Saturday, March 1, 2014

150-years-ago THE BATTLE OF OLUSTEE, FLORIDA

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
March 2, 1864

Upper picture, Sanderson, Fla.; lower, Olustee battlefield.
(Harper's Weekly/Library of Congress)
Battle of Olustee, Florida.
A correspondent of the Lake City Columbian, gives the following interesting account of the fight at Olustee, in Florida: Feb. 20, 1864.

            The great battle of East Florida has been fought and another glorious victory has been won by our gallant soldiery.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan
Confederate commander
(Library of Congress)
            At an early hour this forenoon couriers arrived at distant headquarters with the intelligence that the enemy, seven thousand strong, under command of Major-Gen. Gillmore, had passed the village of Sanderson, en route for the interior of this State. No sooner was this intelligence communicated, than a cavalry force composed of detachments of the 4th Ga., Col. Clinch; 2d Fla., cavalry, Lt.-Col. A. H. Mc nick, and Scott's Battalion, Major G. W. Scott, all under the command of Col. Caraway Smith, 2d Florida cavalry, proceeded forward with the view of ascertaining the strength and position of the enemy. The command of Col. Smith proceeded to a point near the Florida Central railroad, about eighteen miles east of Lake City, where they encountered the advance guard of the enemy. With the view of drawing him nearer to this point where a more advantageous position for our troops had been selected, Col. Smith skirmished slightly with the enemy, and retiring towards this point in excellent order.
          Finding that it was the design of the enemy to destroy the railroad upon his line of march, and to fortify himself at a point about five miles east of this place, Gen Finegan ordered to the front the 64th Ga. regiment, Col. Evans; 32d Ga, Maj Howard; 6th Ga, Col Lofton; 27th Ga, Col Zachary; 1st Ga regulars, Capt Greaves; Bonan's battalion, Major Bonan; 1st Fla special battalion, Lt Col C F Hopkins; 6th Fla battalion, Major P B Bard; 28th Ga. Maj Crawford; 19th Ga, Col O' Neal; 23d Ga, Lt Col Huggins; Flalight artillery, Capt Gamble; Chatham artillery, Capt. Wheaton; and Guerard's battery. These brave and gallant men, under the command of Brig. Gen A H Colquitt and Acting Brig. Gen. G. P. Harrison, 32d Ga, and Caraway Smith — all commanded by Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan--advanced promptly, and with firm and steady step, to resist the advance of the enemy, who had determined to celebrate Washington's birthday in Lake City, and to avenge that place for the resistance offered a few days previously.
          The entire force of the enemy was commanded by Major-Gen. Gilmore; that in the field was under the immediate command of Major-Gen. Seymour, whom, as your readers will remember, was a captain under Major Anderson at the time he surrendered Fort Sumter to Gen. Beauregard.
Your correspondent participated in the battles around Richmond and upon the Peninsula, as he did in this, and is prepared to aver that he never witnessed a more stubborn contested field, and in this opinion he is confirmed by the testimony of veteran soldiers, whose exploits heretofore have been the admiration of their countrymen, and have given name and fame to Southern prowess and valor.
When within a proper distance of the enemy our artillery, under the command of Col. R. B. Thomas, opened a heavy and very determined fire upon them. The artillery of enemy responded briskly, but with little effect to that of ours. Very soon after the commencement of the artillery duel heavy volleys of musketry were poured into the enemy's lines by our troops, killing and wounding a large number of them. Volley after volley reverberated through the air, with nought but the yells and shrieks of our victorious heroes to relieve its monotony.
           The engagement lasted upwards of four hours, during about three of which the enemy contested inch by inch very mutually the advance of our troops. At length, largely superior numbers, engaged in an unholy and unrighteous crusade, were compelled to succumb and to flee before the superior prowess and chivalry of Southern hearts.--The enemy was driven in confusion and disorder a long distance beyond the field of carnage, leaving, in their hasty fight, all their killed, and nearly all their wounded.
        The result of this glorious achievement of our troops many be summed up thus: The enemy's loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners is twenty-eight hundred, one stand of colors, two excellent Napoleons, and three fine 8 inch rifle guns, fifteen hundred stand of arms, and a vast quantity of ordnance, quartermaster's and commissary stores.--Our entire loss is about seventy- five killed and four hundred and fifty wounded.

Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour
Federal commander
(Library of Congress)
         Taken all in all, this day will long be remembered as one upon which one of the most brilliant victories of the war was achieved. Whilst we rejoice in the defeat and disasters which have befallen the invaders of our soil, we have to pause and mourn the deaths of many brave and noble patriots.
It is a matter altogether impossible in a hastily written article as this necessarily is, to communicate in detail the many incidents of the battle.
             The memory of the gallant officers and men who have fallen as martyrs to their country, will long be revered and cherished, for they fell as brave and chivalrous men always fall. The gallantry of our officers and men has never been excelled either in ancient or modern times. Gen. Finegan acted in a manner which entitled him to the highest credit. His conduct upon this occasion, the plans of the battle, the discipline and disposition of his forces, his coolness, judgment, discretion, and gallantry, have won for him a high reputation, and have caused me to regard him as an officer second to none of his rank, and who deserves the everlasting gratitude of our countrymen.

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National Park Service Summary
 In February 1864, the commander of the Department of the South, Maj. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, launched an expedition into Florida to secure Union enclaves, sever Rebel supply routes, and recruit black soldiers. Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour moved deep into the state, occupying, destroying, and  liberating,  meeting little resistance on February 20, he approached Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan’s 5,000 Confederates entrenched near Olustee.  One infantry brigade pushed out to meet Seymour’s advance units.  The Union forces attacked but were repulsed. The battle raged, and as Finegan committed the last of his reserves, the Union line broke and began to retreat. Finegan did not exploit the retreat, allowing most of the fleeing Union forces to reach Jacksonville.

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