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Volume 36, No. 11 – November 2023

The President’s Message:

Our next meeting will be Wednesday, November 8th at 7:00 PM at the Lake Clarke Shores Town Hall.  The program will be Incompetent Civil War Generals presented by Gerridine LaRovere and Janell Bloodworth with a discussion afterwards.

My apologies to everyone who came to the Town Hall on October 11th.  We had no meeting that month.  Unfortunately, our newsletter sent by the postal service did not reach some of our members in a timely fashion.

I found a very interesting article originally published in Century Magazine in 1893 called Escape off Palm Beach County: John Taylor Wood’s Account.  I hope that you find it as interesting as I did.  The punctuation, grammar, and spelling are exactly as they were in the original publication.  Apparently, commas were very popular with some writers in the Nineteenth Century.

Gerridine LaRovere

Upcoming Speakers:

January - Robert Macomber
February – TBA
March - Patrick Falci
April - Adam Katz

Escape off Palm Beach County

Colonel John Taylor Wood, Confederate army officer, blockade runner, and grandson of President Zachary Taylor, accompanied Southern Secretary of War, John Beckenridge, in his escape down Florida’s east coast to Cuba after the fall of the Confederacy. The following is Wood’s account of the Breckenridge party’s experiences in present day Palm Beach County as published by “Century Magazine” vol. XXV 1893.

            On Sunday, June 4, 1865, we passed Jupiter Inlet, with nothing in sight. The lighthouse had been destroyed the first year of the War [actually only the light, the tower was undamaged]. From this point we had to determine to cross Florida Channel to the Bahamas about eighty miles; but the wind was ahead, and we could do nothing but work slowly to the southward, waiting for a slant. It was of course a desperate venture to cross this distance in a small open boat, which even a moderate sea would swamp. Our provisions now became a very serious question. As I have said, we had lost all the meal, and sweet potatoes, our next mainstay, were sufficient only for two days more. We had but little more ammunition than was necessary for our revolvers, and these we might be called upon to use at any time. Very fortunately for us, it was                                          the time of year when the green turtle deposits its eggs. Russell and O”Toole [two Confederate veterans in the party] were beach combers and had hunted eggs before. Sharpening a stick, they pressed it into the sand as they walked along, and wherever it entered easily they would dig. After some hours’ search we were successful in finding a nest which had not been destroyed, and I do not think prospectors were ever more gladdened by the sight of  “the yellow” than we were at our find. The green turtle’s egg is about the size of a walnut, with a white skin-like parchment that you can tear but not break. The yolk will cook hard, but the longer you boil the egg the softer the white becomes. The flavor is not unpleasant, and for the first two days we enjoyed them; but then we were glad to vary the fare with a few shell-fish and even snails.

            From Cape Canaveral to Cape Florida the coast trends nearly north and south in a straight line, so that we could see at a long distance anything going up or down the shore. Some distance to the southward of Jupiter Inlet we saw a steamer coming down, running close to the beach to avoid the three-and-four-knot current of the stream. From her yards and general appearance I soon made her out to be a cruiser, so we hauled ourboat up on the sands, and went back among the palmettos.When abreast of us and not more than a half mile off, we could see the officer of the deck at flotsam and jetsam, of which there was more or less strewn on the beach. To our great relief, the cruiser passed us, and when she was two miles or more to the southward we ventured our and approached the boat, but the sharp lookout saw us, and, to our astonishment, the steamer came swinging about and headed up the coast. The question at once arose, what was the best couse to pursue? The general [Beckinridge] thought we had better take to the bush again, and leave the boat, hoping they would not disturb it. Colonel Wilson agreed with his chief. I told him that since we had been seen, the enemy would certainly destroy or carry off the boat, and the loss meant, if not starvation, at least privation ,and no hope of escaping from the country . Besides, the mosquitos would sick us as dry as Egyptian mummies. I proposed that we should meet them halfway, in company with Russell and O”Toole, who were paroled men, and fortunately had their papers with them, and I offered to row off and see what was wanted. He agreed, and , launching our boat and throwing in two buckets of eggs, we pulled out. By this time the steamer was abreast of us, and lowered the boat, which met us half-way. I had one oar, and O”Toole the other. To the usual hail I paid no attention except to stop rowing. A ten-oared cutter with a smart looking crew dashed alongside. The sheen was not yet off the lace and buttons of the youngster in charge. With revolver in hand he asked us who we were, where we came from, and where we were going. “Cap’n,” said I “pleaser put away that-ar pistol; I don’t like the looks of it, and I’ll tell you all about us. We’ve been rebs and there ain’t no use saying we weren’t; but it’s all up now, and we got home too late to put in a crop, so we just made up our minds to come down shore and see is we couldn’t find something. It’s al: right, Cap’n, we’ve got our papers. Want to see ‘em? Got ‘em fixed up at Jacksonville.” O’Toole and Russell handed him their paroles, which he said were all right. He asked for mine. I turned my pockets out,  looked in my hat, and said, “I must dropped mine in camp, but ‘t is just the same as theirin.” He asked who was ashore. I told him, “There’s more of we uns biling turtle eggs for dinner. Cap’n, I’d like to swap some eggs for tobacco or bread.” His crew soon produced from the slack of their frocks pieces of plug, which they passed on board in exchange for our eggs. I told the youngster if he’d come to camp we’d give him as many as we could eat. Our hospitality was declined. Among other questions he asked if their were any batteries on shore—a battery on a beach where there was not a white man within a hundred miles! “Up oars—let go forward—let fall—give ‘way!” were all familiar orders; but never before had they sounded so welcome. As they shoved off, the coxswain said to the youngster, “That looks like a man-of-war’s gig, sir” but he paid no attention to him. We pulled leisurely ashore, watching the cruiser. The general was very much relieved, for it was a narrow escape.

The wind still holding to the southward and eastward, we could work only slowly to the southward, against current. At times we suffered greatly for want of water; our usual resource was to dig for it, but often it was brackish and wram that when extreme thirst forced its use the consequences were violent pains and retchings. One morning we saw a few wigwams ashore, and pulled in at once and landed. It was a party of Seminoles who had come out of the everglades like bears to gather eggs. They received us kindly, and we devoured ravenously the remnants of their breakfast of fish and kountee. Only the old chief spoke a little English. Not more than two or three hundred of this once powerful and warlike tribe remain in Florida; they occupy some islands in this swamp to the southward of Lake Okeechobee, They have but little intercourse with the whites, and come out on the coast only certain seasons to fish. We were very anxious to obtain some provisions from them, but excepting kountee they had nothing to spare. This is an esculent resembling arrowroot, which they dig, pulverize, and use as flour. It makes a palatable but tough cake, cooked in the ashes, which we enjoyed after our long abstinence from bread. The old chief took advantage of our eager-ness for supplies, and determined to replenish his powder-horn. Nothing ekse would do, not eben an old coat, or fish=hooks, or cavalry saber would temp him. Powder only would he have for their long, heavy small-bore rifles with flintlocks, such as Davy Crockett used. We reluctantly divided with him our very scant supply in exchange for some of their flour. We parted good friends, after smoking the pipe of peace.


Last changed: 10/27/23