There was only one major battle fought in Florida during the War Between the States/Civil War/War of Northern aggression. That battle was fought on this day in history, 1864.

Fearing defeat in the 1864 presidential election, President Lincoln encouraged Congress to pass the so called ’10 percent plan’. The plan stated that any Confederate State would be-readmitted to the Union and its electoral votes would count if 10 percent of the population could be persuaded to vote for its return to the Union.

To encourage the vote, Lincoln sent an invading force of 8,000 men under BGEN Quincy Gilmore, who had been laying siege to Charleston, SC.  Quincy could not take the city without naval support and after its severe repulse in April of 1863, the Union Navy was not going to risk its precious ironclads to confederate Artillery bombardment a second time.

Gilmore landed at, Jacksonville, FL, which had been reduced to ruins by 2 previous federal occupations, and began making plans for his campaign in detail. At that time Florida had 2 railroads. one ran from Fernadina to Cedar Key. The Atlantic and Gulf Central ran from Jacksonville to Talahassee.  General Gilmore took the latter as his principal axis of of advance, the objective being the occupation of Lake City.

There was no regular Confederate field force in Florida. There were 5,100 Florida State Militia under BGEN Joseph Finnegan.

General Gilmore brought one locomotive with him since the Union had destroyed all of the locomotives previously. But it broke down and he had to send to South Carolina for another. He went in person,  leaving BGEN Truman Seymour to remain in garrison until his return. General Seymour remained in active for four days and they went on the offensive, having heard a rumor that the Confederates planned to remove rails from the Atlantic and Gulf Central’s lines.

General Seymour reported to members of the press who accompanied him that he planned to roll up the Florida State Militia.

He marched to Lake City with 5,500 Union troops. Having been warned of the attack, General Finnigan took up a strong defensive position behind swampy ground near Olustee, or Ocean Pond. It limited the Federal ability to maneuver or use their superiority in artillery. The Union had 16 guns, the militia had four.

The Union opted for a series of frontal attacks across the swamp, where 1861 soldiers were drowned (to be eaten later), eaten outright, or shot by the militia. 93 militia soldiers were killed.

The expedition sailed north, having failed to persuade Floridians to vote for Mr. Lincoln.

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. So, a little like the VC during Tet ’68, the military equivalent of blowing one’s own brainz out. Jolly good show, what?

  2. Ah, the Battle of Olustee.

    There used to be a placard in front of Gainesville’s City Hall celebrating the troops that left Gainesville to fight there.

    There used to be a monument to Confederate Dead here in Gainesville, too.

    Gone, all gone.

    Olustee used to be the BIG Civil War reenactment up here. I am sure that between SJWs and The Covidiocracy, that’s now dead. (quickly going to the interwebs…) Well, it’s cancelled this year, scheduled for 2022 but I’ll believe that when I see it.

    Little factors about Olustee. The Northerners weren’t used to semi-swamp oak hammocks and Long-Leaf Pine forests. They also were on the ass-end of their supply line, deep in hostile territory. Between the occasional pissed off Cracker (a real name, for a Florida Cowboy) and random Seminole taking potshots, there was a kind of ‘Going back to Boston from Concord’ feel to their existence in the Deep South.

    The Southern Troops, on the other hand, had home-field advantage, wee well fed, well equipped and were there with the support of the surrounding populace.

    Lessons to be learned: Don’t go deep into Enemy territory without support and strong supply lines. Don’t expect to be ‘experts’ in terrain you’ve never ever really messed with. Don’t get cocky.

    So, of course, the lessons still haven’t been learned by politicians and many upper-level occifers, who appear, in this day and age, to be the same-ish.

      • The Confederacy made lots of blunders. They should have been able to follow up after the Union’s loss at Manassas Jct. (Bull Run) and march into Washington. There was nothing between them and the White House.

        The longer the war lasted, the less likely the South would win it. Once England didn’t come in on the side of the Confederacy and break the blockade with their navy, it was just a matter of time.

        Given that, the expedition to coerce Florida was stupid, and underwhelming and they left the state feeling stupid.

          • Troops were exhausted on both sides.

            Same after Gettysburg. General Meade was roundly criticized for not routing Lee’s army, but they were all played out, and Lee retreated south unmolested.

  3. where 1861 soldiers were drowned (to be eaten later), eaten outright, or shot by the militia.
    My 2021 mind is saying they had to know about alligators going in, but I wonder what the story really is. It’s possible that the leaders knew about gators and underestimated them while the majority of the Union soldiers had no idea. Or if nobody on the union side had any idea about gators.

    • It’s difficult to say what the Union thought. Since there is a gator in every mud puddle in Florida (then as now), they had to know about them. Gators nest, and defend those nests, and 5,000 soldiers making a frontal attack hoping that the lizards will flee – may have triggered the mama gators. It’s difficult to know how many soldiers died from bullet wounds and how many from gators or snakebite. My research didn’t come up with anything but raw numbers. The Floridians would have been more circumspect on where they stepped. That is a given.

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