|Olustee Station in Olustee, Florida|
Having been ordered to report to General Finegan, I left Savannah on February 15 and arrived at Olustee Station on the evening of the 17th, where I found our army encamped on a line extending from Ocean Pond, on the left, to a large cypress pond, on the right...General Finegan had selected this position as the only one which furnished in itself any natural advantages for defense, and upon a thorough reconnaissance of the country on the following day I became satisfied that the selection was a good one.... - Lt. M.B. Grant, CS, to Col. D.B. Harris , CS, April 27, 1864.
|Typical terrain between Lake City and the South Prong|
Ocean Pond, however, provided a solid anchor for the left flank of the Confederate line:
The right flank of Finegan's line, according to Grant, rested on a "large pond which continued some 2 miles on the right." From the railroad south to that pond, the line was fronted by a "thick bay, impassible except within 200 yards on the right of the railroad." For those not familiar with the term "bay" as used in the Deep South, Grant was referring to a wet swamp. He noted that it lay 400 yards in advance of the Confederate line and served to limit the approaches by which an infantry force could get anywhere near the Southern troops.
|Historic road and railroad at Olustee, Florida|
At Grant's request, General Finegan ordered the impressment of slaves from plantations to the west around Lake City, along with tools for use in building fortifications along the entire line:
The Confederate engineer would not have time to complete his line of defenses. Even as the soldiers and slaves were sweating to dig in and clear fields of fire, the Union army was preparing to move. Despite orders that he stay on the defensive, Union Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour decided to advance.
The Battle of Olustee would take place the next day. As Grant noted it in his report, it came "most unexpectedly."
Tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee and I will post throughout the day. To learn more anytime and to watch the new mini-documentary on the battle, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.