U.S. Colored Troops participate in a Civil War expedition in FloridaUnion Army Florida Expedition Report. Fair copy, nine pages, 8" x 12.25", Jacksonville [Florida], June 2, 1864, from Colonel W. H. Noble, "Comdg Flanking Column on Gordon's Expedition against Forts Langford & Milton," to Capt. H. B. Scott, Assistant Adjutant General, District of Florida. Noble reports on the expedition's goals, troop movements, and skirmishes. Two of the regiments included in the expedition were colored troops: the 35th U.S.C.T. and the 3rd U.S.C.T.
Noble begins, "I reached Jacksonville for Steamer Picolala, with all the available force of the 17th Conn. Vols., 157th N.Y. Vols. & 35th U.S.C.T. in the evening of Sunday last. . . . [and a] portion of 3rd U.S.C.T.," embarking "with all said force on board the Steamers Mary Benton and Alice Price and Gun[?] Boat Hale" and proceeding to "the confluence of Cedar & McGirths Creeks." Noble's orders were to "reach the flank and rear of the works, known as camps Langford & Milton, which the enemy had erected along McGirths Creek." As the force pushed forward, the Confederate army around the works abandoned their camps and retreated, "hurrying off their cattle" and destroying rail lines. The Union men were then able to accomplish their goal "without firing a gun." But the Confederates-"a large force of the enemy"- regrouped and attacked. Noble ordered three regiments, including the 35th U.S.C.T., "to shove forward, a strong line of skirmishers covering our whole front." When this was accomplished, Noble received orders to withdraw back to Jacksonville, which he obeyed, leaving the 3rd U.S.C.T. to "fire and destroy the enemies works." Once the whole force was back together and marching back to Jacksonville, the Confederates, who had once again regrouped, attacked their rear. Noble sent the 35th to confront the attack: they "immediately formed in line of battle and laid down with their arms ready for action. . . . The firing of the enemy was soon silenced. The whole force was gradually withdrawn."
According to the colonel's report, Union casualties of the expedition were small: "one wounded severely, & one slightly, & one missing." In the end, Colonel Noble wrote highly of the actions of all of his men: "I have happily no distinction to make between the officers of the several commands. . . . The same uniformity of commendation is deserved by all the soldiers of the Expedition."
Union colored troops first formed in 1863. Throughout 1864, the 35th U.S. Colored Troops served as infantry, mostly in garrisoned positions in Florida; the 3d U.S.C.T. was a heavy artillery regiment. Small in population, Florida was considered a Confederate backwater. Several skirmishes were fought there but only one major battle, the Battle of Olustee on February 20, 1864, in which Confederate forces defeated Union forces. Many Union policymakers preferred to forego any further involvement in Florida, but as this report demonstrates, the war still waged there. This report is on age-toned, lined paper. Staple holes exist at the top of each sheet. Minor staining.
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