Edwin M. Stanton,
Secretary of War,
replies to a request from
U.S. Senator Benjamin Franklin Wade
for information on the Florida Expedition

Washington, D.C., April 5, 1864.

SIR: In reply to your inquiry for information in respect to the recent military expedition in Florida, I have the honor to report that on the 15th day of December, 1863, in a dispatch addressed to the General-in-Chief [Major General Henry Halleck], Major-General Gillmore submitted the following proposition:

With the forces now at my disposal, I would respectfully suggest one of two operations, viz:
[First request deleted in this report.]
Second. Operate in Florida and recover all the most valuable portion of that State, cut off a rich
source of the enemy's supplies, and increase the number of my colored troops. I will not go into detail.

On the 22d of December, the General-in-Chief replied:

I am authorized by the Secretary of War to say that you are at liberty to undertake such operations in your department as you may deem best, making secure the positions you already hold in front of Charleston.

On the 14th of January, 1864, General Gillmore, in a confidential dispatch of that date, informed the General-in-Chief :

On the 15th of January, in a confidential letter of that date to the Secretary of War, in relation to colored troops, General Gillmore said :

On the 22d of January, the General-in-Chief replied as follows :

On the 31st of January, in a dispatch of that date to the General-in-Chief, Major-General Gillmore submitted the following reply :()

On the 5th of February, General Gillmore communicated to the General-in-Chief that he would--

Start for Florida this evening with a force under Brigadier-General Seymour, composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery.

On the 9th of February, General Gillmore communicated to General Halleck the result of his operations down to that date, as follows:

And again, on the 18th of February, in the following communication:

Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,

February 13, 1864.

General-in-Chief :

SIR: I beg leave to state that the military operations in this State that may be necessary to further the objects for which I came here, as set forth in a former letter to you, promise to be of no great magnitude.

General Seymour's advance has been within 4 miles of Lake City; but as his instructions were not to risk a repulse, or make an attack when there was a prospect of incurring much loss, he has taken up a position at Baldwin, the junction of the railroad from Jacksonville with the one from Fernandina. He holds also the crossing of the Saint Mary's South Fork, about 12 miles west of Baldwin.

I intend to construct small works, capable of resisting a coup de main, at Jacksonville, Baldwin, Palatka, and perhaps one or two other important points, so strong that 200 or 300 men will be sufficient at each point. Twenty-five hundred men, in addition to the two regiments that have been permanently stationed in this State (one at Saint Augustine and one at Fernandina), ought to be ample in Florida.

The artillery captured here will suffice for such defensive works as may be deemed necessary.

I desire to see the lumber and turpentine trade on the Saint John's River revived by loyal men, and for that purpose, and to give assurance that our occupation of this river is intended to be permanent, I have written to the Secretary of the Treasury recommending that the port of Jacksonville be declared open. The communication is herewith inclosed. I shall return to Hilton Head to-morrow, leaving General Seymour in command in Florida for the present.

Palatka will be occupied by our forces in a day or two.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


February 14, 1864.

P.S.--I open this letter to add that General seymour was at Sanderson yesterday. I have dispatched a mounted force to Gainesville, on the Fernandina and Cedar Keys Road, to try and capture a train of cars. I inclose a printed circular for your information, from the chief commissary C. S. Army.

Major-General, Commanding.

On the 22d of February, General Gillmore communicated to the General-in-Chief the result of the battle of Olustee, so far as it was then known:

HILTON HEAD, S.C., February 22, 1864.

Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that I am in receipt of dispatches from my chief of staff, Brigadier-General Turner, at Jacksonville, and from Brigadier-General Seymour, at Baldwin, up to yesterday. From these I learn that General Seymour had a spirited fight with the enemy on the 20th at Olustee. From Capt. John Hamilton, U.S. Artillery, who has just arrived here from the scene of action (slightly wounded in the arm), I learn that General Seymour made the attack; that it was soon ascertained that the enemy was present in superior force, and that after an engagement, lasting between two and three hours, our forces withdrew from the fight in good order.

The loss on both sides was quite severe. Some of our wounded fell in the hands of the enemy. He also got five pieces of artillery as an offset to the eight pieces which he lost when we first advanced.

Yesterday Seymour was at Baldwin, slowly retiring and sending his wounded to Jacksonville.

General Turner writes yesterday that the wounded, so far as he can learn, are all in the cars coming in. Locomotive just put in order. I inclose herewith the last dispatch that he had received from General Seymour. The force before him was from General Johnston's army. Captain Hamilton thinks our loss in killed, wounded, and missing will be as high as 600 or 800.

The medical officers inform me that all the wounds, with very few exceptions, were made by small-arms, and that a very large proportion of them were slight. Colonel Fribley, Eighth United States (colored), was killed.

In a few days I will furnish you with copies of instructions under which General Seymour was acting.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, Commanding.
P. S.--Olustee is about 50 miles west of Jacksonville.

On the 7th of March, General Gillmore communicated his official report, a copy of which is herewith submitted.

The foregoing comprises all the information in the possession of this Department in relation to the military operations in Florida referred to in your note. But it may be proper to add that the military operations projected by General Gillmore, being communicated to the President, they presented in his judgment a favorable occasion for carrying into effect the measures of amnesty declared in his annual message. With that view his private secretary was sent to General Gillmore, with the forms, registers, and certificates prepared for persons returning to their allegiance in the loyal States, and with instructions, the nature of which is exhibited in the following letter of the President to General Gillmore, the general's reply [below], and the order, No. 16 [below], issued by General Gillmore, "in pursuance of these instructions."

Hilton Head, S.C.


DEAR SIR: I have the honor to report that the blank books and other blanks, to be used in the initiatory steps for the restoration of the State of Florida to her loyalty, have been received by Major Hay, and he has been ordered to enter upon the special duties assigned to him without delay.

From the general tenor of your instructions to me, contained in the letter brought by Major Hay, and from conversations with that officer, I am led to the impression that no additional directions will be given to me upon this subject, and that I am expected to initiate, guide, and control such measures as may be necessary under the Presidential proclamation of December 8, 1863, to restore the State of Florida to its allegiance.

The plan now being pursued by General Banks in Louisiana impresses me very favorably, and can doubtless in its principal features be both easily and speedily applied in Florida.

If there are any further instructions for me I respectfully request that they may be communicated to me as early as possible.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, Commanding.


Hilton Head, S.C., January 31, 1864

In accordance with the provisions of the Presidential proclamation of pardon and amnesty, given at Washington on the 8th day of December, in the year of our Lord 1863, and in pursuance of instructions received from the President of the United States, Maj. John Hay, assistant adjutant-general, will proceed to Fernandina, Fla., and other convenient points in that State, for the purpose of extending to the citizens of the State of Florida an opportunity to avail themselves of the benefits of that proclamation by offering for their signature the oath of allegiance therein prescribed, and by issuing to all those subscribing to said oath certificates entitling them to the benefits of the proclamation.

Fugitive citizens of the State of Florida within the limits of this department will have an opportunity to subscribe to the same oath and secure certificates in the office of the post commander at Hilton Head, S.C.

By command of Maj. Gen. Q. A. Gillmore:

Assistant Adjutant-General.

No other order or instructions than the foregoing in relation to the subject of your inquiry are on file in this Department or within my knowledge. Your obedient servant,
Secretary of War.

Copied from The Official Records of the War of Rebellion.

Other Reports from Olustee
Battle of Olustee home page