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Chapter 4:

  • The Olustee campaign
  • -- formidable Federal movement -- design to establish a New State government -- concentration of Confederate forces -- Crushing defeat of the enemy operations following the battle.

In the winter of 1863-64 Florida was an inviting field to Federal aggression. The few Confederate troops left in the State were scattered over the vast extent of territory they gallantly sought to defend, and it appeared that a strong body of Federal soldiers could with little opposition advance into the center of the heart of the State, expel the regularly constituted authorities from the capital, and organize a quasi-State government which should recognize the supremacy of the United States. In a letter to General Gilmore, commanding on the coast, dated January 13, 1864, President Lincoln authorized such a proceeding on the ground that ‘an effort is being made by some worthy gentlemen to reconstruct a loyal State government in Florida,’ and he sent his private secretary, Mr. John Hay, with ‘some blank books and other blanks to aid in the reconstruction.’ Accordingly General Gilmore, on February 5th, ordered Gen. Truman Seymour to proceed with a division of troops from Hilton Head to Jacksonville. Admiral Dahlgren sailed with a squadron of five gunboats to escort the transports, and the expedition of about 7,000 men, including cavalry, infantry and artillery, was landed at Jacksonville on February 7, 1864. On the receipt of this intelligence, General Finegan, then in command of the forces, immediately notified Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick, who had an effective force of near 350 men of all arms at Camp Finegan, to guard against a surprise. [57]

‘On the night of the 8th,’ General Finegan reported,

the enemy advanced from Jacksonville with great rapidity in three columns, cavalry in the advance, artillery and infantry following, under command of Brigadier-General Seymour. They approached Camp Finegan as the command there were in the act of retiring. Their largely superior numbers deterred Lieutenant-Colonel Mc-Cormick from attacking them, and in the darkness of the night he withdrew his command with caution and address and joined me at Camp Beauregard, near Ocean pond on the Olustee, on the 13th inst. The enemy with celerity pressed on to Baldwin, capturing on the way five guns of Companies A and B, Milton light artillery, which had been ordered to Baldwin. They remained at Baldwin a short time, continuing their march on to Barber's the same night. At this point they were met by two companies of cavalry under Maj. Robert Harrison, Second Florida cavalry, whom I had ordered to join me, and who with much gallantry checked their progress for several hours at St. Mary's crossing with but small loss to us and a considerable loss to the enemy. On the 9th I removed all the government stores from Sanderson except 1,500 bushels of corn, which was burned under my orders.

On the 10th the enemy reached Sanderson. On the 11th they were within 3 miles of Lake City. Here I had hastily collected, principally from the district of middle Florida, a small force of 490 infantry, 110 cavalry and two pieces of artillery. On the night of the 10th I placed this force in a favorable position two and a half miles from Lake City, in the direction of the enemy. At 9:30 the enemy advanced upon us with a force estimated to be 1,400 mounted infantry and five pieces of artillery. Here they opened upon us, fighting as infantry, and skirmished heavily with my advance line. Discovering my position and its strength and probably presuming my force larger than it was, they retreated to Sanderson, [58] thence to Barber's on the east side of the St. Mary's river, where they constructed field works and concentrated their whole force for a final movement on Lake City. In the meantime I used every possible effort to gather reinforcements, and on the 13th moved to Ocean Pond on Olustee.

On the 13th General Finegan reported that the cavalry command of Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick, which was charged upon by the enemy and dispersed at Camp Finegan on the night of the 8th inst., had nearly all reached him. He also said:

‘This expedition is really formidable, and, organized as it is with so large a force of cavalry or mounted infantry, threatens disastrous results unless checked at once by a sufficient force. They are now fortifying Baldwin and a position on the St. Mary's river. I should have more cavalry to prevent their superior mounted force from making raids into the rich counties of Alachua and Marion and destroying the large amount of sugar and syrup which has not yet been sent to market. The supply of beef will now be suspended until the enemy has been driven out. I am intrenched at the Olustee to-night, and have about 1,800 infantry, 450 cavalry, and two batteries and one section of artillery. It is hardly prudent to move forward against so large a cavalry force, which can operate by forced marches in the night on my line of communication and perhaps cut me off from middle Florida by making a detour through the country and a sudden descent on the bridge over the Suwannee, where I have but 30 men. I will act cautiously until the plans of the enemy are more fully developed. They are piloted by traitors familiar with every portion of the country, and, knowing the position and strength of my command, the whole district will be ruined unless timely reinforcements are sent forward. Their cavalry and artillery are at this time at Sanderson, 10 miles from Olustee, and their infantry about 5 miles in the rear. They [59] credit me with a much larger force than I have. At Lake City they skirmished heavily with my forces for several hours, till they discovered my works and artillery, when they withdrew and retreated to Sanderson. I was not in a position to follow.’

