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Battle of Olustee.


General Gillmore's report.

Headquarters D. S., Hilton head, S. C., March 7, 1864.
Major-General Halleck, General-in-Chief U. S.A., Washington, D. C.:
I have the honor to submit herewith copies of certain letters and telegraphic despatches which comprise the instructions given to Brigadier-General T. Seymour, relative to operations in Florida prior to the fight at Olustee on the twentieth ultimo. A brief narrative of events connected with the recent occupation of Florida, west of the St. John's River, will not be out of place.

Under date of the twenty-second December, 1863, I was authorized by you to undertake such operations in my department as I might deem best, suggesting conference with Admiral Dahlgren, etc.

On January fourteenth, 1864, I wrote you that, unless it would interfere with the views of the War Department, I should occupy the west bank of the St. John's River in Florida very soon, and establish small depots there, preparatory to an advance west at an early day.

On January fifteenth, I wrote to the Secretary of War that I had in contemplation the occupation of Florida on the west bank of the St. John's River at a very early day.

Under date of January twenty-second, you informed that in regard to my proposed operations in Florida, the Secretary replied that the matter had been left entirely to my judgment and discretion, with the means at my command, and that as the object of the proposed expedition had not been explained, it was impossible for you to judge of its advantages or practicability.

On January thirty-first, I wrote informing you that the objects to be attained by the operations were:

1. To procure an outlet for cotton, lumber, timber, etc.

2. To cut off one of the enemy's sources of commissary supplies, etc.

3. To obtain recruits for any colored regiments.

4. To inaugurate measures for the speedy restoration of Florida to her allegiance, in accordance with instructions which I had received from the President by the hands of Major John Hay, Assistant Adjutant-General.

On February fifth, I directed General Seymour, whose command was already embarked, to go to Jacksonville, Florida, effect a landing there, and push forward his mounted force to Baldwin, twenty miles from Jacksonville, the junction of the two railroads from Jacksonville and Fernandina. A portion of the command reached Baldwin on the ninth, at which point I joined it on the evening of the same day. At that time the enemy had no force in East-Florida, except the scattered fragments of General Finnigan's command; we had taken all his artillery. On the tenth, a portion of our forces were sent toward Sanderson, and I returned to Jacksonvillle. Telegraphic communication was established between Baldwin and Jacksonville on the eleventh. On that day I telegraphed to General Seymour not to risk a repulse, on advancing on Lake City, but to hold Sanderson, unless there were reasons for falling back which I did not know, and also, in case his advance met with any serious opposition, to concentrate at Sanderson and the south fork of the St. Mary's, and, if necessary, to bring back Colonel Henry to the latter place.

On the twelfth, General Seymour informed me from Sanderson that he should fall back to the south fork of the St. Mary's as soon as Colonel Henry, whom he had ordered back from the front, had returned. On the same day I telegraphed to General Seymour that I wanted his command at and beyond Baldwin concentrated at Baldwin without delay, for reasons which I gave him. General Seymour joined me at Jacksonville on the fourteenth, the main body of his command being at that time at Baldwin as directed. He had, however, sent Colonel Henry toward the left to capture some railroad trains at Gainesville on the Fernandina and Cedar Keys Railroad.

After arranging with General Seymour for the construction of certain defences at Jacksonville, Baldwin, and the south fork of the St. Mary's, I [402] started for Hilton Head on the fifteenth, leaving behind me Captain Reese of the Engineers, to give the necessary instructions for the defences referred to. I considered it well understood at that time between General Seymour and myself that no advance should be made without further instructions from me, nor until the defences were well advanced.

On the eighteenth I was greatly surprised at receiving a letter from General Seymour, dated the seventeenth, stating that he intended to advance without supplies, in order to destroy the railroad near the Savannah River, one hundred miles from Jacksonville.

I at once despatched General Turner to Jacksonville to stop the movement. He was the bearer of a letter to General Seymour. Upon arriving at Jacksonville, after considerable delay, due to the inclemency of the weather, he learned that General Seymour was engaged with the enemy in front, near Olustee, forty-eight miles from Jacksonville by railroad.

When I left Jacksonville on the fifteenth ult., I was entirely satisfied with the success of our operations up to that time. I briefly communicated to you my plans with regard to Florida in my letter of February fifteenth, from which I extract as follows:

General Seymour's advance has been within four miles of Lake City, but as his instructions were not to risk a repulse or make an attack when there was a prospect of incurring much loss, he has taken up a position at Baldwin, the junction of the railroad from Jacksonville with the one from Fernandina. He holds also the crossing of the St. Mary's South-Fork, about twelve miles west of Baldwin.

I intend to construct small works capable of resisting a coup-de-main at Jacksonville, Baldwin, Pilatka, and perhaps one or two other important points, so strong that two hundred or three hundred men will be sufficient at each point.

Twenty-five hundred men in addition to the two regiments that have been permanently stationed in this State (one at St. Augustine and one at Fernandina) ought to be ample in Florida.

The artillery captured here will suffice for such defensive works as may be deemed necessary.

I desire to see the lumber and turpentine trade on the St. John's River revived by loyal men, and for that purpose, and to give assurance that our occupation of this river is intended to be permanent, I have written to the Secretary of the Treasury, recommending that the port of Jacksonville be declared open.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Q. A. Gillmore, Major-General Commanding.


Official despatches.

[A.]

headquarters Department of the South, Hilton head, S. C., Feb. 5, 1864, 9 P. M.
Brigadier-General T. Seymour:
General: You will start your command so as, if possible, to get the bulk of it at sea before daybreak. Steamers that have tows should be started as soon as they are ready. The whole are to rendezvous at the mouth of St. John's River by daybreak day after to-morrow morning, the seventh instant. I expect to be there in person at that time, but should I fail from any cause, you are expected to pass the bar on the Sunday morning's high-tide, ascend the river to Jacksonville, effect a landing with your command, and push forward a mounted force as far as Baldwin at the junction of the two railroads. The armed transport Harriet A. Weed has been ordered forward to buoy out the St. John's channel, and then await orders. It is not expected that the enemy has any strong force to oppose your landing. I have sent instructions to Colonel Goss, commanding at Fernandina, to have the railroad tracks on both roads torn up in several places after the train comes into Jacksonville to-morrow, and to keep the track obstructed throughout Saturday night.

The object of a prompt advance on Baldwin, and, if possible, beyond, is to get possession of a train if one has been brought up by the enemy. The enemy are known to have a small force of infantry and a battery between Jacksonville and Baldwin.

Very respectfully,

Q. A. Gillmore, Major-General Commanding.
P. S.--I have assigned to you a number of regular officers with organized parties.

Q. A. Gillmore, Major-General Commanding.

[B.]

[Telegraphic Despatch.]

Jacksonville, Feb. 11, 1864.
General Seymour, beyond Baldwin:
Eight companies of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts have been ordered to Baldwin. Don't risk a repulse in advancing on Lake City, but hold Sanderson unless there are reasons for falling back which I don't know. Please inform me how your command is distributed between here and the South-Fork of the St. Mary's. Please report by telegraph from Baldwin. frequently.


[C.]

Jacksonville, 10 P. M., Feb. 11, 1864.
General Seymour:
[By Courier from Baldwin.]

If your advance meets serious opposition, concentrate at Sanderson and the South-Fork of the St. Mary's, and if necessary, bring back Henry to the latter place.


[D.]

[Telegraphic Despatch.]

Baldwin, Feb. 11, 1864, 2.30 P. M.
Major-General Gillmore, St. Mary's:
Your telegram just received. Command left for Sanderson. No news yet from Henry. Tilghman is at Baldwin. Two of his companies here. [403] Tribley is at pickets. No negroes come in, nor any one else. I will keep you advised promptly.

T. Seymour, Brigadier-General.

[E.]

Sanderson, 7 A. M., Feb. 12, 1864.
General Gillmore:
I last night ordered Colonel Henry to fall back to this point. I am destroying all public property here, and shall go back to South-Fork St. Mary's as soon as Henry returns. I have not heard from him since last night, when he was seven miles this side Lake City. I hope he will be in this morning. I am sending a regiment out to meet him. Sanderson cannot be fortified to advantage. I would advise sending Tribley's regiment to Pilatka, and to make it a point to be held permanently.


[F.]

[Telegraphic Despatch.]

I want your command at and beyond Baldwin, concentrated at Baldwin without delay. I have information of a mounted force that may trouble your right flank by fording the St. Mary's River. When we landed here, they were eighty miles from Baldwin, on the Albany and Gulf Railroad. You should have scouts well out on your front and right flank. I have sent word to Colonel Tilghman to be on the alert. I think Tribley had better move forward and join you, but you must judge. The locomotive has not yet arrived.


[G.]

Sanderson, February 18, 1864.
General: To leave the South-Fork of the St. Mary's will make it impossible for us to advance again. I have no apprehension of the force you mention. If you can push a part of Goss's force to Dug's Ferry, supported by gunboats, there need be no danger from any thing but annoyance. Henry will go where I have already mentioned. I would like to see you at Baldwin if you can come up. All goes well here, and there are seval operations of importance that can be effected, upon which I should like to consult you.


[H.]

Heaquarters Department of the South, February 17, 1864.
General: The excessive and unexpected delays experienced with regard to the locomotive, Which will not be ready for two days yet, if at all, has compelled me to remain where my command could be fed. 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, even if compelled to retrace my steps to procure them, and with the object of so destroying the railroad near the Suwanee, that there will be no danger of carrying away any portion of the track.

