Savannah Reams: Greene Publishing, Inc.
Every year, visitors from all over the U.S. travel to the outskirts of Lake City, Fla. for the Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Olustee, a historic battle which took place during the Civil War. The Battle of Olustee is the largest annual Civil War event in the southeastern United States. Over 1,700 Civil War reenactors (men, women and children) come to the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park every year from all over the United States, with some even traveling from Europe for the event. These reenactors portray military personnel (infantry, artillery, cavalry and medical), members of the U.S. Sanitary Commission and Civil War era civilians and sutlers. The event also hosts numerous Civil War authors and historical exhibitors throughout the weekend. There are continuous presentations under the large (9,000 square feet) tent at the event site. Plenty of seating is available.
Beginning in 2019, public parking is not allowed along US 90, at or close to the battlefield, with the exception of persons with a disability placard. Free bus shuttle service is provided from the Dowling Center, 1.5 miles east of the battlefield on U.S. 90, directly across from the Baker County Correctional Institution. No shuttle buses will operate west of the battlefield. For the complete schedule of events, directions, parking, shuttle information and more, visit battleofolustee.org.
Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for school-age children. Preschool children are admitted for free. The entry fee on the Friday school day is $5 for students. There are many daily scheduled activities for the enjoyment of visitors. The following paragraphs will provide some expert advice from Private Thomas R. Fasulo on how to make the best use of time:
Friday, Feb. 15
Friday is the day when thousands of students invade the site with their teachers and parents to learn more about the Civil War. There are medical, cavalry, artillery and infantry demonstrations. Some students are here just to roam, talk to the reenactors and absorb history. Others have definite history assignments they are working on; everything from books to audio and photographic projects. If you wish your child to attend, ask your school to contact the Florida Park Service at (386) 397-2733, visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Olustee-Battlefield, or e-mail email@example.com. Many homeschoolers bring their children to Olustee to absorb this period of our history "in the flesh."
Saturday, Feb. 16
Saturday is a great day for spectators. Not only do you have most of the day to visit the authentic camps and sutler area, but the full-scale Saturday battle is not until 3:30 p.m. (or 2 hours later than on Sunday). In addition, the crowds will be smaller than on Sunday. And after the battle, why rush to wait in the lines at the bus pickup points when you can take your time ambling through the camps watching the reenactors rest up and clean their weapons after fighting and dying?
Sunday, Feb. 17
Plan to arrive early on Sunday, as the main event—the scripted reenactment of the Battle of Olustee—is at 1:30 p.m. If you want to see any of the camps or spend time at the sutler area you need to arrive early as you should head toward the battle area about 12:30 at the latest. Arrive after this time and the best seats—there are only eight sets of bleachers—will be taken. Why not pack a picnic lunch and use the time waiting to enjoy it with your family? An authentic band will play Civil War music to entertain you while you wait. [Hint: Since this is a Federal defeat, most of the action takes place on the Union side (east side) of the field. Find a seat on the ground there.]
Even before the troops begin to assemble for the battle, many of them will take down their tents and pack their belongings. We all have a long drive home—especially those from the northern states—and after the battle we will be scattering to the four winds. If you do not arrive early on Sunday then you should visit the camps before the battle. After the battle, when the troops are breaking camp, is the best time to visit the sutlers who usually stay until Monday. And when you have finished there, the bus lines will be much shorter for the ride back to your car.
On Sunday, many people can't arrive early because they go to church. At the Battle of Olustee you can arrive early and still attend church. The Federal and Confederate camps each host authentic, non-denominational, church services with real ministers who are also reenactors. Religion was an essential part of life in the 19th century and most Civil War soldiers and their families felt very strongly about their faith. Many of the armies experienced extensive religious revivals, particularly those of the Confederacy from 1863 on, when the tide of war turned against the Confederacy.