After the main body of the Federal force had reached Barber's plantation, the advance was delayed for want of transportation. General Gilmore, who had accompanied the expedition, returned from Baldwin to Jacksonville and thence sailed for Hilton Head, where he issued a proclamation, announcing that he had occupied Florida, and calling on the people of the State to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. Before leaving he instructed Seymour to hold Baldwin and the south fork of the St. Mary's as his outposts from Jacksonville, and occupy Palatka and Magnolia, on the St. John's. But on the 7th, Seymour informed him that he was advancing toward the Suwannee river, though without supplies. Gilmore answered hastily, complaining that Seymour was not following instructions and repeating that the objects of the Florida expedition were as follows: First, to bring Florida into the Union; second, to revive the trade on the St. John's river; third, to recruit the negro regiments and organize a regiment of Florida white troops; fourth, to cut off in part the Confederate supplies drawn from Florida. On the morning of February 20th, General Seymour moved out from Barberjs, with all the disposable force at his control, ‘with the intention,’ he afterward reported, ‘of meeting the enemy at or near Lake City, and of then pushing the mounted force to the Suwannee river, to destroy if possible the railroad bridge at that stream.’

By the 13th of February there was concentrated near Lake City a Confederate force of 4,600 infantry, 600 cavalry and three field batteries, 12 guns. This force was organized into two brigades. The First brigade, Col. A. H. Colquitt, included the Sixth, Nineteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth [60] Georgia regiments; the Sixth Florida battalion and the Chatham battery of Georgia artillery. The Second brigade was composed of the Thirty-second and Sixty-fourth Georgia volunteers, First regiment Georgia regulars, First Florida battalion, Bonaud's battalion infantry and Guerard's light battery, Col. George P. Harrison commanding the brigade. The cavalry was commanded by Col. Caraway Smith, and the Florida light artillery was unattached, in reserve.

General Finegan encamped his little army on a line between Ocean pond and a cypress pond, a position which met the approval of Lieut. M. B. Grant, who was sent from Savannah to act as engineer officer of the command. The country along the line of the railroad east of the Suwannee is exceedingly low and flat, with such streams as would be of little assistance to a defense. The position selected by General Finegan was, in fact, according to the engineer the only point offering any advantages whatever between Lake City and the south prong of the St. Mary's, the latter being in possession of the enemy. Before the arrival of Lieutenant Grant two small works had been thrown up under direction of Major Bonaud, Second Florida battalion. The left of the line rested upon Ocean pond, a sheet of water some four miles by two, while in front of the line and to the left of the railroad was an open pond, averaging 250 yards in width, extending to within 300 yards of Ocean pond. To the right of the railroad and at an average distance of 400 yards in advance of the line there extended ‘a thick bay,’ impassable except within 200 yards on the right of the railroad. Intervening between this bay and our line was an open field over which the enemy would have to advance in approaching the works. Major Clarke, of the engineer corps, arrived, and the fortification of this strong line continued under his direction until the 20th, when the battle was brought on unexpectedly in advance of the fortified line. The enemy advanced that morning early, [61] in two columns, one by the railroad and the other by the Lake City and Jacksonville road, and they pushed forward rapidly, supposing they had only to contend with the forces they had previously met, and unaware of the reinforcements concentrated at Olustee.

As soon as General Finegan was advised of this movement he sent forward Colonel Caraway with the cavalry, who found the enemy three or four miles east of the Confederate position, and reporting that fact engaged in skirmishing with the Federal advance guard. Col. George P. Harrison, commanding the Second brigade, was then instructed to send forward the Sixty-fourth Georgia and two Companies of the Thirty-second, and these troops, going forward from the intrenchments at noon, were instructed to engage the enemy lightly and fall back with a view of drawing him to the works. Next, Colquitt was ordered forward to support the cavalry and infantry, and next the remainder of Harrison's brigade. Thus the battle was brought on some distance to the east of the line selected for defense. Said Colonel Harrison in his report:

‘I had scarcely put my command in the double-quick when the report of artillery in my front indicated that the fight had opened. Quickening our pace we moved on until within a few hundred yards of the place where the road we were upon crossed the railroad. Here I halted for a moment, but observing General Colquitt forming his line, and seeing the position across the railroad of the enemy, then sweeping the front of my column with a battery in position near the cross-roads, I moved to the left in double-quick, crossed the railroad and formed line of battle upon the left of that just established by General Colquitt. About this time the action became general. Being now at long range I advanced in conjunction with the right of the line to within about 200 yards of the enemy, who stubbornly stood his ground. In about this position the field was hotly contested by [62] both parties for about an hour, when the enemy gave way slowly before the close pressure of our gallant men; but soon a new line of the enemy appeared and our advance was checked. His resistance now seemed more stubborn than before for more than twenty minutes, when the enemy sullenly gave back a little, apparently to seek a better, position, but still held us at bay. Now the results of the day seemed doubtful. It was whispered down the line, particularly in the Sixth and Thirtysec-ond Georgia regiments, that our ammunition was failing and no ordnance train in sight. This I immediately reported to General Colquitt, who urged that we hold our ground, stating that ammunition would certainly reach us directly. This, I am proud to say, was heroically complied with by my command, many of them for fifteen or twenty minutes standing their ground without a round of ammunition. Seeing the critical position of affairs I dismounted, placed one of my staff whose horse had been disabled upon mine, and he, with the remainder of my staff and couriers, was employed in conveying ammunition from a train of cars some half mile or more distant. By several trips they succeeded in supplying sufficient ammunition to our line to enable the reopening of a rapid and effective fire, before which the enemy had commenced to retire slowly, still keeping up his fire upon us, when the First Florida battalion, under command of Lieut.-Col. C. F. Hopkins, and a section of Guerard's battery, under Lieut. W. Robert Gignilliat, arrived from the intrenchments. I at once ordered the former to the support of the Sixty-fourth Georgia, whose ammunition was nearly exhausted, and the latter to take position and open fire near the left center. These reinforcements, together with some that arrived upon the right, served to embolden our men and intimidate the enemy, for their retreat now became more hurried and their fire less rapid and effective. Under instruction from General Colquitt I now threw forward the Sixth and Thirtyond [63] Georgia to flank the enemy upon their right, which movement succeeded admirably, for soon their right was exposed to a cross fire, which told upon their ranks with fine effect. A general advance of our line now drove the enemy, who retreated, at first sullenly, but now precipitately, before our victorious arms for some miles, when night came on, and by order of General Colquitt we ceased firing and our line halted.’

