February 20: The Battle of Olustee, the Beginning of the “Big Week,” and Other Events of the Date
A number of important events have taken place on February 20 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
1864 – American Civil War: Lower Seaboard Theater: the Battle of Olustee
The Battle of Olustee, or the Battle of Ocean Pond was fought in Baker County, Florida on February 20, 1864, during the American Civil War. Interestingly, it was the only major battle fought in Florida during the war.
Union General Truman Seymour had landed troops at Jacksonville, aiming chiefly to disrupt the Confederate food supply. Meeting little resistance, he proceeded towards the state capital of Tallahassee, against orders, assuming that he would face only the small Florida militia. Confederates in Charleston sent reinforcements under General Alfred H. Colquitt and the two armies collided near Ocean Pond in Olustee. The Union forces were repulsed and retreated to Jacksonville where they stayed for the remainder of the war.
Both sides suffered serious casualties. Union casualties were 203 killed, 1,152 wounded, and 506 missing, a total of 1,861 men—about 34% of the deployed forces. Confederate losses were lower: 93 killed, 847 wounded, and 6 missing, a total of 946 casualties in all—but still about 19%. Union forces also lost six artillery pieces and 39 horses that were captured. The ratio of Union casualties to the number of troops involved made this the second bloodiest battle of the War for the Union, with 265 casualties per 1,000 troops. Soldiers on both sides were veterans of the great battles in the eastern and western theaters of war, but many of them remarked in letters and diaries that they had never experienced such terrible fighting.
1944 – Second World War: Western Theater: the Beginning of the “Big Week”
Big Week, or Operation Argument was a sequence of raids by the United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF) from February 20 to 25, 1944, as part of the European strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany.
The planners intended to lure the Luftwaffe into a decisive battle by attacking the German aircraft industry. By defeating the Luftwaffe, the Allies would achieve air superiority and the invasion of continental Europe could proceed. The daylight bombing campaign was also supported by RAF Bomber Command, operating against the same targets at night.
Arthur Harris resisted contributing Bomber Command as it diverted it from the British area bombing offensive. It took an order from Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff, to force Harris to comply. RAF Fighter Command also provided escort for USAAF bomber formations, just as the Eighth Air Force had started introducing the P-51 long-range fighter to take over the role. The offensive overlapped the German Operation Steinbock, the baby blitz, which lasted from January to May 1944.
As a result, the Big Week bolstered the confidence of U.S. strategic bombing crews. Until that time, Allied bombers avoided contact with the Luftwaffe; now, the Americans used any method that would force the Luftwaffe into combat. Implementing this policy, the United States looked toward Berlin. Raiding the German capital, Allied leaders reasoned, would force the Luftwaffe to battle.
2016 - Kalamazoo shootings
It’s been three years since this tragedy occurred in Michigan. On the night of February 20, 2016, a series of apparently random shootings took place at an apartment complex, a car dealership, and outside a restaurant in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Six people were killed and two others were injured.
Police detained a 45-year-old Uber driver, Jason Brian Dalton, as a "strong suspect" in the shootings. He was subsequently charged with murder, assault, and criminal firearm use two days after the shootings. After he was found competent to stand trial, Dalton's lawyers planned a legal insanity defense for their client. Disagreeing with the strategies of his lawyers, Dalton pleaded guilty to all charges in a Michigan court on January 7, 2019.
These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on February 20, at least in our view.