Major General Gillmore
Commanding Officer, U.S. Forces, Department of the South
details problems with Brigadier General Seymour's reports of Olustee
Headquarters, Department of South Carolina
Hilton Head, S.C. November 1, 1865
In the foregoing report of Brigadier-General Seymour he says he moved forward on February 20—
In reference to the above statement I will say that General Seymour was never intrusted, and it never was my intention to intrust him with the execution of any general plan in Florida. I confided to him the objects I had in view in occupying East Florida, and the salient features of the plan by which I proposed to secure those objects. But he was never authorized to advance beyond the South Fork of the Saint Mary's River in my absence. On the contrary, he had plain and explicit instructions with regard to what was expected and required of him, and the ill-judged advance beyond the South Fork of the Saint Mary's River was in direct disregard of those instructions, and the disastrous battle of Olustee its legitimate fruit. General Seymour says, "But the disparity in numbers was too great, and the defense too obstinate to permit of decisive results" at the battle of Olustee. We now know since the close of the war that there was no "disparity in numbers," and we knew at the time that the "results" were a "decisive" defeat upon the field of battle and the frustration—as well by loss of men as by loss of prestige—of a well and carefully digested plan of campaign. General Finegan, who was in command of the enemy's forces, told two members of my staff (Capt. D. S. Leslie, One hundred and fourth U.S. Colored Troops, and Capt. Henry Seton, Fifty-fourth New York) that he had only about 5,000 men at that battle. General Seymour had 5,500 men. Our losses were 1,800 men in killed, wounded, and missing, 39 horses, and 6 pieces of artillery. Indeed, our forces appear to have been surprised into fighting, or attempting to fight, an offensive battle, in which the component parts of the command were beaten in detail. The enemy did not fight behind intrenchments or any kind of defenses.
With the intention of advancing on Lake City, and, if successful, of destroying the railroad communications between East and West Florida at the Suwannee River, such being the general plan of operations upon which the occupation and control of East Florida had been founded.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Q. A. GILLMORE,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding.
Copied from The Official Records of the War of Rebellion.
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