Colonel Caraway Smith, commanding cavalry, gave the following account of the service of his troops;

On the morning of the 20th, it being reported that the enemy were advancing from the direction of Sanderson, I received orders from the brigadier-general commanding to advance and meet them for the purpose of ascertaining their position and number. I accordingly moved out with all the cavalry force then available, which consisted of 250 men, Fourth Georgia cavalry, Colonel Clinch commanding, and 202 men of the Second Florida cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick. I discovered the enemy about four miles distant from our encampment, occupying in force the second crossing of the railroad from Olustee. I reported the fact to you immediately and directed Colonel Clinch to advance a body of skirmishers from his regiment to attack the enemy's pickets, which he did promptly and was pushing the attack earnestly when they were met by a much larger force from the enemy, which compelled them to retire to their horses. This they did in good order. The enemy then moved forward with his whole force, skirmishing on our rear, which we resisted with our rear guard, keeping him in check, while the cavalry retired in line and in perfect order. This skirmishing was kept up until we reached the first crossing of the railroad from Olustee. There I found our infantry and artillery under the command of Brigadier-General Colquitt, from whom I received orders to dispose of the cavalry on the right and left wings of our army, to prevent any flank movement of the enemy. [64] I accordingly ordered Colonel Clinch to occupy the left with his regiment and Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick with the Second Florida cavalry to take position on the right. Early in the action Colonel Clinch received a severe wound in the leg which made it necessary for him to retire from the field and the command of his regiment then devolved upon Captain Brown, who kept an efficient guard on the left flank while Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick protected the right. On two occasions I discovered that the enemy was attempting to cross the railroad on the right of our infantry, evidently for the purpose of turning that wing, when I directed Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick to dismount a portion of his regiment and drive him back, which he did effectually. Thus by the vigilance of the cavalry on the right and left, the enemy was prevented from deploying his large force so as to turn either flank. The Fifth Florida cavalry battalion, commanded by Maj. G. W. Scott, was not brought upon the field until late in the evening, in consequence of the jaded condition of the men and horses from hard service for the twenty hours preceding. He, however, joined Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick on the right, about the middle of the contest, and rendered him prompt assistance. The fight terminating at night and our infantry lines not being perceptible to me through the woods, and the face of the country being cut up by swamps, making it very favorable for ambushing under cover of night, I deemed it inadvisable to push forward with the whole cavalry force until further information could be had of the position of affairs. In addition to this, after the order to move forward was being executed, another order was received to the effect that we were getting under the fire of our men and also that I should beware of an ambush. I attached the more importance to this order because it had already been discovered that a large body of the enemy's cavalry were resting on the opposite side of a swamp from us. The cavalry, however, as soon as [65] possible followed up the enemy and gathered a number of prisoners, amounting to about 150. In addition to this, several prisoners were taken by Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick and Major Scott while protecting the right flank.

I have to report that Colonel Clinch and three men of the Fourth Georgia cavalry were wounded. One of the wounded men is missing and supposed to be dead. It is due to the companies of Captains Stephens and Maxwell, of the Second Florida cavalry, to state that the conduct of the men and officers while acting as the rear guard of the cavalry, as we were falling back before the enemy, was highly satisfactory. They behaved with the coolness and deliberation of veterans.

Brig.-Gen. Alfred H. Colquitt, commanding First brigade, in his account of the battle, said:

Intelligence having been received of the approach of the enemy, I was instructed to take three regiments of my own brigade, with a section of Gamble's artillery, and proceed to the front and assume command of all the forces which had preceded me, consisting of two regiments of cavalry under command of Colonel Smith; the Sixty-fourth Georgia regiment and two companies of the Thirty-second Georgia. Subsequently other troops were sent forward and I was directed to call for such reinforcements as might be needed. About two miles from Olustee station I found the enemy advancing rapidly and our cavalry retiring before them. I threw forward a party of skirmishers and hastily formed line of battle under a brisk fire from the enemy's advance. The Nineteenth Georgia was placed on the right and the Twenty-eighth Georgia on the left, with a section of Captain Gamble's artillery in the center. The Sixty-fourth and the two companies of the Thirty-second were formed on the left of the Twenty-eighth and the Sixth Georgia regiment was sent still farther to the left to prevent a flank movement in that direction. Instructions were sent to Colonel [66] Smith, commanding cavalry, to place his regiments on the extreme flanks and to guard against any movement of the enemy from either side.

