The Union campaign that climaxed in the Battle of Olustee (or Ocean Pond)
began in February 1864, when troops commanded by General Truman A. Seymour
embarked at Hilton Head, S.C. Their immediate objective was a fourth occupation
of Jacksonville. The force could then disrupt transportation links and deprive
the confederacy of food supplies from central Florida; capture cotton, turpentine
and timber; gain black recruits for the Union army; and induce Unionists
in east Florida to organize a loyal state government. Seymour's expeditionary
force landed at Jacksonville on February 7. The Union Force moved westward
and met little opposition.
Meanwhile, during the month of January, movement of the Federal fleet
had been noted by the Confederate forces, and they began to prepare for
an offensive. The defense of Florida was placed in the hands of Brig.
General Joseph Finegan and Brig. General Alfred Colquitt. Once it was
apparent the Union forces were moving westward in Florida, Finegan began
searching for the Confederate army's best defendable position.
Finegan found that position at Olustee. With a lake called Ocean Pond
on his left, a nearly impassable swamp on his right and only a narrow
passage between, he called for troops to help defend Florida. Colquitt
answered that call, bringing veteran troops from Savannah, Georgia.
On February 20, the Union force of 5,500 men and 16 cannon marched westward
from Macclenny. By this time, the Confederate forces almost equaled the
Union opposing army in number. Finegan sent skirmishers to draw the Union
forces to Olustee; they made contact that afternoon. The Confederate line
was formed. The infantry in the center was supported by cavalry on each
The battle was joined on the floor of a forest of virgin pines, free
of underbrush. Men fought in the open forest. The battle raged till dark,
when the Union forces began a hasty retreat.
Battle casualties amounted to 1,861 Union and 946 Confederate soldiers.
Union forces remained in Jacksonville until the end of the war and occupied
several coastal towns and various places along the St. Johns River. They
carried out frequent operations against Confederate forces defending east
Florida but did not venture out in significant force again.
The 1899 Florida legislature created a commission to select a site and
to raise funds for a suitable monument to commemorate the battle. The
site was acquired by the state of Florida in 1909. The monument was built
in 1912 and dedicated in 1913, just 49 years after the battle.
The interpretive center offers exhibits that interpret this Confederate
victory. It is open Thursday through Monday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. free
of charge. The battlefield is marked by a trail and signs along the battle
The battle itself is re-enacted each February.