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Chapter 8: Olustee.

General Gillmore had resolved upon an expedition to Florida, which General Halleck approved, but remarked that such movements had little effect upon the progress of our arms. President Lincoln also desired to make Florida a loyal State. Gillmore's purposes were to secure an outlet for cotton, lumber, turpentine, and other products, cut off a source of the enemy's commissary supplies, obtain recruits for the colored regiments he was authorized to form, and to inaugurate measures to restore Florida to her allegiance.

In darkness, at 3 A. M., on January 29, Companies C, F, G, H, I, and K, embarked on the steamer J. B. Collins, the remaining ones on the steamer Monohansett. The departure took place at 10 A. M. It was not known that the regiment would ever return, so notwithstanding the uninviting aspect of the sandy island, its fading lines were scanned by all with mingled feelings of attachment and regret. Soon, however, the men began to chatter. Cheery voices exclaimed: ‘No more fatigue at the front!’ ‘We'll have a rest from the sound of the guns!’ ‘No more longrolls,’ etc. Then they comfortably disposed themselves for the short voyage. Hilton Head was made at 3.45 P. M. by the ‘Monohansett,’ and at 7 P. M. by the ‘Collins,’ both vessels lying up at the pier. The companies on the former [149] vessel landed at midnight, bivouacked in one of the streets, and early next morning marched a mile and a half to the Pope plantation outside the intrenchments, going into camp near the Second South Carolina and the Eighth United States Colored Troops,—the latter a new regiment from the North. Our other companies came to camp at 7 A. M. Tents were pitched on the 31st. A wood extended nearly to the camp, from which green boughs were brought for shelter and shade as well as fuel. All enjoyed the change of landscape,—green fields, trees, and herbage in place of the sand and sea wastes of Morris Island.

Around us troops were encamped or arriving daily. The Third United States Colored Troops joined on the 31st, uniting the brigade, which was enlarged by the assignment to it of the Eighth United States Colored Troops. Some fifty recruits for the Fifty-fourth came on February 1; but as the rolls were full, a provisional company, ‘L,’ was formed, and placed in charge of Lieut. T. L. Appleton. Service with the Fifty-fourth was eagerly sought for, and it was seen by Colonel Hallowell that several additional companies could be recruited. With the approval of General Gillmore, he therefore applied to Governor Andrew, on February 3, that the Fifty-fourth be placed on the footing of a heavy artillery regiment. This recommendation, however, bore no fruit.

Captain Partridge was discharged for disability January 19, and Captain Smith for the same cause January 25; Lieutenant Dexter having resigned, departed North, and afterward became second lieutenant Sixty-first Massachusetts Infantry; Chaplain Harrison received sick leave, resigning at the North March 14. He was refused pay as [150] chaplain, because of his color. The matter received Governor Andrew's attention; and on April 23 AttorneyGen-eral Bates rendered the opinion that the chaplain, because he was of African descent, could not be deprived of the pay affixed to the office he lawfully held.

After a review by General Gillmore of all the troops on February 4, on returning to camp the officers were informed that the regiment would embark the next day. The sick, some recruits, and the camp were to remain in charge of Lieut. T. L. Appleton. Captain Jones was too ill to accompany us.

Orders came to march at supper-time on the 5th; and the Fifty-fourth proceeded from its only camp at Hilton Head to the pier. Major Appleton, with Companies A, B, and D, embarked on the steamer Maple Leaf, which was General Seymour's flag-ship. Captain Emilio, with Company E, some recruits, Quartermaster Ritchie, and the stores, took passage on the schooner R. C. A. Ward. Colonel Hallowell, with the remaining companies, was assigned to the steamer ‘General Hunter.’

Gillmore's Florida expedition was afloat, for the troops comprising his force had embarked on some twenty-eight transports, in darkness. It was probable that our point of attack would be unknown. But General Beauregard was aware of some movement, and notified General Gilmer at Savannah to prepare, and had troops ready to move over the railroads to the southward. He personally visited Savannah on January 16, returning to Charleston February 3.

General Seymour, assigned to command the expedition, was to have a force of about seven thousand men. His transports were ordered to rendezvous at the mouth of [151] the St. John's River, Florida. Admiral Dahlgren was to co-operate, with some naval vessels.

It was most enjoyable voyaging down the coast. A few men were seasick, but soon recovered. The ‘Maple Leaf’ arrived off the St. John's at 8.50 A. M. on the 7th, and the ‘General Hunter’ at 9 A. M. Eleven steamers and smaller craft had arrived or were coming in; and as the transports passed one another, the troops cheered enthusiastically. There, too, the gunboats Ottawa and ‘Norwich’ were found ready to escort the fleet. At about noon, the larger portion of the vessels started up the river for Jacksonville, some twenty-five miles distant.

Just three hundred years before, Rene de Laudonniere led a French fleet up the same river, known then as the ‘River of May,’ following the lead of the famous Ribaut the previous year. The beautiful and historic stream glided to the sea as placidly as then through the marshy lowlands, past the white bluffs and forests of pine and cedar. Amid the romantic scenery, through this historic region, on a delightful day, the fleet proceeded up the devious stream with the gunboat Ottawa in the lead, followed by the ‘Maple Leaf’ and ‘General Hunter.’ Evidences of former Federal occupation or Rebel abandonment were seen in burned saw-mills, deserted houses, and decayed landings.

Upon rounding a point late in the afternoon, Jacksonville appeared in view, looking much like a devastated Northern city, with its ruined gas-works, burned saw-mills, and warehouses; but many residences and stores appeared in good repair. As the vessels approached nearer the town, some women and children were discovered, waving handkerchiefs from places near the water-front. A few [152] men were also seen lurking about, as if fearing musket or cannon shots. When abreast of the place, the ‘Norwich’ continued up the stream a short distance and anchored. General Seymour, on the ‘Maple Leaf,’ ran up to a wharf, and Major Appleton had his men ashore in a moment. A few cavalrymen had been discovered, who, as our Fifty-fourth men were formed, fired some shots, one of which wounded the mate of the ‘General Hunter,’ from which Colonel Hallowell and his six companies were disembarking. As the shots were fired, General Seymour ordered Major Appleton to ‘take his men and catch the Rebels.’ What followed, the major thus describes:—

‘I tried, but our men with knapsacks were not fleet enough. I had a dark overcoat on, and was conspicuous. One “Johnny” took deliberate aim at me over a fence. I saw him just as he fired. The ball came quite close, but did not hit me. By orders I placed men in each street, and pushed the command to the outskirts of the town, with no casualties on our side. We took a few prisoners, civilians, etc. Porter of Company A shot a Rebel through his leg, and got him and his horse.’

While the major was thus engaged, the six companies of the regiment landed from the ‘General Hunter;’ and Colonel Hallowell, also throwing out skirmishers, advanced through the town to the west side, where the regiment was reunited soon after. Pickets were thrown out, and the Fifty-fourth went into bivouac for the night.

