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EXPEDITION SENT TO FLORIDA.
Before following General Sherman in the remainder of his march northward, let us consider events on the sea-board, in 1864, and the beginning of 1865, which had direct and indirect connection with his campaign.
First, let us turn back to the early part of 1864. We have seen how Fort Sumter and the city of Charleston seemed to be at the mercy of General Gillmore, at the close of 1863, and yet how the award of their capture was withheld by the unwillingness of Admiral Dahlgren to expose his fleet to destruction, by running into the harbor among torpedoes. Seeing no prospect of active operations against Charleston, for some time, Gillmore determined to send a part of his force on an expedition into Florida. He had been informed, by refugees, that Union sentiments predominated there, and that the people, generally, tired of the war, were ready for amnesty and restoration to the Union. This alleged fact was communicated to the Presi
dent, who commissioned John Hay, one of his private secretaries, as major, and sent him to Hilton Head, to join the proposed
expedition, as the representative of the Executive, to act in 3 civil capacity should circumstances require.
Gillmore placed the expedition under the command of General Truman Seymour. It was embarked at Hilton Head, on twenty steamers and eight schooners, and went down the coast
under convoy of the gun-boat Norwich. It entered the St. John's River the next day, and arrived at Jacksonville at 5 o'clock that
afternoon. The troops were landed without other resistance
than a few shots from a Confederate force there, which turned and fled before a company of colored troops sent in pursuit of them. Jacksonville was in ruins, and only a few families, composed mostly of women and children, remained. Seymour, pursuant to instructions, immediately marched from Jackson
ville to Baldwin, in the interior, at the junction of the railway
leading from the former place with one from Fernandina. The army moved in three columns, under the respective commands of Colonels C. C. Barton of the Forty-eighth New York, J. R. Hawley of the Seventh Connecticut, and Guy V. Henry of the Fortieth Massachusetts. The latter led the cavalry, and was in the advance. It was known that General Joseph Finnegan' was in command of the Confederates in that region, but their number and strength were not exactly computed; so the army moved cautiously. It was soon ascertained that Finnegan was encamped a dozen miles from Jacksonville, and it was determined to surprise him. That duty was assigned to Henry, who moved on with his horsemen, a horse battery, and the Fortieth
e Feb. 6.
• Feb. 8.
130, volume I.), now offered an introductory prayer, and pronounced a blessing on the old flag. Dr. R. S, Storts, of Brooklyn, read selections from the Psalms. Then General Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General of the United States, read Major Anderson's dispatch of April 18, 1861, announcing the fall of Sumter. This was followed by the appearance of the faithful Sergeant Hart (see page 133, volume I.), with a new mail-bag, containing the precious old flag. It was attached to the halliards, when General Anderson, after a brief and touching address, hoisted it to the peak of the flag-staff, aunid loud huzzas, which were followed by singing The Star-Spangled Banner. Then six guns on the fort opened their loud voices, and were responded to by the guns from all the batteries around, which took part in the bombardment of the fort in 1861. When all became silent. the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, the chosen orator for the occasion, pronounced an eloquent address. A benediction closed the ceremonies; and thus it was that Fort Sumter was formally " repossessed" by the Government.
1 See page 194.
. Joseph Finnegan was a resident of Jackson, and was President of the Florida Secession Convention, in 1861.-See notice of Yulee's letter to him, on page 166, volume I.
INVASION OF FLORIDA.
Feb. 9. 1864.
> Feb, 10.
Massachusetts, while the infantry bivouacked. He passed along a road, through a dark pine forest, in the direction of Baldwin, and soon encountered pickets. He evaded a cavalry force, and at midnight dashed unexpectedly into “Camp Finnegan,” guarded by only one hundred and fifty men. He captured four cannon and a large amount of commissary stores, and at four o'clock in the morning “ pushed on toward Baldwin. Ile reached that hamlet at seven, and there captured another gun, three cars, much cotton, rice and provisions, and munitions of war, valued at half a million dollars. That evening General Gillmore, who had followed the expedition, accompanied by Seymonr, arrived at Baldwin.
Henry had pushed on beyond Baldwin, and at the south fork of the St. Mary's River, five miles from the railway junction, he had a sharp skirmish, and drove the Confederates, but with a loss to himself of seventeen men. He reached Sanderson, forty 'miles from Jacksonville, at six o'clock in the evening, where he captured and destroyed much property; and, pushing on, he was almost to Alligator or Lake City, nearly half way to Tallahassee, from the coast, at two o'clock in the morning. Then he rested until the middle of the forenoon,' when he found Finnegan so strongly posted across his path, that he thought it prudent to fall back about five miles. There he halted in a drenching rain, and telegraphed to Seymour, then at Sanderson, for food and orders. He was afterward informed that Finnegan, with three thousand men, fell back to Lake City and beyond, that night.
Gillmore did not tarry at Baldwin, but returned to Hilton Head, where he arrived on the 15th, with the understanding that Seymour was not to attempt a further penetration of Florida. And such was the latter's intention when Gillmore left; and on the 12th he telegraphed to his superior that he had ordered Henry to fall back to Sanderson. To this Gillmore replied, “I want your command at and beyond Baldwin concentrated at Baldwin without delay.” Seymour demurred, alleging that to leave the south fork of the St. Mary's would make it impossible for him to advance again.
Deceived by the assertion that Finnegan had fallen back from Lake City, and acting upon his strong impulse to accomplish the work for which he had been sent, Seymour took the responsibility of advancing, and put his troops in motion toward the Suwanee River. At the same time he telegraphedd the fact to Gillmore, and asked him to have an iron-clad vessel make a demonstration against Savannah, to prevent the Confederates in Georgia from re-enforcing Finnegan. Gillmore was astonished; and he was not a little alarmed, because of the seeming danger to which Seymour would expose his six thousand troops to attack from an overwhelming force that might be quickly concentrated upon him, by railway, from Georgia and Alabama. He sent a letter of remonstrance, but it was too late, for Seymour, on the day of its arrival,' had advanced, and fallen into most serious trouble near Olustee Station.
Seymour had pressed forward, that morning, from Barber's Station, at the south fork of the St. Mary's, with his whole force, moving along the dirt road that ran generally parallel with the railway. He marched in three columns, Hawley's brigade forming the left, Colonel Barton's the center, and Colonel Scamman's regiment the extreme right. Colonel Montgomery's
. Feb. 20.
negro brigade was in the rear. The army numbered about five thousand men, and had eight days' rations. Nothing of interest occurred until about two o'clock in the afternoon, when the head of the column, after a weary march of sixteen miles, reached a point on the railway, two or three miles east of Olustee Station, where that road passed through a broad cypress swamp, and the dirt road, turning at a right-angle, made a circuit to avoid it. There Finnegan had disposed his men in ambush, under cover of the swamp and a heavy pine forest, one flank resting on the latter, and the other on Ocean Pond. Into this net Seymour's wearied van marched at the hour above named, and were at close quarters with the enemy before they had any suspicions of his presence.
That critical situation demanded prompt and skillful action. Colonel IIenry's cavalry, with Stevens's battalion and Hawley's Seventh Connecticut were in the advance, and drew the first fire. It was an eccentric one, and very destructive. Finding his men falling rapidly, Hawley ordered up the Seventh New Hampshire, Colonel Abbott, to its support, and the batteries of Ilamilton, Elder, and Langdon moved into action. The Nationals had sixteen guns; the Confederates had only four left. Unfortunately, the former were placed so close up to the concealed foe, that the sharp-shooters of the latter easily shot the artillerists and artillery horses. Hamilton's battery went into the fight within one hundred and fifty yards of the Confederate front, and, in the space of twenty minutes, forty of its fifty horses were slain, and forty-five of its eighty-two men were disabled. Then the remainder fell back, leaving two of their four guns behind them.
The fight raged furiously, and Seymour was seen everywhere, at points of greatest peril, directing it on the part of the Nationals. The Seventh New Hampshire was soon losing so heavily, that Hawley ordered up the Eighth United States negro regiment, Colonel Fribley, to its support. That regiment had never been under fire. Its fortitude was remarkable. For nearly two hours it held its position in front, and lost three hundred and fifty men, with its commander mortally wounded. Then Colonel Barton led his brigade (Forty-eighth, Forty-ninth, and One Hundred and Fifteenth New York) into the hottest of the fight. It suffered dreadfully, but fought on gallantly. Finally, Colonel Montgomery went into the battle with his negro brigade (Fifty-fourth Massachusetts and First North Carolina), just in time to check a Confederate charge. But they were soon overpowered and driven back, the North Carolina regiment leaving its colonel, lieutenantcolonel, major, and adjutant, dead on the field. This interference with the Confederate charge, saved the Nationals from total rout, for Seymour took advantage of it, to readjust his forces. Then, giving his foe four volleys of grape-shot from his batteries, he ordered a retreat at about four o'clock. It was performed in good order, covered by the Seventh Connecticut. There was no effective pursuit. Seymour carried away about a thousand of his wounded, and left about two hundred and fifty on the field, besides many dead and dying. The estimated loss to the Nationals, in this expedition, was about two thousand men, and provisions and stores burnt, to prevent them falling into the hands of the Confederates, valued at one million dollars at least. The Confederate loss was about one thousand men, and several guns. The National troops retreated to Jacksonville, and then returned to
EVENTS ON THE CAROLINA COASTS.
Hilton Head, with the impression that active loyalty in Florida was a myth. Nothing of importance, bearing upon the great conflict, occurred in that State from The BATTLE OF OLUSTEE, until the end of the war.'
Very little occurred in South Carolina during the year 1864 that affected the final result of the struggle. All through the year,
there was occasional shelling of Charleston, at long range, from Morris Island, with very little effect. In May and June, as we have observed, Gillmore was on the James River, and all was quiet around Charleston. At the beginning of July, the four brigades of Birney, Saxton, Hatch, and Schimmelfennig, were concentrated on John's Island, and, with a gun-boat on the North Edisto, made some demonstrations against Confederate works there, but with no advantageous result. The Twenty-sixth United States negro troops, Colonel Silliman, were sent to take a Confederate battery, three miles northwest of Legaréville. They had no cannon, and were only six hundred strong. They made five desperate charges, and lost ninety-seven men killed and wounded. They were driven off, with the loss of their commander, prostrated by sun-stroke. This was called the BATTLE OF Bloody BRIDGE. The object of the expedition does not clearly appear. After that, all was quiet until Foster moved, in anticipation of the approach of Sherman to the borders of the sea.”
In North Carolina there were some stirring and important events in 1864, particularly at the close of the year. After the twelve thousand veteran troops were taken from Foster and sent to the Department of the South, the National force in that State was light; and, in February, General Pickett, commanding the Confederate troops in that section, made an effort to capture New Berne. On the 17th, he attacked an outpost at
* Feb., 1861. Bachelor's Creek, eight miles above New Berne, held by the One Hundred and Thirty-second New York. It was captured, with one hundred men, when Pickett advanced on New Berne. Then, a part of his force, under Colonel Wood, went in small boats and boarded the gun-boat Underwriter, lying near the wharf, and not more than one hundred yards from three batteries. Before the captors could get up her steam and move off, these batteries opened upon her, when the Confederates, seeing no chance to secure her, set her on fire and abandoned her. Pickett soon afterward withdrew, without attacking the defenses of New Berne, and claimed a victory, inasmuch, he said, as he had killed and wounded one hundred of the Nationals, made two hundred and eighty of them prisoners, captured two guns and three hundred small-arms, and destroyed a fine gun-boat of eight hundred horsepower, mounting four heavy guns. His own loss, he said, was only thirtyfive killed and wounded.
A little later in the year, Plymouth, near the mouth of the Roanoke River, in North Carolina, was attacked by about seven thousand Confed
i During the winter, extensive salt works belonging to the Confederates, on West Bay and Lake Ocola, valned at $3,000,000, were destroyed by orders of Admiral Bailey. In May, there was a gathering at Jackson, called the “State Convention of Unionists of Florida," and these appointed six delegates to the Repubiican Convention in Baltimore; but the affair amounted to nothing effective. At midsommer, General Birney moved out from Jacksonville, by order of General Foster, to Callahan Station, on the Fernandina railway, burning bridges and other property. Other raids occurred, here and there, in the direc- July 20. tion of the St. Mary's; and, for a time, Baldwin, and two or three other places, were held by National troops. There were skirmishes without decisive results; and, at the end of the year, neither party had gained or lost much. ? See note 1, page 412.
? See page 192.
erates under General R. F. Hoke. These consisted of three infantry brig. ades, a regiment of cavalry, and seven batteries. The post was fairly fortified, and was held by General H. W. Wessells, with the Eighty-fifth New
York, One Hundred and First, and One Hundred and Third Pennsylvania, Sixteenth Connecticut, and six companies from other regiments; numbering, in all, about twenty-four hundred men. In the river, in front of the town, were the gun-boats Southfield, Miami, and Bombshell. A short distance up the river was an out-post called Fort Warren.
Hoke approached Plymouth so secretly, that he was within two miles of Fort Warren before Wessells was apprised of his proximity. That out-post
was first assailed," and in the attack, the Confederates were asApril 17, sisted by the ram Albemarle, Captain Cooke, a formidable armored
vessel, which came down from the Roanoke River. The gunboat Bombshell went to the assistance of the post, but was soon disabled and captured. The garrison continued the struggle vigorously, and, in the mean time, Hoke opened fire on Fort Wessells, a mile nearer the town. His troops, in heavy force, made charge after charge, but were continually hurled back with severe loss. The superior numbers of the Confederates gave them great advantages, and they soon invested the fort so closely with swarming infantry, that it was compelled to surrender.
Plymouth was now closely besieged. Hoke pressed it heavily for a day or two, when the Albemarle ran by Fort Warren, and fell upon the unarmored gun-boats, Southfield (Lieutenant French) and Miami (Lieutenant-commanding Flusser), with great fury. Each carried eight guns, but they could do little against the formidable ram in such close quarters. It first struck and sunk the Southfield, and then turning upon the Miami, drove her down the river, after killing her commander and disabling many of her crew. Then the Albemarle turned her 32-pounder rifled guns upon the town, and shelled it with serious effect. On the following day. Hoke pushed his batteries to within an average
distance of eleven hundred yards of the town, and with these • April 20.
he made a general assault. General Ransom led a brigade to the attack on the right, and Hoke conducted, in person, two brigades in the assault on the left. The defense was obstinate. The assault was equally