Western Reserve Historical Society
Opposing Seymour's force was a Confederate army under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan, a forty-nine year old native of Clones, Ireland. A well-known planter, lumberman, and railroad operator in Florida before the war, Finegan had attended the secession convention as a delegate from Nassau County. His political connections within the state helped secure the three stars and wreath of a brigadier general, and, in April 1862 he assumed command of the District of Middle and East Florida. In November 1862 the district was divided, with Finegan maintaining control over the eastern portion of the state. Finegan's command included all of Florida east of the Suwannee River, a large land area that, unfortunately, had few troops for defense. For the next two years he retained Confederate control over most of the state, notwithstanding occasional Union raids and skirmishes, and the annual Union occupation and burning of Jacksonville.
With his limited combat experience, Finegan was not highly regarded by either Florida Governor John Milton or General P.G.T. Beauregard, commanding the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Each would have preferred a more seasoned officer, but before a replacement could reach Florida, Seymour's advance precipitated a confrontation, and Finegan found himself facing the first major action of his military career.
At the time of the Federal invasion, Confederate troops in all of middle and east Florida combined numbered less than 3,000 effectives, with only 1,500 of this total present in the District of East Florida. Further complicating the Confederates' plight was the fact that virtually all of these troops were raw recruits, who could not be expected to resist the Union advance without significant reinforcements.
General Beauregard responded to the crisis by significantly increasing Finegan's strength. As soon as word reached him of the Union landings, reinforcements were sent to Florida from locations in Georgia and South Carolina. Additional troops arrived from positions throughout Florida. These transfers were complicated by the lack of a connecting line between the railroads of Florida and the remainder of the Confederacy, forcing units to make long, fatiguing marches.
Despite these obstacles, by February 19th Finegan had accumulated between 5,000 and 5,500 men to defend the state. He organized his force into two brigades, under the command of Brigadier General Alfred Holt Colquitt and Colonel George P. Harrison. Colonel Caraway Smith commanded the rebel cavalry, with Captain Robert H. Gamble's Leon Light Artillery in reserve.
Brig. Gen. Finegan's report prior to the battle, February 13, 1864
Brig. Gen. Finegan's initial report of the battle, February 23, 1864
Brig. Gen. Finegan's reply to Brig. Gen. Seymour's letter, February 23, 1864
Brig. Gen. Finegan's report on actions after the battle, February 25, 1864
Brig. Gen. Finegan's final report of the battle, February 26, 1864
Photograph of Major Wilkinson Call, A.A.G., Finegan's staff
External Web sites related to the Battle of Olustee
Wikipedia page on General Finegan
Battle of Olustee home page