The pursuit of the enemy was taken up and continued five miles by Major Stevens with his Independent Battalion Massachusetts Cavalry, which landed after the Fifty-fourth. They captured eleven Confederates, including some signal-men. [153]

Transports which had been delayed having arrived with infantry, artillery, etc., on the 8th, at 4 P. M., General Seymour moved toward Baldwin. Much to the regret of all, the Fifty-fourth was ordered to remain behind. Colonel Hallowell was made commandant of Jacksonville. Captain Walton was appointed provost-marshal, with Company B as provost-guard. Company E, with the recruits, joined the regiment on the 9th. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, with details by companies, picketed the approaches to the town, holding a line mainly along two small creeks. For several days troops were landing and moving out to the advance.

Before the war Jacksonville contained some three thousand inhabitants, and was the key-point of Eastern Florida. It had been thrice before occupied by the Federal forces, and twice suffered from devastating fires. The enemy only held it in small force, their main body being at Camp Finegan, eight miles inland. It contained some tasteful residences, on wide streets densely shaded with old trees, the usual public buildings, churches, and stores. On the outskirts were old earthworks, facing cleared ground to woods beyond.

Col. Guy V. Henry's mounted troops, on the 8th, in darkness, flanked Camp Finegan, and at Ten-Mile Run captured five guns. Early on the 9th, he occupied Baldwin, capturing another gun and large stores. Our infantry, the first evening, entered Camp Finegan, whence some two hundred of the enemy fled. That night the steamer St. Mary was scuttled in a small creek, the navy securing a rifled gun, but her cargo, of two hundred and seventy cotton-bales, was burned. Our infantry advanced to Baldwin on the 9th, over bad roads, where both Seymour and Gillmore also arrived that day. [154]

On the 10th the Light Brigade, consisting of the Massachusetts Cavalry Battalion, the Fortieth Massachusetts (mounted), and Elder's horse battery, First United States Artillery, some nine hundred men, under Colonel Henry, started out, followed by the infantry. About 11 A. M. the mounted force reached Barber's. A reconnoissance, with loss, disclosed the enemy, consisting of about one hundred and fifty men of the Second Florida Cavalry, under Maj. Robert Harrison, holding the south fork of the St. Mary's River. Henry, securing a position enfilading the ford, and the cavalry battalion charging across, drove the enemy in confusion, capturing their horses and arms. We lost four killed and thirteen wounded; the enemy, two killed and three wounded. Henry resumed the advance at 1 P. M., entering Sanderson three hours later. Gen. Joseph Finegan, the Confederate commander of East Florida, had retired, firing buildings and stores. The column reached Barber's at midnight on the 10th. Henry, at Sanderson, rested until 2 A. M. on the 11th, when he again set out. No enemy was encountered until 11 A. M., when his skirmishers were found in the woods near Lake City. After developing his line, and a company had broken through the enemy's left, Henry, fearing to be outflanked by a stronger force, retired five miles. But the Confederate reports show that General Finegan had there in Henry's front only four hundred and fifty infantry, one hundred and ten cavalry, and two guns. Our loss was three men wounded; the enemy's, two killed and several wounded. The result of this affair was most unfortunate. It was the turning-point of the Florida expedition, for had the smaller Confederate force been driven by Henry's superior one, and followed up sharply at that time before Finegan's reinforcements [155] had arrived, Seymour might have gone to the Suwanee River, a strong, defensive line. Seymour arrived at Sanderson with Barton's brigade on the evening of the 11th, amid a torrent of rain. Gillmore on the 11th sent instructions to Seymour not to risk a repulse at Lake City, but to hold Sanderson and the south fork of the St. Mary's. Seymour withdrew to Barber's on the 12th.

From Jacksonville on the 10th, Major Appleton, with Companies C, D, F, and K, went to Camp Finegan, where the next day he was joined by Company E, and on the 12th his force marched to Baldwin. This hamlet was the junction of the Atlantic and Gulf, and Fernandina and Cedar Keys railroads. It consisted of a hotel, railroad depot, freight-house, and a few small, unpainted dwellings. The telegraph was in working order from there to Jacksonville. Supplies were brought up by means of captured cars drawn along the rails by horses.

Col. B. C. Tilghman, Third United States Colored Troops, with his regiment, and a company of the First New York Engineers, held the post. Work began and continued daily on intrenchments, block houses, and a stockade. Scouting parties and foraging details went out each day, the latter bringing in beeves, poultry, and potatoes. Pickets from the Fifty-fourth alternated with those from the Third United States Colored Troops, and furnished garrisons for the block houses and stockades.

From beyond the St. Mary's our advance forces had been all drawn back to Barber's by the 13th. Henry was sent to the southward. Capt. George Marshall, Fortieth Massachusetts, at Gainesville on the 15th repulsed the noted Captain Dickison, Second Florida Cavalry, with a superior [156] force. From Barber's on the 14th a detachment went to Callahan Station and destroyed the railroad and bridges there.

This Florida expedition was a subject of Congressional inquiry. Seymour's letters disclose a most remarkable change of views and purposes. Gillmore was for holding Jacksonville as a base, and Baldwin, Pilatka, and other secondary posts with small garrisons and earthworks. After a conference with Seymour on the 14th at Jacksonville, Gillmore departed for Hilton Head. In his report to Halleck he says,—

‘I considered it well understood at the time between General Seymour and myself that no advance would be made without further instructions from me until the defences were well advanced.’

Seymour, left in command, at once issued a number of orders for the governing of his territory. One of these honored the memory of the regiment's first commander in the following words:—

General orders no. 2.

headquarters District of Florida, Department of the South, Jacksonville, Fla., Feb. 16, 1864.
The Camp of Instruction, established by direction from Department headquarters on the railroad eight miles from Jacksonville, will be known as Camp Shaw, in memory of the young and devoted patriot who fell in the assault of July 18, 1863, upon Fort Wagner, S. C., and whose name will constantly suggest to the troops of this camp all that is honorable and meritorious.

By order of

Brig.-Gen. T. Seymour.

R. M. Hall, 1st Lieut. 1st U. S. Art'y, Act. Ass't-Adj't-Gen'l.


Disregarding his instructions, Seymour prepared to execute the advance which he had resolved to make, seemingly in complete ignorance of the enemy's force. Disaster and failure were inevitable. By letter on the 17th, he informed Gillmore that he would move to the Suwanee River to destroy the railroad. His letter closed with a postscript reflecting upon all his higher officers in these words: ‘Send me a general for the command of the advance troops, or I shall be in a state of constant apprehension.’ On the 18th Gillmore did send him a general in the person of General Turner, his chief of staff, not for the purpose requested, but to suspend the movement, bring Seymour back to Baldwin, and deliver letters expressing his surprise at the advance. When Turner, delayed many hours by stormy weather, reached Jacksonville, Seymour was engaged with the enemy.

