Posted by bakercounty
The Halloween season is here and, right on cue, there's a slew of media stories listing purportedly haunted places and spaces. Among them is Baker County's Olustee Civil War battlefield.
Back in 1984, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, commander of the Union's Department of the South at Hilton Head, SC, ordered troops led by Brigadier General Truman Seymour to North Florida to secure Union enclaves, sever Confederate supply routes for been and salt, and recruit black soldiers. But while preparing for the mission, Seymour's moves had caught the eye of the Confederate command in the key port city of Charleston. General P.G.T. Beauregard acted on a hunch that Seymour was headed for Florida and dispatched reinforcements from Georgia brigades to serve under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Finnegan at Ocean Pond.
Sure enough, Seymour had his eye on not just Florida's northern region but the entire state. Without the knowledge or blessing of Gillmore, Seymour and his 5,500 troops set out westward along the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad, likely planning to seize Tallahassee, the state's capital and the center of the Cotton Belt's slave trade. He didn't get far.
On February 20 nearly 150 years ago, Seymour, Finnegan and their Union and Confederate troops emerged from the Olustee pine trees and battled it out on the open field. The battle lasted four hours and killed 1,861 Union troops and 946 Confederates. A beaten Seymour then ordered his troops to retreat to Union-secured Jacksonville where they remained throughout the rest of the war.
Today, visitors regularly report hearing the sounds of gunfire, shouting men and galloping horses coming from the empty field, particularly while camping nearby during the annual reenactment of the historic battle each February. Some claim to have captured strange orbs in photographs and attribute them to the spirits of soldiers who lost their lives on what is now the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park.
Whether you're a whole-hearted believer or a stone-cold skeptic, there's no arguing that a purported haunting is great for business, driving tourism and selling merchandise. This is especially true during the Halloween season. Are you a Baker County business owner cashing in on the stories of local frights and sights? Tell us about your spooky specials and promotions. And while you're at it, check out this episode of TV's Local Haunts featuring our Olustee battlefield.