Thursday, February 9, 2012

Olustee #3 - Federal Troops reach Baldwin

Guy V. Henry (sitting) and Guy V. Henry, Jr.
The Union officer's son fought in the Spanish-American War
This is Part Three of a series on the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, Florida. Please click here to read the previous parts first: Part One and Part Two.
Having successfully flanked the 2nd Florida Cavalry and Milton Light Artillery from their position at Camp Finegan during the night, the advance forces of the Union invasion of Florida reached Baldwin on the morning of February 9, 1864.

An important point where the railroad from Fernandina to Cedar Key connected with the railroad from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, Baldwin had been founded in 1846 as Thigpen, Florida. The name was changed to Baldwin before the Civil War to honor Dr. Abel S. Baldwin, an early Florida railroad president.

The Railroad
A critical rail junction, it was a vital strategic point of the Federal incursion. Possession of Baldwin allowed Union commanders to use the railroads to support their inland movement. General Quincy A. Gillmore, the overall commander of the expedition, reported that he expected to have trains operating on the railroad from Jacksonville to Baldwin within a few days.

Col. Guy V. Henry and the head of the Union column was now 19 miles inland from the landing zone at Jacksonville and anticipated continuing a rapid advance the next morning. Their next target would be Sanderson, a town 18 miles west of Baldwin. The route followed the tracks of the Florida and Atlantic-Gulf Central Railroad, along which it was anticipated that supplies would be moved to support the inland movement.

Hot fighting would take place the next day, February 10th, as Henry started his move for Sanderson. Confederate forces in East Florida had been able to recover somewhat from the shock of the surprise they suffered at Camp Finegan and were beginning to stiffen their backs.

Camp Milton Historic Preserve
The Confederate facility at Baldwin was built after Olustee.
Baldwin, where the Federal advanced camped 150 years ago tonight, is noted today as the site of the Camp Milton Historic Preserve. The camp was associated with the Olustee Campaign, but did not exist when the Union troops reached the town. It was built after the Battle of Olustee when General P.G.T. Beauregard arrived to take control of the Confederate army in Florida. I will have more on Camp Milton later in the series, but it is a beautiful historic preserve and well worth coming off I-10 at Baldwin to explore.

I will continue to post more on the Olustee Campaign over the coming days and weeks, so be sure to check back often. If you would like to read more about the Battle of Olustee, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.

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