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The Battle of Olustee
By Dr. Michael Dory
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2009, All Rights Reserved

Note: This article is adapted from a presentation made by Dr. Dory to the CCWRT in April, 2009.

Background

On December 15, 1863, Major General Q. A. Gillmore proposed certain operations in Florida to Major General H. A. Halleck, General in Chief, with the object of recovering the most valuable part of the state, cutting off supplies for the Confederacy, and the recruiting of Negro troops. General Gillmore was commanding the Department of the South of the Federal Army. His headquarters were at Hilton Head, South Carolina. The evidence indicates that the idea for these operations came from L. D. Stickney, a resident of St. Augustine. He was the Federal Tax Commissioner in Florida. Stickney knew Gillmore personally and had been in contact with him many times. Stickney had visited Washington, D.C. in late 1863 and had solicited President Lincoln for such an expedition. After returning to St. Augustine and shortly after Lincoln’s amnesty proclamation of December 8, 1863, Stickney sent Lincoln a petition signed by many Union men praying for armed occupation of Florida.

On December 22, Halleck informed Gillmore that the Secretary of War had given Gillmore liberty to undertake such operations in his department as he might deem best, providing that the Charleston positions be held. On January 13, 1864, President Lincoln wrote directly to Gillmore, expressing knowledge of an effort to establish al loyal state government in Florida, and urging Gillmore to aid the President’s reconstruction plans in Florida. On January 22, 1864, Halleck wrote to Gillmore that the Secretary of War had left the expedition up to Gillmore, but that the purpose had not been explained in detail. On January 31, 1864, Gillmore published the following purposes for an expedition:

  1. Procuring an outlet for the products of the state;
  2. Cut off the enemy’s source of commissary supplies;
  3. Secure recruits for colored regiments; and
  4. Inaugurate measures for the restoration of Florida to allegiance in accordance with the desires of the President.

Gillmore waited until February 4, 1864, to issue orders to his commanders. On that date, Brigadier General Truman Seymour, commanding the District of Hilton Head, was ordered to alert the following units for embarkation:

  • Col William B. Barton’s brigade which consisted of the
    7th Connecticut Infantry
    7th New Hampshire Infantry
    8th United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.)
    Col James Montgomery’s Colored Brigade which consisted of the
    2nd South Carolina Infantry (Colored)
    3rd United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.)
    54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
    Col Guy V. Henry’s Mounted Brigade which consisted of the
    40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry
    Massachusetts Cavalry, Independent Battalion
    Battery M, 1st U.S. Artillery (4 guns)
    Battery B, 1st U.S. Artillery (4 guns)
    James’ Rhode Island Battery (2 guns)

  • This not appearing to be enough men, the following units were added:
    47th New York Infantry
    48th New York Infantry
    115th New York Infantry

General Seymour did not know their destination before going to sea.
When they arrived in Florida, certain command changes were made. Col J. R. Hawley of the 7th Connecticut Infantry was promoted to command Col Barton’s Brigade. Col Barton, who had formally been the commander of the 48th New York Infantry, was given command of the New York Brigade.

Background of the 54th

With the expedition safely at sea, let’s look closer at the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

On July 18, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry had led the assault on Fort Wagner. In the morning they had 22 officers and 600 men prepared for battle. There were more men in the regiment, but they were either wounded, on camp guard, sick or on an 80 man fatigue detail. The commander was Col Robert Gould Shaw. The second in command was Lt Col Hallowell.

The assault had taken place with much gallantry if you can believe both the Yankee and Confederate officers present. The 54th actually gained the parapet of the fort. Due to poor generalship, they were not properly followed up. When the supporting units did come up, they too were slaughtered. The next morning, the 54th had only 13 officers and 400 enlisted men. This included the 80 man fatigue detail under Lt. Higginson. For his service ‘above and beyond the call of duty’, Sgt William H. Carney, color bearer of Company C, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was the first black men to receive the award.

