Monday, June 30, 2008
The Battle of Olustee, Florida - Part Four
As the 7th New Hampshire broke and ran in the face of the Confederate advance, the 8th U.S. Colored Troops tried to form as ordered on the left of the guns.
The Confederates were able now to direct all of their fire on the Union batteries and soldiers of the 8th U.S.C.T. Col. Fribley, the commander of the 8th, suddenly went down and his men gave way in disorder as well.
Southern troops now pushed forward and engaged the Union batteries at close range as Gen. Seymour scrambled to restore his broken defense. The 7th New Hampshire and 8th U.S.C.T. could not be reformed, taking more than 1,000 men out of the Union battle force. Even though Seymour had gone into the battle with a slight numerical advantage, he was now outnumbered in terms of combat troops and the difference was beginning to tell.
Realizing that a major battle was developing in the woods well to the east of his line of fortifications at Olustee Station and that the Confederates were doing well so far, General Finegan began to flood reinforcements forward to assist Colquitt. As these arrived, Colquitt added them to his line where they were needed most with the result that no matter how many reinforcements the Federals brought forward, the Confederates continued to add sufficient men to their line to continue overlapping them.
Finegan arrived on the battlefield in person with the largest block of reinforcements, but left the direction of the fight on the battle line to the already successful General Colquitt. Since Gamble's artillery had been under intense fire since the beginning of the battle, he withdrew these guns and replaced them with the Chatham Artillery under Captain Wheaten. Taking a position under heavy enemy fire, the Chatham guns inflicted heavy casualties on the Federals and continued to advance with the Confederate line of infantry until the end of the battle.
I will continue with our series on the Battle of Olustee in the next post. Until then, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee for more information.