As I Saw and Remember the Battle of
Olustee, Which Was Fought
February 20, 1863

by

Lawrence Jackson
Company C, 2nd Florida Cavalry

Gainesville, Fla.
January 17, 1929


[Editor's note: This account was written by Lawrence Jackson 65 years after the battle. As such there are a number of inaccuracies, beginning with the date of the battle which Mr. Jackson has off by an entire year. I have reproduced the account exactly as it was written by Mr. Jackson, including spelling errors, and given to me by James M. Gray. Text in brackets [example] was added by myself to assist the reader in understanding the narrative and not to change it. - Thomas R. Fasulo]


Lawrence Jackson's narrative begins...


I think about February 17, 1863, Company C [2nd Florida Cavalry] was camped at Palatka. As the entire Regiment was scattered at different places over the State, our Captain W.E. Chambers, received orders to report at once at Lake City to General Finigen, who was in command of the Florida Confederate forces, as General Seamors, a Yankee general, had landed at Jacksonville, Florida, with an Army of 40,000 men, and was marching to Tallahassee; was going to capture and coerce Florida and whip back into the Union the State. At that time we had in Florida only ten companies, and only about 800 strong, and Major Bird's Battalion of Infantry, which was only 400 strong. That was all the Military forces in Florida at that time.

Bird's Battalion with about three companies of 2nd Florida Cavalry, skirmished with Seamore's army all the way from Jacksonville to Olustee, and held them back until reenforcements could be brought from Georgia. General Colquitt's Brigade of about 3000 man and Col. Anderson's 5th Regiment of Georgia Cavalry were all the reenforcements that could be got to stop the march of Seamore's Army to Tallahassee, as on our way to Lake City we had only Company C, about 75 available men. At Gainesville we met a company of Yankee Cavalry [N.Y. Tribune newspaper article?], about 100 men. As it was unexpected, we had a short scrap with them and put them to flight. They all got away except a few prisoners. We lost one man, killed, and two wounded. This scrap delayed us about one day and night.

At or by this time Col. A.M. McCormick got to us, with about three or four companies of the second Florida Cavalry, with orders to go to Olustee Station. On the evening of the 19th of February we left Gainesville for Olustee and camped that night at Mud Mills, on the south side of Santa Fe River, in Alachua County; started at daylight for Olustee, which was about thirty-five miles distant. We had made about fifteen or sixteen miles when we began to hear the report of cannon. Our officer, Col. A.M. McCormick, ordered us to strike gallop, which we did, every man anxious to get there and do his part. Just as we were going into the fight Col. McCormick ordered us to part. Just as we were going into the fight Col. McCormick ordered halt! right about, face! [The previous two sentences are as in the original.] He rode down to about the middle of the Regiment and faced us; he pulled off his hat, raised himself as high as he could in his stirrups and spoke very loud and distinctly, saying: "Comrades and soldiers of the 2nd Florida Cavalry, we are going into this fight to win. Although we are fighting five or six to one, we will die, but never surrender. General Seamore's Army is made up largely of negroes from Georgia and South Carolina, who have come to steal, pillage, run over the state and murder, Kill and rape our wives, daughters and sweethearts. Let's teach them a lesson. I shall not take any negro prisoners in this fight." So into the fight we went, between eleven and twelve o-clock A.M. [Actually, the battle started much later in the afternoon. Mr. Jackson has obviously lost track of time and distance, a common experience for men in combat.]

