Battle of Olustee

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Red Harvest

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 10, 2012
If my less than perfect memory serves I read the expedition or campaign was partially driven by President Lincoln's plan to set up loyal governments within Confederate States by having 10% of the citizens vote to rejoin the Union. It was a defeat for the Federals although not as costly as what was going on in Virginia but still a two front defeat militarily and mission wise speaking of the political objective. I believe Florida was the only Confederate state east of the Mississippi that never saw its capital captured during the war.
There was an aspect of that to it, but the campaign started as part of Gillmore's plan of offensive militiary operations. Later he incorporated the "Ten Percent Plan" as part of the approach, even though Lincoln had specifically instructed him not to let that influence his military plans.

Per William Nulty's appraisal, Gillmore updated his stated objective and responded week later Gillmore to Halleck:
In reply to your letter of the 22nd instant I beg leave to state that the objects and advantages to be secured by the occupation of that portion of Florida within my reach, viz, the richest portions between the Suwannee and the Saint John's Rivers, are: First. To procure an outlet for cotton, lumber, timber, turpentine, and the other products of that State. Second. To cut off one of the enemy's sources of commissary supplies. He now draws largely upon the herds of Florida for his beef, and is making preparations to take up a portion of the Fernandina and Saint Mark's Railroad for the purpose of connecting the road from Jacksonville to Tallahassee with Thomasville, on the Savannah, Albany and Gulf, Railroad, and perhaps with Albany, on the Southwestern Railroad. Third. To obtain recruits for my colored regiments. Fourth. To inaugurate measures for the speedy restoration of Florida to her allegiance, in accordance with instructions which I have received from the President by the hands of Major John Hay, assistant adjutant-general.
The plan itself was sound and bold. It threatened the critical cattle transfers to the AoT and Beauregard's Dept. The operation started well but went awry when Gillmore and Seymour slowed down, giving the Confederates time to bring in Colquitt's brigade and other forces.

Seymour was running hot and cold on the whole operation. Gillmore had him consolidating after several raids, when Seymour decided to lurch forward which was decidedly not Gillmore's intent at the time. As Major John Hay wrote (who was intrusted by Lincoln with explaining how to implement the Ten Percent Plan in the occupied zone):
Seymour has seemed very unsteady and queer since the beginning of the campaign. He has been subject to violent alternations of timidity and rashness, now declaring Florida loyalty was all bosh, now lauding it as the purest article extant, now insisting that Beauregard was in front with the whole Confederacy and now asserting that he could whip all the rebels in Florida with a good brigade.
 
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CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Location
Laurinburg NC
Hmmm, I don't know about that as far as Olustee goes. I've been there (Ocean Pond) many times and it's out in the middle of nowhere even today. I guess there could have been a farmhouse nearby once upon a time, though.
The Battle of Olustee happened 149 years ago, I’m sure the area has changed a good bit since then.

“The North, having won the war on the battlefield, immediately set out to win it again and consolidate victory on the printed page. A flood of books appeared, and the South took umbrage at most of them. A new invasion was on, and the South must meet words with words – but words based on historical facts.

E. Merton Coulter
 

Red Harvest

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 10, 2012
Nulty's analysis is that the expedition was a net positive, and considering the range of the Federal raids, I agree. This is true despite the massive repulse by roughly equal numbers at Olustee. Anytime the Feds could disrupt the enemy in their heartland with equal opposing numbers, it was a net win. They could have accomplished much more under better field command.

The CSA captured 3 Napoleons and 2 Parrotts at Olustee, yet they lost 13 inferior cannon in the campaign. These Federal captures were enough to supply several defensive works.
 

kealbo54

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 20, 2012
Well,as was the case in so many battles of the Civil War,dark pretty well halted any chance of a follow-up pursuit of a beaten enemy.That and as was also common: victory found the winner often times as disorganized as the loser.
my sister lives in Macclenney,and I have been to Olustee many times and done a bit of research about the battle.Not an expert,but a pretty good working knowledge.My take on Seymour was he was a bit reckless and not at all happy with his here-to-for legacy in the war.To date his only real claim to fame was being among the officers to surrender at Ft Sumter.
It should have worked better,but I really believe Seymour under-estimated a crack Georgia brigade,seasoned by hard fighting with Lees army in Va..All-in-all,I dont think much was accomplished in either the short or long term,really.The federals ended up back in Jacksonville,pretty much for the duration,any disruption in supplies going north was more influenced by what was happening elsewhere,and Tallahassee was the last Confederate Capitol to fall.
 
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kealbo54

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 20, 2012
The Battle of Olustee happened 149 years ago, I’m sure the area has changed a good bit since then.

“The North, having won the war on the battlefield, immediately set out to win it again and consolidate victory on the printed page. A flood of books appeared, and the South took umbrage at most of them. A new invasion was on, and the South must meet words with words – but words based on historical facts.

E. Merton Coulter
You know,it really hasnt changed all that much according to my research in the local venues.The Barber plantation,now being the town of Macclenney being the major exception,and that involved the cavalry and infantry skirmishing ten days prior to the battle,farther west.Timber,turpentine and some cattle were most of the industry and still is to an extent.
Its rather a "pristine" battlefield,for the most part,IMO,and i always enjoy my annual visits there.I cant speak with any authority on the little girl watching the battle,but there was a schoolhouse close to the battlefield,so it is entirely possible that a house with a young girl in it was nearby.
Were it not for I-10,it is easy to imagine that the area would be even closer to its 1864 appearance.US90 is overall,a lonely stretch between Lake City and Macclenney.My sisters small sparse neighborhood is all un-paved roads and from experiance I can attest to the difficulty of troop movement as well.
 

Red Harvest

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 10, 2012
I don't think Seymour knew anything about Colquitt's brigade arriving, but perhaps I am mistaken. Had he known what he faced I doubt he would have advanced (unless he was simply a fool...which I'll grant seems plausible) You don't do an unnecessary meeting engagement in enemy territory if you anticipate an equal foe to oppose you. Without Colquitt (as in a few days previous) the Federals could have continued to advance and accomplished Seymour's objective: destroying the RR bridge across the Suwanee river. Gillmore and Seymour both had cold feet earlier.

In enemy territory one must assume that after a battle they can resupply and reinforce...while your efforts at the same might prove inadequate.

Tallahassee wasn't an objective at the time.

As a tour Olustee was fun as the terrain/vegetation is so different compared to most ACW battlefields, and Ocean Pond is cool. Ask me why Floridians of the time were known as "gophers."
 

kealbo54

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 20, 2012
All good points,Red.I wasnt clear on whether Seymour was aware of Colquitt or not,either,so I decided to err on the side of caution.I know Tallahassee wasnt the objective,but I think Seymour had those stars in his eyes.He did run from the sublime to the ridiculous in some of his statements.Finnegan set a trap and for the most part it worked except that the battle was fought a bit differently then he anticipated,and a little farther to the east.
 
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Red Harvest

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 10, 2012
In case others come across the "gopher" reference later and wonder: When I was in the region I was examining an exhibit for gopher tortoises which were common in the longleaf pine barrens that dominated before clear cutting. It was explained to me that the residents of coastal Florida (I'm not sure exactly when) frequently sold gopher tortoises to the crews of vessels, resulting in a nickname still applied in the ACW period, gophers.
 

kealbo54

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 20, 2012
In case others come across the "gopher" reference later and wonder: When I was in the region I was examining an exhibit for gopher tortoises which were common in the longleaf pine barrens that dominated before clear cutting. It was explained to me that the residents of coastal Florida (I'm not sure exactly when) frequently sold gopher tortoises to the crews of vessels, resulting in a nickname still applied in the ACW period, gophers.
Yup,and there are tons of them on the field at Olustee.Covered with 3/4 in plywood for the reenactment.It was as bad as Antietam,with thier Gopher holes.
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
There is a nice little visitor's center at the battlefield (which is maintained by the State of Florida, not the NPS, I believe). There is also a mile-long walking trail that leads you first up the line held by the Federals and then back down the line held by Confederates. It's pretty well done, but the interpretive signs only discuss the general chronological course of the battle, rather than specifying that whatever piece of ground on which the sign is placed was where such-and-such happened or where such-and-such regiment was positioned.
 
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kealbo54

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 20, 2012
There is a nice little visitor's center at the battlefield (which is maintained by the State of Florida, not the NPS, I believe). There is also a mile-long walking trail that leads you first up the line held by the Federals and then back down the line held by Confederates. It's pretty well done, but the interpretive signs only discuss the general chronological course of the battle, rather than specifying that whatever piece of ground on which the sign is placed was where such-and-such happened or where such-and-such regiment was positioned.
Yes,the battlefield is State-owned and maintained,which is why they can do the reenactments right on the site.I love this place because it is about as pristine a battlefield as you can find.I DO think that the markers could be up-dated and redone,but kept in the same style.Seems a more definative "you are here" and "this is what happened",thing could be done.Outside of that,a few permanant guns scattered around would be nice,but its a really neat spot,and i wouldnt change it much at all.Except maybe to donate a painting to the VC,hehe.
 

Musket Man

Private
Joined
Jan 31, 2015
Location
Georgia
Yes,the battlefield is State-owned and maintained,which is why they can do the reenactments right on the site.I love this place because it is about as pristine a battlefield as you can find.I DO think that the markers could be up-dated and redone,but kept in the same style.Seems a more definative "you are here" and "this is what happened",thing could be done.Outside of that,a few permanant guns scattered around would be nice,but its a really neat spot,and i wouldnt change it much at all.Except maybe to donate a painting to the VC,hehe.
My family and myself just visited this battlefield a few days ago. I agree with some of the posts about being a neat area. The landscape is pretty much undisturbed around the battlefield. I like how there isn't much development around the area. It is easy to imagine yourself skirmishing through the thick underbrush, hearing Minnie balls wizz by your head. I'm still new to much that went on through the civil war. I do know many people don't realize that this was the biggest battle in Flordia, or at least I didn't realize it. It's a neat area to visit if you are in the area.
 

96Ohio

Cadet
Joined
Apr 13, 2019
Location
Valdosta, GA
On the road to Olustee, Fl a troop train dropped off 17 dead confederate soldiers for burial. No names, units, nothing. They are buried in West End Cemetery, Quitman, Brooks County, Georgia. I've found differing accounts as to whether or not the train was going to Olustee or from Olustee. Big difference. One account speculates the deaths were from disease going to Olustee. Probably was the Alantic and Gulf RR, but that's still a wild guess on my part. I'm guessing Colquitts Brigade, too. There isn't a burial date or year on their headstones; it's like no one ever asked any further. There has to be a notation somewhere in some record covered in dust. I live in Valdosta, GA not far from Quitman but records are few. I'd like to identify at least the unit so they aren't completely unknown soldiers. Surely, there must be better ways to spend my time, right? Wrong. Does anyone want to join me in this quest or can anyone direct me to a CSA source that might have a notation, even an entry in a soldier's diary. Thanks.
 
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