Following the release of the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, the Union Army began enlisting African-American soldiers in earnest, totaling close to 180,000 troops by war's end.  The above photo is of Co. E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, taken at Fort Lincoln, Washington, D.C.  in 1865.


On July 21st, the 54th went into the trenches in front of Ft. Wagner on siege duty. By July 25th, all of the men had been gathered from their scattered locations. The regiment numbered 600 total including the sick. On July 26th, the 54th was relegated to fatigue duty. On August 4th, the battery named ‘The Swamp Angel’ was started. It originally had a 200 pound Parrott gun which could reach the city of Charleston 8,800 yards away. It soon burst and was replaced by two mortars of like range. On August 9th, the third parallel was started only 400 yards from Wagner. On August 21st, the fourth parallel was started only 350 yards from Wagner. Men were now working around-the-clock in shifts. On August 22nd, ‘The Swamp Angel’ opened fire on Charleston causing panic in the city. On August 23rd, the 54th pulled the first guard duty since July 21st. They had been relieved by the 3rd United States Colored Troops. On August 31st, it was back to round-the-clock fatigue duty. On September 2nd, another parallel within only 80 yards of Wagner was started. The going was very slow. The Confederates had planted ‘torpedoes’ (mines) all throughout the area. On September 7th, Fort Wagner was abandoned by the Confederates and occupied by the Yankees. During the 58 day siege, the 54th Massachusetts suffered four killed and four wounded. Ninety per cent of the work had been done under artillery and sharpshooter fire or both combined.

During October many of the sick recovered, the wounded were returned and some new officers arrived. On October 2nd, a new State Color was received. The former was lost in the assault on Ft. Wagner. Also furloughs for the men began. There had been several attempts to pay the troops since the fall of Ft. Wagner all of which the men refused.

New recruits arrived on November 28th (73) and December 4th (22). Fatigue duty was growing easier and larger guard details were commenced. Battalion and brigade drills were resumed. On December 12th, Major James Sturgis and Mr. E. W. Kinsley arrived to pay the troops the difference between the $10.00 the government wanted to pay them and the $13.00 the State of Massachusetts had promised them. The men flatly refused to accept the pay. Their argument was that they had enlisted as Massachusetts soldiers and were to be treated the same way as any other Massachusetts soldier by the U.S. Government, i.e. be paid $13.00 a month.

Christmas and New Years 1864 came and went. Officer promotions were absorbed. The regiment was experiencing various forms of insult and discrimination by white officers of various regiments. As they occurred, they were reported. As time went on, fewer and fewer incidents occurred. On January 20th, 112 recruits arrived. The ranks were now nearly filled. The 54th was not well clothed, fully equipped and prepared for any service. On January 28th, the 54th loaded all their equipment aboard two steamers. At 3 A.M. on January 29th, the 54th boarded the steamers J.B. COLLINS and MONOHANSETT. They went to Hilton Head. South Carolina.

Hilton Head was the staging point for an army that gathered daily. On February 1st, 50 recruits arrived for the 54th. Because the companies were full, an eleventh company, Company ‘L’, was begun. On February 4th, the officers were notified that the 54th was to embark in the morning. On February 5th, after having left some men behind, the 54th embarked on the steamers MAPLE LEAF, GENERAL HUNTER, and the schooner R.C.A. WARD. Unknown to the men of the 54th, 28 transports were at sea with an army on the way to Florida.

On February 7th, Jacksonville, Florida was invaded.


Quincy A. Gillmore
Henry A. Halleck
Truman Seymour
William H. Carney
 
 
 
 

Battle

The battle opened on February 20, 1864, with a skirmish action beginning around 1400 between the Yankee brigades of Col Guy V. Henry and Col J.R. Hawley and the Confederate cavalry under Col Carraway Smith. Smith’s Brigade contained the 4th Georgia Cavalry Regiment and the 2nd Florida Cavalry Regiment with the 64th Georgia Infantry Regiment in support. Col Smith was to draw the Yankees toward the waiting Confederate line held by Col A.H. Colquitt and the 6th, 19th and 28th Georgia Infantry Regiments and Gamble’s battery who had joined the 64th Georgia Infantry Regiment. Henry’s Brigade contained the 40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry, the 1st Massachusetts Independent Cavalry Regiment and Battery B, 1st U.S. Artillery (Elder’s Horse Battery). Hawley’s Brigade contained the 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment, the 7th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, the 8th United States Colored Troops and Battery E, 3rd U.S. Artillery (Hamilton’s battery).