All troops are therefore being moved up to Barber's, and probably by the time you receive this, I shall be in motion in advance of that point.

That a force may not be brought from Georgia (Savannah) to interfere with my movements, it is desirable that a display be made in the Savannah River; and I therefore urge that upon the reception of this, such naval force, transports, sailing vessels, etc., as can be so devoted, may rendezvous near Pulaski, and that the iron-clads in Warsaw push up with as much activity as they can exert.

I look upon this as of great importance, and shall rely upon it as a demonstration in my favor.

There is reason to believe that General Hardee is in Lake City, now possibly in command, and with some force at his disposal.

But nothing is visible this side of Sanderson. Saddles, etc., for mounting the Seventh New-Hampshire as rapidly as possible, are greatly needed, and I shall send a portion of that regiment to this point as soon as it can be spared subsequent to my advance.

I have sent for the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts entire, to come to this point. The Tenth Connecticut (eight companies) is to remain at St. Augustine, two companies to go to Picolalia.

I shall not occupy Pilatka or Magnolia at this moment; when I do, portions of the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts will be sent from Jacksonville. The Fifty-fifth Massachusetts will remain here for the present, or until the Twenty-fourth relieves it.

The Second South-Carolina and Third South-Carolina are at Camp Shaw, (late Finnigan,) for instruction and organization.

The First North-Carolina will be left at Baldwin, detaching three companies to Barber's.

Colonel Barton will have the Forty-seventh, Forty-eighth, and One Hundred and Fifteenth; Colonel Hanlay will have the Seventh Connecticut, Seventh New-Hampshire, and Eighth United States colored; Colonel Montgomery, the Third United States and Fifty-fourth Massachusetts colored; Colonel Henry, the cavalry and Elder's battery, and Captain Hamilton the artillery. As soon as possible, Metcalf's section will be sent back. At present, I should like to use it.

Colonel Goss is ordered to keep six companies in motion from Fernandina constantly, and at least five days out of seven (every seven.) toward and beyond Camp Cooper.

Nothing appears to have been done upon the locomotive while at Fernandina. So it is reported to me.

The prompt use of a locomotive and a printing-press with this movement were of the most vital importance, and will continue so to be. I trust both will be economized.

And I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. Seymour, Brigadier-General Commanding.

Send me a General for the command of the advanced troops, or I shall be in a state of constant uncertainty.

T. S.

[404]

Hilton head, South-Carolina, February 18, 1864.
Brigadier-General T. Seymour, Commanding District of Florida:
I am just in receipt of your two letters of the sixteenth and one of the seventeenth, and am very much surprised at the tone of the latter, and the character of your plans as therein stated. You say that by the time your letter of the seventeenth should reach these headquarters, your forces would be in motion beyond Barber's, moving toward the Suwanee River; and that you shall rely upon my making a display in the Savannah River “with naval force, transports and sailing vessels,” and with iron-clads up from Warsaw, etc., as a demonstration in your favor, which you look upon as of “great importance.” All this is upon the presumption that the demonstration can and will be made, although contingent not only upon my power and disposition to do so, but upon the consent of Admiral Dahlgren, with whom I cannot communicate in less than ten days. You must have forgotten my last instructions, which were for the present to hold Baldwin and the St. Mary's south prong as your outposts to the westward of Jacksonville, and to occupy Pilatka and Magnolia on the St. John's.

Your prospect distinctly and avowedly ignores these operations, and substitutes a plan which not only involves your command in a distant movement without provisions, far beyond a point from which you once withdrew on account of precisely the same necessity, but presupposes a simultaneous demonstration of “great importance” to you elsewhere, over which you have no control, and which requires the cooperation of the navy. It is impossible for me to determine what your views are with respect to Florida matters, and this is the reason why I have endeavored to make mine known to you so fully. From your letter of the eleventh instant, from Baldwin, (a very singular letter by the way, and which you did not modify or refer to at all when you afterward saw me,) I extract as follows:

I am convinced that a movement upon Lake City is not, in the present condition of transportation advisable, and indeed, that what has been said of the desire of Florida to come back now is a delusion. This movement is in opposition to sound strategy,

etc.

And again: “The Union cause would have been far more benefited by Jeff Davis having removed this railroad to Virginia, than by any trivial or non-strategic success you may meet. By all means, therefore, fall back to Jacksonville.”

So much from your letters of the eleventh; and yet, five days later, you propose to push forward without instructions and without provisions, with a view to destroying the railroad which you say it would have been better for Jeff Davis to have got, and furthermore, you say in your letter of the sixteenth: “There is but little doubt in my mind, (but) that the people of this State, kindly treated by us, will soon be ready to return to the Union. They are heartily tired of the war.”

As may be supposed, I am very much confused by these conflicting views, and am thrown into doubt as to whether my intentions with regard to Florida are fully understood by you. I will, therefore, reannounce them briefly.

1st. I desire to bring Florida into the Union under the President's proclamation of December eighth, 1863, as accessory to the above.

2d. To revive the trade on the St. John's River.

3d. To recruit my colored regiments, and organize a regiment of Florida white troops; and

4th. To cut off in part the enemy's supplies drawn from Florida.

After you had withdrawn your advance, it was arranged between us, at a present interview, that the places to be permanently held for the present would be the south prong of the St. Mary's, Baldwin, Jacksonville, Magnolia, and Pilatka, and that Henry's mounted forces should be kept moving as circumstances might justify or require. This is my plan of present operations. A raid to tear up the railroad west of Lake City will be of service, but I have no intention to occupy now that part of the State.

Very respectfully, etc.,

Q. A. Gillmore, Major-General Commanding.

Headquarters of the army, Washington, March 16, 1864.
Robert N. Scott, Captain Fourth U. S. Infantry, A. D. C.


President Lincoln's letter.

Executive mansion, Washington, January 13, 1864.
Major-General Gillmore:
I understand an effort is being made by some worthy gentlemen to reconstruct a legal State government in Florida. Florida is in your department, and it is not unlikely that you may be there in person. I have given Mr. Hay a commission of Major, and sent him to you with some blank books and other blanks, to aid in the reconstruction. He will explain as to the manner of using the blanks, and also my general views on the subject. It is desirable for all to cooperate; but if irreconcilable differences of opinion shall arise, you are master. I wish the thing done in the most speedy way possible, so that when done it may be within the range of the late proclamation on the subject. The detail labor will, of course, have to be done by others, but I shall be greatly obliged if you will give it such general supervision as you can find consistent with your more strictly military duties.



General Gillmore's order.

headquarters Department of the South, Hilton head, South-Carolina, January 31, 1864.
In accordance with the provisions of the Presidential proclamation of pardon and amnesty, given at Washington, on the eighth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand [405] eight hundred and sixty-three, and in pursuance of instructions received from the President of the United States, Major John Hay, Assistant Adjutant-General, will proceed to Fernandina, Florida, and other convenient points in that State, for the purpose of extending to the citizens of the State of Florida an opportunity to avail themselves of the benefit of that proclamation, by offering for their signature the oath of allegiance therein prescribed, and by issuing to all those subscribing to said oath, certificates entitling them to the benefits of the proclamation. Fugitive citizens of the State of Florida within the limits of this department, will have an opportunity to subscribe to the same oath and secure certificates in the office of the post commander at Hilton Head, South-Carolina.

By command of Major-General Q. A. Gillmore. E. W. Smith, Assistant Adjutant-General.


A national account.

Jacksonville, Fla., Monday, Feb. 22, 1864.
The entire column, numbering a little less than five thousand men, left Barber's at seven o'clock Saturday morning, and proceeded on the main road toward Lake City. I am confident the force did not exceed the number stated, for I am assured by an aid-de-camp to General Seymour, that rations were drawn that morning for not quite five thousand. The forward movement was made suddenly. On Friday it was not supposed by the commanding officers--not including General Seymour--that an advance would be made for some days thence. With that conviction, the officers and men had built themselves log huts, and provided such conveniences available in that section as would insure a fair share of comfort. Some time during the night General Seymour received information of the enemy's whereabouts and plans, which led him to believe that by pushing rapidly forward his column, he would be able to defeat the enemy's designs, and secure important military advantages. Whatever that information may have been, the events of Saturday would indicate that it was by no means reliable, or that General Seymour acted upon it with too much haste. We all know that General Seymour is not a man to hesitate in his actions when an opportunity offers for a possible success. He is one of the class that believes he has a chance of winning and a chance of losing, and that success would never be obtained if he rested quietly on the bend of the little South-Fork. He means it shall never be said of the army that he commands, that it is all quiet on the line of some river. General Seymour deserves credit for his ambition and dash. If he had allowed himself to rest his command at Barber's for a month or six weeks, without making a single effort to engage the enemy and gain advantage, he would have been the butt for censure, not only from the army here, but the people at home. We take the ground that General Seymour did what nearly every one, before the engagement, said he should do. If he had achieved a victory, it would have been as every body predicted, and his name would have been mentioned with praise. Now he has suffered a repulse, he will, of course, be looked upon by some as having too much rashness to prosecute a campaign, and for that reason must bear whole loads of censure. Although the result of the fight was not favorable for us, it does not alter the fact that we have a man in the department of the South who has pluck enough to meet the enemy, regardless of his strength, more than half-way; give him battle, and take the legitimate chances of success.

