Friday, February 19, 2010

Anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, Florida

Tomorrow (Saturday, February 20th) marks the 146th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, the largest Civil War engagement fought in the state of Florida.

Part of a politically-inspired campaign to return at least part of Florida to the Union in time for President Abraham Lincoln to claim the the state's electoral votes in the hard fought 1864 election, Olustee was a major Confederate victory. Ignoring orders from his direct superior to consolidate his newly achieved position in and around Jacksonville, Brigadier General Truman A. Seymour instead headed inland with 5,500 men.

He did not realize it, but he was marching into the teeth of an army of similar size being assembled at Olustee, a railroad siding between Jacksonville and Lake City, by Confederate Brigadier General Joseph Finegan. The two armies collided in the pine woods just east of Olustee on February 20, 1864.

The Battle of Olustee was a stand-up fight in the open woods, with neither side using breastworks. By the time it was over, Finegan and his second-in-command, Brigadier General Alfred Colquitt, had handed Seymour a major defeat. Over 1,800 Union soldiers were dead, wounded and missing, while Confederate losses were just under 1,000.

The site of the battle is now preserved at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park on U.S. 90 between Jacksonville and Lake City, Florida. To learn more, read original reports and see photographs of the battlefield, please visit

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