As the action progressed, the Confederate cavalry fell back and drew the Yankees toward Col Colquitt’s forces who formed line of battle and threw out skirmishers. The 2nd Florida Cavalry Regiment formed on the right of the battle line and the 4th Georgia Cavalry Regiment formed on the left. Col Hawley ordered his brigade into line. The 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment was deployed as skirmishers. This was an under-strength battalion of only four companies but armed with Spencer repeating rifles. The brigade advanced on line and closed with the enemy. The 8th U.S.C.T. deployed to the left of Elder’s and Hamilton’s batteries. Col Henry deployed his cavalry on the flanks for support. The 7th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment got conflicting orders on how to deploy to the right of Hamilton’s battery. In such situations the old adage of “Order, counter order, disorder” became very valid. The 7th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, under heavy fire, scattered and headed for the rear.

The Battle of Olustee.
Confederate and Union positions on February 20, 1864.


The 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment and 8th U.S.C.T. both traded volleys with the Confederate battle line and both were forced back. The 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment had run out of ammunition for their Spencer seven-shot repeating rifles and the 8th U.S.C.T. after taking many casualties.

Had these troops been the only one involved, the battle might have ended with few losses to either sides. However, both sides had reinforcements on the way. The Confederate reinforcements arrived first. Before moving to support the 64th Georgia Infantry Regiment in the beginning, Col Colquitt had been ordered to take command of the fighting at the crossroads. Gen Finegan then ordered additional troops to the fighting. Col George P. Harrison moved his second brigade forward. The 64th Georgia Infantry Regiment was originally part of his brigade. The 1st Georgia Regular Infantry Regiment and 32nd Georgia Infantry Regiment and the Chatham Artillery Battery from the reserve arrived and were thrown into the left of the Confederate line. The Chatham Artillery Battery was ordered to dress on Gamble’s Artillery Battery. The 6th Georgia Infantry Regiment was ordered further to the left to make room for the reinforcements. The 32nd Georgia Infantry Regiment arrived and filled in between the 6th Georgia Infantry Regiment on the far left and the 1st Georgia Regular Infantry Regiment. Bonaud’s battalion was held temporarily in reserve. Guerard’s Light Artillery Battery was ordered to the center of the Confederate line. The 6th Florida Infantry Battalion arrived and formed on the right of the 19th Georgia Infantry Regiment thus forming the far right of the Confederate battle line. Additionally, Company A of Milton’s Light Artillery Regiment. This was a 30 pound Parrott gun mounted on a railroad flat car and commanded by Lt. Drury Rambo.

Col Harrison was given command of the left of the Confederate line. With the two brigades thoroughly mixed, it had been a wise move to place Col Colquitt in overall battlefield command.

Yankee General Seymour had arrived on the battlefield and was personally directing his forces. Gen Seymour had originally ordered the 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment into skirmish order. His overall plan was a good piece of Napoleonic tactics. Pin the enemy to your front with one brigade and turn his flank with your second. Napoleon would have been proud, Col Colquitt was unimpressed. With his new troops now in line, he began a general advance.

Co William B. Barton’s Brigade now arrived. Cpt Langdon’s Battery was ordered to form with the other two batteries. The 47th, 48th and 155th New York Infantry Regiments were already deployed in line from left to right. They were ordered to advance and form on the left of the 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment. The 48th New York Infantry Regiment was split so that the massed Yankee artillery was in their middle. The brigade was in the same position that the ill-fated 7th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment had been in before it broke.