The place at which the fight occurred, is on the line of the Florida Central Railroad, forty-five miles from Jacksonville, and within fifteen miles of Lake City. The nearest station to the ground is called Olustee, which is about three miles further up toward Lake City. The nearest station in the opposite direction is Sanderson, six miles distant from the battle-field. On the march from Barber's, our troops passed through Sanderson at about noon. At this place they did not halt, but pushed forward toward Olustee, the point at which General Seymour believed he should meet the enemy. But instead of coming in contact with the enemy at Olustee, the meeting took place three miles this side, so our troops were not so well prepared for battle as they would have been if Olustee had been the battle-field. Our column moved forward in regular order, the cavalry in the advance, and the artillery distributed along the line of infantry. It may be offered as an objection that the column was without flankers. The only source through which any intimation of the enemy's presence could be received, was the advance cavalry-guard. It would certainly be called a military failing to move a column of troops without the proper flankers through any portion of the enemy's country, even if positive information had been obtained that the enemy himself was a long distance off. The road from Barber's to Lake City lies parallel with the railroad, crossing it at intervals on an average of five miles. It was at one of these crossing-points that the fight was commenced. The head of the column reached this point at two P. M. The men had not rested from the time they left Barber's, at seven A. M. The usual halt of a few minutes every hour was, of course, observed, but we cannot say the troops fairly rested. Neither had they tasted of a mouthful of food. Thus, after a tedious march of sixteen miles, over a road of loose sand, or boggy turf, or covered knee-deep with muddy water, the troops, weary, exhausted, faint, hungry, and ill-conditioned, were suddenly attacked by a large force of the enemy, who had concealed himself behind a thick wood, waiting with complacent satisfaction the entry of our men into his ambush, very much after the manner that the spider would have the fly walk into his parlor. Before reaching the battle-ground, Colonel Henry, with his cavalry of the Independent Massachusetts battalion, and the Fortieth Massachusetts mounted infantry, came upon a party of five mounted rebels who were stationed [406] behind an old deserted mill, a little to the left of the wood. A few shots were exchanged and then the rebels fled in the direction of their main force. Captain Langdon's battery of regular artillery, was with Henry's cavalry. At the mill, Colonel Henry halted until Hawley's brigade of infantry and Hamilton's regular battery had come up. I will now attempt to give some idea of the order in which our troops came into line, and the character and progress of the battle.

With the view of meeting the enemy's pickets, three miles in advance of the mill, two companies of the Seventh Connecticut regiment were deployed on the left of the railroad, while three companies were left at the mill, for the purpose of supporting the artillery. A small force of cavalry was sent to skirmish on the right of the railroad. Our skirmishers had not advanced a hundred yards when they discovered those of the enemy directly in their front. The result was a brisk fire on both sides, which ended by the enemy's falling back on a second line of skirmishers. Our men continued to drive the rebels back, sometimes on the right and sometimes on the left of the railroad, but principally on the left. While this was going on, two companies of the Fortieth Massachusetts were ordered to the left, with a view of outflanking the enemy's skirmishers. In endeavoring to carry out that order, the Fortieth Massachusetts came upon a heavy line of skirmishers, and were compelled to withdraw to their original position.

Captain Elder, of the First artillery, in order to ascertain the enemy's force and position, brought one of his pieces into battery on the right and fired one shot, but it did not draw a reply. The Seventh New-Hampshire regiment, in connection with the Seventh Connecticut, was then sent forward to the right, and, if possible, to break through the enemy's line. This movement brought on hot firing, and it was evident that an engagement was near at hand. At this time our force on the field consisted of the Seventh New-Hampshire, the Seventh Connecticut, the Independent battalion of Massachusetts cavalry, the Fortieth Massachusetts mounted infantry, the Eighth United States colored, Elder's battery of four, and Hamilton's of six pieces. The remainder of the column was halted on the road. While our men were at work on the right, Colonel Henry in person went over to the left to reconnoitre, and, much to his astonishment, discovered that the enemy's right lapped on our left. This was reported to General Seymour, who immediately gave orders for the advance troops and batteries to come into position. The enemy watched the movement with an eager eye, and the moment Hamilton commenced unlimbering his pieces, his battery was subjected to a galling fire of musketry. A number of men and several horses were shot before he could get ready to fire one round. The fact that the enemy had a force far superior in point of numbers to our own, was now beyond all dispute. The firing became heavier and more destructive as each moment advanced. The railroad as it nears Olustee, takes a bend, and behind this bend the rebels had taken their position. In the woods at the rear were their supporters and reserves. We had not a moment to lose. Our men were within one hundred yards of the enemy, and the only thing that could be done was to fight. To retreat at that time was impossible, for the road was filled with troops coming up, and the woods on either side would not admit of passage on the flank. By dint of effort, Captain Langdon succeeded in getting his four guns in battery on the extreme left, but not until he had lost five or six men and about the same number of horses. It must be borne in mind, our batteries were within one hundred yards of the enemy's front. This short distance rendered it a very easy task for the rebels to pick off a man or horse at every discharge of their rifles. At the commencement of the fight, the Eighth United States colored troops were supporting Hamilton's battery; but when their assistance was really indispensable, by some strange order they filed to the right in rear of the battery, for the purpose of joining their right on the left of the Seventh Connecticut. At that particular time the movement was decidedly an error, for, by carrying it out, it left Hamilton's battery unsupported. In an attempt to enfilade the enemy on his right, Hamilton moved forward four pieces; but before he got into position, the rebels on that portion of their line had concentrated all their fire upon him and the Eighth United States, who had again come up to his support. In twenty minutes time, Hamilton lost forty-four men, killed and wounded, and forty horses. The Eighth also suffered severely. At no one juncture of the engagement has the fire of the enemy been more severe than at the time Hamilton attempted his enfilade movement. Hamilton knew very well his pieces were in great danger of being captured, and he also had sense enough to know that by taking them to the rear, it would instantly cause a panic among the infantry, and so inevitably lose the day for us. The behavior of Captain Hamilton at this critical period of the battle is worthy of special note, and I sincerely believe that it was owing mainly to his persistent efforts that the portion of our line at his battery was not broken and scattered in confusion. He had not only his pieces to command, but his infantry supports to keep from leaving the field. It was in the midst of this destructive fire of the enemy, and while Captain Hamilton was urging the infantry to maintain their line, and at the same time giving orders to his battery, he was struck in the arm by a musket-ball, and shortly after was again hit in the thigh. To add to the misfortune, all of his officers--four in number — were wounded. Colonel Charles W. Fribley, of the Eighth United States, was also mortally wounded on this portion of the field. He did not cease for a moment to encourage and rally his men, and by his gallant behavior proved himself to be an officer of no ordinary merit. Captain Hamilton kept his pieces at work until it was evident it would be sure loss to fire another round, and then gave orders to withdraw them. Horses [407] were attached to only four pieces; the horses to the other two had been shot, consequently two guns fell into possession of the enemy. On the right of Hamilton, the Seventh Connecticut and the Seventh New-Hampshire were doing fearful execution. The Seventh Connecticut especially were standing their ground with marked valor. Every volley from their guns told splendidly on the rebel line. But between the two forces a wide difference existed; the rebels outnumbered us five to one. This crushing superiority gave the two regiments little chance for victory. After losing one fourth of their number, they were compelled to retire to the rear. At the same moment Colonel Barton's brigade, the Forty-seventh, Forty-eighth, and One Hundred and Fifteenth New-York regiments, took the field, coming up in line en echelon. On the right was Elder's battery, and on the left Langdon's and one section of the Third Rhode Island. The enemy had four pieces of artillery. On a railroad car he had mounted a heavy gun, supposed to be a thirty-two pounder, and with this he kept up a regular fire, but not destructive, as the shells passed over the heads of our men. There can be no doubt concerning the fighting qualities of Barton's brigade. On this occasion they fought like tigers; but the same difficulty which opposed Hawley's brigade, presented itself to them, namely, the mass of the enemy.

The last regiments to enter the field, were the First North-Carolina, and Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, (colored,) of Montgomery's brigade. They took a bold position at the front, and maintained their ground with commendable pertinacity. For three and a half successive hours did our brave regiments combat the enemy before them. The instances of personal daring that occurred in the mean time, are numerous. Never before did the troops in this department have such an opportunity for displaying their valor, and on no previous occasion have they exhibited such a high degree of bravery. If the enemy had presented an equal force with our own, or even if it had been only double, no doubt could have been felt as to the final result of the contest. As it was, the enemy resisted us with a force in point of numbers three times that of our own, which, taken together with the circumstances of the long and tedious march, and the ill condition of the men, it would be hardly reasonable to suppose that success would be on our side. The effect of our fire, both of musketry and artillery, was fearful. At every discharge, down went a body of rebels. The gallant Elder on the right, and the dashing Langdon on the left, made an impression on the rebel lines that will go far to offset the misfortune that ultimately overtook us. The fight was by no means a trivial encounter; it was a battle hotly contested, fought at close range, face to face and foot to foot. The commanding officers of the various regiments are entitled to unlimited credit for the heroic manner in which they led their men. At the acme of the battle, Colonel Sammons, of the One Hundred and Fifteenth New-York, was struck in the foot, and was in consequence compelled to leave the field. His horse was shot from under him. Colonel Moore, of the Forty-seventh New-York, was also wounded, a ball striking his hand and passing out at the elbow. Colonel Barton had his coat pierced in several places and his horse shot. Colonel Henry had three horses shot, but himself escaped in a most miraculous manner. Provost-Marshal General Hall had a horse shot from under him, and as for himself, no one would believe it would be possible for him to again pass through what he did on that day, and come out unscathed. Lieutenant Jackson, of General Seymour's staff, had two horses shot. If space would permit, I might fill a column of just such narrow escapes.

