February 17, 2008

Battle of Olustee - 2008

Saturday, the Olustee Battlefield Festival rocked the north Florida pine forest with cannon and musket fire. The annual festival commemorates the Battle of Olustee in the American Civil War, a searing Union defeat and the largest confrontation in Florida. The official, choreographed battle was today, but Saturday provided more than enough Union-Confederate warfare to take a step back into history. The reenactors just went out with their canteens and guns and had a good time. Wow, the Union lined moved back at a quick pace.

I looked around the camp for the famous Massachusetts 54th Union regiment and learned an anecdote, the "train story." The Massachusetts 54th played the vital role of rear guard for the Union retreat from Olustee. When the train carrying wounded soldiers to the medical camp farther up North broke down, the 54th--despite heavy losses at Fort Wagner and then Olustee--gathered and pulled the train 4 or 5 miles into the station. Soon after Olustee the regiment was mustered out of existence if I recall correctly.

As well as being the foundation of modern Southern politics, the Civil War was a perennial interest for Lawton Chiles.

A photo tour of the event follows:

The cars lined up for quite some distance outside the park entrance.

This Union fragment receives its orders.

The Union posts flyers for new recruits.

The Union takes the field first.

After much anticipation, the Rebels finally approach.

The Dixie drummer boys.

Cannon blast sends a clump of palmetto soaring into the air.

The Confederate front line takes few losses.

A line of Union men take aim.

After about an hour of volley and thunder, the Union dead toll mounts.

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