1863 Gulf Coast Florida

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32 Cal.
Jan 18, 2012
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It is 1863, on Useppa Island in Charlotte harbor, on the Gulf coast of Florida.

I am 63 years old.

I was born in the year 1800, near Hardwick, Massachusettes. My father was a farmer, but I went for training, at the age of 16, as a mechanic with the owner of a textile mill.

In 1824 I married Abigail Gilbert, and we had two children that survived. My sons were born in 1825 and 1827.

In 1826 went to work with Fordyce & Adin Ruggles in their gun shop in the old sharpening mill, and helped them develop their patented underhammer pistol. In 1828 Fordyce was accidentally killed by one of his own handguns. In 1829 my family and I helped Adin and his family, and Adin’s new partner mister Samuel Pike move some 30 miles to Stafford, Connecticut where we once again established a gun manufactory.

We manufactured pistols, fowlers and rifles. In addition to ordinary rifles, I was helpful in developing a line of Pocket Rifles; that is, weapons with pistol length barrels having either permanent or detachable shoulder stocks. These were often sold to the shooters, or guards, on the mail and stage coach lines, as more accurate and intimidating than a conventional pistol.

In 1848 my oldest son, Kenneth, went into the Army in the war against Mexico. He sent back such glowing reports of the salubrious climate and life in New Orleans, that in 1850, my wife and I were persuaded to join him there after he was mustered out. My youngest son, William, at that time had set off on a life of his own, desiring to go as a merchant seaman.

Unfortunately, my darling wife had little chance to enjoy the largest and most exciting city in the United States. In 1851, she succumbed to the yellow jack fever which ravaged the city that year.

Ultimately, life in the big city did not appeal to my son and I, although the warm climate of the south certainly did. Hearing of homestead lands available across the Gulf of Mexico in the State of Florida, my son and I determined to go there and establish a new home. We did so in 1853, and established our claim up river from Fort Ogden on Pease creek or river.

Two years later my son enlisted in Captain William B Hooker's Company, Florida Mounted Volunteers, and served until 1856 in the Third Seminole War. I was considered too old for military service.

After that trouble, my son continued to farm the homestead along with two hired men, but I determined to open a business nearer the old fort, repairing broken farming implements, housewares, weapons and the like. There I built a chickee cabin and my mechanic’s workshop, and plied my lifelong trade on a small scale. When not occupied with repairs, I hunted and fished along the Peace River as it was now being called, and grubbed a patch of vegetables behind the house.

After secession in 1861, my son and I tried to avoid letting our Union sympathies be known. But by the next year, rather than be taken up by Confederate conscriptors, my son sailed back to New Orleans, and enlisted in the 1st Louisiana Cavalry, US, where he has served with distinction - as far as his letters relate.

After having my workshop burned last year because of my Union sympathies, I sailed my 25 foot boat out to Useppa Island, under the protection of the United States Navy East Blockading Squadron. There I stayed, eking out a living fixing things, fishing and trying to grow a few vegetables in the sandy soil.

Betimes, I have assisted the Union blockaders, guiding them up river or along the coast to strike at targets. When Captain Green came recruiting for a company of Florida Rangers to serve against the Confederacy, he had no cares as to my age, only my abilities as a hunter, riverman, and gunsmith. It is I who have managed to keep the strange assortment of firearms used by the Florida Rangers in functioning order, in addition to participating in divers actions against the Confederates.

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