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Florida battle casualties for U.S. Colored Troops were high

54th Massachusetts Infantry Reenactor
Bob o'Connor

February 14-16, 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of the battle of Olustee (Ocean Pond), Florida. The actual battle occurred on February 20, 1864. The reenactments on Saturday and Sunday are among the largest held annually in the South.

Casualties in the relatively small battle involving 10,000 soldiers combined from both the North and the South were staggering. The Union lost 1,861 (including 203 killed, 1,152 wounded and 502 missing in action) for the day in which the battle was lost. The Confederates reported 946 casualties, including 93 killed, 847 wounded and 6 missing in action. The 27% casualties was one of the highest of the entire war.

Comparatively speaking, the battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the war with over 21,000 casualties, had approximately 20% casualties.

Until now, the three U.S. Colored Troop regimental casualties have not been known. But researchers using service records from the National Archives now on-line have been able to determine USCT casualties from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 8th USCT, and the 35th USCT.

Official records from the battle regiments showed USCT losses at 310 (49 killed, 188 wounded and 73 missing in action).

However, researchers have found the names of members of those three USCT regiments and report the new numbers as follows: 83 killed, 409 wounded, 17 missing in action and presumed dead, and 86 prisoners of war – for a total of 595. That represents around 31% of the total Union casualties.

A new book “The U.S.C.T. Casualties at the Battle of Olustee, FL February 20,1864” will be available at this year’s event for the first time. The book will include names and information on each of the USCT soldiers.

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