Thursday, February 6, 2014

U.S. Navy involvement grows in Olustee Campaign, 150 years ago today (February 6, 1864)

USS Ottawa was of this warship class.
Courtesy U.S. Navy
The U.S. Navy stepped up its involvement in the developing Olustee Campaign 150 years ago today on February 6, 1864. It was a Saturday.

A flotilla of transports and other vessels was on its way down the Atlantic seaboard from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, under orders from Major General Quincy A. Gillmore (US) to gather off the mouth of the St. Johns River on February 7th.

Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren of the U.S. Navy, from aboard his flagship at Port Royal Harbor, dispatched orders 150 years ago today to Lieutenant Commander S. Livingston Breese, captain of the USS Ottawa:

USS Norwich
Courtesy U.S. Navy
On the arrival of Brigadier General Seymour, you will communicate with him personally and tender the services of the Ottawa and Norwich, to convoy the troops to Jacksonville and to cooperate generally with the military expedition up the St. John's. - Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren (US) to Lt. Commander S. Livingston Breese (US), February 6, 1864.

Dahlgren sailed in person for Jacksonville on the same evening, issuing a flurry of orders for a variety of ships from the fleet to follow. Among the vessels he instructed to gather off the mouth of the St. Johns were the Water Witch, Mahaska, OleanderDandelion, Pawnee and Columbine. The steamers Norwich and Ottawa were already moving south as escorts for the army transports.

Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard (CSA)
National Archives
Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard, meanwhile, deduced that the Federals were up to something. His scouts told him that the sounds of practice firing and other normal encampment noises coming from Hilton Head Island had diminished. They also reported that warships normally visible along the South Carolina could not be seen.

While he did not know what was going on or where the Union forces would strike - or even if they would strike - Beauregard took advantage of his interior lines to begin shifting troops south. His initial concern was that Savannah would be the target and he started strengthening the garrison there.

His attention to detail would lead to Confederate victory at Olustee.

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




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