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On 20 February 1864 at Olustee Battlefield, Union and Confederate troops clashed for five hours in what became Florida’s largest battle during the American Civil War. Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park now stands in commemoration of that historic battle and its 2,807 casualties.
It was the Confederates led by Brigadier General Joseph Finegan who emerged victorious, managing to break the line of the Union army led by Brigadier General Truman Seymour. In fact, the Battle of Olustee marked the Union army’s final incursion into the area until the war’s end a mere fourteen months later.
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park has a mile-long nature trail with markings and signposts about the battle as well as an Interpretive Centre with exhibits and artifacts relating to the event. Visitors to Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park can start their day at the park’s visitor centre, which has information about the site and activities.
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park
Olustee Battlefield is a state park located in the Osceola National Forrest in Olustee Florida. Although not one of Floridas largest parks what it lacks in size it makes up for with history. This park marks the site of one of the largest Civil war battles. They do a re-enactment every year in February. According to Wikipedia, it also has the distinction of being Florida’s first State Park.
We parked near the trailhead. and decided to see what this place was all about. we walked over to the visitor center first. The visitor center is a small building with a bunch of historical information and some artifacts. There is also a small room with a tv that plays a movie explaining all about the historic battle. This building also houses the restrooms.
From there we went out the back door to the monument. The monument was officially dedicated to the park on October 23. 1912. The funds to place the monument at the battle site were raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and fundraising began in 1897. Also behind the visitor center are a few dedication plaques, 2 cannons, and a Geocache.
Across from the visitor center are some picnic tables. If you packed lunch this is a good spot to relax and eat.
Moving past the tables is a 1-mile walk circular trail. Along the trail are signs that explain all the events and timeline of the battle. There are benches if you need to sit and rest or post some pictures on Facebook…lol.
After walking the trail we started headed back towards the truck near the entrance of the park. There is a big fire watch tower you pass as you walk by. The “Florida Trail” hiking trail runs through this park. Just as we were reading the sign near the fire watchtower, we decided to check once more for any Geocaches.
Hey, What do you know? There is another cache in this park. Now the first cache near the visitor center is placed by the Florida Parks dept, this one is a private cache. You can check “Our Adventures With Geocaching” to see the caches.
The bottom line is if you are in the area and want to see some Florida Civil War History, this would be a good stop for you. It’s not an all-day kind of park but you can plan on spending a couple of hours here. You won’t be sorry.
Check Out Our Slideshow Below Featuring 72 Photos Of Olustee Battlefield
History Unfolds on Baker County’s Olustee Battlefield
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park commemorates the site of Florida's largest Civil War battle, which took place Feb. 20, 1864.
More than 10,000 cavalry, infantry, and artillery troops fought a five-hour battle in a pine forest near the small town of Olustee. The battle ended with 2,807 casualties and the retreat of Union troops to Jacksonville until the war's end just 14 months later.
It was the bloodiest battle fought in Florida during the war, and included the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the 35th United States Colored Troops, both composed of African-American soldiers and liberated slaves.
The state park is located within the Osceola National Forest and is open year round, with hiking trails, picnic area, an interpretive center, and Civil War artifacts and memorials. Visitors can hike a mile-long trail, right into the actual battlefield, which has interpretive signs describing the events that took place here.
Annual Battle of Olustee
A full-scale battle reenactment takes place every year in the park, on President’s Weekend in February. Visitors can watch the battle unfold, just as it did in 1864, in a highly choreographed, immersive setting. You can also experience period music concerts and crafts, lectures, battlefield surgical practices and mingle with reenactors who set up authentic camps to portray the lives of soldiers and civilians during the war.
Military camps and drills by infantry and artillery are scheduled throughout the weekend, including color ceremonies, cavalry demonstrations, food and more.
On the same Presidents Weekend, just 10 miles west of the battlefield, historic Lake City also commemorates the historical event with the annual Olustee Festival. The two-day celebration hosts food vendors, artisans, and period costumes and wares.
A memorial ceremony, held at Oaklawn Cemetery, kicks off the event. Oaklawn is the final resting place of many, mainly Confederate, soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Olustee. Many reenactors travel into the city to participate in the parade, filled with much pomp and circumstance.
Lake City is the seat of nearby Columbia County and in 1864 was the largest community in the vicinity of the Battle of Olustee. Civil War and other area history is accessible year-round, especially through the Lake City Columbia County Historical Museum.
The museum features a Blue-Grey room, filled with impressive artifacts, both Union and Confederate, from the Olustee Battle. Native American, African-American, World War I and World War II history of the area also are featured.
For a Treat, plan your visit to the area to include lunch at Mima’s 1940 restaurant. They use locally sourced ingredients, with a signature Hispanic flair. Don’t miss their burgers and Cuban coffee.
