The Seventh Connecticut spent its entire enlistment prior to Olustee in the Department of the South. Among other actions, it fought in the siege of Fort Pulaski, and the battles of Secessionville and Battery Wagner. During 1863, the regiment formed part of the garrison of St. Augustine and Fernandina, Florida. Because it was in the same brigade as the Seventh New Hampshire, both regiments were often jointly called the "Seventy-seventh New England".
In late 1863, through the efforts of Colonel Joseph Hawley, the Seventh Connecticut obtained a quantity of Spencer carbines—repeating rifles that fired seven rounds without reloading. These weapons gave the regiment a tremendous increase in firepower. Less welcome additions to the regiment were 112 substitutes and draftees, who joined the unit in the fall of 1863. The regimental history of the Seventh states that these substitutes "were a bad lot, mostly young foreigners, many of them ignorant of the names under which they had sold themselves for the bounty."
In January 1864, the unit was further weakened by the furloughing of over three hundred enlisted veterans. The Seventh was left "quite forlorn with its depleted ranks" and, for the Florida campaign, found itself reorganized into a four-company battalion, numbering barely three hundred men.
The Seventh Connecticut fought as skirmishers at Olustee and its losses were relatively low. Like many of the other Union regiments at Olustee, it soon transferred to Virginia, fighting at Drewry's Bluff, Bermuda Hundred, and Deep Bottom, among other actions. The Seventh Connectiuct also fought in the assault on Fort Fisher, and ended the war in North Carolina.
The following relates an incident of some interest which occured during the Battle of Olustee.
Private Jerome Dupoy of Redding, who had enlisted on 6 November 1863, was shot in the head and killed during the battle by Private John Rowley of Ridgefield, a fellow member of Company D.
Captain Benjamin Skinner, the company commander, found no proof of the act being intentional, but "scuttlebutt" in the company was so rampant that Rowley was arrested on suspicion and placed in the guardhouse where he was bothersome, could not sleep, saw ghosts and finally confessed he shot Dupoy purposely. It seems the episode began some time earlier when both men were involved in a quarrel and Dupoy had cut Rowley with a knife and the latter swore vengeance.
Rowley's statement, concerning the crime, and published in the Danbury Jeffersonian in May of 1864 is as follows:
"Since the battle, I have dreaded nights, for they are horrible nights. When on picket duty I always see Dupoy stand a little away in front, his face full of blood and the bullet hole in his forehead. At night in my dreams, he stands at the entrance, I awake. He is there, pale and bloody, but vanishes as soon as I see him. I could not keep the horrible crime a secret any longer."
Rowley, who enlisted a day before Dupoy, was found guilty of murder by General Court Martial and hung on 3 September 1864 in Petersburg, Virginia. Both men were substitutes. (Our thanks to Jerold H. Davis of Deland Florida for information on the murder. Mr. Davis was formally the historian for Danbury City, Connecticut.)
Capt Skinner's Official Report of the Battle
Capt Mills' Official Report of the Battle
Photograph of 7th Connecticut Regimental colors
Lt Robert Dempsey, E and H Companies
Photograph of Lt William Seward
Photograph of a soldier of the 7th Connecticut
External Web sites related to the Battle of Olustee
Free online book - History of the Seventh Connecticut Volunteer Infantry 1861–1865 published 1905
History of the 7th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry
The History of the Seventh Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was written by Stephen Walkley soon after the war. Walkley was a private in Company A, 7th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. A copy of the book is available in the Florida Collection Room of the Library of the University of Florida.
Union Order of Battle
Battle of Olustee home page