Thursday, February 20, 2014

Battle of Olustee

Florida had the smallest population of any state in the Confederacy, and it probably saw the least combat during the war. Tallahassee was the only state capitol east of the Mississippi not captured by the end of the Civil War. But in February, 1864 a Union expedition was sent to Florida under the command of Brigadier General Truman Seymour. His mission was to establish a foothold on Florida soil, cut Confederate supply lines, and recruit freed slaves for the Union army. The Confederates correctly guessed his plans, and reinforcements arrived to bolster the army under Joseph Finnegan.

Map of the battle
After several small raids Seymour decided, without orders, to make a push deep into Florida to capture Tallahassee. On the afternoon of February 20, 150 years ago today, Seymour's 5,500 men met Confederate resistance at Olustee Station, about halfway across the state. He thought they were the ineffective Florida militia, but they turned out to be Finegan's 5,000 men. The battle grew larger and larger in the pine forest, the Federals trying to break through the advancing Confederate line, which was being strengthened as reinforcements came up. Seymour committed his men piecemeal, and they did not have the strength to drive back the rebels. Finally, with no Union reserves left, the line broke under the Confederate pressure. Seymour began his retreat back to to Jacksonville. The southerners tried to strike the Union rear, but they were driven off by the rearguard of United States Colored Troops. The Federals lost 203 killed, 1,152 wounded and 506 captured; the Confederates lost 92 killed, 847 wounded and 6 missing.


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