|Maj. Gen. Q.A. Gillmore (US)|
Library of Congress
The general's dispatch of January 31, 1864, came in response to a unhappy communique sent from Union General-in-Chief H.W. Halleck one week earlier. Halleck had been bypassed by President Abraham Lincoln when confidential orders were sent instructing Gillmore to invade Florida and he was not pleased by the breach in protocol:
...As the object of the expedition has not been explained, it is impossible to judge here of its advantages or practicability. If it is expected to give an outlet for cotton, or open a favorable field for the enlistment of colored troops, the advantages may be sufficient to justify the expense in money and troops. But simply as military operations, I attach very little importance to such expeditions. If successful they merely absorb our troops in garrisons to occupy the places, but have little or no influence upon the progress of the war. - Maj. Gen. H.W. Halleck (US) to Maj. Gen. Q.A. Gillmore (US), January 22, 1864.
|Maj. Gen. H.W. Halleck (US)|
Library of Congress
...First. To procure an outlet for cotton, lumber, timber, turpentine, and the other products of that State. Second. To cut off one of the enemy's sources of commissary supplies. He now draws largely upon the herds of Florida for his beef, and is making preparations to take up a portion of the Fernandina and Saint Mark's Railroad for the purpose of connecting the road from Jacksonville to Tallahassee with Thomasville, on the Savannah, Albany and Gulf Railroad, and perhaps with Albany, on the Southwestern Railroad. Third. To obtain recruits for my colored regiments. Fourth. To inaugurate measures for the speedy restoration of Florida to her allegiance in accordance with instructions which I have received from the President by the hands of Maj. John Hay, assistant adjutant-general. - Maj. Gen. Q.A. Gillmore (US) to Maj. Gen. H.W. Halleck (US), January 31, 1864.
The last line made clear to Halleck that Gillmore was operating under direct orders from the President to secure the return of Florida to the Union. He was going forward with the campaign.
|Pine woods of Olustee Battlefield|
The real wealth of Florida in 1864 was concentrated west of the Suwannee in a plantation district that included Madison, Jefferson, Leon, Gadsden and Jackson Counties. The proposed invasion of the region between the St. Johns and the Suwannee, however, would touch none of these.
General Gillmore told the Union commander-in-chief virtually nothing else about his plans.
I will post on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee throughout February, so please check back often for more at http://civilwarflorida.blogspot.com
In the meantime, read more on the battle at http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.