This color lithograph, published by Kurz and Allison of Chicago in 1894, was part of a post-war series of romanticized images of Civil War battles. Here, the 8th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment is shown under fire during the battle. This illustration, while dramatic, does not accurately reflect the actual battle. The engagement at Olustee was fought in pine woods, rather than in the open as shown in this print. 
(Text and image from the Museum of Florida History website)


The battle now got serious. Both sides traded volleys for three hours. The 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment had been re-supplied with ammunition as had the Confederate regiments. The fire of the 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment halted at least one Confederate advance and would be important later. However, the Confederates were now ordered to charge. The Yankee casualties became serious. The 8th U.S.C.T. had lost 300 casualties out of 550 effectives including Col Charles W. Fribley the 8th’s commander who was left on the field. Cpt Hamilton was wounded as lost two guns. Barton’s regimental commanders, Col Henry Moore of the 47th New York Infantry Regiment, Maj W.B. Coan of the 48th New York Infantry Regiment and Col Sammon of the 115th New York Infantry Regiment were all wounded. Col Barton’s brigade had taken 811 casualties and was in serous trouble. The 8th U.S.C.T. was out of ammunition and was leaving the field. Gen Seymour stared defeat in the face.

Relief

The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment arrived in Jacksonville on February 7th as the lead unit of the 4th Invasion of Jacksonville. On the 10th, they marched to Camp Finegan. This had been a Confederate camp occupied by General Finegan’s forces up until February 8th. On February 12th, Major Appleton’s five complete companies of the 54th marched to Baldwin.  Here entrenchments had been thrown up and the ‘town’ fortified with block houses and a stockade. Scouting parties had gone out and brought in supplies ‘on the hoof’ and further supplies were brought up from Jacksonville. Most of this work had been done by the 3rd U.S.C.T. and a company of New York engineers. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry joined in the work upon arrival.

Col Edward N. Hallowell, the commander of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, had been left in command of Jacksonville with the remaining five companies of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. On February 14th, the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment arrived at Jacksonville relieving the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. On February 18th, Col Hallowell marched his companies from Jacksonville to Baldwin reuniting his regiment after the 18 mile march. On February 19th, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was ordered to Barbers, 12 miles further down the railway. At Barbers they joined the 1st North Carolina Infantry Regiment (Colored). Around them was Gen Seymour’s army of 5,000 men.

At 7 A.M. on February 20th, the army moved west along the railroad toward Olustee. Montgomery’s Brigade, the 1st North Carolina Infantry Regiment and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment were in the rear guarding the trains. Two companies of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, A and E, were left behind as guards in Barbers.

Sanderson, nine miles down the railroad, was reached about noon by Gen Seymour’s troops.

At 1430 hours on February 20th, Col Montgomery’s Brigade was resting by the side of the road. They had heard musketry and cannon fire for several hours up ahead. The men had made jokes about the ‘home-made thunder’. Some had worried about the ‘lightning’ striking them. A rider appeared calling for the commanding officer. Col Hallowell received the order to advance rapidly. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was immediately on their feet and moving at the double-quick toward the battle ahead.

Some authorities quote one mine, most quote two miles as the distance needed to be covered in a hurry. The pace had been murderous. Knapsacks, blankets and even haversacks had been discarded as excess weight. Now turn your maps over. Please look at the top of the page and notice the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in the upper right hand corner where the road and railroad cross. This is Map Roman Numeral II again.

At the road junction. Col Montgomery received orders to join the battle. As the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry advanced, they met the evidence of a hard-fought battle. Wounded and dispirited men moving to the rear in clumps and clusters. A disabled battery leaving the field was evident. Shouts of “We’re badly whipped!” and “You’ll all get killed.” met the men. Sergeant Cezar of Company D let the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry’s battle cry, “Three cheers for Massachusetts and seven dollars a month!” The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry came past the hospital of the 8th U.S.C.T. and gave cheer to the wounded there.