The line of infantry was then ordered to advance, which was gallantly done, the enemy contesting the ground and giving way slowly. Perceiving that the enemy were in strong force, I sent back for reinforcements and a fresh supply of ammunition. The Sixth Florida battalion and Twenty-third Georgia regiment soon arrived for my support. The Florida battalion was formed on the right of the Nineteenth Georgia and in such position as to come in on the left flank of the enemy. The Twenty-third was put on the left of the Sixty-fourth. Colonel Harrison coming up with the Thirty-second and First Georgia regulars took position on the left between the Twenty-third and Sixth, and was instructed to assume the general direction of the left of the line. The section of Gamble's artillery in the center having been disabled by the loss of horses and injury to limber, Captain Wheaton, who had early arrived upon the field with the Chatham artillery and had taken position on the right, was ordered to the center to relieve Captain Gamble. This battery moved forward and took position under a heavy fire and continued to advance with the line of infantry until the close of the action. Toward night, when Captain Wheaton's ammunition was almost expended, a section of Guerard's battery, of Harrison's brigade, moved up under Lieutenant Gignilliat, and opened fire on the enemy, furnishing Captain Wheaton with part of his ammunition.

After our line had advanced about one-quarter of a mile, the engagement became general and the ground was stubbornly contested, With two batteries of artillery immediately in our front and a long line of infantry strongly supported, the enemy stood their ground for some time, until the Sixth Florida battalion on the right flank and all the troops in front passing steadily forward, [67] compelled them to fall back and leave five pieces of artillery in our possession. At this time, the ammunition beginning to fail, I ordered the commanding officers to halt their regiments and hold their respective positions until a fresh supply could be brought from the ordnance wagons which, after much delay, had arrived upon the field. Major Bonaud's battalion came upon the field, followed soon after by the Twenty-seventh Georgia and the First Florida battalion. These troops were put in position near the center of the line and a little in advance, to hold the enemy in check until the other commands could be supplied with cartridges. As soon as this was accomplished I ordered a general advance, at the same time sending instructions to Colonel Harrison to move the Sixth and Thirty-second regiments around on the right flank of the enemy. The Twenty-seventh, under Colonel Zachry, pushing forward with great vigor upon the center, and the whole line moving as directed, the enemy gave way in confusion. We continued the pursuit for several miles, when night put an end to the conflict. Instructions were given to the cavalry to follow close upon the enemy and seize every opportunity to strike a favorable blow.

The results of the engagement in the killed and wounded and prisoners of the enemy, and our own loss, will be found in the reports rendered directly to you. The gallantry and steady courage of officers and men during the engagement are beyond all praise. For more than four hours they struggled with unflinching firmness against superior numbers until they drove them in confusion and panic to seek safety in flight.

Col. George P. Harrison, who commanded on the left, displayed skill, coolness and gallantry. The officers commanding the various regiments did their duty nobly. Colonel Evans, commanding the Sixty-fourth Georgia, and Captain Crawford, commanding Twenty-eighth Georgia, both gallant officers, were wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel [68] Barrow of the Sixty-fourth Georgia, a brave and gallant officer, received a fatal shot while gallantly attempting to rally his men. Captain Wheaton and the officers and men of his battery are entitled to special commendation for their courage, coolness and efficiency. Captain Grattan, assistant adjutant-general, Lieutenant Colquitt, aide-de-camp, Major Ely and Lieutenant Estill of my staff, were active and conspicuous in every part of the field. My thanks are due Lieutenant Thompson, Second Florida regiment, and Mr. Sterling Turner, volunteer aides, for their gallant services. The names of those in the ranks entitled to be particularly mentioned may be furnished in a subsequent report.

The service of the artillery is appropriately mentioned in the reports of several officers. Capt. Robert H. Gamble, commanding Leon light artillery, said that in the action of the 20th inst. 77 enlisted men, with all the officers of the company, were engaged. ‘The total number of casualties were as follows: Gun-Corporal Craven Atkinson and Private M. B. Smith, killed; A. C. Mc-Cants struck by a fragment of shell and J. B. Lynn struck by a spent ball and B. Bishop wounded in hand, since returned to duty; J. D. Sauls and Wm. Bishop injured by gun carriage. I desire to commend specially for their coolness during the engagement Sergt. R. F. Phillips, Corporals J. R. Lewis and A. W. Mason, Privates James Lee, A. D. Cone, Thomas Neary, Dennis O'Connor, A. M. May, J. J. Smith and Brickle. Lieutenants Dyke and Gamble, chiefs of sections, and Lieut. J. N. Whitner, chief of the line caissons, rendered all the assistance in their power in handling the guns. First-Sergt. F. B. Papy was also active in the discharge of his duty. Two battery horses were killed and seven wounded. These accidents among the horses threw several teams into confusion, during which two limbers were badly injured. The trail of the 12-pounder howitzer was crushed during the action by the recoil of the gun, but [69] firing was continued from the piece until the broken end of the trail was so deeply imbedded in the earth as to render the gun no longer serviceable, when it was carried off the field.’