In response to calls in every direction for help, General Finegan began to receive aid immediately after our retirement from Lake City. On the 13th, with a force numbering two thousand men, he moved forward toward Sanderson, taking post at Olustee, where he constructed strong works, to better defend his position. Reinforcements continued to join, so that on the 18th he had forty-six hundred infantry (largely veterans), about six hundred cavalry, and three batteries of twelve guns. The enemy's knowledge of our force was accurate, and of our plans considerable, for despatches from Gillmore to Terry at Folly Island were intercepted and deciphered. Beauregard therefore stripped his garrisons elsewhere to meet us in Florida.

A diversion made by General Schimmelfennig on John's Island, S. C., occurred too early, and another by Col. J. B. [158] Howell, Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania, at Whitmarsh Island, Ga., too late to serve Seymour.

Colonel Hallowell, commanding Jacksonville, occupied the Crespo house as headquarters. The Fifty-fifth Massachusetts arrived on the 14th, and the next day relieved the Fifty-fourth from picket and provost-guard duty. Colonel Hartwell succeeded Colonel Hallowell in command of the post. Second Lieut. Thomas S. Bridgham, a brother of our assistant-surgeon, first joined at Jacksonville.

With Companies A, B, G, and H, at 8 A. M., February 18, Colonel Hallowell set out from Jacksonville for Baldwin. A march of some eighteen miles was made that day, and the next morning at 8.30 o'clock the Fifty-fourth was again reunited. Our pickets and details were relieved, rations of coffee and sugar issued, knapsacks lightened of much clothing, which was stored, and the regiment moved at 10 A. M., with orders to report at Barber's. The distance of twelve miles was compassed with four halts for rest. Mile after mile of pine barren was passed through, bounding the sandy road on either side, many of the trees bearing the scarification of the axe made to secure the resinous sap. But few habitations were encountered, and those seen were small log or slab huts, in cleared spaces, whose only touch of beauty were the apple and peach trees in blossom.

About 6 P. M. the Fifty-fourth arrived at Barber's, bivouacking in the woods on the left of the road near the First North Carolina. Fires were made; and the quartermaster having borrowed four days rations of hard bread, the men made a hasty meal, and turned in for the night. There had been no time or inclination to look about, but there around Barber's house lay Seymour's little army of some five thousand men resting beside the flickering camp-fires. [159]

Reveille sounded at 5 P. M. on the eventful Feb. 20, 1864, and at seven o'clock the troops began to move,— the Light Brigade in advance, followed by Hawley's, then Barton's, the Artillery, and Montgomery's in rear guarding the train. Just before the Fifty-fourth started, Major Appleton was ordered to remain in command at Barber's, with Company E on picket, covering the railroad trestle, and Company A at Barber's house. Lieut. Lewis Reed, with thirty men, was to protect the telegraph line as the column advanced.

In fine spirits, the Fifty-fourth, followed by the First North Carolina, began the march, while the men sang, ‘We're bound for Tallahassee in the morning.’ The country was more open than that below. The road ran for long distances beside the railroad. Occasionally the forest widened out into savannas yellow with grasses and dotted with hemlock patches. From a clear sky the warm sun glistened and gleamed through the tall pines bordering the pathway. About every hour the brigade halted for a short rest.

Sanderson, some nine miles from Barber's, was reached by our advance before noon. People there stated that the enemy were in force beyond, and truly predicted our defeat; but their words were little heeded. Near an old mill beyond Sanderson, Henry's men came upon a few cavalry of the enemy, who fled when fired upon. Henry halted there until Hawley's infantry and Hamilton's battery came up, when the advance was resumed, the Seventh Connecticut, as skirmishers, leading.

Meanwhile, General Finegan at Olustee, receiving word that we were approaching in small numbers, sent out his cavalry under Col. Carraway Smith, with orders to skirmish [160] and draw us on to the works at Olustee. As support he sent the Sixty-fourth Georgia and two companies of the Thirty-second Georgia. Moving forward two miles, where the wagon-road crossed the railroad, the infantry halted, the cavalry proceeding until near a point where the railroad recrossed the country road. The intervening ground, between the two crossings, was the battlefield of Olustee. The Confederates call the action the battle of Ocean Pond, from the extensive lake near the field on the north.

Over the last-mentioned crossing our skirmishers advanced at about 1.30 P. M., Elder's battery occasionally shelling the woods. The enemy's cavalry fell back, as instructed, to their infantry, at the crossing. At that point, Brig.-Gen. A. H. Colquitt had arrived with the Sixth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-eighth Georgia, and ordering the cavalry to his flanks, threw out skirmishers and formed line of battle. Perceiving our strength, he sent for reinforcements and ammunition.

Moving through open pine woods, our advance now met firm resistance for the first time. By General Seymour's direction, Hawley moved his brigade into line. Personally leading the Seventh New Hampshire by the flank to the right, to avoid a small pond, he ordered a deployment under fire. He supposed the noise and confusion caused his order to be misunderstood, for the Seventh scattered, and went drifting to the rear notwithstanding the efforts of Colonel Abbott, his officers, and the gallant color-bearer, Thomas H. Simington. Hamilton placed his six guns under heavy fire within one hundred and fifty yards of the enemy; and the Eighth United States Colored Troops went into line on the left. Henry, with the Fortieth [161] Massachusetts (mounted) and the Massachusetts Cavalry Battalion, held the flanks. Opposed to a superior force and murderous fire, the Seventh Connecticut and Eighth United States Colored Troops were, after excessive losses, forced to give ground. Hamilton, who was wounded, bravely supported the line with his guns, but was finally obliged to abandon two pieces for want of horses to bring them off. Col. Charles W. Fribley, of the Eighth United States Colored Troops, after displaying the utmost gallantry, was mortally wounded.

But fresh troops were at hand, for Barton's brigade was coming up, supported by Elder's battery of four pieces on the right, and Langdon's battery of six guns, with a section (two guns) of Battery C, Third Rhode Island Artillery, under Lieut. Henry Metcalf, on the left. Barton formed on the right of the road at the new position taken up by Hawley. Colquitt, however, had received reinforcements, putting the Sixth Florida Battalion and Twenty-third Georgia into line, and the First Georgia (regulars) and the Thirtysec-ond Georgia, which arrived shortly after, to prolong his left. He then advanced with the Chatham Artillery in rear of his centre, opening a destructive fire along the whole front. Finding feeble opposition on his right, he threw the Sixth Florida Battalion forward to enfilade our line. Barton now only maintained his position at a terrible cost of officers and men, and all his regimental commanders—Col. Henry Moore, Forty-seventh, Major W. B. Coan, Forty-eighth, and Colonel Sammon, One Hundred and Fifteenth New York—wounded. Colquitt's men were out of cartridges for a time; but supplies came, and fresh troops also, composed of a section of Guerard's Battery, Bonaud's Battalion, the Twenty-seventh Georgia, and Second Florida Battalion. [162] The enemy's artillery too was supplemented by a heavy gun mounted on a railroad car. With these accessions to his force, Colquitt moved the Sixth and Thirty-second Georgia to flank the right of Barton's brigade, and notwithstanding stubborn resistance, was gradually forcing it back.

