|Headquarters on Hilton Head Island|
The news came as a complete surprise to Gillmore, who had ordered his subordinate to remain on the defensive along the railroad between Baldwin and Jacksonville:
...On the 18th, I was greatly surprised at receiving a letter from General Seymour, dated the 17th, stating that he intended to advance without supplies in order to destroy the railroad near the Suwannee River, 100 miles from Jacksonville. I at once dispatched General Turner (my chief of staff) to Jacksonville to stop the movement. - Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, USA, March 7, 1864.
|Gen. Q.A. Gillmore, USA|
The curious situation raises the obvious question: Was Truman Seymour a glory hunter or did decide to act against his direct orders for other reasons? There is no way of knowing the answer. He clearly held no great regard for Gillmore, while the latter officer seemed more shocked than anything at his subordinate's decision to act independently.
|Gen. Truman Seymour, USA|
How much Seymour knew of the strength of the Confederate army gathering at Olustee is not known. There is no evidence that he sent cavalry forward to feel Finegan's position in the days before the battle or that he had any real intelligence at all on the whereabouts and size of the Southern commander's force.
In short, Seymour was about to advance against direct orders and to engage a Confederate force about which he knew virtually nothing. He was short of supplies and apparently planned to "live off the land" to achieve his goal of taking Lake City and disrupting Southern railroad traffic at the Suwannee River bridge.
|Gen. Joseph Finegan, CSA|
The ranks of Finegan's army rapidly swelled in the days before the Battle of Olustee:
|Gen. Alfred H. Colquitt, CSA|
The Battle of Olustee was now less than 48 hours away.
I will continue to post on the Olustee Campaign over the coming days, so be sure to check back daily for the latest. On Monday, the 148th anniversary of the battle, I will post throughout the day on the events of the battle itself. To learn more anytime, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.