The 2nd Florida was on the right flank of the Confederate Army. General Colquitt's Brigade and Major Bird's Battalion was in the center, and Col. Anderson's 5th Georgia Cavalry was on the left or north side of the railroad. [Actually, according to General Finegan's official report, the 5th Georgia Cavalry didn't arrive until after the battle. Perhaps he means the 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion which also served on the right flank during the latter part of the battle.] General Finegan was really in command of the Confederate Forces, and had made and thrown up breastworks. But the Yankees were too smart to go to the breastworks, and as General Colquitt was on the field and had to do the fighting, he did not choose to live in breastworks and let the enemy go around him. The enemy was trying to flank the breastworks on the south side where Major Bird's Battalion and the 2nd florida were very hard put to hold back the flanking army, as we were fighting Yankees who numbered five to our one. General Colquitt had a large cannon mounted on two flat cars. The mouth looked to me to be as large as a flour barrel, and they moved and shot that big gun about every five minutes. They shot chain and pot shot both from that big gun. The chain shot would cut pine trees down like broomstraws., killing and wounding many every time it was fired. The pot shot blew up destroyed many of Seamore's casons and ammunition wagons. Late in the evening we found that our enemy was falling back. The victory was ours! We had whipped them! whipped them! and whipped them good! And all that were no killed and captured on the field were in full retreat. So it now remained for the Cavalry to catch those that were fleeing for their lives. General Seamore had taken the trouble in advance to stretch telegraph wires all though woods on both sides of the road to avoid cavalry from making time to catch his fleeing Army. When necessary we cut the wires and got most of Seamore's fleeing Army that night. We reached Baldwin next morning about sunrise; found that little town burned every little shanty was a pile of smoking ashes. A.J. Decosta had an old warehouse full of bales of Sea Island cotton. Every bale had ben cut open and set afire. We found that a large number of wagons and teams had just left Baldwin for Jacksonville only about thirty minutes before our arrival at Baldwin. As we had nothing there to eat, we started for those wagons that were ahead. I saw a chunk of meat it was raw pickled pork on the side of the road. I stuck my sword in it, picked it up, cut off a small piece; passed it back down the line. Just a little ways ahead we came to a large pile of boxes of hardtack which were broken open., and almost every cracker was bloody or had signs of blood on them, as wounded soldiers had been riding in the wagon on the boxes, as we had passed numbers of bleeding, dying soldiers all the way from Olustee down. Every one of our men that passed near enough to those crackers grabbed a hand full. They would scrape the blood off of those crackers and eat them, and that raw pickled pork was good.

Our officers would cheer us to come. We would catch them soon. We overtook the last of Seamore's fleeing Army at the Hart place, seven miles from Jacksonville. They stopped and surrendered without any trouble. There we captured a very large number of the finest teams of mules and horses that I ever saw, and the wagons were all loaded with all kinds of Army supplies, provisions of every kind, also shoes, clothing and everything that an Army could use.

Then and there we had breakfast on February 21st, 1863.

Thus ended the Fight at Olustee. Seamore's Army had been destroyed all killed or captured.

This is as I remember the Fight or Battle of Olustee.

Lawrence Jackson
Past Honorary Commander for Life
Florida Division, U.C.V.
Gainesville, Fla.


[Editor's Note: Obviously, Mr. Jackson's "remembering" was clouded by 65 years of telling tales around the "cracker barrel." But who can blame him? Those few days were probably the most exciting and proudest of his life. For what is probably the fairest and most honest account of the Battle of Olustee, I suggest Col. Harrison's official report to his superiors. - Thomas R. Fasulo]

Bob McLendon (53ala@msn.com), of Gainesville, FL, is a captain in a 2nd Florida Cavalry reenacting unit. He has provided the following additional information on Lawrence Jackson:

"Lawrence Jackson was the last in 2nd Florida Cavalry to be paroled, as he at first refused to be paroled. He was an interesting person, and there are a lot of colorful stories about him. He always carried a pistol on him. He was Commander of the Stonewall Jackson Camp of the UCV in Gainesville, and was Honorary General for Life of the Florida Division of the UCV. His participation in the fight in Gainesville in February 1864, just before Olustee, is quite exciting. His lieutenant, and his horse, had gone down as they approached the Federals behind cotton bales at present-day University Avenue and Main Street. Jackson dismounted, sword in hand, and charged the Federals before hoisting his wounded lieutenant onto his horse and carrying him off. Jackson is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Gainesville, dying a couple of weeks after he wrote his account of Olustee."

In addition, a search of the roster of Company C, 2nd Florida Cavalry, lists Lawrence Jackson as being wounded while pursuing deserters on January 5, 1865.


Other Letters from Olustee
Battle of Olustee home page
http://battleofolustee.org/