General Seymour throughout these events was present on the field, exhibiting great personal gallantry. Discerning that victory was not for him, after such grievous losses, he sent to hasten the colored brigade into action, and made disposition to retire under cover of Montgomery's attack.

About 2.30 P. M. the colored brigade was resting,—the Fifty-fourth in the shade on the left of the road at a place where wood had lately been felled. Musketry firing had been heard in the distance, but after a time there came the sound of cannon. ‘That's home-made thunder,’ said one man. ‘I don't mind the thunder if the lightning don't strike me!’ was the response. Another remarked, ‘I want to go home!’ ‘You'll stay forever, maybe!’ was the reply. Soon an orderly rode up at full speed, calling for the commanding officer. Colonel Hallowell sprang to his feet, and received an order for his rapid advance. In a few moments the regiment was moving at the doublequick, urged on by the heavier sound of battle. When the pace began to tell on the men, knapsacks, blankets, and even haversacks were cast away to lighten their load. At the railroad crossing, Colonel Montgomery, who was leading, was met by a staff-officer from General Seymour, bringing the order to move forward he had anticipated.

Nearing the battleground, resounding with cannon-shots and musketry, the dispiriting scene so trying to troops about to engage, of hundreds of wounded and stragglers, was encountered. [163] All sorts of discouraging shouts met the ear as the regiment speeded onward, as,‘We're badly whipped!’ ‘You'll all get killed.’ Still farther on was part of a disabled battery also going to the rear. But through this rift and drift of conflict the tired and panting men pressed on, and led by Sergeant Cezar of Company D, found breath to shout their battle-cry, ‘Three cheers for Massachusetts and seven dollars a month!’ As the Fifty-fourth advanced, the field hospital of the Eighth United States Colored Troops was passed, which its coming saved from the threatening enemy. Adjutant Howard relates that as he was riding over the field beside Colonel Hallowell, General Seymour rode up to that officer and told him in substance that the day was lost, and that everything depended on the Fifty-fourth.

When the regiment arrived at the battle-front, it was about four o'clock. Colonel Hawley in his report thus describes the event:—

Colonel Montgomery's brigade had come up. The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, Colonel Hallowell, went into action on our left, the First North Carolina on our right between us and Barton's retiring brigade, halting and firing fiercely, with its right well forward so as to form an angle of perhaps 120° with the line of the Fifty-fourth.’

He further says,—
‘About that time an aid came to say that the general wished me to fall back, as the enemy were only feinting on our right, and were preparing to flank us in force.’

This, then, was the situation as the Fifty-fourth took position: Barton retiring; the only other infantry—the Seventh Connecticut Battalion—ordered to fall back; [164] and Seymour believing that the enemy were preparing to flank us on the left, where the Fifty-fourth alone were taking post. Well might Seymour think that everything depended on our regiment. Under these adverse conditions the colored brigade was to hold the enemy in check until a new line could be formed in the rear.

Colonel Hallowell led his regiment by the flank into the woods on the left of the road, and forming by file into line, immediately opened fire. The Fifty-fourth had thirteen officers and 497 men in action, with a formation as below, Company D being on the left,— D B H F K C G I

The following-named officers were present,—Colonel Hallowell, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, Acting Adjutant Howard; Company I, Lieutenant Homans; Company G, Lieut. David Reid; Company C, Lieutenant Tomlinson, commanding, and Lieutenant Bridgham; Company K, Lieutenant Littlefield, commanding, and Lieutenant Leonard; Company F, Captain Bridge; Company H, Lieutenant Chipman; Company B, Lieutenant Newell; Company D, Lieutenant Duren. Assistant-Surgeons Bridgham and Pease, and Quartermaster Ritchie, were on the field. Sergeant Wilkins, of Company D, bore the national flag in the ranks of Company K, and Corporal Peal, of Company F, the State color. Captains Pope and Jewett, of the Fifty-fourth, on Colonel Montgomery's staff, took part in the action.

About the same time the First North Carolina went into action on the right of the road. The Fifty-fourth formed in a grove of pine extending around on every side over ground nearly level. So open was the forest that the [165] enemy's line and colors could be seen about four hundred yards distant, with two guns in front of our right well advanced, apparently without much support. On the extreme left front were guns covered by the railroad embankment. A Confederate plan of the battle shows Bonaud's battalion advanced, supported by the Nineteenth Georgia and Sixth Florida, all between the wagon-road and the railroad, while beyond the railroad to their right were two guns of Guerard's battery and some cavalry. Only the Fifty-fourth in the latter part of the action was on our left of the wagon-road in the battle-front.

Upon taking position the regiment received a steady but not severe musketry fire, with a flanking fire of shell from the artillery on our left front. The horses of the field and staff had been sent to the rear. Colonel Hallowell mounted the stump of a tree some fifty feet in rear of his centre to oversee his men and the position. After a time Companies D and B on the left were thrown back to present a better front and guard that flank. While retiring from making report of this to Colonel Hallowell, Acting Sergeant-Major Swails was wounded.

On the extreme right, Lieutenant Homans, an impetuous and brave officer, noticing the exposed position of the two pieces, sprang in front of his line, and shouting, ‘Now is a good opportunity; we'll try and take those guns!’ led his men forward; but he was soon ordered back into line.

In the centre, where Captain Bridge was prominent, our companies were enduring an increased musketry fire from front and flank. Sharpshooters were observed perched in the trees, but a few volleys brought them down. We were sustaining casualties every moment; but most of the missiles passed overhead. [166]

Assistant-Surgeons Bridgham and Pease brought their ambulance to the field and proceeded to establish themselves not far from the line. After some time, and a shell having fallen near by, they retired to a less exposed place. Colonel Montgomery, accompanied by his staff, was round and about the Fifty-fourth line exposing himself freely; perceiving the strong fire coming from the direction of the railroad, he shouted, ‘Fire to the left! Fire to the left!’

Under such conditions after a while the men began to chafe, and exhibit a desire for aggressive action. Already Warren Moorhouse, of Company E, and another man had crept out as sharpshooters. Sergeant Stephens, of Company B, remembered distinctly that ‘a little black fellow, whose name I cannot recall, would run forward beyond the line in his excitement, discharging his piece, fall back and load, and then rush out again. Our line was doing its level best. Shortly, this man I speak of fell, shot through the head.’

Now there occurred an episode which shows that the colored soldiers, of the Fifty-fourth at least, possessed other than passive courage. They had, as stated, endured the situation with growing impatience. Suddenly Sergeant Wilkins, with the national flag, was seen advancing, followed by the men about him. They had proceeded some one hundred and fifty paces when Colonel Hallowell, realizing that the regiment without orders might follow them into a dangerous position unsupported, sent word for a return.

