in some way connected with, or interested in the army. After doing some business returned to my Camp, and took copper and spent the night. When I threw myself on my blankets about 10, it was a beautiful starlight evening, but before morning I was awakened by the dripping of rain on my legs which projected out of my shed. So the next morning I <put [part] struck my tents> marched my men over the river to let them be better accommodated, as well as myself and the horses. Staid there over Sunday, but nothing happened worthy of note. Instead of going to church I saw gentlemen I am sorry to say, playing cards. My business being done I started my men off Tuesday morning at daylight escorting 25 mule teams. I started to get breakfast and did not start till 9 o’clock. I gallopped on with my escort of half a dozen men 2 or 3 miles when I found we were not on the right road, as the tracks in the sand were not fresh. So here was a dilemma, But I scattered my men and dashed off to the right with only 3 men—gallopping by hammocks and through swamps for about two hours, when, not succeed- [p 13] ing in finding the road I struck out as a last resort in the direction I supposed Tampa to be in. In about 20 minutes we found ourselves in sight of Tampa, where getting on the right road we made a fresh start, and caught up with the train about noon. Nothing particular occurred on our march home, when we arrived night before last (Feb. 17th).
Friday, Feb 19—A clear and sunny day, but rather cold. I was officer-of-the-day, Yesterday, and this morning the Sergeant of the guard reported to me that one of the Sentinels saw an Indian skulking about at 2 o’’clock this morning, and as he took aim at him he made tracks for the hammock. The Sentinel thought him most too far off to fire at.
Thursday, Feb., 25.— Capt H & Lieuts J. returned from a visit to Tampa—no news. The weather continues delightful—like October at N York, and, notwithstanding the dullness of Camp life, time seems to speed along very fast.
March 1st 1841… First day of Spring—warm and sultry, with hordes of flies buzzing around me in my tent, putting me in mind of a morning ramble in South street, New York, dodging amongst Molasses barrels, covered with flies. We are leading a most thoroughly lazy life just now—but are we cannot help it for there is nothing to do—except eat, smoke, drink, and sleep. At night our sleep is broken by the howling of wolves, and yelping of curs, and breaking loose of horses, who making a holiday of the night, commence to [p 14] capering about Camp, with a half dozen dogs at their heels; and for vanity a Sentinel will sometimes fire off his musket—sure he saw an Indian—some of them are so dutch they can hardly see. Going the rounds as officer-of-the-day, the other night, I asked one Sentinel “Do you know your order?” —Yaw, Sir.” He commenced with “I hail three times from the inside, and one time from the outside—and git no goot answer, blaze away!!” another I found standing up against a tree, musing perhaps on the vicissitudes of life,—he replied to me that he “no understood English”—Its amusing, but not altogether safe to visit Sentinels here on a dark night. I got entangled the other night in a brush heap, and in my endeavor to get out, only sunk deeper, and at the usual challenge of the Sentinel “Who comes there?” the officer-of-the-day, presented himself at full length on the ground before the Sentinel.
March 4, 1841…This is Inauguration day—a great day at Washington, and [Gen. Harrison is our President]—for the next four years. Maj. H. asked me over this morning to drink a glass of toddy to the health of the new President. It is a cool, and delightful sunshiny day. A most propitious one for the assembling of a great crowd on such an occasion.
March 5th 1841… Lieut Fitzgerald going to Tampa for his health. And ordered to turn over to me his duties as Quarter Master and Commisary of Subsistence—So I’ll now have my hands full. [p 15]
March 11, 1841. A Severe thunder storm ad a good deal of rain.
“ 12 “ Cleared off cold—almost cold enough for frost—
“ 14 “ A pleasant sunny days, no news, but my new duties keep the approaches of Ennui at a respectable distance.
March 29, 1841.—Moving day, or the 1st of April is a great day in N York—and so [has] the 29th of March been here in this military village of annutteeliga. Three Companies, mustering in all I suppose, including women children, teamsters, Soldiers and officers, more than 200 souls, took up a line of march for a new Post this morning, on the Gulf Coast. Company “D”, Capt Hoffman, Doct. Madison and myself are left alone here, for a month or so when we follow them, probably—This moment the Solitary drum and fife, recall to me our loneliness, so different when but Yesterday, the Camp was so crowded with boisterous life—The solitary streets and deserted sheds which meet us now at every step, makes the Camp look like some of the deserted cities of ancient Petrea, and Egypt. the only difference, being, the one town was built of Palmetto sheds and the others of marble—My own Company “G” has gone, and I have now no Company duties to perform—but acting Staff Officer—a confounded sight more responsibility than profit, or comfort— I bet Simon (the Indian Guide) my Quarter Masters Pay today, and he brought us in some fine venison—The weather to-day has been most excessively sultry.—O: how my heart longs for the cold [p 16] shades, [pines?] fresh water from murmering and sparkling brooks, and fine, bracing air, in the state of N York. I wish, sometimes, I was any thing else, from a boot black upwards, to a soldier. to live in some peaceful, quiet village, with happy, cheerful, pleasant faces all around me—and free from the disgusting hypocrasy, and double dealing of the world. There are times when I have the blue devils horribly—and I feel out of humor with every thing and every body. How wonderfully wise a man of seventy must be, I often think, when I, only 25, seem to have already so much knowledge, in my own opinion, of the ways of the world—All was bright and suny in my childhood, apparently, but now, every day seems to add only vexation, cares, and misfortunes.