To these reports may be added the more comprehensive account of General Finegan, commanding the heroic little army. He said:

On the 20th inst. the enemy advanced in three columns, since ascertained to have been twelve regiments of infantry, nine of white and three of black, estimated at 8,000, and some artillery, number of guns unknown, and 1,400 cavalry. At noon the enemy were within 3 miles of my position. I ordered the cavalry under Colonel Smith, Second Florida cavalry, supported by the Sixty-fourth Georgia, Colonel Evans commanding, and two companies of the Thirty-second Georgia, to advance and skirmish with the enemy and draw them to our works. The remaining force was placed under arms and prepared for action. Apprehending that the enemy was too cautious to approach our works, I ordered Brigadier-General Colquitt, commanding First brigade, to advance with three of his regiments and a section of Gamble's artillery and assume command of the entire force then ordered to the front, and feel the enemy by skirmishing, and if he was not in too heavy force to press him heavily. I had previously instructed Colonel Smith, commanding cavalry, to fall back as our infantry advanced and protect their flanks. This movement was predicated on the information that the enemy had only three regiments of infantry, with some cavalry and artillery. Perceiving that in this movement the force under Brigadier-General Colquitt's command might become too heavily engaged to withdraw without a large supporting force, and intending that if the enemy should prove to be in not too great strength to engage them, I ordered in quick succession, within the space of an hour, the whole command to advance to the front as a supporting force, and myself went [70] upon the field. These reinforcements were pushed rapidly forward and, as I anticipated, reached the field at the moment when the line was most heavily pressed, and at a time when their presence gave confidence to our men and discouragement to the enemy. I directed Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkins, commanding First Florida battalion, and Major Bonaud, commanding Bonaud's battalion, to fall into line on the left in the direction of the enemy's heaviest firing. After I had ordered these reinforcements and they were some distance on the way to the front, and while I was on the way to the front, I received from Brigadier-General Colquitt, commanding in front, a request for the reinforcements which had already been ordered. The engagement became general very soon after it commenced. The enemy were found in heavy force: their infantry drawn up in three supporting lines, their artillery in position, cavalry on three flanks and rear. I ordered Brigadier-General Colquitt to press them with vigor, which he did with much judgment and gallantry. They contested the ground stubbornly and the battle lasted for four and a half hours. At the end of this time, the enemy's lines having been broken and reformed several times, and two fine Napoleon and three 10-pounder Parrott guns and one set of colors captured from them, they gave way entirely and were closely pressed for 3 miles until nightfall. I directed Brigadier-General Colquitt to continue the pursuit, intending to occupy Sanderson that night, but in deference to his suggestion of the fatigue of the troops and the disadvantages of the pursuit in the dark, and in consequence of a report from an advanced cavalry picket that the enemy had halted for the night and taken a position which was subsequently ascertained to be incorrect, I withdrew the order. During the continuance of the battle, also after the enemy had given way, I sent repeated orders to Col. Caraway Smith, commanding cavalry, to press the enemy on his flanks and to [71] continue in the pursuit. But through some misapprehension these orders failed to be executed by him, and only two small companies on the left, and these but for a short distance, followed the enemy.

The enemy retreated that night hastily and in some confusion to Sanderson, leaving a large number of their killed and wounded in our possession on the field. Their loss in killed, both officers and privates, was large. Four hundred and eighteen of their wounded were removed by us from the field, and 400 or near that number were buried by us; also 200 prisoners were captured, several officers of high rank were killed and others severely wounded. Their loss cannot be less than 2,000 or 2,500 men, 5 superior guns, 1 set of colors captured, and 1,600 stand of arms; also 130,000 rounds of cartridges, as appears from the report of the ordnance officer herewith enclosed. The victory was complete and the enemy retired in rapid retreat, evacuating in quick succession Barber's and Baldwin and falling back on Jacksonville. The enemy's forces were under command of Brigadier-General Seymour, who was present on the field.

The conduct of Brigadier-General Colquitt entitles him to high commendation. He exhibited ability in the formation of his line and gallantry in his advance on the enemy. I have also to speak most favorably of Col. George P. Harrison, commanding Second brigade, who exhibited in the engagement all the qualities of a capable and efficient officer. Col. R. B. Thomas, as chief of artillery, likewise rendered efficient service on the field. Colonel Evans, commanding Sixty-fourth Georgia volunteers, and Col. Duncan L. Clinch, commanding Fourth Georgia cavalry, were wounded while bravely performing their duty. Lieutenant-Colonel Barrow, Sixty-fourth Georgia volunteers, and Captain Cannon, commanding, and Lieutenant Daney, of the First Georgia regulars, also Lieutenant Holland, commanding detachment from conscript camp, all officers of high promise, were killed. [72] Among the killed and wounded were many other officers and men who had distinguished themselves on other fields, for a detailed statement of whom and for instances of individual merit I refer to the reports of brigade commanders. Our loss in the engagement was 93 killed and 841 wounded, a large proportion very slightly. In the opening of the engagement the cavalry, under command of Colonel Smith, skirmished with the enemy with spirit and retired to the flanks in obedience to their orders.

On the 22d inst., having repaired the railroad so as to secure my supplies, I advanced the command to Sanderson, pushing the cavalry rapidly in the direction of the enemy; and from Sanderson to Barber's and thence to Baldwin and to a point 12 miles from Jacksonville, where my further progress was arrested by orders from Brigadier-General Gardner, who had been directed to assume command.

Lieutenant Drury Rambo, Company A, Milton light artillery, was ordered to the front about 1 p. m., taking a Parrott gun forward by rail, but was informed that the piece could not be used. After the enemy gave way he threw a few shells into their ranks.