Meanwhile in the action Captain Jewett (who had been relieved from staff duty at his own request), Lieutenants Littlefield and Tomlinson, and many men had been [167] wounded, and some killed. The regiment had been firing very rapidly; for many of the men, by jarring their pieces on the ground, sent the loads home without using the ramrods. It was observed that the musketry fire of the enemy was more effective than that of their artillery. Their shells were fired too high, passing over into the trees back of the Fifty-fourth. From the heavy gun on the railroad car came reports which dominated all other battle sounds.

This spirited movement into action of the colored brigade is acknowledged to have caused the enemy's right to give way somewhat, and imperilled the guns of Captain Wheaton's Chatham Artillery. Under cover of its onset Seymour withdrew his white troops to a new line some one hundred yards in the rear,—Langdon being forced to abandon three of his guns. This retirement was continued in successive lines of battle. A newspaper correspondent, writing of the action, said, ‘The two colored regiments had stood in the gap and saved the army.’ But the cost had been great, particularly to the First North Carolina, for it lost Lieut.-Col. Wm. N. Reed, commanding, mortally wounded; Maj. A. Bogle, Adjt. W. C. Manning, three captains, and five lieutenants wounded; one captain killed, and some two hundred and thirty enlisted men killed, wounded, or missing. Having maintained the contest for some time, it was withdrawn.

Every organization had retired but the Fifty-fourth, and our regiment stood alone. From the position first taken up it still held back the enemy in its front. What had occurred elsewhere was not known. Why the Fifty-fourth was left thus exposed is inexplicable. No orders were received to retire. No measures were taken for its safe withdrawal. It would seem either that the position of [168] the regiment was forgotten, or its sacrifice considered necessary.

Darkness came on early amid the tall pines. It was now about 5.30 P. M. The Fifty-fourth had lost heavily. Corporal Peal, with the State color, was mortally wounded, and from his hands Corp. Preston Helman, of Company E, received the flag. Of the color guard Corporal Gooding, of Company C, was mortally wounded, and Corporals Glasgow of B and Palmer of K were also wounded. One other noncommissioned officer was killed, and seven wounded. Only a few cartridges remained in the boxes; more were brought, but they proved to be of the wrong calibre.

From the sounds of battle extending behind our right, it at last became apparent that our forces had fallen back. Colonel Montgomery was with the Fifty-fourth, and seems to have determined to retire it in his bushwhacking way. This he did, as his staff-officer Captain Pope relates, by telling the men to save themselves. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper recalls that the men informed him that Montgomery said, ‘Now, men, you have done well. I love you all. Each man take care of himself.’ But this plan did not please Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, so telling Color Sergeant Wilkins to stand fast, and securing the co-operation of officers and reliable men near at hand, he shouted, ‘Rally!’ and a line was again formed.

At this time Colonel Hallowell with others became separated from the main portion. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, thus in command, briefly addressed the men, ordered bayonets fixed, and exercised the regiment in the manual of arms to bring it completely under control. Lieutenant Loveridge of Montgomery's staff at Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper's request rode out to the right, and returning, [169] reported the enemy following our forces without order. The regiment was then directed to give nine loud cheers to make it appear we were receiving reinforcements. In line of battle faced to the rear the Fifty-fourth then marched off the field, stopping every two or three hundred yards and retiring again. The enemy did not follow closely, but some of their cavalry were on the right flank. Stray cannon-shots and musket-balls occasionally fell about. After thus moving back some considerable distance the Fifty-fourth, passing through woods, came in sight on the left of part of a regiment armed with breech-loaders. This body of men retired, and soon another body of men was encountered, which also retired. At last the regiment came up with Seymour's main force, where Colonel Hallowell found it, and assumed command.

Before the Fifty-fourth retired, the boxes of unused ammunition of the wrong calibre were thrown into mudholes. Assistant-Surgeon Bridgham also sent on before his only ambulance with wounded officers and men. Lieutenant Leonard, when leaving the field, found Adjutant Manning, First North Carolina, helplessly wounded; so swinging his friend upon his back, he carried him to a point of safety. Sergeant Swails, wounded in the head, set out toward Sanderson, but soon fell exhausted beside the road, unable to make himself known. Lieut. Lewis Reed, passing by, recognized him, and had him placed on a cart. Sergeant Vogelsang relates that Colonel Hallowell had, in charge of a servant, a mule laden with his camp kit, etc., packed in two champagne baskets. Upon going to the rear, some guards would not allow the servant and his mule to pass. The servant pleaded with them, saying, ‘Gentlemen, for God's sake, let the mule go!’ and [170] while doing so, the mule, taking matters into its own hands, kicked up its heels and broke through the line, strewing the path with pots, kettles, and pans, tipped out of the overturned baskets. This caused great merriment; and ‘Let the mule go!’ became a saying in the regiment.

From the general field hospital, established behind a small stream, Seymour made his final retirement. Some forty men severely wounded were left in charge of Assistant-Surgeon Devendorf, Forty-eighth New York, there; and at Sanderson some twenty-three more remained. Moving toward Sanderson, the narrow road was choked with a flowing torrent of soldiers on foot, wounded and unwounded, vehicles of every description laden with wrecks of men, while amid the throng rode others, many of whom roughly forced their jaded animals through the crowd. In this throng generous and self-sacrificing men were seen helping along disabled comrades, and some shaking forms with bandaged heads or limbs, still carrying their trusty muskets. About the sides of the road exhausted or bleeding men were lying, unable to proceed, resigned, or thoughtless of inevitable captivity.

While our advance presented these deplorable scenes, the rear-guard was still full of courage and obedient to command. Notable among these organizations were the Seventh Connecticut, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, and Henry's brigade. When Sanderson was reached, the troops halted until the place was cleared of wounded and vehicles, when fires were set to stores previously spared, and it was abandoned. With the Seventh Connecticut deployed in rear of the infantry, and Henry's mounted men covering all, the army retired to Barber's, destroying bridges and the railroad as they proceeded. [171]

General Finegan, who came upon the field during the later part of the action, ordered Colquitt to pursue and occupy Sanderson. Colquitt representing that his men were fatigued and without food, and that reports had come in that we had gone into camp and were in good order, these instructions were countermanded. Finegan states that although he gave repeated orders for his cavalry under Colonel Smith to press our flanks and pursue, it was not done except by two companies on our right for a short distance. All the Confederates, except one regiment, retired to Olustee that night, and no advance was made in force by the enemy until February 22.

Major Appleton at Barber's was relieved just after dark by Colonel Hartwell with six companies of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts. He then set out, as instructed, to join the regiment with the two companies, and Lieut. W. B. Pease and twenty-five men of the Eighth United States Colored Troops, who had come up. Ten miles on, a surgeon with wounded gave the first intimation of defeat, although the firing had been heard at Barber's. Hastening onward through an ever-increasing throng, when within one mile of Sanderson Major Appleton halted, disposing his men to restore order. The sight of his compact little force was encouraging; and the unwounded, when approached, readily placed themselves in line until some six hundred men were collected. Major Appleton soon received orders to escort the train to Barber's, and did so, arriving at 2 A. M. on the 21st.

