In 1864 the Union's commander of the South, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, ordered Brigadier General Truman Seymour to land troops at Port Jacksonville and lead an expedition to destroy Confederate supply routes and recruit liberated slaves as soldiers. Gen. Seymour's troops were met with very little resistance during their first few raids across northeast Florida. However, without approval from Union command, Gen. Seymour decided to lead his 5,500 troops deeper to the west along the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad with the probable goal of seizing Tallahassee, the state's capital and center of the Cotton Belt's slave trade.
Troubled by Seymour's actions, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard dispatched reinforcements from Georgia brigades to serve under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Finnegan at Ocean Pond. On February 20, 1864, the otherwise serene pine forest and railroad station would play a major role in history as Seymour's army encountered 5,000 Confederate soldiers entrenched when they arrived at Olustee Depot. During the four-hour battle, thousands of Union casualties caused Gen. Seymour to order his troops to retreat to the Union-secured area of Jacksonville where they remained until the War's end.
Battle of Olustee Reenactment
Today, the Florida National Scenic Trail passes through the actual battlefield where a reenactment of the Battle of Olustee is held each February (usually the second week of the month). This historic area of the Osceola National Forest features:
Civil War Memorial
Interpretive Media Center
Historically Marked Trail
Museum with Artifacts
Florida Trail Kiosk
Fire Tower Picnic Area
The experience allows visitors to discover what life was like for the soldiers who fought and died in what would be the second bloodiest battle for Union troops during the Civil War. A loop trial highlights the events that preceded the confrontation as well as the tactics employed by the Confederate army.
Guests can also watch informative battlefield videos including scenes from the movie Glory which was filmed on the historic site.
Florida Civil War Memorial
Two decades before a proclamation signed by President Herbert Hoover preserved the Osceola National Forest, the Florida legislature purchased a three-acre tract to commemorate the Battle of Olustee. As the state's first historic site, the park's Civil War Memorial and battlefield were preserved in honor of the Confederate and Union soldiers who fought in Florida's bloodiest battle of the Civil War, which included the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the 35th United States Colored Troops, both composed of African-American soldiers and liberated slaves. Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park is located along the southern border of the Osceola National Forest off U.S. 90 about 50 miles west of Jacksonville. The day-use only park and Civil War Memorial interpretive center are open to the public from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
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