One of the best kept Civil War secrets. Park is always clean, well maintained. The re-enactment in Feb is definitely worth visiting. Great place for scouting merit badges, home schooling etc. Will be back again and again.
What could have turned out to be a pleasant family/friends outing was anything but. They say fish rot from the head down, it is true here. No matter the beauty of the area or the historical significance, the staff ruin the experience. When asked for directions or information from members of our group they were rude, surly, unsmiling, unfriendly, unpleasant, sour. The park is very large and really needs help to navigate, however when asked simple questions they all but snarled at having to assist us. Skip this park until they clean staff house. Many other parks have friendly staff, not this one!! Truly a disgrace to Florida and the Park Service.
If you ever wondered what it might have been like to live and experience the life of a soldier in the War Between The States this is an excellent way to find out. The reenactment that takes place here involves several groups of re-enactors who specialize in authentic portrayal of 19th century military units. Several of them welcome newcomers or individuals interested in immersing themselves in this experience for the weekend. Participants can live in an authentic camp that can include such realistic experiences as actually sleeping on the ground the way many of the actual soldiers did, drilling, doing fatigue duties, eating camp food, and regular marching and review as well as re-enacting the historic battle. It's a great way to step back in time.
The battlefield area is extremely busy during re-enactment events but well worth it for history lovers. For a much quieter time visit the park at other times and get a totally different perspective.
This review will not give away the spoiler. The question is: why did this fight between two groups of nearly the same size produce lopsided results? The small museum does a good job of telling the story of the battle. The walk through the battlefield is depicted in the photo attached - the scenery of the walk is worth a visit by itself. The illustrations and text on signs along the walk add information about the battle, instead of just repeating what is learned in the museum. About three of these signs suffer bad crazing of the plastic making reading of some portions impossible, but is not bad enough to ruin the walk. The small cemetery in the Southwest corner of the park includes a union memorial, much smaller than the rebel memorial near the museum.
Talk:Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park
- National Register of Historic Places portal
Two of the external links on this page, Absolutely Florida and Wildernet, are commercial links and should be deleted. Trfasulo (talk) 02:36, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
Box says "established in 1970" but Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials took over the site from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1949. Doesn't this mean it became a Florida park then. Or even earlier? Thomas R. Fasulo (talk) 09:46, 6 October 2008 (UTC)
I was informed that a new sign, or redesigned sign, is now at the park entrance. Someone should take a photo of it and replace the older image. Not having any type of camera, I can't do so. Thomas R. Fasulo (talk) 05:48, 25 March 2013 (UTC)
Schedule of Battle of Olustee, Florida Civil War reenactment
This is the 2020 schedule, but 2021 is likely to similar. The living history weekend features a Civil War-era battle reenactment on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., as well as the reenactment of the Battle of Olustee on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Period music concerts and crafts, lectures, battlefield surgical practices and the lives of both white and black civilians during the war are portrayed by reenactors. Military camps and drills by infantry and artillery are scheduled throughout the weekend.
Programs are offered throughout the weekend, including the program Saturday at 11 a.m. on the participation in the Civil War of people of color. Living historians will portray such people as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
Traditionally, on Friday, educational programs are planned for student, including a series of 10-minute living-history presentations. School groups may call (386) 397-7009 to register for the event.
Where: Olustee Battlefield State Historic Park: is located on U.S. 90, 13 miles east of Lake City and 50 miles west of Jacksonville. 5815 Battlefield Trail Road, Olustee, FL 32072
Admission: Adults $10 school-age children $5 pre-school children free. (In Lake City, some merchants will have flyers with a $3 off coupon.)
Parking: No public parking is available at the state park during the Civil War reenactment weekend. Parking with shuttle service is available at the Lake City Airport on the east side of Lake City to the west of Olustee, or at the Baker County Correctional Facility (CCF) one mile east of Olustee. Both sites are on Route 90. Shuttle services is $2 for adults and $1 for children under 12. Once visitors arrive at the battlefield park, handicapped visitors can be shuttled to the authentic campsite and sutler village and the reenactment battle site.
FHS SPONSOR MEMBERSHIP
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Additionally, FHS Sponsors also receive:
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2. Your choice of any three (3) books published by the Florida Historical Society Press
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
Named for American composer Stephen Foster, the culture center is in White Springs on the banks of the Suwanee River, the river mentioned in Foster’s song “Old Folks Home.” The museum that honors Foster’s songs is open daily and tours are available. Since 1953 the park has been the site of The Florida Folk Festival, the longest-running folk festival of any state. The center is also home to antique tractor shows and concerts. Popular activities at the state park include kayaking, biking, hiking, fishing and canoeing. Forty-five campground sites and five television-free cabins are available for campers. Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park U.S. 41 North White Springs, FL 32096 386-397-2733 floridastateparks.org
Conflict On 'Back Burner' At Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park
The Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park was the center of an outcry in late 2013, when the state held a hearing on a plan to place a Union memorial there. But now, the site of Florida's largest Civil War battle — a Confederate victory — might have a peaceful solution in the works.
