Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Olustee #2 - The Federals move on Baldwin

Gen. Trumen A. Seymour, USA
Florida Memory Collection
I am devoting time over the next couple of weeks to commemorate the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee or Ocean Pond, Florida. This is Part 2 of the series. You can read part one by clicking here: The Union Army lands at Jacksonville.

Having established a beachhead at Jacksonville on February 7th, 1864, Brigadier General Truman A. Seymour followed orders to the letter and pushed inland quickly on the night of the 8th, 150 years ago today:

..The advance, under Col. Guy V. Henry, comprising the Fortieth Massachusetts Infantry, the Independent Battalion Massachusetts Cavalry, under Major Stevens, and Elder's horse battery (B, First Artillery), pushed forward into the interior on the night of the 8th; passed by the enemy, draw up in line of battle at Camp Finegan, 7 miles from Jacksonville; surprised and captured a battery, 3 miles in rear of the camp, about midnight.... - Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, USA, February 9, 1864.

Gen. Joseph Finegan, CSA
Camp Finegan, mentioned in the report and named for Florida's General Joseph Finegan, was a large Confederate camp located just north of I-10 and just west of the I-295 look on the west side of Jacksonville.

By passing the camp and showing up behind it, Colonel Henry managed to shock the Southern troops stationed there. Six cannon and some 100 Confederate soldiers were camptured. Of the guns reported lost by Southern forces, five belonged to Companies A and B of the Milton Light Artillery. Captain J. L. Dunham of Company A reported that his men began an effort to save his guns and equipment as soon as it was learned that an overwhelming Union force was coming ashore in Jacksonville:

...On my arrival at the drill-ground near the camp, where I ahd followed the section, I found Lieutenant-Colonel McCormick had formed a line of battle on the west side of drill-ground with cavalry and infantry, when I was ordered to halt the artillery and form on left of line; but as three of the pieces had passed the field only one was placed in position on the left of the line. - Capt. J.L. Dunham, Milton Light Artillery, March 18, 1864.

After waiting for hours for the anticipated Union attack that did not come, the Confederate officers let their men rest and event Dunham himself fell asleep. The attack, of course, did not come because Colonel Henry was moving his Federal troops around and into the rear of the Southern line of battle at Camp Finegan:

Light Artillery at Olustee Battlefield
...About 11 to 11.30 o'clock at night I was aroused by the sergeant of Company B, Milton Light Artillery, riding rapidly through the camp and crying at the top of his voice, "Save yourselves if you can; the enemy is right upon you!" I immediately rose and ordered the men to take horses and mules and escape as best they could, but before we could get away from the camp the tramping of horses and the wheels of the artillery carriages were distinctly heard, and after riding a short distance, the sound of the bugal. My command fled, both on foot and horseback.... Capt. J.L. Dunham, Milton Light Artillery, March 18, 1864.

It seems almost incomprehensible that the Confederates, officers included, would have gone to sleep with a large enemy force reported to be just one-half mile to their front, but evidently they did. The result was a disaster. The Federals flanked them and forced them to flee, capturing cannon, supplies, horses, mules and Camp Finegan without the loss of a single man.

The Olustee Campaign was not off to an auspicious start for the Confederates, but their resistance would stiffen over coming days.

I will continue to post on the Battle of Olustee over the next two weeks so check back regularly. You can also learn more about the battle by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.

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