General Seymour was not away from the ground for an instant. At first on the right and then on the left, he seemed to be everywhere at one and the same moment. His aim was apparently to be in the thickest of the fight, and at the front of his troops.

At five P. M. the fire slackened on both sides; on ours, in consequence of the ammunition giving out, and on the enemy's, because we did not press him. A demonstration by the rebels to capture Langdon's battery, at about the middle stage of the fight, was prevented by Langdon, who poured into their line a quick and deadly fire. But in coming from the field he was obliged to leave to the enemy three of his pieces, not because the enemy charged upon them, but for the reason that he did not have horses to draw them off. At half-past 5 o'clock the heavy firing had ceased. The cessation was simultaneous on both sides. We held our ground till seven o'clock, and then the order came from General Seymour to gradually retire.

The retreat was conducted leisurely and orderly. There was no confusion, no panic, nothing that indicated hurry. Colonel Henry, with his cavalry, brought up the rear. At three o'clock Sunday morning, our troops were at Barber's. The enemy followed closely, but did not press. A few of their cavalry only kept well up to the rear of Henry's column. At Barber's, our men rested till nine A. M., and then again took up the line of retreat, reaching Baldwin at about three P. M. They halted here a short time, and then went on toward Jacksonville, arriving at the camping-ground, six miles out, Monday afternoon. On the way down many of the poor fellows could hardly drag one foot after the other.

To estimate our loss is indeed an unpleasant task, but, nevertheless, one which must be performed in giving the record of the day's events. In killed, wounded, and missing I give the number one thousand two hundred. All our killed and the severely wounded, that is, those who were unable to walk from the field unassisted, fell into the hands of the enemy. Last night, at twelve o'clock, about five hundred of the wounded had been conveyed to Jacksonville. Their names are embraced in the list of casualties which I present in another portion of this letter. At that time about two hundred wounded were [408] on the way, but did not reach Jacksonville in season for me to get their names so as to send on by this mail. The surgeons estimate three hundred wounded to have been left on the field. The proportion of two hundred killed to one thousand wounded is that usually allowed. This would make the aggregate of one thousand two hundred.

We also left on the field five guns, and not a small number of small-arms. The road from Barber's to Baldwin was strewn with guns, knapsacks, and blankets.

At a station on the railroad between Barber's and Baldwin we burnt a building containing two thousand barrels of turpentine. This we might have got away several days previous had transportation been accessible. We also burnt a trestle-bridge on the railroad not far from Barber's. At Baldwin we burnt a large supply of commissary stores, knapsacks, and officers' baggage. The wagons used to transport these things to the army were filled on the retreat with the wounded.

It is customary to make the enemy's list of casualties equal to that of our own. In this instance I believe I can follow the rule, and be not very far from the truth. When we consider that the enemy had but four or five and we sixteen pieces of artillery, in position, it is not difficult to believe we inflicted upon him quite as much injury as he upon us. The fact that he did not follow rapidly is significant of the immense damage he sustained.

Our wounded, that is, those of them who were not left on the field, were all taken to Jacksonville Sunday and Monday morning. We had seven cars running on the railroad. During Sunday morning and afternoon, these cars were drawn by horses. At night, a locomotive that the engineers had been trying to get in order for some days was at last got in running condition, at just the time its use was no longer required. I do not consider the engineer at fault that the locomotive was not ready before, for it was an old concern, made up of half a dozen similar old refuse picked up at Fernandina when our troops arrived there two years ago. It was out of order, and the engineers did not have the requisite material to repair it. Monday morning two hundred and sixty-four of the wounded left on the steamer Cosmopolitan for Beaufort. Among the number was Lieutenant-Colonel Reed, of the First North-Carolina (colored) regiment, who was in a critical condition. In the absence of Colonel Beecher, who had gone North with despatches, Lieutenant-Colonel Reed took command of the regiment, and well and nobly did he act his part. The wounded at Jacksonville receive the best of attention from the surgeons in charge. Dr. William A. Smith, of the Forty-seventh New-York, is Post Director, assisted by Dr. Weeks. Some of the surgeons remained on the field of battle to treat our wounded there. Mr. Day, of the Sanitary Commission, and Rev. Mr. Taylor, of the Christian Commission, also remained behind on the field. These two gentlemen were at Jacksonville when the news of the battle was telegraphed Saturday night. They immediately obtained a car, which they filled with medical and sanitary stores, and sent it forward to the front. At eleven at night they followed the car, walking, before they overtook it, a distance of ten miles.



Lieutenant Eddy's account.

The following is a letter from Lieutenant Eddy. of the Third Rhode Island battery, who participated in the late battle in Florida. It is dated on board the hospital steamer Cosmopolitan, in Port Royal harbor, February twenty-second:

On Thursday morning, the eighteenth, we left our camps at Jacksonville in light-marching order, with ten days rations. We marched all day, and, as the roads were bad, we made only sixteen miles, when we halted for the night. On Friday morning, the nineteenth, we started early, and marching all day, made seventeen miles, stopping over night at a small place called Barber's. On Saturday morning, the twentieth, at seven o'clock, we started once more for a place called Lake City, thirty-six miles distant, which, if we had succeeded in occupying, we should have stopped supplies being sent to the Western armies of the enemy. We marched eighteen miles, when we met the enemy, and skirmished with them for the next four miles, when we found that they were in force, and had formed their line of battle.

The columns were at once deployed, and our advance was soon sharply engaged. Hamilton's battery was ordered forward. Four pieces of the battery including my section, were placed in position within a hundred and fifty yards of the rebel lines, under a severe fire of musketry. We went in with four pieces, fifty horses, eighty-two men, and four officers, namely, Captain Hamilton, Lieutenant Myrick, Lieutenant Dodge, and myself. In twenty minutes we lost forty-five men, forty horses, two guns, and four officers, when we managed to get off with what little there was left. It was our misfortune to have for support a negro regiment, which, by running, caused us to lose our pieces. The fight lasted three hours, when, finding his small army so much cut up, the General ordered a retreat.

We returned to Jacksonville, fifty-eight miles distant, and reached there last night at twelve o'clock. We had five thousand men engaged on our side, and lost one thousand two hundred, as near as I can learn. The enemy had fifteen thousand men opposed to us, and, of course, whipped us badly. Captain Hamilton is wounded in his left arm severely, and in the hip. Lieutenant Myrick is badly wounded in the left foot, and will probably lose some of his toes. Lieutenant Dodge is wounded in the left arm, but not badly. I am wounded in the right leg, about three inches above the ankle-joint, but not badly. All of us officers had our horses shot under us. We are now on board of this steamer, bound for Beaufort, where all the wounded will. be.landed except us four officers. [409] We return to Hilton Head to-morrow. The battery remained at Jacksonville, which I think our forces will find it difficult to hold, as the enemy were following us closely. Taking every thing together, we have done pretty sharp work. In ninety hours we have marched one hundred and ten miles, fought a battle of three hours duration, got badly whipped, and what there is left of our little army is back again to where we started from.


Another account.

headquarters, District Florida, Jacksonville, March 12, 1864.
Our landing in Jacksonville was a complete surprise to the rebels, and they were in no condition to receive us. Our march was, consequently, one continual triumph, with small loss, until our cavalry had advanced within two miles of Lake City, the first objective point of the campaign. It was at this time our first great mistake occurred. Major-General Gillmore supposed the rebels had really no force of any importance in the State, and that they were quite indifferent to its fate. Reconciliation and reconstruction were the leading ideas that occupied the attention of our commanders. Their talk and manners indicated the presence of civil magistrates more than of army officers. “We came here,” said General Gillmore, “not so much to fight as to conciliate the inhabitants, and accept their homages of loyalty.” No raiding was to be allowed in the State. The new converts to the Federal Government were permitted to go and come as suited their convenience. Privileges were guaranteed to them which were denied to our ever-loyal Northern people. Whilst we were thus resting upon a bed of roses, enjoying sweet dreams of peaceful and easy conquests, the vipers we had warmed to life in our bosoms were in alliance with our deadly foes, and aiding them in their preparations to sting us to death.

But this was not our worst mistake. The policy of conciliation, adopted here, did not allow our officers to levy any contributions upon the country for the support of the army. The most stringent orders were issued in regard to touching, under any circumstance, private property. A captain was put in arrest for permitting his men, who were doing duty on an extreme outpost, to kill a pig for their supper. Thousands of these animals are running half-wild in the woods, and no one in particular pretends to own them. I learn that this officer's name has been sent to the President with a recommendation that he be summarily dismissed from the service. As living off from the country was out of the question, and as it was impossible to transport supplies to meet the wants of an advancing army over sand roads, nothing was left for us to do but call in our advance, and stand still till an engine could be procured, put in repair, and transportation by rail effected. This delay afforded precious time to the enemy, and was fatal to us. Finnigan calls in his outposts; generals and armies are sent from Georgia and South-Carolina; a point of great strategic importance is selected near Olustee, and every thing put in a state of readiness to crush at the same time our army and all our visionary hopes. Had no other thought been entertained than that we were in an enemy's country, and had our commanders taken and improved all the advantages which the laws of war had put into their hands, the issues of the Olustee struggle might have been reversed, our army safely intrenched in Lake City, and Florida wrested from the hands of the rebels.