Forming part of the covering column, the Fifty-fourth made the night-march over the littered road until at 2 A. M. the bivouac fires of the Fifty-fifth at Barber's were reached. Then the regiment, worn out with the enervating events of [172] the day, and the march of thirty-two miles since the preceding morning, went to rest on the ground previously occupied. Soon, however, Companies A and E were detailed for picket across the St. Mary's,—the former on the line, and the latter occupying a block house. Pickets from the Fifty-fifth were also put out. An attack was of course expected; but notwithstanding the probable danger, it was difficult for the officers to keep their exhausted men awake. But the night passed without alarm of any kind. Throughout those hours the wounded and stragglers kept coming in. Barber's house and outbuildings were used to shelter the wounded, while others were taken to or gathered about the large fires Colonel Hartwell caused to be made. Assistant-Surgeon Bridgham sheltered the wounded of the Fifty-fourth in an old house, and never ceased to care for them till morning.

Olustee was the most sanguinary engagement in which the troops of the Department met the enemy. Our loss was greater than in many better-known actions elsewhere. Fought without the shelter of earthworks, with nearly equal numbers on each side, it was a fair field fight. Our force was beaten in detail, as they came up, Seymour repeating his error committed at the assault of Wagner. It is natural to speculate as to the result, had he amused the enemy with skirmishers until all his troops arrived on the field, and then attacked, or attempted to draw the enemy on to a selected position; but had Seymour prevailed at Ocean Pond, there still was the strong intrenched position at Olustee Station to encounter.

Phisterer's Statistical Record gives the Union loss as 193 killed, 1,175 wounded, and 460 missing, a total of 1,828. Many of the wounds were slight, however. Our losses in [173] the Fifty-fourth are given by the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts as three officers wounded, and of enlisted men thirteen killed, sixty-three wounded, and eight missing. It is probable that besides Corporal Gooding, of Company C, who died at Andersonville Prison, several others of the Fifty-fourth reported missing were there confined. General Finegan gives his casualties as 93 killed and 841 wounded. His killed included Lieutenant-Colonel Barrow, Sixty-fourth Georgia, Captain Cameron commanding, and Lieutenants Dancy and Holland, First Georgia (regulars). Among his wounded were Colonel Evans, Sixty-fourth Georgia, Col. D. L. Clinch, Fourth Georgia Cavalry, and Captain Crawford, Twenty-eighth Georgia. After the war in 1867 or 1868 the remains of Union soldiers buried on the field of Olustee were taken to the National Cemetery at Beaufort, S. C., for reinterment. The battlefield remains in much the same state as in 1864,—an open pine barren with many trees bearing the scarifications of shot and shell.

Provision was made for carrying the wounded from Barber's, February 21, by placing them on wagons, and on cars drawn by animals over the railroad. Our army followed in three parallel columns. The Fifty-fourth, placed under Colonel Hawley's command, moved at 9 A. M. When relieved from picket, Companies A and E were temporarily attached to the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, which, with two other regiments, retired from Barber's in line of battle for some distance, covering the other infantry. In rear of all was the Light Brigade. Passing through Darby's, where an immense pile of barrels of turpentine was flaming and smoking, the regiment arrived at Baldwin about 4 P. M. [174] The Fifty-fourth was not allowed to take the clothing left there, which was destroyed with other stores. There Companies A and E re-joined, and the regiment continued on to near McGirt's Creek, where it halted for the night after throwing out pickets. A twenty-two mile march had been made that day. Barton's brigade and Montgomery with the First North Carolina continued on farther.

At 4 A. M. on the 22d the Fifty-fourth stood to arms until daylight. Hawley, with the Fifty-fourth, Seventh New Hampshire, and Eighth United States Colored Troops, moved on at 7 A. M., the Seventh Connecticut having been left at Baldwin to support the Light Brigade. Four miles farther on, Colonel Hallowell received orders from General Seymour to march his regiment back to Ten-Mile Station, and bring on the railroad train, as the locomotive had broken down. It was a hard trial for the footsore and hungry men to retrace their steps; but the thought of the cars laden with wounded nerved them to the task, so they faced about cheerfully. Upon arriving at the station, Quartermaster Ritchie found some hard bread on the train which he distributed to our men, sadly in need of food. Then ropes were attached to the engine and cars; and the Fifty-fourth furnishing the motive-power, they were pushed and dragged over the rails to Camp Finegan, where horses were provided for further progress.

Dr. Marsh, of the Sanitary Commission, who was present, thus describes this event:—

‘Through eagerness to escape the supposed pursuing enemy, too great pressure of steam was employed, and the flue collapsed; and here the immortal Fifty-fourth (colored) did what ought to insure it higher praise than to hold the field in the face of a victorious foe,—with ropes it seized the engine (now useless) [175] and dragged it with its doomed freight for many miles. . . . They knew their fate if captured; their humanity triumphed. Does history record a nobler deed?’

During our short halt at Camp Finegan the men rested after their exhaustive efforts. Lieutenant Knight, Second South Carolina, kindly brought refreshments for the officers; and the men were supplied with some rations. The march was resumed at 4 P. M., and the Fifty-fourth without further incident arrived at Jacksonville about 8 P. M., going into camp on the old ground outside the town. Nearly one half the regiment was without shoes; their blankets and knapsacks were sacrificed to get speedily into action; they had no rations or shelter, so with crippled feet and weary limbs they cast themselves on the bare ground for rest after the march of twenty-two miles that day. The Adjutant-General of Massachusetts reported that ‘the Fifty-fourth marched 120 miles in 102 hours, yet the rollcall showed no stragglers;’ and it should be added, of this time forty-four hours were given to sleep.

Seymour's infantry was all back at Jacksonville or vicinity by the 22d; his mounted force was in advance at Cedar Run. As it was feared the enemy would attack Jacksonville, reinforcements arrived daily, including Brigadier-General Vogdes with Foster's and Ames's brigades. An extensive line of earthworks was begun, encircling the town.

General Finegan, having repaired the railroad, advanced, occupying the territory to within ten or twelve miles of Jacksonville. He was soon succeeded by Brig.-Gen. W. M. Gardner. By March 3 the Confederate force in front numbered some eight thousand men. Their position was soon protected by earthworks, and was called Camp Milton. [176]

A mail received February 24 brought news of the discharge of Captain Higginson for transfer, and Adjutant James and Lieutenant Pratt for disability. Assistant-Surgeon Bridgham resigned, and departed on the 26th. In accordance with the desire of his officers as well as his own, Colonel Hallowell on the 24th recommended to Governor Andrew that Sergeant Swails be commissioned, in recognition of many soldierly qualities and his gallantry at Olustee.

