|Mouth of the St. Johns River|
The U.S. Army transport steamer Harriet A. Weed was already heading south for the St. Johns River, with orders to buoy the channel leading into the river so the transports and escorting warships could steam in from the Atlantic with minimal difficulty.
Writing from his headquarters on Hilton Head, Maj. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore (US) issued operational orders to his second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour (US):
|Riverfront at Jacksonville as it appeared in ca. 1870|
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory Collection
The orders gave Seymour considerable discretion, setting a pattern that would lead directly two the Battle of Olustee two weeks later.
|Area of initial movements from U.S. Army map|
Library of Congress (Click to Enlarge)
The immediate objectives of the movement were Jacksonville and Baldwin, an important rail crossing about 21 miles inland. It was there that the line from Fernandina and Amelia Island to Cedar Key intersected the line from Jacksonville west to Tallahassee and Quincy.
|Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren|
The army was supported in its movement by the U.S. Navy. Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren ordered the warships USS Ottawa and Norwich to convoy the army transports as they steamed south. He also assigned the Dai Ching, Mahaska and Water Witch to move to the mouth of the St. Johns as well.
The Confederates were unaware of the movement as the ships began to move south through the midnight darkness.
The next article in this series on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee will be posted tomorrow. Be sure to learn more about the battlefield and watch the new mini-documentary at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.