The battle of Olustee will take rank among the bloodiest and most fruitless slaughters of the war. When General Seymour left Jacksonville, the eighteenth February, he expected to fight a battle near Lake City, the twenty-first, and not before. This impression seems to have seized his mind, and clung to it with the force of fatality. When he left Barber's early on the nineteenth, he was told that he would meet a large force which would drive him back again. Native Floridians insisted that, near Olustee, Finnigan and Gardner had collected an army much larger than our own. All these statements seemed to make no impression whatever upon his mind. And when, about six miles beyond Sanderson, the rebel pickets were driven in, no preparation was made to ascertain the position of the enemy, or for a general engagement. Onward, with all possible speed, onward was the spirit which ruled the hour. Much of the artillery, and the guns of whole companies were empty, but, as if this were a matter of little or no importance, onward was the order. It is the strangest thing in the world that this was so. The enemy's advanced-guard, retreating precipitately on the approach of our force, was but a repetition of what we had witnessed all the way from Jacksonville to near Lake City. This had been done so frequently that it appeared to be the established order of things with the Florida soldiers. Our policy had been to dash after them, and capture and scatter as many as possible. We had met with no repulse and few casualties. Our successes had unfortunately inspired us with a contempt for our foes. A battle commenced unexpectedly and without preparation, must be fought to great disadvantage.

Just as we encounter the rebel pickets, let the reader fancy our army moving along to the west in three columns, in close order, on the south side of a railroad, then turning squarely to the right, crossing to the other side, and making a north-westerly direction. The dirt road makes this detour to the right to avoid a long cypress swamp through which the said road passes. Leaving the army behind for a few moments, let us pass on and examine the ground on which the bloody engagement is about to take place. Soon after crossing the railroad, we come to a series of swamps, which, with ocean pond, stretches from the railroad track in a direction a little west of north-west, on which the enemy's left wing rests, and by which it is amply protected. From this point the rebel line extends south to the railroad. A right-angled triangle, with the rebel line as the [410] base, only covered, the railroad embankment as the perpendicular line, and the series of swamps as the hypothenuse, will give a clear and remarkably correct outline of the field. The rebel right and left flanks were amply protected by the swamps. There was also a strip of low marsh land in the enemy's front, and perhaps creation affords but few positions that an enemy could occupy to greater advantage. Our army passed into this triangle through the upper part of the hypothenuse, and occupied a position a little below the apex. This dirt road, which was our line of march, passed, between two swamps, and was so narrow that many of our men had to wade the swamps knee-deep in mud and water to get into action.

As stated above, the skirmishing commenced at the time our advance-guard crossed the railroad. The Fortieth Massachusetts cavalry, Colonel Henry, the Independent battalion, Major Stevens, and the Seventh Connecticut infantry participated in this preliminary action. Our skirmishers were halted till Captains Hamilton and Elder, with their batteries, came up. As they move on together, two guns are brought into battery and throw a few shells into the woods (pine barrens) in our front, but no response is elicited. The skirmishers we have driven in have disappeared, and they were, in fact, nothing but decoy ducks to lure us on and show the way to the ambuscade.

Occasionally a squad of a dozen or so are to be seen in the roads and other exposed points to encourage us in the pursuit of our prey, and on we go, cavalry, infantry, and artillery as near together as possible. No enemy of any importance, nor signs of a camp are to be seen anywhere. No sound is to be heard but the solemn tramp of our army, and the trembling murmur of the winds among the huge and lofty pines. We move on, the Seventh Connecticut in the advance; we pass the swamps, and emerge into the open space beyond, when suddenly a concentric fire from the enemy's curved line is poured upon us. Colonel Hawley, seeing the hot work in which his advance is engaged, orders up the Seventh New-Hampshire; by the way, one of the best regiments in the service. On this occasion, however, it was not possible for it to appear to the best advantage. Arms had been taken away and bad ones given to the men. In the terrible roar of battle, orders were not understood, and in deploying it got into inextricable confusion. It did but little execution, lost heavily, and did well to get out of the way as soon as possible. Hamilton's battery was posted in the centre, Elder's upon our right, and Langdon's on the left. When the Seventh New-Hampshire regiment became confused, Colonel Hawley brought forward the Eighth U. S. colored, Colonel Charles W. Fribley. A part of this regiment came into action with empty guns, and being under a terrible fire, and cramped for room, it was found impossible to form a line of battle to the best advantage. Considering that this was the first time the regiment had been under fire, it behaved haved remarkably well. The reports that it got into confusion and ran from the field are certainly false. I cannot account for its good conduct, considering that the men were raw recruits, only on the ground that they were under the command of superior officers. As the Eighth fell back, having been under fire an hour and a half, Colonel Barton brought his brigade into action. The Forty-seventh New-Yrok was posted on the left, a part of the Forty-eighth New-York to the left of Hamilton's battery, the other part on the right, and the One Hundred and Fifteenth New-York formed the right of our line. This brigade did nobly. The enemy's left pressed hard upon the One Hundred and Fifteenth, but every man stood his ground like a veteran. The Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth held the centre firmly. The battle has now raged furiously for two hours, and our losses in officers and men have been terrible.

Colonel Montomery, with the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts and the First North-Carolina (colored) regiments, was left back at the crossing of the railroad with the train. Hearing the constant roar of artillery and musketry in front, he sent, forward his aid for orders, but, without waiting for him to return, he moved forward with the Fifty-fourth, and, as he passed the swamps, received orders to take position on our left, as the enemy was pressing us hard in that quarter. This was done, and, as General Seymour said afterward, to his entire satisfaction. The Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth New-York are nearly out of ammunition, and have been in action about two hours and a half. The colonel of each regiment and many other officers are badly wounded. Some are killed. Colonel Montgomery brings the First North-Carolina, Lieutenant Reed commanding, into action. It passes between the Forty-Seventh and Forty-eighth on the doublequick, and is cheered by those retiring regiments as it goes into battle. The coming of these fresh troops upon the field, and the manner in which it was done, rather staggered the enemy for a moment. But the cars came thundering in, bringing him reenforcements. These North-Carolina colored, soldiers and the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts now held our left, aided by the artillery, and even pressed the enemy back. The battle rages furiously all along the line, and the slaughter is terrible. Every man seems determined to do his whole duty. No regiment went into action more gallantly, fought more desperately, or did better execution than the First North-Carolina (colored) troops. Their white comrades generally take pleasure in awarding to them this honor. Men were dropping constantly all along the line, but the living fought all the more bravely. These freedmen evidently preferred falling on the field of battle to falling into the hands of their barabrous foes. This regiment was not in action over two hours and a half, and yet its loss in officers and enlisted men was very nearly as heavy as that of any other regiment.

The battle having now raged for four hours, from two to six P. M., it appears the god of war [411] became satisfied with the slaughter on both sides, and, as if by mutual consent of parties, the fighting ceased. We were allowed quietly to withdraw from the field. The five pieces of artillery we lost were not taken from us, but left on the ground because the horses and gunners had either fled or been killed. All but one of our batteries were within musket-range of the rebel lines, and some artillerymen were killed with buckshot. We withdrew slowly, but the regiments were broken into a large number of fragments, and badly mixed up. It was a painful sight to see so many brave wounded men writhing in agony; but when we were compelled to leave them there — they not being recognized by the enemy as soldiers, especially the negroes — no language can describe our sorrow and regret.

The statement made in the Providence Journal by Lieutenant Eddy, of the Third Rhode Island battery, that it was the running of their supports, the Eighth United States colored regiment, which caused them to lose their guns, can be proved to be a base slander by more than five hundred witnesses. The fact is, the negroes held their ground and kept the battery from falling into the hands of the enemy for two hours after this Eddy had left it with his slight wound. These brave but slandered men were the last to abandon the battery. The enemy never drove them from it or took it from them. But the cause of the loss of these guns is under investigation, and a report no doubt will be made fixing the responsibility where it properly belongs. Did we not know Lieutenant Eddy, and his feelings toward colored troops, we might hope that when he recovers from his fright he would take pleasure in correcting his false statements.

The battle of Olustee was fought with all the odds on the enemy's side. Our men were wearied and foot sore with long marching; they had taken but very little refreshments — some not any — since early breakfast; they had no expectations of a fight till actually drawn into it; they fought on ground where the room was not sufficient to form a line of battle or deploy to the best advantage; the enemy was at least three thousand more numerous than our force; we knew nothing of the ground and position of the enemy, except as we learned them by dear experience, and, under such an array of unfavorable circumstances, no bravery or skill could save the day.

Our loss in killed, wounded, and missing is strangely great, being not less than one thousand nine hundred. Previous to the battle we captured property that is worth to the Government a half-million of dollars; and in that battle, together with the retreat, lost not less than a million dollars, besides the precious lives that were sacrificed.

The enemy's loss in killed and wounded is reported by numerous deserters, and in the rebel press, to be not far from eight hundred.

