February 24, 1864.
Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken in the late battle of Olustee, Fla., on the 20th instant, by the Eighth Regiment U. S. Colored Troops, Col. Charles W. Fribley commanding :
After leaving the railroad along which we had been advancing until within about 1,000 yards of the enemy, Colonel Fribley received orders to "put his regiment in," when we were ordered to change direction to the left, moving now in double-quick time by the right flank on a line nearly parallel with the railroad and about 300 yards to its right. We were soon under fire of the enemy, when our line of battle was formed under a terrific fire of musketry at short range, we apparently being opposed by the entire left wing of the enemy, who very soon poured in a deadly fire on our left flank, which was unprotected wholly. Colonel Fribley now ordered the regiment to fall back slowly, which we did, firing as we retired, being unable to withstand so disastrous a fire. The order had just reached me on the extreme right when the colonel fell mortally wounded. The command now devolved on Major Burritt, who soon received two wounds and retired from the field, the regiment at this time engaging the enemy with steadiness, and holding the ground for some time near Hamilton's battery, which we were trying to save. We here lost 3 color-sergeants and 5 of the color guard while attempting to save one gun, but we were driven back, leaving the gun and, as afterward learned, the color beside it during the excitement.
I now learned that I was in command of the regiment, and seeing that a regiment at least of the enemy was moving down the railroad to again attack our left, and knowing that our ammunition was exhausted, I took the responsibility to withdraw the regiment from the field, moving by the right flank, slowly and in good order, passing in the rear of the Fifty-fourth Regiment Colored Troops (Massachusetts), where we remained until the retreat commenced, when we with the Seventh New Hampshire Regiment guarded the wagon train into Barber's.
The regiment went into the engagement with 21 officers and 544 men. Our losses were as follows: Officers killed, 1; wounded and missing, 1; wounded, 8; total, 10. Enlisted men killed, 65; wounded and missing, 49; missing, 15; wounded, 204; total, 333. Total killed, wounded, and missing, 343.
Having taken command of the regiment at a late period of the engagement I cannot give as accurate a report as I might under other circumstances, but the above is, I believe, a true report of everything that came to my notice during the battle, and in conclusion permit me to say that both officers and men did their duty to the extent of their ability.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. C. Bailey,
Captain, Comdg. Eighth Regiment U. S. Colored Troops.
Lieut. E. L. Moore,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
Jacksonville, Fla., March 10, 1864.
Sir: I have the honor to make the following statement in relation to the loss of the national color of the Eighth Regiment U. S. Colored Troops, at the battle of Olustee, Fla., on the 2Oth ultimo:
I will call your attention to the fact that I was, at the time the color was lost, in command of my company on the right of the regiment, which post I kept until, noticing that the color company was nearly annihilated, both officers being disabled also, I went with the few men that I had left (about 20) to its assistance, observing only the regimental color, which I ordered to fall back with my men, and did not at the time notice that the national color was gone. Having learned at this time that I was in command of the regiment, I made every effort to bring the men off the field (our ammunition being exhausted) in order, they having been driven back from the battery where the color in question was lost, as I learned from Lieut. E. Lewis, Company F, of this regiment, whose statement I inclose, with the signatures of those officers who were present at the time.
I will here state that of 43 men of the color company who went into the action 30 were killed, wounded, and missing, losing 5 of the color guard and 3 sergeants, who at different times seized the colors while attempting to save the battery, beside which they were planted by Lieutenant Lewis, who left them to stop the horses belonging to the battery, which he did, and delivered them to one of the drivers, when he was compelled to fall back, leaving the color with the gun. I believe the above to be a correct statement of the facts as far as I am acquainted with them, and hope that no stigma will be attached to our regiment for what was, I believe, the unavoidable loss of our colors.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. C. Bailey,
Captain, Comdg Eighth Regiment U. S. Colored Troops.
Lieut. R. M. Hall, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
Copied from The Official Records of the War of Rebellion.
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