In General Harrison's report he mentioned the following casualties in the First Florida battalion: Lieut.-Col. C. F. Hopkins, wounded in arm and thigh, slightly; Lieut. S. K. Collins, Company E, wounded in face, slightly; Lieut. Theophilus Williams, Company F, wounded in breast, slightly. The official statement of casualties showed a total loss in the Confederate ranks of 7 officers and 86 men killed; 49 officers and 798 men wounded, and 6 missing; aggregate, 946. The Sixth Florida battalion lost 1 officer, Lieut. Thomas J. Hill, and 8 men, killed, and 4 officers and 69 men wounded; the First Florida battalion lost 3 men killed and 47 wounded, and the Second Florida battalion (Twenty-eighth Georgia) lost Lieut. W. W. Holland, and 11 men killed, and 2 officers and 93 men wounded. [73]

Under date of February 22d General Beauregard, at Charleston, sent the following congratulatory message to General Finegan: ‘I congratulate you and your brave officers and their commands on your brilliant victory over the enemy on the 20th inst. Your country will be cheered by this timely success, and I trust it is but the earnest of heavier and crushing blows which shall destroy our enemy on the soil of Florida.’

Commendation from still higher sources also came to cheer the hearts of the defenders of Florida, in the following joint resolution of thanks to General Finegan and the officers and men of his command:

Resolved by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, That the thanks of Congress are due, and are hereby tendered, to Brig.-Gen. Joseph Finegan and the officers and men of his command, for the skill and gallantry displayed in achieving the signal victory of Ocean Pond, Fla., on the 20th of February, last.

T. S. Bocock, Speaker of the House of Representatives. R. M. T. Hunter, President pro tempore of the Senate. Approved May 17, 1864.
Jefferson Davis.

The prominent officers engaged on the Federal side in this memorable battle under Gen. Truman Seymour were Colonels William B. Barton, Joseph R. Hawley, J. Montgomery and Guy V. Henry, commanding brigades, and Capt. John Hamilton, commanding artillery battalion of three batteries. The Federal loss, according to their official reports, was 11 officers and 192 men killed; 42 officers and 1,110 men wounded; 2 officers and 504 men missing; an aggregate of 1,861.

While our victory was complete at Olustee, the Federals had the vantage ground in that we were not in sufficient force with persistent troops to pursue them vigorously, thus giving them time to fall back to their intrenchments and with their rapid extension of field works [74] render their position almost impregnable to such force as we could array. After their defeat in a battle where the opposing forces were nearly equal, the Federals fell back to the 2,000 retained in rear near Jacksonville to guard their line of communication, and received not less than 5,000 reinforcements, the estimate of troops concentrated in and around Jacksonville being not less than 12,000, probably from that number to 15,000. Thus strongly intrenched and supported by not less than four gunboats, it was not advisable for the Confederates to attempt an attack. The spirit of our troops would have led them to make an attempt to carry the works around Jacksonville, but it would have been at a great sacrifice of life and to no purpose, as the gunboats would have controlled it. As there was no reason to doubt the correctness of the estimate made of the strength of the enemy, the only measures to be adopted for expelling them from their base of operations was the concentration of all available forces at our command at such places as would be best for a successful operation against their approach. This could only be done by placing troops at favorable points on the St. John's, and so fortifying them as to prevent such an invasion as the one attempted by them, which had ended so disastrously. It was, therefore, absolutely necessary for the protection of the State that our Florida forces should still have the support of the troops that had come to their assistance at the battle of Olustee.

Menaced by a formidable army not twenty miles distant it was truly a momentous crisis, and our commanding generals, deeply impressed by the gravity of the responsibility, moved their headquarters to Baldwin to be nearer the field of action and in readiness for any emergency. The opportune arrival of General Beauregard was hailed as a harbinger of relief. His presence infused new life into the army, and the confidence in his generalship and strategic ability inspired a stronger hope of ultimate success. For nearly two weeks he remained [75] at Baldwin, making such judicious disposition of the troops as Would be most advantageous in the event of a defensive or aggressive movement. The same forces that were engaged in the battle of Olustee were retained:

Colquitt's brigade: Sixth, Nineteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth Georgia regiments and Chatham artillery. Harrison's brigade: First Georgia regulars, Thirty-second and Sixty-fourth Georgia regiments, Bonaud's battalion, Fourth Georgia cavalry, and Guerard's battery.

District of East Florida, Brig.-Gen. Joseph Finegan: First Florida battalion infantry, Col. Chas. A. Hopkins; Second Florida battalion infantry, Col. Theodore Brevard; Sixth Florida battalion infantry, Col. John M. Martin; independent company Florida infantry, Capt. J. C. Eichelberger; independent company Florida infantry, Capt. B. L. Reynolds; independent company Florida infantry, Capt. John McNeill; five companies Second Florida cavalry, Lieut.-Col. A. McCormick; company independent cavalry, Capt. James D. Starke; company independent cavalry, Capt. W. H. Cone; Milton light artillery, Company A, Capt. Joseph L. Dunham; Milton light artillery, Company B, Capt. H. F. Abell.

District of Middle Florida, Brig.-Gen. W. M. Gardner: five companies Second Florida cavalry, Col. Caraway Smith; Fifth battalion Florida cavalry, Col. G. W. Scott; Fourth battalion Florida infantry, Maj. James F. Mc-Clellan; Florida partisan rangers, Capt. W. J. Robinson; Florida light artillery, Capt. Robert H. Gamble.

