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SIR, In reply to your note requesting any information in this Department relative to the enquiries contained in a copy of a letter of the 10th inst. from the Chairman of the Committee of the House of Representatives which accompanied your note I have the honour to make the following statement.
This Department has no certain information in relation to the number of Spanish Troops in Florida; but it is believed that it does not exceed 800. On the inoccupation of Pensacola and St. Marks in February last the number of troops which accompanied the governor was about 500 which were distributed between those posts. The Department has [no] information of the arrival of any reinforcement since, and it is probable that the number now at those posts is rather less. The information as to the strength of garrison of St. Augustine is less certain but from the last information it is thought that the number does not exceed 300. To these may be added the Seminole Indians; who since the non-ratification of the Treaty by Spain have evinced some hostile feelings and may probably be excited to open hostilities, but the number does not at present probably exceed 500 warriors.
The number of troops in the Island of Cuba is not known with any certainty. It is believed that a considerable number probably not much less than 3000 arrived there some time last Summer; but they are said to suffer so much from the diseases incidental to the climate that they are reduced one half since there arrival.
The fortification of St. Augustine is the only considerable one in either of the Floridas. It is very strong both from the position and art and although not in a complete state it may in a short time be put in a good condition. Those of Pensacola and St. Marks are slight works. Some efforts are making both at Pensacola and St. Augustine to improve the condition of the fortifications and to augment the supply of provission.
If a law were passed for the purpose, it is believed that a sufficient regular force could be ready to enter Florida in the latter part of February or certainly in March next, and that with the aid of a sufficient naval force, would complete, with the exception of St. Augustine, the military occupation of the country in a few weeks after it was entered.
It is difficult to form an estimate of the time it would take to reduce St. Augustine. If well defended with a sufficient garrison it could only be carried by a regular seige.
The most suitable season of the year to occupy the Floridas would be from November to May. After the latter period our troops would be particularly those from the North much exposed to the diseases of the climate.
- John C. Calhoun
- Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1899, Calhoun Correspondence.