Our short season of quiet was disturbed on the 25th, when, in the morning, camp was moved to a point south of the railroad near the cemetery, in a grove and partly in a brickyard, next the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts. Soon both regiments were ordered back as the pickets were retiring. The Fifty-fourth took post on the left of the railroad in prolongation of the earthworks, and after two hours work its front was covered by a good parapet. Quartermaster Ritchie hauled out ammunition, and then as no crackers were to be had, finding an old oven, had soft bread baked. The worthy quartermaster describes his first batch as ‘a sort of indigestible paste very good for diarrhoea.’

Our wounded were first cared for at Jacksonville, and then sent to Hilton Head and Beaufort. Major Appleton, on the 26th, with Companies A, B, and E, was sent to occupy works at the front as a reserve, should the cavalry be forced back. That day the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts were brigaded together for the first time, under Col. M. S. Littlefield, Twenty-first United States Colored Troops. Our camp was again shifted to the brickyard on the 27th. Late that day Company E and thirty men of Company F, with Lieutenants Lewis Reed and Knowles, under Captain Emilio, were sent to guard the [177] railroad and telegraph to Cedar Run. Messrs. Jones and Whitfield, sutlers, arrived with a cargo of goods on the 28th, and as they gave credit to the men, were well patronized.

About this time a corporal and private of the Fifty-fourth, posted on the railroad, while firing at a stray hog accidentally wounded a bandsman of the Fortieth Massachusetts. Col. Guy V. Henry sent for the men, took them to his camp, and there tied them up in a manner which caused great suffering. General Seymour expressed his intention to have the men shot. Such threats for trivial offences were frequent during General Seymour's command in Florida. An officer of the One Hundred and Fifteenth New York relates that a man of his regiment was ordered to be shot in three hours, for firing his musket. The provost-marshal asked him if he was ready to die, and the poor fellow with streaming eyes inquired if there was no hope. Only the pleading of his officers saved his life. Another man of the same regiment for taking a chicken received a similar sentence, but was pardoned.

By the last of February the number of troops at Jacksonville was quite large. They were encamped beyond the earthworks, which extended about a mile and a half around. In the river the gunboats Mahaska,Ottawa,’ and ‘Pawnee’ were ready to aid in the defence. Churches in the town were opened, wharves were repaired, and warehouses put in order. Bay Street along the river-front was teeming with busy life. Vessels were arriving and departing. Stores were opened by sutlers and tradespeople, and a newspaper, ‘The Peninsula,’ was printed. Never before had Jacksonville held so many people. All enjoyed the charming weather of those warm and balmy spring days. [178]

Colonel Hallowell was given command of our third brigade of Ames's division on February 29, making his headquarters at the Florida House. The next day General Gillmore reviewed all his troops at Jacksonville. On the same date, from their strong defensive line at McGirt's Creek, Colonel Zachry, Twenty-seventh Georgia, with infantry and artillery, started out to advance the enemy's picket. He was met by Colonel Henry with two companies of the Fortieth Massachusetts and one gun, and our force was obliged to retire to Cedar Run. After a sharp skirmish there, we fell back still farther to Three-Mile Run. Henry lost one man killed, four wounded, and five captured; the enemy seven killed and more than thirty wounded. Captain Emilio, with the Fifty-fourth men, on the railroad, retired with the cavalry. In consequence of this affair all the troops were drawn back to the lines, as an attack was expected.

Camp was again changed to the brickyard from the lines on the 3d, where the regiment remained until its departure from Florida. On this date we had thirteen officers and 725 men present. Thereafter three companies were furnished for picket every third day.

General Beauregard arrived at Camp Milton March 2, and inspected the lines. Maj.-Gen. J. Patton Anderson assumed immediate command there the succeeding day. Beauregard telegraphed the War Department that he would endeavor to draw us out for battle. He gave our force as twelve thousand and his own eight thousand. In reply he was told that we were overestimated, and he was ordered to attack. Now was the opportunity for the offensive he so many times had fruitlessly recommended against the ‘Abolitionists,’ as he was wont to call us. But he only informed [179] the Department that he should not attack, and that he was willing to turn over the command to General Anderson, who would attack, if ordered. Then the War Department seems to have done nothing further about the matter.

Barton's brigade, with some artillery and cavalry, embarked for Pilatka up the St. John's on the 9th, and occupied the place the next day.

With a return to the monotony of camp the question of pay again became a source of discontent. False rumors of Congressional action in behalf of the men came, but to be soon contradicted. By every mail they received letters setting forth the sufferings of their families. The officers, jealous of the good name and behavior of the regiment, were in fear of some overt act such as had occurred in other regiments, where colored soldiers had refused duty and suffered punishment. At this time an officer of the Fifty-fourth wrote,—

‘Sometimes we almost despair about our men in the matter of pay and proper recognition. We cannot but think it needs only to be thoroughly understood—this case of ours—to have justice done us. . . . These men were enlisted either legally under the Act of July, 1861, and they should then be paid as soldiers, or illegally, and then they should be mustered out of the service. . . . Think of what the men do and suffer; think of their starving families. There is Sergeant Swails, a man who has fairly won promotion on the field of battle. While he was doing the work of government in the field, his wife and children were placed in the poorhouse.’

In a letter to Hon. Wm. Whiting, Solicitor of the War Department at Washington, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper wrote,— [180]

‘The question whether the men of the Fifty-fourth were legally enlisted into the service of the United States is about to be put before a court-martial here,—that is, a man of the regiment is to be tried by a court-martial for a military offence, and he will put in a plea in bar of trial, on the ground that he is not amenable to a court-martial because he is not a soldier; that he is not a soldier because he was illegally enlisted,— hence he is no soldier.’

Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper then recited the Act of July 22, 1861, saying that its provisions were read to the man and subscribed to by him. But the Government instructed its agents that it could only pay the Fifty-fourth (to which this man belonged) according to the provision of the Act of July 17, 1862. He asked assistance in solving the question in behalf of his men, and further asked for a decision from Judge Holt bearing upon the point at issue.

Advices from the North informed us of the efforts of the Massachusetts Congressmen in Washington to equalize the pay of colored and white troops. The first bill offered by Senator Wilson was not retrospective, and received the opposition it merited in Congress and by the press. To remedy this defect the senator reported a joint resolution on February 3, which, variously amended, came up until March 2, when it was returned to committee. Senator Fessenden, of Maine, led the opposition. The key-note of his remarks in debate was: ‘What propriety is there in our going back and paying them for services already rendered?’ The Maine senator's course received the merited scorn of Wendell Phillips at a meeting of the Antislavery Society. He said,—

Senator Fessenden was the son of one of the first Abolitionists of that State, the ablest debater in the Senate, the leader [181] of that body. Governor Andrew's proclamation was published in one hundred papers of the United States calling colored men to arms for Massachusetts. The War Department knew of it. It was a government contract. The Government, accepting these men, accepted the contract. Wilson said to Fessenden, “Will you fulfil it?” This pettifogger, representing the State of Maine, replied, “I would like to see Governor Andrew's written authority!” ’

Mr. Wilson on March 2 reported a new bill equalizing soldiers' pay. By one section colored soldiers were given the same pay as whites from Jan. 1, 1864; another section gave the same bounties to colored as to white volunteers in the loyal States, enlisted under the Act of October, 1863; and still a third gave the same pay to colored soldiers as other volunteers from muster-in, if so pledged to them by authority of the War Department, the Secretary of War to determine the question of fact. This bill passed the Senate March 10, and went to the House. There was still to be the struggle amending the Army Appropriation Bill, that the provisions of the Equalizing Bill could be carried out, if agreed upon by the House. Copies of Mr. Wilson's bill were received by Colonel Hallowell soon after its presentation; and it was ordered read to the enlisted men of every company of the Fifty-fourth, which was done.

