|Interpretive Display at Olustee Battlefield|
The Battle of Olustee was growing more and more intense with both commanders now beginning to pour men into the battle lines. Realizing that he was facing the Confederate infantry in force, General Seymour now developed a quick plan of action:
|Unidentified Soldier of the Seventh New Hampshire|
The Seventh New Hampshire, which had moved into line of battle on the right (north) of Seymour's artillery, was armed with new Spencer rifles. These repeating rifles should have given its soldiers far more firepower than an enemy force of much larger size armed with single-shot muskets. Unfortunately for the men from New Hampshire, they tried to come in line just as the brigade of Colonel George P. Harrison formed before them with the shrill shouts of rebel yells:
|1864 map of Troop Movements at Olustee|
The Eighth USCT formed as ordered to the left (south) of the artillery, but was simply overwhelmed by the firepower of Colquitt's brigade before it. Colonel Fribley, its commander, fell and the regiment broke for the rear. The Federal guns were now unsupported and the Confederates quickly seized the opportunity.
The final straw for the men of the 8th USCT had come when General Colquitt ordered the Sixth Florida Battalion to sweep around his right flank and hit the African American soldiers from the south while his main line drove at them from the west:
...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 pressing steadily forward, compelled them to fall back and leave five pieces of artillery in our possession. - Gen. Alfred. H. Colquitt, CSA, February 26, 1864.
|Line where the Confederates held without ammunition.|
Bonaud's Georgia Battalion, the 27th Georgia Infantry and the First Florida Battalion, which had just come up and still had plenty of ammunition, were moved into position near the center of the Confederate line and pushed out slightly in advance to hold back the Federals until ammunition could be brought up and distributed. Colonel Harrison considered this the critical moment of the day:
|Col. George P. Harrison, CSA|
The idea of thousands of men standing and facing the enemy without a round of ammunition is a remarkable testament to the heroism of the Confederates that fought at Olustee that day. With the situation so critical, Colonel Harrison leaped from his horse and gave it to one of his staff members who, "together with the remainder of my staff and couriers, was employed in conveying ammunition."
|Final Union Line at Olustee Battlefield|
With a new supply of ammunition now in their hands, however, the Confederates did not give them the chance. Colquitt ordered Harrison to swing the Sixth and Thirty-Second Georgia from his left to flank the right or northern flank of Seymour's lines. At the same time, the Twenty-seventh Georgia was ordered to attack the Union center:
|Soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts|
The last strong Federal resistance of the day came from the famed Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, the regiment portrayed in the popular move Glory. Moving up into position on the north side of the railroad tracks, the black soldiers of the 54th held strong even as the rest of the Union army collapsed around it and then they withdrew from the field more or less in order.
To continue to the final of today's commemorative posts, please click here: Part Four, Lincoln's Florida Disaster.
You can learn more about the Battle of Olustee anytime at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.