General Seymour was in the hottest of the battle, and seemed to be oblivious to all thoughts or feelings of danger. After getting into the ambuscade, he did all in his power to bring out, by desperate fighting, a favorable issue. He may be censurable for some things, but cowardice or excessive prudence should not be put into the list.

Vide.


Another account.

on board Cosmopolitan, hospital ship, in Transit from Jacksonville, Fla., to Hilton head, S. C., February 22, 1864.
On Thursday, February eighteenth, General Seymour and his staff left Jacksonville, and reached Baldwin, twenty-two miles distant, the same evening. Here he had established an important depot of supplies for the army he was leading into the field. At this point the two railroads of Florida cross each other. Cars had been placed on the track, and a locomotive was in a forward state of reconstruction for service on the road from Jacksonville. Large amounts of food, ordnance, and clothing had been hauled up to Baldwin by horse-power. Here, too, the thrice-blessed Sanitary Commission had a store of comforts and necessaries for wounded men. It was a place of no natural strength. Important only as the junction of railroads, it had been seized and rudely fortified. Slight chevaux de frise of fir branches had been made, and a few block-houses and rifle-pits were hastily prepared.

From Baldwin, on the morning of the nineteenth of February, the General and his staff moved forward to Barber's Station, twelve miles further, near the railroad. Here were encamped the brigade commanded by Colonels Barton, Hawley, and Montgomery. In the immediate neighborhood, also, were the Fortieth regiment Massachusetts mounted infantry, Colonel Henry; the Independent battalion of Massachusetts cavalry, under Major Stevens; and the artillery, consisting of Captain Hamilton's, Captain Langdon's, and Captain Elder's batteries, as well as a section of the Third Rhode Island artillery. In all, the force amounted to about twenty cannon, four hundred cavalry, and four thousand five. hundred infantry. This was intended to operate against an enemy whose strength was reported to be thirteen thousand men, under General Gardiner, (or Gardner,) who was said to have recently arrived from Georgia in order to defend the pasture-yard and shambles of the Confederacy from the invasion of the Union army.

On the morning of the twentieth, at about nine o'clock, the troops set out to find the enemy, moving in three lines, almost parallel to the road. It was intended to reach Lake City the following day, unless the enemy should dispute the way. The route was through the unvarying pine forests of the country, over immense levels where only the pines and the sandy soil could be seen, or through swamps impenetrable to the eye or the foot of man. On Monday, the army arrived at Sanderson, a railroad station surrounded by a few houses, inhabited by turpentine farmers. Here the most positive statements were made as to the large force which awaited the Unionists not more than ten miles beyond.

The residents predicted that our men would return [412] before night, and get there more in a hurry than they were when they passed forward. Again the devoted soldiers formed, and set out in three columns, keeping, as before, near the railroad track. The column on the right was led by Colonel Barton, of the Forty-eighth New-York, in command of his brigade, consisting of the Forty-seventh, Forty-eighth, and One Hundred and Fifteenth New-York regiments. The column in the centre was made up of the cavalry, under Major Stevens; the mounted infantry, under Colonel Guy V. Henry; the Seventh Connecticut, Colonel Hawley; and the Seventh New-Hampshire, Colonel Abbott. The left was commanded by Colonel Montgomery. under whom were the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, Colonel Hallowell; the First North-Carolina, Lieutenant-Colonel Reed; and the Eighth United States volunteers, under Colonel Fribley.

About six miles from Sanderson, the rebel pickets were driven in by our cavalry, and fell back upon their main forces, posted between swamps about two miles from Olustee, a railroad station ten miles beyond Sanderson. The railroad intersected their position. Their line rested upon the right on an earthwork, very low and slight, and protected by rifle-pits. In their centre they were defended by a swamp. On their left was a slight elevation, concealed by pines, among which their cavalry was drawn up. On the railroad track a battery was placed to operate against the left of our line, or capable of being turned against the centre. A rifled gun was mounted on a truck, and commanded the road. Sharp-shooters swarmed in the pine-tops.

The position chosen by the rebels for our troops to occupy, and which they did occupy during the temporary exigencies of the occasion, was between two swamps; that one in our front prevented a charge upon the rebels' front, that one behind was to impede our retreat. The railroad could only be reached by going up to the waist in water, or by an immense detour. To fall away from the railroad was to cut ourselves off from our reserves, which were coming up on the left of the track, and to endanger the safety of our train, which also was near the reserve. Nothing could have been better planned or more civilly acquiesced in than was this whole scheme. General Seymour accepted the issue just as it stood, pushed the guns into position upon low ground about eighty yards from the nearest rebel battery, and saw his gunners and their horses shot down with unmatched equanimity.

The Seventh New-Hampshire had so deadly a fire poured into their ranks that they broke and fell back in confusion. Dissatisfaction and want of confidence had been created in the regiment by depriving it of the “Spencer repeating-rifle,” and the issue, instead, of Springfield muskets in bad condition; some lacking locks, others rusted or wanting crews, proper springs, or otherwise useless. Unable to protect themselves with these curious weapons, one wing of the regiment gave way and could not be rallied. The other wing, which had retained the “Spencer” arm, remained until they had expended their ammunition, and their officers could supply no more. Then they withdrew to the rear, and the Eighth (colored) United States volunteers, commanded by Colonel Fribley, was pushed forward to stand the brunt of the enemy's fire.

In twenty minutes, three hundred and fifty men, including the Colonel, (killed,) were stricken down by the storm of bullets. They were withdrawn, and the left did not again offer any vigorous resistance to the enemy. Meanwhile, on the right and centre, persistent efforts were made to crush in our lines. A rapid and furious cannonade and concentric fire was poured in. The cannon-shots generally crashed among the trees, and brought down, among the wounded in the rear, branches of the pines, to inflict gratuitous injuries upon the helpless men and their attendant surgeons. Three times successively did Dr. Adolf Majes, Chief Medical Officer with the army of Florida, order the removal of the field-hospitals still further to the rear. The enemy's sharp-shooters on the opposite side of the railroad, in the tree-tops or the long grass, poured in bullets upon the bleeding fugitives; and succeeded in making it necessary to remove the wounded eight miles away, to Sanderson.

The stream of disabled men naturally took the railroad track as the easiest path from the battlefield. Unseen enemies pursued them. The spiteful bullets whistled near them. Many were thus killed; among others Colonel Fribley, of the Eighth United States colored, who was being removed from the scene by one of his lieutenants, when both were mortally wounded.

The centre stood firmly until desired to fall back, in order to give the batteries a better and more elevated position. Captain Hamilton, with battery M, Third United States artillery, lost two Parrott guns by the death of his men and horses, after fighting continuously for an hour and a half. Captain Langdon, of the First United States artillery, lost three brass Napoleon guns in the same way. First Lieutenant E. Eddy, of the First United States artillery, received a wound in his leg, and First Lieutenant T. McCrae, of battery M, First United States artillery, was also wounded. Captain Hamilton was wounded in the arm.

Desperate assaults on the Union right failed to drive in the brave One Hundred and Fifteenth New-York, holding the extremity of the line. The genial and chivalrous Colonel S. Sammiss was wounded in the foot; Major Walrath's shoulder-strap was cut away by a bullet. He will soon replace it with a device proper to a lieutenant-colonel. With the imperturbable cheerfulness and the cool courage which distinguished him, he moved along the line, cheering and encouraging his soldiers. They lost dreadfully. Among the killed were Second Lieutenant Schaeffer, company G, and Second Lieutenant W. Tompkins, company C. Captain G. Vanderbeer was wounded in the leg and breast; Second Lieutenant J. Davis, of company A, was fatally wounded in the breast, and was left on the retreat at Sanderson, to be treated by the rebels. Second Lieutenant [413] E. Smith, of company B, got a shot in his right shoulder. Captain W. W. French, of company F, had his ankle shattered; Second Lieutenant Clark, of company H, was hurt in the shoulder. As an instance of what the One Hundred and Fifteenth endured, company F may be cited. Out of fifty-nine men brought into the fight, three were killed and twenty-nine wounded.

But the details of the slaughter must be looked for among the lists hereafter to be forwarded. Only fragmentary reports are now accessible. On board this ship are two hundred and forty brave fellows wounded. About five hundred others are left at Jacksonville in the care of the medical staff. On the battle-field are not fewer then five hundred of our dear brothers, most of whom are dead. In the mercy of Providence, the nights have been frosty of late. Cold is the best kind of weather for wounded men, while they are waiting for succor. A flag of truce is to be sent, asking for permission to remove our wounded and bury our dead. At Sanderson, it is understood, that some wounded had to be left with a surgeon in charge. At Baldwin, Mr. Day, of the Sanitary Commission, and Rev. Mr. Taylor, of the Christian Commission, await the arrival of wounded stragglers and of the enemy. Mr. Day has been twice before a prisoner in the pursuit of his calling of mercy.

The Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth, also on the right, suffered severely in their efforts to prevent the enemy from flanking the field. Among the dead of the noble Forty-seventh are Captain Henry Arnold, company K; First Lieutenant Charles C. Every, company B; Second Lieutenant L. Hunting, company I. The Colonel, Henry Moore, was wounded in the arm. Captain J. M. McDonald, company K; First Lieutenant Duffy, company K; and Second Lieutenant G. L. Scholendorff, all got wounds in their legs. Their companies will not muster over twenty-five men each.