Having satisfactorily arranged matters in Florida and instructed the major-general in command as to the mode of operations decided upon, General Beauregard returned to South Carolina. On his arrival at Charleston he sent the following report, March 25th, to Gen. Samuel Cooper, at Richmond:

. . . On February 7th Brigadier-General Finegan reported by telegraph that five gunboats and two transports [76] of the enemy had made their appearance in the St. John's within 5 miles of Jacksonville; and on the next ay announced the arrival of eighteen vessels (gunboats and transports), the landing of the enemy in large force, and an immediate advance on the night of February 7th. General Gilmer was at once directed to put in motion and to report to General Finegan all the troops he had been previously ordered to hold in readiness for such an emergency. General Gardner, commanding in middle Florida, was telegraphed to send to the imperiled quarter, with all possible celerity, every soldier he could spare. Colquitt's brigade was ordered from James island to Savannah with a light battery. General Finegan was advised of what was done and instructed to do what he could with his means to hold the enemy at bay and to prevent the capture of slaves; and at the same time I reported to you this hostile movement and my intention to repel it as far as practicable with infantry to be withdrawn from Charleston and Savannah, but requested in consequence of the very recent discharge of some 5,000 South Carolina militia, that other troops should be sent to take their place and avoid danger to Charleston and Savannah. Scarcely had Colquitt's brigade begun to move when the enemy, in anticipation, doubtless, of my attempt to reinforce Finegan, made a strong demonstration on St. John's island. Though assured of the purpose of this movement it assumed, however, so serious a form as to compel me to divert temporarily General Colquitt and three and a half regiments of his brigade to reinforce General Wise, then confronted by at least two brigades of the enemy, about 4,500 strong, pushed forward in advance of the bridge-way between St. John's and Seabrook islands, and in addition several regiments of infantry were detached from Sullivan's and James islands to be in readiness for the development of the enemy's purposes.

On the night of the 11th of February I ordered all our batteries bearing on Morris island to open a heavy simultaneous fire on that position, as if a cover for an assault, and with the hope of forcing the enemy to withdraw from St. John's island to the protection of his own works. This strategem seemed to have produced the desired effect, or assisted to make him abandon the movement on St. John's island and withdraw hastily before daybreak, thus releasing and enabling Colquitt's [77] command to meet and defeat the enemy at Ocean Pond, some 13 miles in advance of Lake City.

In the meanwhile other troops had been dispatched to the theater of war from the works around Charleston and Savannah and the positions covering the Savannah railroad. This was done, indeed, to a hazardous degree, but as I informed the secretary of war by telegraph on the 9th ult., I regarded it as imperative to attempt to secure the subsistence resources of Florida. General Finegan was also apprised of these reinforcements on February 11th, and instructed to maneuver meantime to check or delay the enemy, but to avoid close quarters and unnecessary loss of men. While these reinforcements were en route the enemy again attempted to delay them by a movement against Whitemarsh island near Savannah, and it became a measure of proper precaution to halt at Savannah two of the regiments on their way to General Finegan for the development of the enemy's plans, one of which regiments I felt it prudent to detain there to the present.

The want of adequate rolling stock on the Georgia & Florida railroad and the existence of the gap of some 26 miles between the two roads, subjected the concentration of my forces to a delay which deprived my efforts to that end of full effect. The absence of General Hill making it injudicious for me to leave this State, I directed Brigadier-General Taliaferro to proceed to Florida and assume the command, not knowing at the time that Brigadier-General Gardner, commanding in middle Florida, his senior, had returned from sick leave and was fit for field service. Apprised of this, I directed General Gardner, on the 21st ult., to assume command and organize for a vigorous offensive movement preliminary to the arrival of General Taliaferro; but subsequently, the victory at Ocean Pond having taken place in which I supposed General Gardner, though not in immediate command, had taken an active part, I directed that officer to assume chief command and, dividing his forces into divisions, to assign General Taliaferro to one of them; soon after which I was advised by the war department of the assignment of Maj.-Gen. James Patton Anderson to the command of the forces in the State of Florida.

Gen. D. H. Hill having arrived at these headquarters on the 28th of February, I left for Florida the same [78] evening. On the 2d inst., I reached Camp Milton, General Gardner's headquarters, in rear of McGirt's creek, 12 or 13 miles distant from Jacksonville, where I found our troops in position. The day preceding our advance pickets had been thrown forward to Cedar creek, within 6 or 7 miles of Jacksonville.

On the 3d inst. Maj.-Gen. J. Patton Anderson also arrived at Camp Milton and assumed command on the 6th inst. of the forces, now about 8,000 effective of all arms. In the meantime it had been ascertained from reliable sources that the enemy occupied Jacksonville with at least 12,000 men; that the position, naturally strong, had been much strengthened since the battle of the 20th ult., and that four or five gunboats in the St. John's effectually commanded the approaches to the place. Under these circumstances it was determined not to attempt to carry the position by assault, as in effect instructed by your telegram of the 4th inst.

Everything indicates that the rout of the enemy at Ocean Pond was complete; nevertheless the fruits of the victory were comparatively insignificant, mainly because of the inefficiency of the officer commanding the cavalry at the time, no serious attempt being made to pursue with his command, while the exhaustion of the infantry, so gallantly and effectively handled and engaged, and our want of subsistence supplies and ammunition, made an immediate pursuit by them impracticable.

