Report of Col. William B. Barton,
Forty-eighth New York Volunteer Infantry,
commanding Barton's Brigade,
on the engagement at Olustee, Florida

Jacksonville, Fla., February 27, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command in the engagement of the 20th instant, 8 miles beyond Sanderson, near Olustee Lake:

When the enemy's pickets were first encountered, which was at 2 p.m. precisely, my brigade was second in the general column, and the firing had continued not to exceed twenty minutes when I was ordered to move forward. This I did in line of battle, taking a position on the right of the line (just vacated by the retreat of two regiments of another brigade), and at once became hotly engaged. The enemy's fire was both of musketry and artillery, and was extremely intense and galling.

It was soon apparent that we were greatly outnumbered, and were facing a foe well skilled in taking advantage of every cover, and disposed to turn to the best account his superior numbers and position. His fire was rapid, accurate, and well sustained, and for a long time we were sorely pressed, but the indomitable and unflinching courage of my men and officers at length prevailed, and after nearly four hours of the hardest fighting, the enemy's left was forced back, and he was content to permit us to retire; which we did, by direction of the commanding general, between 6 and 7 o'clock, in admirable order, notwithstanding our heavy losses, and with not a single round of ammunition remaining. At this time I was charged by Brigadier-General Seymour with the conduct of the retreat of all the forces.

We at first retired by alternate battalions, covered by the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, deployed as skirmishers, in our rear, they, in turn, being covered by the cavalry, mounted infantry, and Elder's Horse Battery B, [First] U. S: Artillery, all under Col. G. V. Henry, Fortieth Massachusetts Mounted Infantry. When at a sufficient distance from the enemy, the troops were moved in brigades by the flank on parallel lines, and kept well in hand ready for such formations as defense from any attack might require. The enemy were, however, too badly punished to feel disposed to molest us.

The fire during a great portion of the time we were engaged was both direct on our front and oblique on our flanks. The enemy formed three distinct lines of battle against us, constantly bringing up fresh troops, and finally attacking in close column by division. All their efforts against us were, however, frustrated, and in their last attempt their loss must have been immense.

I do not think that I am vainglorious in saying that the conduct of my command cannot be too highly spoken of. They knew, for I had been so informed by the commanding general, that everything depended on their good behavior, and for four hours, without shelter, did they stand in line of battle, receiving from an enemy greatly superior in number, and well sheltered by rifle-pits, breast-works, &c., all he had to give in the way of punishment.

Where all did so well it is difficult to particularize, but I feel it to be a duty, as it is a pleasure, to especially commend Col. Simeon Sammon, One hundred and fifteenth New York Volunteers; Col. Henry Moore, Forty-seventh New York Volunteers (both severely wounded), and Maj. W. B. Coan, commanding Forty-eighth New York Volunteers. Adjt. Joseph Taylor, Forty-eighth New York Volunteers, and Adjutant Sanford, One hundred and fifteenth New York Volunteers, were also conspicuous for coolness and gallantry.

The officers of my staff performed their duties with zeal, energy, and ability. I am particularly indebted to Capt. N. A. Elfwing, Forty-eighth New York Volunteers, acting assistant inspector-general (wounded in shoulder); Lieut. Frank J. Magee, Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, acting aide-de-camp; Lieut. F. D. Barnum, One hundred and fifteenth New York Volunteers, acting aide-de-camp.

Accompanying this report is a list of my killed, wounded, and missing, which I regret to say is very large, amounting to 811 officers and men.

I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel Forty-eighth New York Vols., Comdg. Brigade.


Assistant Adjutant-General.

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