As the rebels were preparing to charge with reinforcements just come in by railroad, the reserves, under Colonel Montgomery, arrived. They came up at double-quick.

The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts went in first, with a cheer. They were followed by the First North-Carolina, (colored.) Lieutenant-Colonel Reed, in command, headed the regiment, sword in hand, and charged upon the rebels. They broke, but rallied when within twenty yards of contact with our negro troops. Overpowered by numbers, the First North-Carolina fell back in good order, and poured in a destructive fire. Their Colonel was felled, mortally wounded. Their Major, Boyle, fell dead, and two men were killed in trying to reach his body. Their Adjutant, Wm. C. Manning, wounded before at Malvern Hill, got a bullet in his body, but persisted in remaining, until yet another shot struck him. His Lieutenant-Colonel, learning the fact, embraced him, and implored him to leave the field. The next moment the two friends were stretched side by side; the Colonel had received his own deathwound. But the two colored regiments had stood in the gap, and saved the army!

General Seymour, taking advantage of the diversion thus effected, had reestablished his fieldbatteries, and with four parting rounds of grape, canister, and solid shot secured impunity for his retreat. The Seventh Connecticut was placed to defend the shattered columns as they fell back; the mounted infantry and cavalry brought up the rear. Lieutenant-Colonel Hall, of the New-York engineers, galloped along the line of retreat, in his capacity of Provost-Marshal General, to secure order and rally fugitives. Arriving at Sanderson about nine o'clock in the evening, he found that Captain Bridgman, of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, had already commenced the good work. More than one thousand men were here collected. Some very slightly hurt; many seriously wounded. Many more had merely left the ground to help away their stricken comrades, and had not returned to take part in the fray.

The retreat continued all night to Barber's Station, and next morning to Baldwin. Here General Seymour arrived on Sunday P. M., and made arrangements for the evacuation of the place, and the burning of the stores. He also caused the destruction of the property of one Derby, a neighboring rebel, who had fought and obtained protection, and then gone over to the enemy with information. The wounded men who had been brought so far, or had painfully marched hither, were packed in horse-cars and sent down the railroad, to be instantly transferred to the Cosmopolitan, or placed in hospitals at Jacksonville.

The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, which, with the First North-Carolina, may be said to have saved the forces from utter rout, lost about eighty men wounded and twelve killed. The complete list will be forwarded with this letter. Other regiments were not in a condition the next day to make returns.

There are not fewer than one thousand two hundred men, white and black, lost to the army by this heavy calamity. This moment of grief is too sacred for anger. The blame that attaches to the planners or leaders of the expedition will hereafter develop itself. General Gillmore will himself superintend the security of the shattered regiments. There are forces in Jacksonville enough to hold the place. Not all the regiments thereabout were in the fight. Reenforcements for the Department of the South are arriving daily at Hilton Head. It is a dearly bought lesson for us, but not an overwhelming or fatal disaster.

G. B.


Defence of General Seymour.

Hilton head, S. C., April 8, 1864.
To the Editors of the New-York Evening Post:
By the Fulton to-day I have received and read, for the first time, all your articles concerning (somewhat) Florida affairs; but more particularly concerning myself.

You assail me professionally and personally. Now, so far as the character of my military service is touched, I may say that you will find it not unkindly referred to in the reports of not a few battles, and in some of these reports I am [414] credited with considerably more intelligence and skill than you have been willing to accord me. But the reputation of a soldier is not based on the opinions of gentlemen of your profession nearly so strongly as upon those of mine; and by these last only am I content to be judged.

There are a few points, however, upon which it is proper you should be correctly informed.

First. You state that I was once sent from the Department of the South by General Hunter, for “unruly conduct and language.” Your information here was worse than imperfect, it was simply untrue. I left the department upon my own application, upon that solely, and for entirely different causes than differences with General Hunter.

Second. You assert that I “planned and urged” the assault on Fort Wagner of the eighteenth of July last.

That is much more credit than I deserve. I had too steadfastly advocated, as a principle, that intrenchments defended by the rifle had not been successfully assaulted in this war, to urge or to plan this assault as an exception. Secessionville and its lesson were too close at hand to be forgotten.

But this assault was virtually successful. Our men entered the work, held a part of it for hours, took prisoners from the garrison. And before attributing any failure to me, would it not have been well for you to have learned the whole truth from the few who know it, (and very few know the entire facts concerning any engagement whatever,) before charging me with so many personal, political, and military crimes, because there was final failure?

Briefly, your statement concerning my connection with that assault is utterly incorrect.

Third. For my opinions upon non-professional matters, I presume, the public cares very little. But as you positively state that I am an “habitual contemner of the race,” (colored,) also of “negro troops,” and a “virulent pro-slavery man,” I am justified in pronouncing you quite as wrong as upon the preceding points. Pro-slavery sentiments — even in a moderate form — I never entertained. But I despise and scorn the hypocritical and sanctimonious philanthropy of some who are fattening — personally, pecuniarily, and politically — upon the wrongs of the black, but who have been very careful never to set him an example on the battle-field. And that I have faithfully carried out the desires and commands of the Government — so far as I have had command of colored troops — the following letters will best show:

camp Third South-Carolina colored troops, Jacksonville, Fla., March 28, 1864.
Lieutenant R. M. Hall, First United States Artillery;
sir: We have noticed in one of the New-York papers some observations reflecting upon General Seymour's supposed prejudices against, and unfair treatment of colored troops. Speaking from our own knowledge in relation to our own regiment, we have seen no signs of such prejudice, and have experienced no such treatment at any time during the expedition to Florida. We have been treated precisely in the same manner as the white troops; we have frequently been brigaded with them; and have uniformly received the same attention to the wants and comforts of both officers and men.

Very respectfully, your obedient servants,

>B. C. Tilghman, Col. Third U. S. C. T. U. Doubleday, Lieut.-Col. Third U. S. C. T. F. W. Bardwell, Major Third U. S. C. T.
Official Copy: W. H. Bradshaw, Lieutenant and A. D.C,

headquarters Thirty-Fifth U. S. C. T., Jacksonville, Fla., March 30, 1864.
General: Will you, at your departure from this district, accept a line of cordial good — will from an officer of your command?

I am personally, and in behalf of my regiment, under obligations to you for a kindly consideration and fairness of treatment which will doubtless, after a time, become general in all departments and districts, but Which to ourselves has been peculiarly gratifying. We, of the colored organizations, have not and do not ask for special favors, but only for such military equality as may be earned; a fair share of fatigue and field-work, and equal consideration from the quartermaster, commissary, and ordnance departments. To the extent of your power, (speaking for my own regiment,) we have had such equality, and are content.

Wishing you a safe and prosperous passage, and with assurance of kindly remembrance, I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

James C. Beecher, Colonel Commanding. Copy: W. H. Bradshaw, Lieutenant and A. D.C.

Headquarters colored brigade, Jacksonville, Fla., March 20, 1864.
Brigadier-General Seymour, Commanding District of Florida:
General: I have the honor to give testimony to the kind, just, and impartial treatment my command has received at your hands. It has been my fortune to command six of the colored regiments under you, and I know of no instance where a different line of policy has been pursued toward the colored men than the white. While speaking of this, I wish to say, that I am continually receiving from the North all sorts of complaints in relation to the abuse of the colored soldier, how they are treated in the field, etc. This is all wrong, the spirit which circulates them is bad, and the statements are not true. The welfare of these men demands that less should be said, and more be done. To all who are so solicitous for the colored soldier, I say: Turn your fire upon the Congress of the nation, that the great injustice which has been done to them by not allowing pay enough to clothe themselves, may be remedied, and we will take care of the remainder; we have no complaints to make but this, and the [415] fault is not with our generals, but those who call themselves our friends, at home.

I have the honor, General, to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

M. S. Littlefield, Colonel Twenty-first U. S. C. T. Copy: W. H. Bradshaw, Lieutenant and A. D.C.

headquarters Thirty-Fourth Regt. U. S. C. T., Jacksonville, Fla., March 30, 1864.
General: I wish to state that I fully and heartily concur with the sentiments contained in the letters of Colonel Tilghman. Please bear with you my hearty acknowledgments of the just and considerate treatment we have received at your hands, and my best wishes for your future success.

I have the honor to be, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. W. Marple, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding Thirty-fourth U. S.C. T. Brigadier-General T. Seymour, U. S. A. Copy: W. H. Bradshaw, Lieutenant and A. D.C.

headquarters twenty-First U. S. C. T., Jacksonville, Fla., March 29, 1864.
Lieutenant R. M. Hall, A. A.A. G.:
sir: It having come to the knowledge of the undersigned that certain imputations are afloat concerning General Seymour's treatment of colored troops, we deem it but justice to that distinguished officer, in view of his departure from this post, to state that, so far as our own observation has extended, his conduct toward that class of troops has been all that the sincerest friends of the colored race could desire; and it affords us great pleasure to testify to the uniform kindness, courtesy, and liberality with which he has treated the officers and men of this command.

We have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servants,

A. G. Bennett, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding Regiment. R. H. Willoughby, Captain Commanding Company B. E. R. Fowler, Captain Commanding Company E. Henry sharp, Captain Commanding Company C. Edgar Abeal, Captain Commanding Company D. C. A. Dow, Lieutenant Commanding Company A. Copy: W. H. Bradshaw, Lieutenant and A. D.C.