Unless our present forces should be considerably increased and amply supplied with means for a regular siege of Jacksonville, our operations in this quarter must be confined to the defensive — that is, to prevent the penetration of the enemy into the interior, on the line toward Lake City or into the lower portion of the State, to which end a position has been selected on the St. John's a few miles above Jacksonville for a battery of one rifled 32-pounder, three rifled 30-pounders, one 20-pounder and one 10-pounder (Parrotts) and two 8-inch siege howitzers, by which, with torpedoes in the river, it is expected transports at least can be obstructed from passing with troops beyond Jacksonville. Cavalry pickets have also been established for the protection of the railroad to Cedar Keys from injury by raiding parties set on foot from the west bank of the St. John's.

I have for the present organized the forces under General [79] Anderson into three brigades, commanded respectively by Brigadier-Generals Finegan and Colquitt and Col. George P. Harrison, Jr., three meritorious officers, the last two of whom have won promotion by their active participation in the combat of the 20th tilt., at which it is proper to say Brigadier-General Colquitt commanded on the immediate field of battle. He has seen much service likewise in the army of Northern Virginia.

The cavalry has also been organized into a brigade under Col. Robert H. Anderson. The four light batteries of four pieces each were placed under command of Lieut.-Col. Charles C. Jones, and two batteries of siege guns (six pieces), present on the field under Maj. George L. Buist. It is hoped this arrangement will enhance the efficiency of the troops, who are in fine spirits and good condition.

Too much praise cannot be awarded to the brave officers and men who encountered and defeated twice their number at Ocean Pond, and I commend them to the notice of the government. They are in all respects worthy comrades of those who on other fields have done honor to Southern manhood.

After the battle of Olustee the Second Florida cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick, skirmished in the vicinity of McGirt's creek and Ten-mile station, driving in the enemy's pickets and preventing their advance. While it was deemed hazardous to venture on any decided assault, the general commanding, appreciating the spirit which animated our troops, who were growing impatient at the inactivity forced upon them, determined upon making an advance upon the enemy's outposts to ascertain his position and strength and, if advisable, make an attack. For this purpose a reconnoitering party was sent forward, consisting of Scott's battalion of cavalry, under Major Scott, and Company H, Captain Dickison, Second Florida cavalry. They soon came up with the advanced force of the enemy, who was also reconnoitering, consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery. Our troops immediately charged, and the enemy stubbornly resisted, while falling back, until they reached Cedar creek, within 6 [80] miles of Jacksonville. A large number of the enemy, having concealed themselves in a thick palmetto scrub, opened fire from their ambush upon a detachment of about 80 of our cavalry while crossing the long causeway, instantly killing Captain Stevens, Second Florida cavalry, a splendid young officer greatly beloved by his command, and wounding several others. At this critical time our main force of four regiments of infantry, 200 cavalry and three pieces of artillery, came up and advanced over the causeway, and the fight became general, about 5 miles of ground being contested, the skirmishing and general engagement lasting from 11 a m. to 3 p. m. Our forces having effected a crossing on the enemy's right, intending to turn their flank, they hastily retired, falling back to theThree-mile run, where they halted and were reinforced by cavalry and artillery. This vigorous repulse of a force numbering about 3,000 infantry, 500 cavalry and 2 pieces of artillery, after contesting our advance step by step, attested the bravery with which they fought against superior numbers. Our loss was 7 killed and 12 wounded. The enemy acknowledged a loss of 2 killed, 4 wounded and 5 taken prisoners, but later information gave the number of their wounded at about 40. To have advanced upon the enemy in their fortified position would have been attended with disastrous consequences.

The defensive campaign now entered upon was one of great activity. The troops, divided into detachments of infantry, cavalry and sections of artillery, were quartered at such points as were most exposed and upon which the enemy was expected to make an early advance. The only security was in untiring vigilance, and several cavalry companies were deployed for outpost duty, notably among them Col. G. W. Scott's battalion of cavalry, and Company H, Second Florida cavalry, commanded by Capt. J. J. Dickison; Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick with the remaining companies of the Second Florida cavalry command [81] being stationed in the vicinity of McGirt's creek, about 12 miles from Jacksonville. The infantry was placed on the entire line of railroad from McGirt's creek to Waldo, and through the unprotected country lying between the railroad and the Ocklawaha river. Detachments from the Fourth Georgia cavalry were on duty in this locality to strike the enemy in an advance from Palatka to Orange Springs, at that time a ‘city of refuge’ for families who had been driven from their homes on the St. John's river.

Captain Pearson, while en route for Tampa, was ordered to repair to Orange Springs, as the enemy was supposed to be advancing up the Ocklawaha river in barges from Welaka. At the same time an order was given to send a train down toward Cedar Keys to bring back Captain McNeill's company to the point nearest Orange Springs, to co-operate with Capt. John W. Pearson of the Sixth Florida battalion, and others. Thus every necessary precaution was taken to prevent the enemy from penetrating the country.

The Fourth Georgia cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Harris, was quartered at Waldo, to be ready when necessary to unite with the cavalry force under Col. R. H. Anderson, who was to operate upon the right flank of the enemy in case of a general advance of the enemy upon the front. While these preparations were under way, a request was made by General Gardner for Colonel Scott's battalion, but the exigencies of the service did not admit of compliance. No troops could be spared from the seat of war, therefore a detachment of the siege train was ordered to guard the Aucilla trestle, and Caper's battalion, Wimberly's company and two infantry companies were posted at the Suwannee bridge to prevent depreda-tions in middle Florida. [82]

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