Battle of Gainesville
|Battle of Gainesville|
|Part of the American Civil War|
|United States (Union)||CSA (Confederacy)|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Andrew L. Harris||John Jackson Dickison|
|342||about 290 (only 175 actually engaged)|
|Casualties and losses|
|302 (28 killed, 188 captured, 86 missing or captured)||8 (3 dead, 5 wounded—2 mortally)|
The Battle of Gainesville (not to be confused with the First Skirmish of Gainesville of 14 February 1864) was fought on 17 August 1864, when a Confederate force defeated Union detachments on a raid from the Union garrison in the Jacksonville, Florida, area. However, the other and first Battle of Gainesville was fought on 14 February 1864, when a small unit associated with the February 1864 Florida Expedition, defeated a Confederate cavalry unit.
Gainesville, site of a railroad junction and depot in north central Florida, was the scene of two small-scale engagements during the war. On 14 February 1864, the first battle occurred when about 50 Union troops entered the city intending to capture two trains. Company H of the 2nd Florida Cavalry with 130 men attempted to repulse this raid, but were defeated by the Union force, which successfully returned to Jacksonville after holding the town.
Listed in the War's Official Orders is a General Order signed by Brigadier General Truman Seymour on 17 February 1864, stating that he:
"...especially desires to praise Capt. George E. Marshall, Co. G. 40th Mass. Mounted Volunteers, and his small command of forty-nine men who captured and held Gainesville for fifty-six hours, receiving and repulsing an attack from more than double his force, and, after fulfilling his mission successfully, returning to the designated place of rendevous [sic]."
The Battle of Gainesville took place on 17 August 1864, in the town square; many townspeople viewed the fighting from the windows of the nearby Beville house.
A Union column of 342 men under the command of Col. Andrew L. Harris had occupied Gainesville that morning. It was composed of the 75th Ohio Mounted infantry, two companies of the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry, Battery A, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery with 3 cannon, and a small unit of Floridians loyal to the Union. They were attacked from the rear by soldiers of the Second Florida Cavalry under the command of Captain John Jackson Dickison (companies H and F), supported by local militia, elements of 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion, and a small artillery battery of two cannons. Dickison's men numbered about 290, although only 175 entered Gainesville and engaged in the fighting.
The Union troops were tired from a two-day march from Baldwin in the August heat. They were taken by surprise and had not fully deployed when the Confederate attack began. After about two hours Col. Harris gave the order to retreat from Gainesville; the Confederates continued to close in on the disorganized Union columns. Union losses numbered 28 dead, 5 wounded, 86 missing or unaccounted for, 188 captured, 260 horses and a 12-pound howitzer; the Confederates lost three killed and five wounded, of whom two died the next day. About 40 Union troops, including Colonel Harris, escaped. He reported his column was destroyed by a large Confederate force of 600—800 men and three cannon.
After hearing his account, the remaining Union forces in the north central Florida area withdrew to the garrisons at Jacksonville and St. Augustine. Gainesville remained in Confederate control for the duration of the war.
- General Seymour's Report on the Results of the 1st Battle of Gainesville
- General Seymour's General Order No. 5 commending Union troops for their performance in the 1st Battle of Gainesville
- Boston Herald newspaper article on the 1st Battle of Gainesville
- Chelsea Telegraph and Pioneer newspaper article on the 1st Battle of Gainesville
- Detailed account of the 2nd Battle of Gainesville