Nearing the battlefield, General Seymour personally rode up to Col Hallowell and told him that the battle was lost and everything depended on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. It was now 1600 hours. Please check map Roman Numeral IV, positions 54c and 1c.

The brigade deployed with the 510 men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment on the left and the 1st North Carolina Infantry Regiment on the right. The 8th U.S.C.T. was falling back. Barton’s Brigade was shot through and losing heart. They were wavering. The Confederate line was advancing.

When they reached the battleline, the mere sight of the fresh brigade heartened the wavering New Yorkers who cheered them on. The New Yorkers were ordered to fall back. The 8th U.S.C.T. proceeded to fallback also under orders. The Confederate line only 400 yards distant, halted.

The 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment had been ordered to the real low on ammunition. The 1st North Carolina Infantry Regiment under Lt Col William N. Reed led an attack to cover their withdrawal. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment began to volley fire with the Confederate line.

Standing and receiving fire is not easy. Men began to fall all along the line. Lt. Homans of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment ordered his part of the line to advance and capture the Chatham artillery. He was ordered back into line. The firing continued. Then Sgt Wilkins with the national flag began to advance with a color guard. They had gone 150 yards before Col Hallowell could order them back into line. With the continued firing and being heavily outnumbered, the men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment began to speed up their firing by cutting the loading time from nine commands to six. They did this by ramming home the charge by banging their rifle butts on the ground. This eliminated the need for the ramrod operations. It worked.

After an hour and a half, the 1st North Carolina Infantry Regiment was finished. Lt. Col Reed was down. The second in command, Major Bogle and the Adjutant W.C. Manning were down. Three captains and five lieutenants were casualties. The 1st North Carolina Infantry Regiment was ordered to withdraw.

The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was now alone. They were running low on ammunition. Col Hallowell later estimated that his regiment had fired over 20,000 rounds of ammunition by this time. More ammunition reached them, but it was of the wrong caliber!

Col Montgomery rode up about 1730 hours and ordered the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment to disperse and fall back. Col Hallowell could not be located. Lt Col Hopper disobeyed the order. He ordered Sgt Wilkins, the standard bearer, to stand fast. After a quick conference with the nearby officers, Lt Col Hooper and all the officers began shouting ‘Rally. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was back in the action.

Lt Col Hooper ordered the regiment to fix bayonets and proceeded to exercise the regiment in the manual of arms. When they were again steadied, it was noted that the Confederates were advancing past the 54th Volunteer Infantry Regiment’s right and into their rear. Lt Col Hooper ordered the regiment to give nine loud cheers. In the darkening light it thus appeared that Yankee reinforcements had arrived. The Confederate pursuit halted.

The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment again formed line of battle and marched off the field. They halted every 200 to 300 yards to face about and check a Confederate pursuit. There was little pressure. While falling back they destroyed the wrong caliber ammunition that had been brought to them during the battle.

As they continued their withdrawal in the dark, they encountered the 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment with their breech loaders and Col Henry’s Mounted Brigade. The 7th Connecticut Infantry Regiment had been re-supplied and was ready for action. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment joined them as the rear guard of the army. Col Hallowell, who had been with General Seymour during the battle, finally located and rejoined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The army struggled on to Sanderson. The supplies there were destroyed and after the wounded moved, the rear guard again departed, this time for Barbers.

Retreat

You will recall that Major Appleton had been assigned to defend Barbers on the morning of February 20th. He was relieved by Col Hartwell of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment with six companies about dark on the evening of February 20th. Major Appleton departed Barbers with his two companies and a small detachment of the 8th U.S.C.T. He was heading for Sanderson. He had heard the battle all day long. As he drew closer to Sanderson, he encountered a steady stream of fugitives from the battle. He arrived within one mile of Sanderson and formed his command. His organized unit drew the disheartened unwounded who fell in with his men. His command grew to over 600 men, but he never reached Sanderson. He received orders to escort the train to Barbers. He arrived back at his starting point about 2 A.M. They were not reunited however, for Companies A and E were immediately placed on picket duty with elements of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

On February 21st, the wounded from Barbers were sent toward Jacksonville in horse-drawn wagons and on rail cars. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was temporarily attached to Col Hawley’s Brigade and moved out about 9 .M. Companies A and E were attached to the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. These units formed a line of battle and covered the retreat from Barbers. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment arrived at Baldwin about 1600 hours where Companies A and E rejoined it. The regiment then continued on to McGirt’s Creek where it halted for the night. They had marched 22 miles that day.

