1864 - Olustee Civil War Battlefield ©


by J.R. Beatty

Union Officers and The Drums of War
Union Officers and The Drums of War

A little ways North of Gainesville, Florida off I-10 near to Lake City lie the fields of the 1864 Olustee Civil War Battlefield. They are surrounded by tall pine trees and squatty palmetto bushes. The reenactment "battle" I attended is an event of reverent righteous remembrance in "them there parts".

I wondered "Why do folks dress up today in authentic looking civil war costumes with firearms and drums and horses and cannons and battle flags to participate in such fanatical, historical, reliving of horrific activities?" Why do you think they do it? (Click on photos)
(See http://battleofolustee.org/ and http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.html for more details)


OLUSTEE BATTLE - CONFEDERATE A TROOPS
OLUSTEE BATTLE - CONFEDERATE A TROOPS

The white Southern soldiers of the Confederacy were on one side of the battle line. With little more than bravery to gird them, these ragtag men and boys fought honorably for their state homelands and way-of-life. The internal and external influences to join this war fight were very strong.


OLUSTEE BATTLE - UNION TROOPS
OLUSTEE BATTLE - UNION TROOPS

In the Civil War "Negro" or "colored regiments", as they were called by the Union military then, were fighting for their freedom from institutional slavery as well as for the survival of the Union. President Abraham Lincoln finally documented their rights to freedom from slavery in the "Emancipation Proclamation"!

"The famed African American unit, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry", was included in this battle. "Colored" Union soldiers led by white officers were well represented in this battle reenactment, too.


Rich Citizen Watching Battle
Rich Citizen Watching Battle


Curious townsfolk, rich men, women, children, newspaper reporters, photographers, ... came out on horses and in carriages and buckboard wagons to witness and record the battle events over their picnic lunches. This was seen as "entertainment" similar to today's Americans watching aerial bombardments of Syrian neighborhoods on CNN cable TV news videos while eating their "nuked" frozen TV dinners.

At this reenactment I saw a rich man, little girls, instrument-playing musicians, and other "citizens" dressed up in that period's best clothes styles to watch the loud "battle".


FIRE! ...  CHARGE! ...  BLOODY MIST OF WAR!
FIRE! ... CHARGE! ... BLOODY MIST OF WAR!

When the 1864 "FIRE!" and "CHARGE" orders were given - cannons, muskets, rifles, and pistols belched fire and hot metal. Deep in the "bloody mist of war" screaming men and agitated horse cavalry rushed towards the enemy forces with bayonets extended and swords drawn. Exploding cannon shells tore into the lines of human antagonists. In this crazy cacophonous confusion many scared but courageous men and boys fell to terrible injuries from projectiles and sharp thrusting metal. Many died on each side.

When the cannon smoke and small arms fire receded, it was apparent that the Union troops had LOST. They retreated East to Jacksonville.

In fact, the "Union Army had suffered a stinging defeat. Of the approximately 5,500 Federals entering the battle, nearly 1,900 were killed, wounded, or captured. The Confederate forces, which numbered about 5,400, suffered less than 1,000 casualties".

This was just one short battle like many others to determine if the Union would survive, if southern States Rights would prevail, and if Negro Slavery as a longtime, essential southern plantation institution would continue.

A civil war like this is horrible - no matter which nation or state or people it batters and destroys! A reenactment brings a clearer visual and aural perspective to our hearts and minds of the horror, sacrifice, bravery, patriotic commitment, and unbelievable pathos. May civil war never happen in our brave, free nation again!