America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Lithograph of Olustee Battle

Battle of Olustee, Florida

Not far from the Jacksonville national parks of Timucuan National Park and Preserve and Fort Caroline is the Olustee Battlefield, which was the main attempt to create a Sherman to the sea moment for Union General Truman Seymour to make their mark to control Florida in February 1864. It failed. The Confederates, after a tough battle within the tall piles and underpalms (less then than now due to farming and ranching), they would force the Union Army back to Jacksonville, never really putting Florida in jeopardy again. It was about five thousand soldiers on both sides; and some of the best fighting for the Union, even during their retreat, was by the three colored regiments that participated. Olustee Battlefield and Historic Park is the oldest state park in the state of Florida.

Photo above: Lithograph of the Battle of Olustee on February 20, 1864, 1864, Kurz and Allison. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons via the Florida Memory Project.

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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Olustee Battlefield Walking Tour Sign

Battle of Olustee, Florida

The battles of 1864 in the north had not yet raged between Union General Grant and Confederate General Lee at Wilderness and Spotsylvania, but there were plans afoot to cut off the food supplies from Florida that had been helping keep the Confederate army afloat. After this had been accomplished, General Seymour went west toward Tallahassee, thinking only Confederate militia would be in his way. He was wrong. A battle, near Olustee, or Ocean Pond, was not going to be the Union victory to take over Florida for good. Union Brigadier General Truman Seymour with five thousand five hundred men, including the 35th U.S. Colored Troops, the 8th U.S. Colored Troops, and the 54th Massachusetts, would be met by five thousand soldiers under Confederate Brigadier General Joseph Finegan and Brigadier General Alfred Colquitt. Although a quick push was gained by the Union forces, the fighting became fierce over five hours beneath the pines, eventually causing the Union to become overwhelmed with Seymour ordering a withdrawal back to Jacksonville. Casualties (killed, wounded, and missing) were 1,861 Union; 946 Confederate.

Image above: Photo of the Olustee Battlefield sign at the beginning of the one mile walking tour. Courtesy America's Best History. Below: Wood engraving of the Battle of Olustee, 1866, Harper's New Monthly Magazine, v33. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Battle of Olustee

Where Is It

The Olustee Battlefield Park is located just off of Interstate 10 west of Jacksonville, about a forty-five minute drive. There is good camping nearby in the Osceola National Forest, which still, as of 2024, allowed primitive pull in without a reservation camping. The Olustee park is located at 5815 Battlefield Trail Road, Olustee, Florida 32087.

Minute Walk in History

Take a walk around the Olustee Battlefield with us as we cross the grounds of the largest Civil War battle held in the state of Florida and subsequently made into Florida's first state park. A one mile trail, small visitor center, and several monuments to the Confederates who won are included. The narration in from the official report of Union General Truman Seymour and his words reflect the battle and loss from the Federal perspective. The Confederate perspective can be seen toward the end of the video when the after war park pays history to its victory and commanders, General Joseph Finegan and General Alfred Colquitt. Narration by Jason Donovan. Photos by America's Best History, Library of Congress, and Wikipedia Commons.

What is There Now

Olustee Battlefield

The Olustee Battlefield History Park, as the first state park in Florida, tells the historic story of the Battle of Olustee in 1864. There is a small visitor center with exhibits, to be replaced with a larger and newer building in the near future. There is a one mile walking trail through the pine forest with many waysides telling you what happened where during the five hours of battle. There are picnic tables. And if you are in the area around the weekend near February 20, there is an annual reenactment.

When Open and How Much

No fee. The site is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are a few parking spaces in front of the visitor center and more parking on the grass near the picnic tables.

Fees and hours are subject to change.

Olustee Battlefield Historic Park
Olustee Battlefield Park and Reenactment

History Nearby

There's so much to see in the northern part of Florida that should get just as much attention as those big parks in the south. Although the Olustee Battlefield Historic Park is a state park, there are more than a few national parks just a couple hours, or even less, away. In St. Augustine itself, there are the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and Fort Matanzas National Monument, both which protected, one better than the other, when the British and pirates attacked.

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