BATTLE OF OLUSTEE

As an avid civil war history buff, I knew there was a Battle of Olustee in Florida, I just didn’t know really where it was. Well it’s only about 20 miles from here, so we went there. It is a very small area and only a very small visitor center, not maned with a few artifacts, and story on the battle. It does have a one mile walking trail, with interpretive signage. By comparison it was a very small battle, lasting about three and a half hours. It was the largest battle fought in Florida during the Civil war. The other distinction it has is the third bloodiest battle of the civil war. With 10,000 men engaged almost 3000 were , either killed, wounded, captured or missing. A very high number given the shortness of the battle. It had cavalry, infantry, sharpshooters and artillery, and some regiments of U. S. colored troops. There was even a big artillery piece being fired from a railroad car. It was fought mainly in the pine woods around the old road and railroad bed.

 

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The Union was advancing from Jacksonville, to the Swannee river to burn the railroad bridges and cause havoc as they went. They did not know that the confederates knew they were coming. So the confederate army of about 5000 strong, entrenched at the railroad depot at Olustee. They also had cavalry patrols out in front. Some skirmishing started with the union army and the C. S. Horseman and it soon escalated and the battle was fought about two miles from the depot. It was a back and forth event in the pine trees and low brush, with cannon going off, infantry trying to manuvere to the right places. No one wanted to give ground, at one point the confederate were out of ammunition and ready to fall back when they received a new supply. The union though made the biggest mistake when an order to move forward all at once was not heard , not obeyed or whatever and only two middle regiments moved out. They were soon hit with crossfire and decimated. Finally the union left three regiments of colored troops behind, as the rest of the army fell back. They paid the price and many were killed and taken prisoner. Many of the colored prisoners were shot dead after they gave up. In the end the union retreated back to Jacksonville and the confederates won the battle. The union lost over 1800 men, and the confederates lost over 900 men.

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The pine forest where the battle was fought, it was a nice mile trail, there is only one big  monument , but there is a small cemetery where the remains were reburied after the war.

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