September 8th 1863
In my report to you of the 1st inst I stated that I had succeeded in capturing the boat and had the negroes cut off so as there would not be much doubt in my getting the negroes… raid on Mr. King’s plantations. on the morning of the second day I took their trail from where I fired on them the evening previous. they led off toward the mouth of the Withlacoochee River, edgeing the Coast as near as they could for tide creeks &c. about 4 ock in the evening we discovered one in a cedar tree looking out, on an Island they discovered us about the same time, we being in the open marsh. here they seem to have separated only two being together. after chasing them about two miles through the saw Grass we came up in gun shot of them. we began to fire at them, and they returned the fire very cool and deliberately but we soon got in close range of them and killed them. one of these negroes was recognized by some of my men as belonging to Mr. Everett, who lives near hear, which ran away from him about nine months ago. he was styled Captain of the party, as I learned from the negroes recaptured of Mr. King. myself and men being completely tired down for the want of water, we had to go back and camp until next morning when we took the trail and followed on the third day. about the same time in the evening of the third day, we came up with two more, and after a Similar chase of the second day, we succeeded in Killing both of them. from here I never could strike the trail of any more of them, but I am under the impression that we killed or wounded the other three the first day. I could not get any information from either of the four that was killed, as they were all dead.
The only information that I have been able to get is from an old negro man of Mr. Kings who ran away from them the first day and came back home. he says that [they left] Sea Horse Key at the same time [that] boat did destined for Homasassa, but as yet they have not reached there. he also states that a Gun-boat had gone up the Suwanee River and as soon as it returned it was to come up the river.
Night before last my picket Guard heard several guns down the River in the direction of Shell Island. it may be them, but I think if they go up either River their destiny will be as these has been. I am Captain Very Respectfully Your obt Sevt.
-Samuel E. Hope
**With the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, slaves that were in bondage were encouraged to runaway from the plantation and seek refuge in Union Camps. Once these slaves had reached these Union Camps they would be considered free according to the Emancipation Proclamation. This letter or report written by Confederate Officer Samuel E. Hope is a great and tragic example of the encouragement and consequences of the Emancipation Proclamation. The letter outlines and tells the story of several runaway slaves from local plantations in Hernando County. Since the Florida Coast was littered with Union Blockades and Gun-boats in 1863, these slaves had likely made their way to the coast with the intentions of seeking refuge on one of these boats. It was reported in the letter that there had been a gun-boat ‘up the Suwannee River’, meaning that there had been Union boats in the area. If captured these slaves were to be returned to the proper plantations according to the Emancipation Proclamation. It was extremely dangerous for these individuals trying to obtain their freedom and many times their path to freedom had tragic endings. All of the details in this example and situation are not known but we do know that the pursuing parties were fired upon. Many times slaves were returned to the plantation but there are just as many examples as the one above. Slavery and the Civil War were both horrific events not only in America’s History but also in our local history, where many lives were lost and many families were destroyed.