though he had 3,000 men, fell back from Lake City
Whether he did so or not, the belief that he did probably misled Seymour
into his great blunder thereafter.
had followed his lieutenant down to Jacksonville
and out so far as Baldwin
returning directly to Jacksonville
, and thence2
to Hilton Head
; without a shadow of suspicion that Seymour
contemplated, or (without orders) would attempt, a farther advance.
In fact, he had telegraphed to Gillmore
on the 12th that
I last night ordered Col. Henry to fall back to this point.
I am destroying all public property here, and shall go back to the south fork of St. Mary's as soon as Henry returns.
I hope he will be in this morning.
Gillmore at once responded:
I want your command at and beyond Baldwin concentrated at Baldwin without delay.
replied, insisting that
To leave the south fork of the St. Mary's will make it impossible for us to advance again ;
but intimated no purpose to make such advance without orders.
thereupon returned to Hilton Head
; and was very soon thunderstruck by receiving3
a letter from Seymour
, saying that he had been compelled to remain where his men could be fed; but adding
Not enough supplies could be accumulated to permit me to execute my intention of moving to the Suwanee river. But I now propose to go without supplies;
and asking that an iron-clad demonstration be made up the Savannah
, to prevent the dispatch of Rebel forces from Georgia
Gillmore at once wrote him a strong remonstrance against the madness of his project — which was, in effect, to pit his (at most) 6,000 disposable men against whatever force the Rebels
, with all Georgia
to draw from, and railroads at command, might see fit to concentrate upon him. Gen. Turner
was sent post-haste with this letter; but it was too late.
When he reached Jacksonville
, he met there tidings that Seymour
was already fighting at Olustee
had left Barber
's (the south fork aforesaid) that morning,4
with a few short of 5,000 men; advancing westward along the highway which runs generally parallel with the railroad, frequently crossing it, till about 2 P. M., when the head of his column ran square into the dead-fall which Finnegan
had set for him. Our men were faint with hunger and a hard march of 16 miles over miry or sandy ground, until, two or three miles east of Olustee station, our van reached a point where the railroad is carried straight through a long cypress swamp, while the wagon-road makes a square turn to the right, crossing the railroad, in order to avoid and flank the swamp.
had disposed his men, under cover of the swamp and adjacent pine forest, with his flanks thoroughly protected by the former and by a lakelet known as Ocean Pond
; while our men, rushing heedlessly, headlong on, were at close quarters before they suspected that they were to be seriously resisted.
Our strength lay in artillery, whereof we had 16 pieces to 4--Finnegan
having lost most of his in his hasty retreat from Camp Finnegan — but our guns were rushed up to the