Saturday, January 18, 2014

Battle of Olustee - 150 Years Later

The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee in Florida will be on February 20, 2104.  The celebration will feature a reenactment which will hopefully be more peaceful than the current battle waging at Olustee. 

 Last year, the Florida chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War asked the state parks department for permission to place an obelisk to honor Union soldiers inside the three-acre Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park. The land now contains three monuments: a battle monument and two honoring Confederate officers.

State officials agreed that the park "favored the Confederate side" and began to act on the request, first by holding a public hearing and then by choosing a precise location in the park.
Unfortunately, the request enraged many in the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which views the state’s decision as a betrayal of the park’s legacy. As word spread, an online call to arms was issued by the national Confederate group’s leader and State Representative Dennis Baxley, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans was drafted to assist the battle.
To descendants of the Confederates in North Florida, the proposed monument move was seen as the latest salvo against this area’s values and traditions. "The Civil War may have ended long ago, but in Florida, unlike much of the South, Yankees never stopped marching (or rolling) into the state, lured by milder weather and tax rates. Other newcomers arrived, too, slowly eroding the state’s Southern identity." 
Olustee Battle Monument
Inscription on Monument honoring both sides

In addition to the battle monument, there are two monuments for Confederate officers.

Monument to Gen. Alfred Holt Colquitt - "Hero of Olustee"

Monument to Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan
Please click on image to enlarge. For other images from the Olustee Battlefield, please see Olustee, FL.

As a state park, Florida officials have jurisdiction over the battlefield including what monuments are allowed in the park.  It should be their decision whether to add a Union monument. The control of the land that was contributed for the park depends on the terms under which the United Daughters of the Confederacy provided the land. 

The restrictions on battlefield monuments is a contentious issue in many Civil War battlefield parks.  Size restrictions and standards apply to the placement.  However, in this case it is not the park authorities who object but others who want to prohibit the monument to the Union soldiers. 

The position of the Sons of Confederate Veterans encourages animosity with the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.  One that is not useful in helping to maintain Civil War sites and their history.

What is lost in the controversy is the idea of playing tribute to those who fought and died in the battle to defend their beliefs.  The monument conflict does little to honor those men.

Perhaps a simple solution would be allow two new monuments honoring Union and Confederate soldiers to be added to the park.  Let us use re-enactments and commemorative events to honor the dead and to remind ourselves of the costs of this war, not to rekindle the flames of hatred.

(Source: Blue and Gray Still in Conflict at Battle Site, Oulustee Journal, January 16, 2014.)

1 comment:

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.