Sunday, February 12, 2012

Olustee #6 - Federal Troops fall back to Sanderson, Florida

North Florida Pine Woods
This post is part of a continuing series on the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, Florida. To read the other posts first, please click http://civilwarflorida.blogspot.com and just scroll down the page.

Having fallen back from Lake City on the evening of February 11, 1864, the mounted Union force under Colonel Guy V. Henry had camped for the night a few miles east of the skirmish site. A heavy storm rolled across the pine woods during the predawn hours of February 12th, 150 years ago today:

...The night was passed in quiet, though the torrents of rain did not add to the comfort of the soldiers, who were lying on the ground, which was before morning nearly covered with water. Unidentified war correspondent, New York Herald, February 1864.

1864 Drawing of Sanderson, Florida
Harper's Weekly
The reporters accompanying the cavalry had seen enough for the time being. Taking off on horseback, they rode back to Sanderson, "and found rest and a repast of chickens and eggs at the hotel." The brigade of Colonel William B. Barton came up during the night, followed by General Truman Seymour and his staff.

Learning from a courier of the repulse of his cavalry at Lake City the previous afternoon, Seymour decided to pull his entire force together at Sanderson:

...Orders were sent to Colonel Henry to return with his command to Sanderson, as the lack of supplies prevented the infantry from advancing. The line of supplies being long, it was found difficult to ration the troops, and they were compelled to await the arrival of subsistence trains before advancing farther into the enemy's country. - Unidentified war correspondent, New York Herald, February 1864.

Ocean Pond in 1934
Florida Memory Collection
No additional fighting took place on the 12th. The mounted troops under Colonel Henry reached Sanderson during the afternoon, shadowed by Confederate cavalry that followed but did not engage. Both forces once again passed through the site that soon would become the Olustee Battlefield. Colonel Barton's infantry, meanwhile, was ordered back to Barber's Plantation on the South Prong of the St. Mary's.

1864 Drawing of Barber's Plantation
Harper's Weekly
The newspaper writer's comments about the difficulty of rationing troops showed that, while he had gained a temporary advantage over Finegan by advancing inland quickly, he had now outrun his supply lines and by necessity was slowing down. Moving Barton's Brigade back to Barber's meant that supplies coming up by rail would reach it faster.

The Federals seem to have thought that by and large things were going well so far:

...Thus far the expedition and raid have been brilliantly successful. We have captured and caused to be destroyed over one and a half million dollars worth of property, and have opened up a new territory to our arms and flag. - Unidentified war correspondent, New York Herald, February 1864.

The delay in the advance, however, proved critical to Confederate efforts to turn back the invasion. It gave Finegan and his superior, General P.G.T. Beauregard, the time they needed to begin rushing additional troops to Florida.

I will continue to post on the 148th Anniversary of the Olustee Campaign over coming days so be sure to check back often. You can read more about the Battle of Olustee anytime at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.


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