Some of our readers may know that a controversy has
arisen been promoted by neo-Confederates over a proposal to memorialize Union solders killed in the bloody Battle of Olustee (or Ocean Pond, as Northerners remembered it), which took place in Florida in February 1864. As Brooks Simpson reports on his excellent blog, at least one Confederate veteran recalled pretty clearly that black Union soldiers were murdered as they lay wounded in the aftermath of the battle. That assertion is supported by evidence from the papers of Colonel James C. Beecher, who commanded the 35th USCT (formerly the 1st North Carolina Colored Volunteers) at Olustee. Writing to his wife two months after the events, Beecher insists:
“…there is now no doubt that all of my wounded men left on the field at Olustee were bayoneted in cold blood. It is said to have been done by some South Carolina troops.
The enemy report only 18 prisoners from my command. At least fifty were known to have been left on the field and at the depot at Sanderson and Berbers Station.
You may judge this does not make me particularly happy. Especially when the new man came to relieve Gen. Seymour.* While he pities the poor ‘Loyal Floridians’ who suffer so much from the effects of the war [he doesn’t] see anything particularly out of the way in this. Says he has no doubt my wounded were murdered, but that its “very hard to restrain men when their blood is up” etc etc.
If there were but ten stupid Generals in the whole army of the United States, each one of the ten would be assigned to command a district, and there wouldn’t be but ten districts made unless an eleventh stupid G. could be put in charge of it.”
Source: J. C. Beecher (Jacksonville) to ‘My beloved’, 13 April 1864, James C. Beecher Papers, Radcliffe College, Schlesinger Library
*General Truman Seymour was relieved of his command after the Olustee disaster and replaced by General John B. Hatch, who would later come into confrontation with freedpeople in Charleston over his leniency toward former Confederates.
Images courtesy of Florida State Archives, Florida Memory