February 22nd dawned at 4 A.M. for the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. They moved out with Col Hawley's Brigade which included the 7th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment and the 8th U.S.C.T. at 7 A.M. After marching four miles. Col Hallowell received orders from Gen Seymour to march back to 10 Mile Station and bring on the railroad train. The locomotive had broken down.

Col Hallowell arrived at 10 Mile Station with his foot-sore troops who hadn’t been fed in several days. Quartermaster Ritchie found some bread on the train and proceeded to pass it out to the troops. Ropes were then attached to the engine and cars. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment then proceeded to drag the train loaded with wounded all the way to Camp Finegan where horses were met to complete the job.

At Camp Finegan the men rested and were supplied with rations by Lt Knight of the 2nd Sough Carolina Infantry Regiment (Colored). The men rested. They resumed their march at 1600 and reached Jacksonville at 2000 hours. Nearly one half the regiment was without shoes; their blankets and knapsacks were sacrificed to get speedily into action; they had no rations or shelter. They had marched 22 miles that day. The Adjutant-General of Massachusetts reported that “the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment march 120 miles in 102 hours, yet the roll call showed no stragglers”.

The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment settled down for a well-deserved rest. On February 25th, they were moved near the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. On February 26th, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiments were brigaded together. Things were settling down and more troops were pouring in. Stores were opened by sutlers and a newspaper, “The Peninsula”, was being printed. The muster roll for March 3ed lists 12 officers and 725 men present for duty.

Camp life was monotonous and people had time to think. Since the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment had yet to be paid for their services to the country, the officers were concerned that an incident might occur that would mar the unit’s good record.

Major Civil War Battles Involving U.S.C.T. Soldiers


http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu

There was movement, finally, in Washington on the pay issue. Senator Wilson of Massachusetts introduced a bill on March 2, 1864, that would finally equalize the pay of black and white soldiers. It passed the Senate on March 10th and went to the House of Representatives. Copies of this bill were received by Col Hallowell and were ordered read to each company of the regiment.

Also during March 1864, promotions were received for many people including Sgt Stephen A. Swails of Company F. A black, he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. He thus became the first black officer promoted in the Union Army.

On April 6, 1864, Confederate General Anderson sent a list of the wounded and captured Yankee troops at the Battle of Olustee. It contained the names of five men from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

On April 17, 1864, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment boarded transports and left Jacksonville.

They went back to Charleston and siege duty. Individual companies were sporadically engaged in artillery duels with the Confederate gunners during this time.

Upon promotion, Lt Swails assumed the rank and duties of an officer. The War Department in Washington balked. It refused to commission a black as an officer. Despite being ordered to resume his duties as an enlisted man, Lt Swails got help from Col Hallowell who had been promoted out of command of the regiment. Lt Swails was sent to see General Foster at Hilton Head who agreed to forward the lieutenant’s claim and recommended him for muster as an officer.

The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment waited patiently for their pay. On September 28, 1864, it finally arrived. Eighteen months pay was received by the 900 men of the regiment. It too $170,000 to pay the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Besides partying the men sent over $100,000 home to their families. The enlisted men also contributed $1,5435 to erect a monument to Col Robert Gould Shaw and those who fell with him in the assault on Fort Wagner.

 
Guy V. Henry
 
 
 

54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Men from Cleveland, Ohio

Co.

