Report from Lt. Elijah Lewis,
8th United States Colored Troops,
on the engagement at Olustee, Florida


March 10, 1864.

Sir: In pursuance to verbal orders from regimental headquarters, I have the honor to make the following report in reference to the loss of the colors of our regiment at the battle of Ocean Pond, Fla., February 20, 1864:

After the colonel was killed an order to fall back was given by Major Burritt, who was immediately after wounded and carried off the field. The enemy's fire at this time was very severe, and my company, having had a large number killed and wounded, fell back in considerable confusion. In the retrograde movement we did not move directly to the rear, but obliquely to our right, thus passing near where the colors were. My attention was directed to a flag lying on the ground. I picked it up; it was our national color. An officer of the battery now rode up and said, in words as nearly as I can recollect, "Don't leave that battery; bring your flag and rally the men around it." I carried the colors up to the gun, when Lieutenant Norton, of Company K, said, "Don't carry that flag; give it to one of the men, and help form some kind of a line." Lieut. A. F. Ely also came to assist in collecting the men together. At this time the horses attached to a limber of one of the guns, having no one to control them, started to the rear, breaking through the small number I was endeavoring to rally. I caught the near leader by the bridle and succeeded, with the help of some of our men, in stopping them. They were then taken in charge by one of the drivers of the battery. The fire from the enemy now became so destructive we could not keep our men in line. We were in disorder and falling back when Captain Bailey (on whom the command of the regiment now devolved) came and gave the order for us to retire.

In conclusion, I would beg leave to state that both officers of the color company were severely wounded, that two color-sergeants were killed and another wounded, and half the color guard wounded or killed. I do not know on whom the responsibility of losing the colors should properly rest. We had two stand of colors belonging to the regiment; I was misled by seeing one of them being carried out, thinking both were there. I do not know whether these facts are stated in the consecutive order in which they happened, but they are as nearly correct as it was possible for me to remember amid the excitement and confusion of that sanguinary day.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. Lewis,
First Lieutenant. Eighth Regiment U. S. Colored Troops.

Lieut. J. E. Richardson,
Adjutant Eighth U. S. Colored Troops.

Copied from The Official Records of the War of Rebellion.

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