President Lincoln’s authorization of an invasion of the thinly populated state of Florida was something of a bagatelle; its capture would have more symbolic than strategic significance. However, the departure of Union General Seymour’s 6,000-strong expeditionary force was tracked by General Beauregard, Confederate Commander in the southeastern theatre, and he ordered General Joseph Finegan to intercept them. Seymour’s force landed at Jacksonville, and then marched inland along St John’s River. Their vanguard of cavalry, commanded by Colonel Henry, repeatedly skirmished with Confederate forces. Meanwhile, the Confederate main force had entrenched at Olustee and, swelled by Georgian reinforcements, was commensurate to its opposition. Anticipating another skirmish, on 20 February, Seymour ordered a series of assaults through dense pine forest, which were ferociously repulsed. After several hours fighting, the Union troops retreated, but the Confederates were too spent to mount a pursuit.
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