Name

Date of Enlistment Date of
Discharge
E DEAN, Anthony 04/04/63 08/20/65
  PARKER, George 04/04/63 02/08/64, died, diarrhea
  PRINCETON, William 04/04/64(?) 04/22/65, died, smallpox
  RICHARDSON, Joseph T 04/04/63 08/20/65
F LOWE, Francis 04/08/63 07/18/63, died, Ft. Wagner
  BOULDON, John A 04/14/63 06/03/65, wounded, Ft. Wagner
G CONAWAY, Shedrick 04/14/63 08/20/65
  SOWARD, John 04/14/63 08/20/65
H DORSEY, William 04/29/64(?) 08/20/65
  HUNTER, Alexander W 04/29/63 06/30/64, wounded in trenches Ft. Wagner, 08/17/63
  PEGRAM, Edward 04/29/63 04/13/65, died, dysentery
  SMITH, Robert 04/29/63 08/20/65
  VORCE, James W 04/29/63 05/27/63, deserted

TOTAL MEN FROM CLEVELAND 13
Total Men at Battle of Ft. Wagner 07/18/63 10 (+2)
Total Men at Battle of Olustee 02/20/64 8 (+2?)
Company E was not present during the firing. Men involved 1 (+1?)

Total number of men in the regiment - 1354, including officers
Total number of casualties suffered during service - 500
Total number of men from Ohio in the Regiment - 150

 

Casualties
(from Boyd, page 49 and Olustee Battlefield State Historic Site information)

 

  Federal Confederate
  Officers Men Total Officers Men Total
Killed in Action 11 192 203 7 86 93
Wounded in Action 42 1,110 1,152 49 798 847
Missing in Action 2 504 506 0 6 6

Total Casualties

55 1,806 1,861 56 590 946

Casualty Rate

    ~ 40%     ~20%

Confederate forces captured 5 guns, 400 sets of accouterments, 1600 stands of small arms and 130,000 rounds of ammunition.

 

Sidelights from the Battle of Olustee

LT. RAMBO

  • Fired grape & cannister which was quite effective according to Federal sources (Boyd, Emilio, Nulty)
  • Noise dominated all other battle sounds (Emilio)
  • Heard as far away as Barbers and Baldwin (Boyd, Emilio, Nulty)

GEN BEAUREGARD

  • Moved troops from all over his district quickly to Florida
  • Troops came from Charleston, Savanna and along the Savanna Railroad
  • Troops came from District of Middle Florida and James Island (Boyd)

8th U.S.C.T.

  • Green, had never seen combat before
  • Never had practice loading and firing their rifles! (Boyd)

POLITICS

  • Restoring Florida not the major objective of the expedition (John Hay to Gillmore)
  • National elections not far distant
  • Full Republican Delegation from Florida at the Convention

MILITARY DIVERSION (Emilio)

  • Gen Schimmelpfennig on John’s Island, South Carolina—too early
  • Col J. B. Howell’s 85tyh Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment on Whitmarsh Island, Georgia—too late

RESOLUTION OF CONGRESS OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA

“...for skill and gallantry displayed in achieving the signal victory of Ocean Pond, Florida, 20 February 1864.” to BGen Joseph Finegan
Approved May 17, 1864

 

Bibliography

Boyd, Mark F., “The Federal Campaign of 1864 in East Florida”, FLORIDA HISTORICAL QUARTERLY, July 1950 pages 3-37.

Nulty, William H., CONFEDERATE FLORIDA - THE ROAD TO OLUSTEE, The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1990.

Emilio, CPT Luis F., A BRAVE BLACK REGIMENT: HISTORY OF THE 54TH MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEER INFANTRY, 1863-65, 3rd Edition, Ayer Company Publishers, Salem, New Hampshire, 1990.

Cornish, Dudley Taylor, THE SABLE ARM: BLACK TROOPS IN THE UNION ARMY, 1861-65, University Press of Kansas, 1987, pages 267-269,.

OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE UNION AND CONFEDERATE NAVIES IN THE WAR OF THE REBELLION, Series I, Volume 12 pages 716, 717, 728 & 739 & Series II, Volume 3 page 175.


 

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable