Letter From On Board the Brooklyn

New York Times, 27 February 1861

TUESDAY, Feb. 12, 1861.

Quite unexpectedly to us an opportunity is today presented to forward, by private conveyance, letters to our friends at the North. I need not tell you that I embrace it with avidity, to apprise you of the state of existing things at this place.

Since our arrival here on the 3d instant, our life has been one of comparative inactivity; our vessel has been drifting first one way, then the other, with the "screw up," and we relieving the monotony of our life by speculating at what period our progressive Government will see fit to communicate such orders to us, that we may rearrange affairs at this place. We have been expecting them, and that to the effect that will justify us in the immediate retaking of the Navy-yard and other property now in the hands of the insurgents.

This movement of secession in this portion of the State of Florida, is a perfect farce, and is destined to become a complete failure. Already the major portion of the inhabitants of Pensacola are fully satisfied with, and assert that they have had sufficient of the novel excitement they have been for some time participating in, and now that they are beginning to feel some of the effects of separating themselves from their sister States, are thoroughly disgusted with the sublime feeling of independence.

Personal observation and communication have proven anew to me what I assured you was the case in my last letter, viz: that there are still remaining here many good and true Union-loving men, -- men who have not been carried away with this suicidal excitement, but are those who have gazed into the future, and have discerned the terrible and inevitable results of the inauguration, and carrying out of this movement.

A portion of these loyal men come off to our vessel whenever an opportunity occurs, so that they may escape observation, and almost invariably bring with them, for our sustenance and comfort, some of the necessities of life. Such has been their noble and heroic conduct, that both our officers and crew will refer to this epoch as a memorable one in the history of the secession era.

The town of Pensacola is held in possession by a mob of about 400 persons, 300 of these being from Alabama; those from Mississippi that were recently hero, have decamped to their homes. They came here with the avowed intention of assisting the undisciplined gang, called soldiers, that were here before them, but it would seem their only purpose in visiting this section was, of eating and drinking everything there was to be obtained, either by fair or foul means, and then evacuating; in this they were eminently successful, and when they had accomplished it, shook off the dust of their feet against the city.

The citizens that have visited our vessel inform us that the condition of these so-called soldiers is miserable beyond description; they possess no money, clothes or provisions -- in fact, it is nothing more than a drunkenable, being such a terror to the whole neighboring country, that the establishment of a guard has been necessary to protect the wives and families of certain citizens. These outlaws have, in their drunken expeditions, entered houses when the male members were absent, and with pistols presented at the heads of the female members thereof, demanded all the provisions the house contained; in case of refusal, as has occurred in one instance, insult upon insult was heaped upon the heads of the unprotected females. Their sole occupation is nothing less than robbery, and every chance that is given is availed of by them.

As you are well aware, they have possession of Forts McRea and Barrancas, and they have erected a few six pounders along the beach. This seems, as far as my observation extends, to be everything of note or importance accomplished by them. Discipline and order are unknown within their ranks.

I have to inform you that the United States steamer Wyandotte enters and departs from the port with a flag of truce flying at her mast head; it makes our very blood boil to witness this humiliating spectacle, and the bowing of the knee by the President of our country to these highwaymen of the deepest cast. We have thought how truly lamentable it is, that such inefficiency and weakness as has recently been observed by us, should have characterized the Administration of our Executive head.

Among the other atrocities committed by this gang "fighting for liberty," is that at the time of the capture, or rather surrender of the Navy-yard, there was deposited there 7,000 tons of coal for our naval vessels, belonging to the United States Government This coal these fellows are at present selling at a ruinous price; in fact, simply what it cost to freight it -- and the proceeds are being appropriated by them. If this can be called ought else but robbery, I should like to snow it.

I would not have you to understand that all the men under arms here are such deeply-dyed characters as those alluded to -- who, for personal emolument, would stoop to any act, however base and atrocious it may be; not by any means, as I truly believe that some among them, unconnected with these base acts, are perfectly sincere in their actions, and think that the taking-up of arms is justifiable; these misguided men are those whom we should pity -- they will soon discern the error of their ways. On the contrary, there are others who do not at all sympathize with them, but for sake of their lives are really compelled to join the rebel band, and assent to every proposition advanced by them. In connection with this, I have to tell you that an old grey-headed man, whose Winters have numbered seventy or more, and who had resided in Pensacola for twenty years, was driven from the place a short time since; he was given but four hours' notice by the leaders to leave -- and was told that if after the expiration of that period he remained they would not answer for his personal safety. The tottering old man, upon the verge of the grave, and one whom a savage would not harm, was driven from friends and home simply because he had avowed he still loved the glorious Union. He is now living aboard the Wyandotte, where no harm can come to him. I narrate this to reveal how far their espionage extends.

The only one thing desired by us is to receive orders from Washington to retake the Government property here. We could disperse the parties that now have possession of it in two hours, and hold it with our soldiers and sailors against any odds.

It is becoming perfectly outrageous that we should be stationed here, subject to merciless gales, and the sight of such contemptible actions as are daily occurring, and still be unable to raise a dissenting voice or deprecating hand.

Again, we could, without any trouble whatever, land our troops at Fort Pickens, but no, we cannot; unless orders arrive we are powerless. It is a burning shame that the brave and gallant Lieut. Slemmer, who sadly needs reinforcements, should not have the troops we have on board, and which were originally intended for him. This officer is a fitting coequal with Major Anderson, and deserves much credit for his conduct upon many trying occasions. It is the opinion of many, that were it not for our presence, Fort Pickens would have been attacked several days since. As it is, our large guns are a terror to them, they knowing full well that in case of necessity we would use them, and that in a manner to do terrible execution.

The frigate Sabine and sloop-of-war St. Louis are lying alongside of us; the Macedonian left us on Saturday for Vera Cruz. A recent gale drifted us 7 miles to leeward.

We are totally in the dark as to how affairs are progressing at the North. The one thing we care and hope for is, that an immediate settlement one way or the other may be consummated.