Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Olustee Campaign began 150 years ago today (February 4, 1864)

U.S. Army wharf at Hilton Head Island
Library of Congress

The campaign that would lead to Florida's largest battle of the War Between the States (or Civil War) was put in motion 150 years ago today. Writing from his headquarters on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina on February 4, 1864, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore (US) ordered Brigadier General Truman Seymour (US) to began moving his men aboard transport steamers for their voyage to Florida:

You will embark without delay the following regiments and batteries of your command, upon transports that the chief quartermaster has been directed to furnish you, viz: Colonel Barton's Brigade, comprising Seventh Connecticut and Seventh New Hampshire Regiments Volunteer Infantry, and (temporarily) the Eighth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops; Montgomery's brigade, comprising Second South Carolina Volunteers (colored), Third U.S. Volunteers (colored), Fifty-fourth Massachusetts (colored) Volunteers; Henry's mounted brigade, comprising Fortieth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the Independent Battalion Massachusetts Cavalry; Langdon's light battery (four pieces), Elder's horse battery (four pieces), one section of James' Rhode Island battery (two pieces). - Maj. Gen. Q.A. Gillmore (USA) to Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour (USA), February 4, 1864 - 8 p.m.

Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour (US)
Library of Congress
The orders were issued at 8 p.m. and included instructions for Seymour to have his men carry six days' rations (three cooked), along with knapsacks, haversacks and blankets. Each man was to be supplied with a minimum of 60 rounds of ammunition, with more to follow. In addition, Gillmore cautioned Seymour to leave camp equipage behind but packed up and ready to be moved. Two wagons were to be shipped for each infantry regiment and one wagon for each mounted company, along with six days' forage for the horses.

In an interesting note, the commanding general also cautioned against noncombatants being allowed to accompany the troops:

...You will see that no females accompany your command, and will give strict orders that none shall follow except regularly appointed laundresses, who will be allowed to accompany the baggage of their respective commands. - Maj. Gen. Q.A. Gillmore (USA) to Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour (USA), February 4, 1864.

Gillmore clearly was not expecting to deal with stiff resistance when his force arrived in Florida. He told Seymour that "only a small quantity of medical supplies need be taken." The medical steamer Cosmopolitan would follow the troops with a full supply of medical stores.  Obviously the vessel would not be able to follow the troops as they moved inland, but this seems not to have been a significant concern to the general.

I will post the next article on the 150th anniversary of the Olustee Campaign tomorrow. Until then, read more and be sure to check out my new mini-documentary on the Battle of Olustee by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.

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