But fourth. As you may possibly consider the case of Robert Small, a brave fellow, whose conduct deserves more consideration than it has yet received — as an exception — I submit his statement, to which you will probably attach more credit than to any assertion of mine:

United States steamer Planter, land's end, South-Carolina, April 4, 1864.
To the Editors of the Evening Post:
Please allow me, through your columns, to correct an error which I find by perusing your paper of the — ultimo, under the heading of “General Seymour and the battle of Olustee,” in which you say: “His contemptuous treatment of Robert Small, the gallant colored pilot who brought the steamer Planter out of the harbor of Charleston, and who is one of the heroes of our war, has already been recorded in this paper.”

Through all courtesy to your paper and justice where justice is due, I must say that from the first day of my arrival within the Union lines, General Seymour has always shown me the greatest regard, whenever in public or private, inquiring how I was or if I was in need.

Shortly after turning the Planter over to the United States Government, General Seymour sent for me, and after several interrogations, ordered me to have my name entered in Colonel Elwell's Pilot list, a position for which I am much indebted to him, and which I occupied until taking command of this steamer.

Never was there a time, when with General Seymour, or any.of his aids, that I was treated contemptuously or unkindly.

Trusting you will correct this error, which I fear some reporter has unintentionally made, I am, yours most respectfully,


With this evidence of my treatment of such colored troops as have been placed under me, even you cannot find great fault.

Finally, as a soldier of the Republic, I claim some trifling respect from you, and some fairness. Therefore I call upon you to give to this letter, entire, the same publicity with which you have heretofore assailed me.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. Seymour, Brigadier-General U. S. Volunteers.


Action of the colored troops.

on picket, six miles West of Jacksonville, Florida, February 23, 1864.
sir: I deem it but proper that you and the balance of the Supervisory Committee should know all about the operations of the regiment brought into existence under your supervision, and will therefore give you a short history of the part the Eighth regiment had in the slaughter at Olustee, Florida, on the twentieth instant, and will then allow you and the committee to judge whether colored men are the poltroons which their enemies tried to make us believe them to be.

The expedition with which we were identified had all the prospects in the world to prove successful, and would have been, if we had come prepared to advance immediately; but as it was, we gave them time to prepare for us when we did advance.

We left Baldwin, at the junction of the Jacksonville and Tallahassee, and Fernandina and Cedar Keys railroads, about twenty miles west of Jacksonville, on Friday, the twentieth; marched westward eleven miles, and bivouacked for the night at Barber's Ford, on the St. Mary's River. The bugle sounded the reveille before daylight, and, after taking breakfast, we took up the line of march westward. Our march for ten miles to [416] Sanderson Station was uninterrupted, but about four miles further west our advance drove in the enemy's pickets, keeping up a continuous skirmish with them for about four miles, when the Seventh Connecticut, who were in the advance, deployed as skirmishers, fell in with the enemy's force in a swamp, strengthened still further with rifle-pits. Here they were met with cannon and musketry. The Seventh were armed with Spencer rifles, which fire eight times without loading, with which they played dreadful havoc with the enemy. They were then ordered to take one of four pieces of artillery the enemy had, but were unsuccessful. They held their ground nobly, as long as their sixty rounds of ammunition lasted, which was perhaps three quarters of an hour, but were retiring just as the main body of our army came up. The Eighth colored marched on the railroad, came up first, and filed to the right, when they were soon met with a most terrific shower of musketry and shell. General T. Seymour now came up, and pointing in front toward the railroad, said to Colonel Fribley, commander of the Eighth, “Take your regiment in there” --a place which was sufficiently hot to make veterans tremble, and yet we were to enter it with men who had never heard the sound of a cannon. Colonel Fribley ordered the regiment, by company, into line, double-quick march; but, before it was fairly in line, the men commenced dropping like leaves in autumn. Still, on they went, without faltering or murmuring, until they came within two hundred yards of the enemy, when the struggle for life and death commenced. Here they stood for two hours and a half, under one of the most terrible fires I ever witnessed; and here, on the field of Olustee, was decided whether the colored man had the courage to stand without shelter, and risk the dangers of the battle-field; and when I tell you that they stood with a fire in front, on their flank, and their rear, for two hours and a half, without flinching, and when I tell you the number of dead and wounded, I have no doubt as to the verdict of every man who has gratitude for defenders of his country, white or black.

Colonel Fribley, seeing that it was impossible to hold the position, passed along the lines to tell the officers to fire and fall back gradually, and was shot before he reached the end. He was shot in the chest, told the men to carry him to the rear, and expired in a very few minutes. Major Burritt took command, but was also wounded in a short time. At this time Captain Hamilton's battery became endangered, and he cried out to our men for God's sake to save his battery. Our United States flag, after three sergeants had forfeited their lives by bearing it during the fight, was planted on the battery by Lieutenant Elijah Lewis, and the men rallied around it, but the guns had been jammed up so indiscriminately, and so close to the enemy's lines, that the gunners were shot down as fast as they made their appearance; and the horses, whilst they were wheeling the pieces into position, shared the same fate. They were compelled to leave the battery, and failed to bring the flag away. The battery fell into the enemy's hands. During the excitement Captain Bailey took command, and brought out the regiment in good order. Sergeant Taylor, company D, who carried the battle-flag, had his right hand nearly shot off, but grasped the colors with the left hand, and brought it out.

I took my position along the railroad, and had the wounded brought there, and while busily engaged a volley was poured into us. About a dozen of cavalry were preparing to make a charge on us, but disappeared as the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts advanced out of the woods. They knew the men were wounded, and that it was an hospital, but disregarded it; and had it not been for the Fifty-fourth, which advanced in splendid order, they would undoubtedly have taken us all prisoners. The Seventh New-Hampshire was posted on both sides of the wagon road, and broke, but rallied in a short time, and did splendid execution. The line was probably one mile long, and all along the fighting was terrific.

Our artillery, where it could be worked, made dreadful havoc on the enemy, whilst the enemy did us but very little injury with his, with the exception of one gun, a sixty-four pound swivel, fixed on a truck-car on the railroad, which fired grape and canister. On the whole, their artillery was very harmless, but their musketry fearful. We were informed in the morning that they had some ten thousand men, and four guns, while we had less than six thousand, but eighteen guns. The troops all fought bravely; the First North-Carolina (colored) did nobly. I saw at an early stage of the fight that we would be whipped, and went round among our wounded and told them, as many as could get away, to start for Barber, and then started the ambulance crowded full. The day and the field being lost to us, we started on the retreat, and reached our old quarters yesterday. We were compelled to leave a few of our men behind, and they fell into the hands of the enemy. It could not be helped; I had but one ambulance to a regiment, and the railroad was useless, because we had no locomotive. However, we got some horse-cars to within eighteen miles of the field, which aided us greatly. How the rebels have disposed of the colored men who fell into their hands we have not heard yet; but we hope that the fear of retaliation, if not the dictates of humanity, will cause them to reconsider their threat of outlawry. If not, we must act accordingly. Our men are neither discouraged nor dismayed, but ready for another fight.

We would like to have our regiment recruited. We should have at least two hundred men immediately. Will the committee not make an effort to send them to us? I have no doubt but the War Department would allow it. Please do your best for us. If it could, be done, we would like two flanking companies of one hundred men each, armed with Spencer rifles. I think they are just the thing for bushwhacking. You can tell the committee that we look to them as our [417] guardians, and therefore hope they will do all for us they can, and do it quickly.

Your friend,

A. P. Aeichhold, Surgeon Eighth U. S. C. T. To Mr. E. M. Davis, Philadelphia.


Rebel accounts. Governor Milton's despatch.

Tallahassee. Fla., February 11.
To the President:
I have just received the following despatch from General Finnigan, dated yesterday: “I met the enemy in full force to-day, under General Seymour, and defeated him with great loss. I captured five pieces of artillery, hold possession of the battle-field, and the killed and wounded of the enemy. My cavalry are in pursuit. I don't know precisely the number of prisoners, as they are being brought in constantly. My whole loss will not, I think, exceed two hundred and fifty killed and wounded. Among them I mourn the loss of many brave officers and men.” I understand that General Finnigan also captured many small-arms.

John Milton, Governor.


Order of General Finnigan.

The Floridian and Journal published the following order issued by General Finnigan to the citizens of Florida:

The enemy, by a sudden landing at Jacksonville, in some force, and a bold effort to penetrate into the interior, succeeded in getting as far as within a few miles of Lake City. The timely concentration of our forces has enabled us to check his progress, and induce him to retire toward Baldwin. The reinforcements now received and expected will enable us to drive him back to his ships. The people of the State can contribute much to the early accomplishment of these results, by combining themselves in efficient military organizations of mounted troops, if they have horses, and of infantry if they have not, and reporting to me for temporary military service, with such arms and accoutrements as they may have, or by reporting singly to me, when they will be assigned to some militia organization for temporary service. You may also render valuable service by furnishing your teams, for the necessary transportation of troops, and supplies for their subsistence. For these the government will pay liberal prices.

Let the people all come forward and exhibit the patriotism and bravery which are their characteristic traits; and, with their aid, our gallant troops will soon drive the enemy from the country. Let all unite in this honorable and manly purpose, and lose no time in commencing the most vigorous and determined action.

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