Wednesday, April 14th 1841.—Very busy now-a-days making out papers, &c—This morning a strange express man came in from Fort Clinch—reporting that the one I sent form here, Monday last had not arrived. I am afraid he is killed—he had a large Mail from Tampa, and my commisary papers. Capt H. with 14 men has gone out to search for him. Capt Hoffman has just returned (at tattoo) with now news of the man—he is no doubt killed.
Saturday morning, April 17th— Killfeather’s horse was found by a party from Fort Clinch, on the road, uninjured I believe. Two ball holes through the mail bags—the large packages saved the horse’s life—
[p 17] Thursday April 29th 1841.— 1/2 past 10 P.M.—Well, here I am, after the labors of the day. Scratching a line in my mem. Book-of scene in natural life—of every day events—My time is very much occupied in my new duties, and I scarcely heed the lapse of time—To-day, Lieut Johnson, of our Regiment arrived, with a train of 12 teams, to take us from here to Fort Harrison, and he brings the melancholy news that he found on the road the Express man and horse dead, that I sent from here to Tampa, Yesterday morning. And horrid to relate, half eaten up by wolves!— His name was Dolso, and an honest, peaceable young man, who, but yesterday, <_I?> was about Camp, happy and thoughtless of the future—“In the midst of life we are in death” &c. comes home to me occasionally with startling vividness, and I feel as though I would be happy and contented in some quiet, peaceful vale, far from the scenes of such sickening events. However, so goes the world, and I have no time to moralise. He had a large mail, and some papers and letters of my own. These the Indians burnt.
Monday, May 10th—Fort Harrison—Here I am at last at the Head Quarters of my Regiment—distant some 63 miles from Fort Annuteeliga. We traveled the distance in little more than three days. Its was most excessively hot—this Past is on a rising eminence, over looking a large sheet of water, forming kind of a bay. No doubt, the place will be healthy. [p. 18]
Fort Harrison: E[ast] F[lorida]. July 14th 1841. Returned day before Yesterday form a Scout. Of 18 days. having left this Post on the 25th June. Fine Comfortable weather for scouting truly!—travelling on foot in the piny Woods here at the Season is a good deal like Florida—but nothing else that I can think of, unless I compare with it the burning sands of Egypt. We all expected to be Sick, but we are not so bad off as might have been supposed we would be. The morning we left here it did not rain exactly, but it poured down, and continued to do so, all day nearly, so that the whole command of 200 men were enabled to enjoy a cheap and cooling shower bath, on a most magnificent scale—with grand and Sublime claps of thunder, pealing over our heads. We were absent 18 days from Fort Harrison and during that time penetrated hammocks and waded through Swamps. And marched through rain and through the hot sun, and Yet, accomplished nothing.
Tampa Bay, September 29th, 1841. — Five Companies of our Regiment here during duty with 5 of the 8th. I arrived here Sept 13th. There are a large number of Indian prisoners here (some 200 or more) and we have to go on as off of the Guard—we second Lieuts. The Guard amounts to nearly 100 men, all total— [p. 19] and to guard the Indians there is a line of sentinels stretching some two thirds of a mile, from the Hillsborough river to the Bay. Large fires are built along this chain of sentinels at night. From the many favorable indications of late we have been led to think we might get out of Florida before the Year is out, but to-day, we have news of expresses missing between here and Fort King, doubtless killed by the treacherous Indians. If they do not come in soon, I presume we will have to take the field again. In which case, with our increased experience and knowledge of the Country, and the aid of a fresh Regiment, and fine healthy weather, it strikes me, we will do something.
Cedar Keyes, Feb. 28th 1842 — Took command OF “G.” Co. [& I?] Infy. Relieving Capt Hutter.
Sea Horse Keys, Fla. March 4th, 1842 — Left here for N Orleans in Brig Tuscaurilla, with G and I companies, commanded by Capt Andrews.
March 8th 1842 — Reached the Balize 300 miles off
Fort Gibson, Arkansas, Sept. 24th 1842 —
We Staid only a day or two at N Orleans, and went up the Misissippi in steamboats to Jefferson Barracks, where we staid only a month, and then descended the Misissippi, and ascended the Red River for more than a thousand miles to Fort Towson — Four Companies left Fort Towson about the 9th of Sept 1842, and arrived at Fort Smith, (140 miles) about the 18th of Sept — Two Companies “G.” and “E.” left Fort Smith on the 19th Sept and arrived at this Post Fort Gibson on the 22d Sept, a distance of 60 miles from Fort Smith, making a march of 200 miles in about two weeks over a very bad road, in most excessive hot weather.
[End of the Journal].
The Journal of Rensselaer William Foote was kept in camp, through Florida and on to Arkansas, in 1839 – 42 when Foote was 26 years old. He was a Captain, 6th Infantry U.S. Army, in the Seminole. After a term of service that included duty in Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico territory, he died at the battle of Gaine’s Mill. It was the first battle he participated in during the American Civil War.
The Journal and part of the uniform of Col. Foote are in the Collection of The Main Street Museum White River Jct. Vermont. see cin: li;184.09;ha
Editors additions are enclosed in square brackets: [___]. When a word is scratched or blotted out in an original document or source, the marked figures or characters are shown between brackets: <___>.
—David Fairbanks Ford, editor of the Journal and curator, Main Street Museum. White River Junction, Vermont, 2015, c.e.
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