Saturday, February 15, 2014

Colquitt's Brigade moves south, 150 years ago today (February 15, 1864)


Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Colquitt, CSA
Library of Congress
The decision that would win the Battle of Olustee for the Confederates began to show results 150 years ago today.

As the Union army dug in at Barber's (near Macclenny) and Baldwin following the decision of its general to go on the defensive, General P.G.T. Beauregard (CS) ordered the full strength of Colquitt's Brigade to resume its movement for Florida. A series of orders from Charleston on February 14-15, 1864, led to the resumption of the strong brigade's southward journey from that city to Florida. The brigade's progress was halted at Savannah after Union forces made a demonstration there.

A Princeton graduate who served as a major in the Mexican-American War, Alfred H. Colquitt was 39-years old at the time of the Olustee Campaign. A former U.S. Congressman, he had actively supported Georgia's secession from the Union before being elected colonel of the Sixth Georgia Infantry in May 1861. The Sixth was among the regiments that Georgia sent north to Virginia.

Under Colquitt, it served in the Seven Days Battles outside of Richmond, particularly at the Battle of Seven Pines where General Joseph E. Johnston was badly wounded and forced to relinquish command to General Robert E. Lee.

Colquitt Monument at Olustee
Promoted to the rank of brigadier general on September 1, 1862, Colquitt served in the Corps of General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. His brigade fought at Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, taking part in Jackson's devastating attack on the Union right flank in the latter engagement. It was at Chancellorsville that Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded after going ahead of his lines in the growing darkness to scout the Union position. Colquitt hesitated under the same situation and received some criticism for not acting more aggressively, although doing so under the exact same situation cost the Army of Northern Virginia the services of its famous Stonewall.

Colquitt's Grave in Macon, Georgia
By the end of the Chancellorsville Campaign, Colquitt's Brigade had suffered such heavy losses in killed and wounded that it was sent south to North Carolina and then South Carolina to recover and replenish its ranks. At the time it was ordered south to join Brigadier General Joseph Finegan's growing Confederate Army at Lake City and Olustee, the brigade included the Sixth, Nineteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-Seventh and Twenty-eighth Georgia Infantry Regiments, the Sixth Florida Infantry Battalion, the Chatham Artillery from Savannah and the Leon Light Artillery from Florida.

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor
Courtesy of Roger Moore
At 3:30 p.m. on the afternoon of the 14th, General Beauregard had ordered Major General J.F. Gilmer at Savannah  to "send Colquitt's brigade to General Finegan at Lake City soon as possible by the shortest route." On the 15th - 150 years ago today - Beauregard's staff ordered the last of Colquitt's men released from their garrison duty at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor so they could rejoin their command as it continued south to Georgia.

On the same day, Beauregard updated authorities in Richmond on the situation in Florida:

...General Finegan reports enemy fortifying at Baldwin. Am sending him all re-enforcements I can spare to dislodge him. I may have to call for one brigade from North Carolina to aid him - only if absolutely necessary. - Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard (CS) to Gen. Samuel Cooper (CS), February 15, 1864.

As Colquitt's Brigade continued its movement south on February 14, 1864, it traveled by train along the railroad leading from Savannah to Albany, Georgia. The movement would continue by rail to a point as close as possible to the railroad linking Tallahassee with Lake City. From that point the men would march overland to the second railroad where they would board trains for Lake City and Olustee.

To learn more about the Battle of Olustee and to watch the new mini-documentary on the battle, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.


No comments: