The terror raids of enemy black troops on the South’s coastal areas were intended to disrupt agricultural production, and especially to seize African slaves to deny the South its workers. Rather than liberating the slaves, the enemy impressed the slaves as soldiers and threatened to hang them if they did not fight.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Get Killed or Get Hung
“[Brigadier General Joseph] Finegan’s estimate of the emergency was made clear in a proclamation he circulated throughout East Florida informing the people that:
“. . . Our unscrupulous [Northern] enemy has landed a large force of Negroes, under command of white officers, at Jacksonville, under cover of gunboats. He is attempting to fortify the place as to make it secure against attacks. The purpose of this movement is obvious and need not be mentioned in direct terms. I therefore call on such of the citizens as can possibly leave their homes to arm and organize themselves into companies without delay and to report to me. Ammunition, subsistence, and transportation will be furnished then while they remain in service.
With the blessing of the Almighty, the zealous support of the people and the government, I doubt not that the detestable foe will soon be driven from their cover.”
On March 16, after fighting an exhausting series of skirmishes with Yankee troops, [Winston] Stephens wrote to warn his wife of the black troops in Jacksonville, and of the grave danger that Yankee raiders might come upriver to Welaka. “Get the slaves ready to run to the woods on a moment’s notice,” he wrote his wife, adding that “the Negroes in arms will promise them fair prospects, but they will suffer the same fate those did in town that we killed, and the Yankees say they will hang them if they don’t fight.”
(Jacksonville’s Ordeal by Fire, Martin & Schafer, Florida Publishing Company, 1984, page 145)