Thursday, February 16, 2012

Olustee #10 - A battle between Generals before the Battle of Olustee

Gen. Truman Seymour, USA
National Archives
On February 16, 1864, 148 years ago today, Union General Truman Seymour dispatched an unexpected message to his commanding officer, General Quincy A. Gillmore:

...I shall move to-day, and have called up the Sevent Connecticut, Forty-seventh [New York], and Third U.S. Colored, to this point [i.e. Baldwin]. Send the Seventh New Hampshire here at once, to Baldwin. Colonel Hallowell to send three or four companies to Camp Finegan, and the Eight U.S. Colored is ordered to move to Pickett's (Ten-Mile Station) immediately. - Gen. Truman Seymour, USA, February 16, 1864.

The news that Seymour was moving would come as a complete surprise to Gillmore, who was then at his primary headquarters on Hilton Head Island. He had previously ordered his subordinate to remain on the defensive along the railroad between Baldwin and Jacksonville.

Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, USA
Library of Congress
Gillmore, however, would not receive Seymour's message until February 18th, just two days before the Battle of Olustee. He would move as quickly as possible to halt Seymour's plans, but it would be too late.

Had Seymour moved on the 16th as he reported to Gillmore, he might have met with success. The Confederate army under General Joseph Finegan was still building at Olustee. The field fortifications there were underway and reinforcements were still making the long trip down from Savannah and Charleston. Seymour, however, did not move, despite his own report that he was doing so.

Expected locomotives did not arrive and the trains did not begin moving on the railroad as he had expected. As a result, he had no choice but to remain at Baldwin where his men could be supplies. He expected to move as soon as the trains did begin to roll, however, and likely was taking advantage of the absence of General Gillmore from the immediate vicinity to push his own plans forward.

I will continue to post on the 148th anniversary of the Olustee Campaign tomorrow, so be sure to check back!  You can read more about the Battle of Olustee anytime at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.

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