In February 1864, the commander of the Department of the South, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, launched an expedition into Florida to secure Union enclaves, sever Rebel supply routes, and recruit black soldiers.
Brigadier General Truman Seymour moved deep into the state, occupying, destroying, and liberating, meeting little resistance on February 20, he approached Brigadier General Joseph Finegan's 5,000 Confederates entrenched near Olustee. One infantry brigade pushed out to meet Seymour's advance units.
The Union forces attacked but were repulsed. The battle raged, and as Finegan committed the last of his reserves, the Union line broke and began to retreat.
Finegan did not exploit the retreat, allowing most of the fleeing Union forces to reach Jacksonville.
Result(s): Confederate victory
Location: Baker County
Campaign: Florida Expedition (1864)
Date(s): February 20, 1864
Principal Commanders: Brigadier General Truman Seymour [US]; Brigadier General Joseph Finegan [CS]
Forces Engaged: Division [US]; District of East Florida [CS]
Estimated Casualties: 2,806 total (US 1,860; CS 946)
The Battle of Olustee 1864: The Final Union Attempt to Seize Florida
When the Civil War began in 1861, Florida although the third state to secede from the Union was of little strategic importance to North or South. By the end of 1863, this position had changed dramatically. For the struggling Confederacy, Florida had become a crucial source of supplies, most especially for the troops in Savannah and Charleston
Standard Catalog of
Civil War Firearms
Over 700 photographs and a rarity scale for each gun, this comprehensive guide to the thousands of weapons used by Billy Yank and Johnny Reb will be indispensable for historians and collectors.
The Union campaign that climaxed in the Battle of Olustee began in February, 1864, when troops commanded by General Truman A. Seymour embarked at Hilton Head, S.C. Their immediate objective was a fourth occupation of Jacksonville . The force could then disrupt transportation links and deprive the Confederacy of food supplies from central Florida; capture cotton, turpentine and timber; gain black recruits for the Union army; and induce Unionists in east Florida to organize a loyal state government.
Seymour's expeditionary force landed at Jacksonville on February 7, 1864. Scouts and raiders moved west and met little opposition. Meanwhile, during the month of January, movement of the Federal fleet had been noted by the Confederate forces, and they began to prepare for an offensive. The defense of Florida was placed in the hands of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan and Brigadier General Alfred Colquitt .
Once it was apparent the Union forces were moving westward in Florida, Finegan began searching for the Confederate army's best defendable position. Finegan found that position at Olustee. With a lake called Ocean Pond on his left, a nearly impassable swamp on his right and only a narrow passage between, he called for troops to help defend Florida. Colquitt answered that call, bringing veteran troops from Savannah, Georgia.
On February 20, 1864 the Union force of 5,500 men and 16 cannon marched westward from Macclenny. By this time, the Confederate forces almost equaled the Union opposing army in number. Finegan sent skirmishers to draw the Union forces to Olustee, and they made contact that afternoon. The Confederate line was formed.
The infantry in the center was supported by cavalry on each flank. The battle was joined on the floor of a forest of virgin pines, free of underbrush. Men fought in the open forest with neither force constructing earthworks. The battle raged until dark, when the Union forces began a hasty retreat. In proportion to the number of troops involved, it was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
Union forces remained in Jacksonville until the end of the war and occupied several coastal towns and various places along the St. Johns River. They carried out frequent operations against Confederate forces defending east Florida but did not venture out in significant force again.
Florida State Archives - Provost Guard House, Jacksonville, Florida. ca. 1864
Sid Meier's Civil War Collection
Take command of either Confederate or Union troops and command them to attack from the trees, rally around the general, or do any number of other realistic military actions. The AI reacts to your commands as if it was a real Civil War general, and offers infinite replayability. The random-scenario generator provides endless variations on the battles
Confederate Military History of Florida
The political and military events in the Confederacy's least-populated state during the American Civil War. It begins with the secession of the Florida in January 1861 and continues through the actions at Santa Rosa Island, the Battle of Olustee, and the engagement at Natural Bridge.
Discovering the Civil War in Florida
A Reader and Guide
While Confederates fought to preserve their sovereignty and way of life, Union troops descended on Florida with a mission to cripple the Confederacy: to destroy seashore salt works, to prevent the transfer of supplies and raw materials into, and to seize slaves and cattle
The Road to Olustee
A campaign study and a quick history of Confederate Florida.
The political and social undercurrents of the time, and sheds light on the complex circumstances of the fateful Union campaign. Particularly of interest are the great chapters on the blockade and raid strategy of the Federal forces
The Official Virginia
Civil War Battlefield Guide
Virginia was host to nearly 1/3rd of all Civil War engagements. This guide covers them all like a mini-history of the war. This guide organizes battles chronologically. Each campaign has a detailed overview, followed by concise descriptions of the individual engagements