In Massachusetts the friends of the regiment were, through the committee, doing much to aid the distressed families within their reach, by contributions of money and clothing. Those in other States were numerous, and the story of their sufferings would fill a volume.

General Seymour issued the following order, which was read to the regiments of his command,— [182]

General orders no. 13.

headquarters District of Florida, Department of the South, Jacksonville, Fla., March 10, 1864.
The brigadier-general commanding recurs with great satisfaction to the conduct of his troops in their late battle, and desires to convey to them in the most public manner his full appreciation of their courage on that well-contested field.

Against superior numbers holding a position chosen by themselves, you were all but successful. For four hours you stood face to face with the enemy; and when the battle ended, and it ceased only with night, you sent him cheers of defiance.

In your repulse there was perhaps misfortune, but neither disaster nor disgrace; and every officer and soldier may remember with just pride that he fought at Olustee.

By order of

Brigadier-General Seymour.

Lieut. Thos. L. Appleton re-joined on the 11th, bringing on the steamer Boston the camp equipage; and tents were put up on the 14th. Although there was more rain in March than during the preceding month, the weather in the main was most enjoyable, and camp-life under canvas a pleasure. Our frequent tours of picket duty in the pine woods were always delightful, amid the trees, vines, and beautiful ferns.

Deserters came in occasionally. From them it was learned that the enemy was fortifying a strong position in front of Baldwin. Most of their cavalry was ordered elsewhere in March. Both forces were apprehensive of attack, and alarms occurred frequently, occasioned by picket firing and reconnoissances. On the 23d the prize steamers Sumter and ‘Hattie Brock,’ captured at Deep Creek on the 14th, were brought to Jacksonville.

During March, Lieutenant Howard was made adjutant. [183] Captains Jones and Walton re-joined. Lieutenants Chas. Jewett, Jr., and Daniel G. Spear, newly appointed, joined. Assistant-Surgeon Pease went North sick, and never returned. News of a number of promotions came on the 26th. Lieutenant Homans was made captain of Company C, vice Partridge; Lieutenant Tucker captain of Company H, vice Higginson; Lieut. T. L. Appleton captain of Company G, vice Smith. Second Lieutenants Chipman, Lewis Reed, Leonard, Knowles, Duren, and Newell were promoted first lieutenants. Sergt. Stephen A. Swails, of Company F, was commissioned second lieutenant.

Brig.-Gen. John P. Hatch relieved General Seymour of the command in Florida, March 28. He was a West Point graduate, who had served with the Third Infantry and Mounted Rifles in Mexico and on the frontier. His commission dated Sept. 28, 1861, and he had been connected with the Army of the Potomac. Colonel Henry, with the Fortieth Massachusetts, Seventy-fifth Ohio, and One Hundred and Sixty-ninth New York, went upon a reconnoissance April 2. He found the enemy's outposts a mile beyond Cedar Run, and drove them until a strong skirmish line was shown, when he retired, with four men wounded.

General Anderson courteously sent to us on the 6th a list of our wounded and captured at Olustee, giving 449 names, nine of which purported to be Fifty-fourth men. In the Record of Massachusetts Volunteers but five of these names are found; namely, Corp. J. H. Gooding, Company C, who is given as having died at Andersonville; Private Isaac H. Hawkins, Company D, who was discharged June 20, 1865; Private Wm. Mitchell, Company F, discharged as a prisoner of war; and Jason Champlin and Wm. H. Morris, [184] of Company K, whom the Record reports as missing, but who probably died in prison.

At the camp, drills and parades had been resumed for some time. On April 3 the number of officers was increased by the arrival of Lieut. Edward L. Stevens, newly appointed. On April 12 the Eighth United States Colored Troops was added to our brigade. The Fifty-fifth Massachusetts since March 11 had been detached at Pilatka.

By this period in April regiments began to move from Florida. Pilatka was evacuated on the 14th. Several transports were sailing away daily, the men cheering, bands playing, and flags fluttering, as they departed. In the public square regiments drawn from the lines were bivouacked, awaiting embarkation. News was received that the steamers ‘General Hunter’ and ‘Maple Leaf’ had been blown up by torpedoes at Buckle's Bluff. Thus the two transports which had brought us to Florida were sunk in the St. John's.

April 17 was the last day of our sojourn in Florida. Line was formed at 9 A. M., and the march to the transport began. Passing into town, the regiment halted and presented arms at the headquarters of General Hatch, the district, and General Ames, the division commander. Embarkation was speedily effected. Major Ten Eyck paid the officers on board. At 11 A. M. the ‘Cosmopolitan’ steamed down river. Our transport was a noble craft, the hospital steamer of the department. As on our advent, the day of departure was delightful; and the vessel glided over the waters of the majestic river steadily and swiftly. Those few weeks in the ‘land of flowers’ left recollections never to be effaced of soft skies, beautiful plants, perfume of orange and magnolia, the resinous odor of the pines; [185] of battle and defeat, severe marches, midnight alarms, and long hours of picket in woody solitudes. But speculations as to where we were going were then uppermost in our minds. Were we to join the armies of the North with a prospect of military glory and its accompanying danger, or to be doomed to comparative inaction in the Department of the South, depleted of its troops? Musing thus, we ran past part of our sister regiment, the Fifty-fifth, at Yellow Bluff, continuing down the river to its junction with blue water. There the tide was found not to be serving; and our transport lay swinging and rolling lazily in unison with other craft, similarly detained, until the bar could be safely crossed and the open sea gained.

In the North great movements were preparing. Lieutenant-General Grant had been appointed to the chief command of the armies. A combined movement of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James against Richmond was determined upon, and General Gillmore was ordered to join the latter army with the divisions of Terry, Turner, and Ames, of the Tenth Corps, as rapidly as they could be transported. General Hatch was to take command of the Department of the South.

Aware of the impending stroke in Virginia and the withdrawal of our main force from Florida, by April 18 the enemy had sent away the larger part of his troops. General Beauregard had been relieved of the command on April 20 by Maj.-Gen. Samuel Jones, and departed for Weldon, N. C.

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