The Battle of Olustee
A hundred and fifty one years ago, Yankees walked “forty miles over the most barren land of the South, frightening salamanders and the gophers, only to get a terrible thrashing…”
In February 1864, the commander of the Unions’ Department of the South, Major General Quincy Gillmore, ordered an expedition into Florida. The expeditions’ goals were to secure Union enclaves, disrupt Confederate supply routes, and recruit negro soldiers. In charge of the expedition was Brigadier General Truman Seymour.
Seymour landed his troops at Jacksonville which had already been seized by the federals in March of 1862. From Jacksonville, Seymour made several raids in the immediate area briefly disrupting Confederate efforts there, as well as liberating some slaves. Seymour was under orders however from Gillmore not to venture too far into North Central Florida.
General P.G.T. Beauregard, the commanding Confederate general at Charleston South Carolina had been concerned over Seymour’s earlier preparations at Hilton Head. Beauregard correctly guessing the federals next move would be into Florida, sent reinforcements there under the supervision of the Georgian Alfred H. Colquitt to bolster Florida’s defences and stop Seymour. Just as Colquitt’s troops began arriving, Seymour without Gillmore’s knowledge began his invasion of North Florida- hoping to possibly capture Tallahassee.
The 5,500 federals roughly followed the path of the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad aiming for Lake City. At around 2:30 in the afternoon on the 20th of February 1864, the federals bumped into Confederate General Finnegan’s forces. The Confederates numbering 5,000 had entrenched themselves near the Olustee Station and Ocean Pond. Seymour thinking that he was only encountering Confederate militia committed his men in piecemeal.
The battle raged throughout the afternoon but when Finnegan committed the last of his troops, the federals broke and began their long retreat back to Jacksonville. Union casualties in total numbered 1861, or around 34 percent of the Yankees engaged. The ratio of Yankee casualties to the number of troops involved made the Battle of Olustee the second bloodiest battle for the north of the entire war.
Many of the wounded Yankee and negro soldiers got the black flag treatment while lying on the battlefield. Let this day be a reminder to those who dare invade the mother soil of Florida in the future. Let this also be an example of how Christian warriors should behave when our firesides and the hearth of our very home is threatened.
Buiadh no Bas