46786Re: Olustee Battlefield Tour
- Jul 18, 2010Here's what I got out of the actual battle, assisted by further study of course.
Seymour, the federal commander of the area, perhaps on his own initiative decided it was time to start subjugating Florida. It struck me that the Federals blundered into a hornet's nest in this battle due to bad Intel. For one thing, there was little reason to suspect resistance to be light as they did. Surely it was known that the rail line running halfway down the state was giving valuable service to the Confederacy, so why wouldn't the Rebels be fighting to preserve it? Nonetheless, after Yank Cavalry reported to Jacksonville that they were only finding slim numbers of militia in the area, the decision was made to advance to Lake City halfway across the state west of Jacksonville and cut the vital rail line [amongst other goals]. This was done despite the breakdown of the only locomotive available, which could have assisted for supply.
Meanwhile the Confederates were putting into place what had to be a considerable commitment of available forces, showing they indeed highly valued keeping the supply route open. This included a brigade of veterans from Georgia. Digging in on a well chosen defensive line, they waited for the Yankees. The federals obliged by sending in their forces piecemeal, furthermore having some of the least experienced troops at the forefront. There was certainly none of the advised 3 to 1 advantage for attack, but the complete opposite, equal size with piecemeal engagement. This is all just evidence the Yanks were unaware of what they were up against. To compound the error, when resistance first stiffened, there was no plan afoot to deal with such a development, the commanders just continuing to waltz into trouble. The Confederate commanders for some reason not really explained to my satisfaction, allowed the battle to be conducted about 2 miles in front of their earthworks; if I may be allowed to guess, the plan was to fall back but in the face of their success never did so. However, no one can claim that the fighting was anything less than quite intense.
I'm not one to get into positions of regiments and brigades, but I will note that the 7th New Hampshire showed evidence of inexperience or incompetency, allowing confusion of orders and subsequent rapid removal to the rear without properly engaging. Likewise Spencer armed 7th Connecticut Infantry seemed to have proceeded to shoot up all their rounds in a jiffy and then leave. These developments left the green, partially trained 8th USCT to defend the left of the line. To their credit, they stood in and took terrific casualties without being otherwise effective, it was reported. I'm thinking it was at this point the Confederate leadership on the field decided to continue to fight on this line. Unfortunately for their cause, CS ammunition ran low at this time. The Federals managed to patch up their line in the lull. When reinforcments and ammunition returned for the Rebs, though, it became clear to the Bluebellies the fight was lost. The famed 54th Massachusetts amongst other USCT covered the retreat effectively. For unclear reasons, pursuit was ineffective and the Union troops before long were back in Jacksonville without further harassment. There was never again any serious attempt to take control of this part of Florida.
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