"We have to tell both sides of the story," said Jeff Grzelak, a Civil War historian and re-enactor for more than 40 years.
Olustee, between Lake City and Jacksonville, draws tens of thousands of people each year for its re-enactment of the battle, which took place on Feb. 20, 1864. Grzelak is leading the charge for a privately funded walkway between two memorials — one to fallen Confederate soldiers at the park and one to Union dead in a nearby graveyard.
"The walkway that I propose incorporates all the things that we as re-enactors and living historians are striving for," Grzelak said. "There was a tragedy. We want to put it in perspective. We want to put it in historical context. And we want to remember what happened there and why it happened, so that we don't ever repeat that again."
The Civil War was a tragedy for both sides, he said, but "all the books were written by the winners."
In the wake of last month's massacre of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., cities and counties across the South are debating whether to fly the Confederate battle flag on public property. Florida is no different.
But at Olustee, the recent controversy about adding a Union memorial is now "on the back burner," said state Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who figured prominently in the debate.
In December 2013, the state Department of Environmental Protection held a public hearing that drew 300 irate Floridians to Lake City. The department had received a proposal from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War to add a Union monument to the state park at Olustee, which DEP oversees. Agency officials had processed the request, scheduled the public hearing on where to place the marker — a routine step — and were shocked by the outcry that followed.
The anger was partly due to the department's plan to put the Union marker on three acres given to the state by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1909. The site is considered sacred by the many local descendants of those who died there. The site is also Florida's first state park, which the United Daughters of the Confederacy administered until 1949, when the state took over.
The outcry also was partly due to the fact that in 1991, a plain granite cross had replaced a rotting wooden marker in the Union graveyard near the battlefield. Grzelak and other re-enactors led the fund-raising for that, too — by performing "living history" re-enactments at Disney World to sweeten the pot.
"A lot of the Southerners were going, 'Oh my God, you're going to put a Union monument there,'" Grzelak recalled, referring to the 1991 project. "And we said, 'Why not? They were just as brave. Yeah, they lost the battle, but their blood was just as red — and they were Americans, too."
But to many at the December 2013 DEP hearing, the intent of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to honor their dead meant that a Union marker could never be placed on those three acres — especially not with the granite cross so near at hand.
In response, Baxley filed a bill that would have required legislative approval of any new historical monuments in the state park system. It passed one committee and died. Baxley said Thursday that he'd like to bring back a similar proposal.
"There really is no recourse," he said. "You had 300 people in an auditorium at a hearing begging non-elected officials not to do something. I still think that needs some kind of structural attention, so that people always have recourse before some elected body on those kinds of policy decisions."
But Baxley also said that the upcoming legislative session — given the 2016 elections, the need to redraw the state's congressional districts and the continuing flap over displays of the Confederate flag — might not be the best time.
"Sometimes you need to let things settle down a bit to make a good policy decision," he said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Environmental Protection has no immediate plans to touch the matter. Department spokesman Jason Mahon wrote in an email, "The potential of a Union monument at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park as well as any other updates at the park will be addressed when the park's Unit Management Plan is updated in 2017."
And Grzelak's walkway proposal is gathering momentum. Among those who think it's a good idea is David McCallister, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who protested earlier this month at a Florida Veterans' Hall of Fame event due to its exclusion of Confederate soldiers.
"That's fine," McCallister said. "Just as long as they don't impinge on the three acres donated by the (United Daughters of the Confederacy)."
Surrounded by the Osceola National Forest, which was established many decades after this park was founded, Olustee Battlefield is a place for reflection.
Similar in nature to the memorials found at Gettysburg, a stone tower erected in 1936 is accompanied by memorial stones for Confederate leaders of the battle.
Reenactors near the tower
The small museum contains an array of artifacts found by archaeologists on the site, and shows a movie about the battle.
Picnic grounds sit near the fire tower, which is part of Osceola National Forest. A historic cemetery is along the rail line.
Picnic grounds and a memorial
During the annual encampment, tents swarm through the forest beneath the tower and near the museum.
Annual encampment at Olustee
On February 20, 1864, more than 10,000 met in combat in these pine woods in what would be Florida’s longest and bloodiest battle of the Civil War.
It was sparked by Union general Truman A. Seymour, whose success at capturing Baldwin tempted him to send his troops west without orders from his superiors.
Reenactment of Seymour’s forces
His Union forces were met here by the largest Confederate buildup ever to defend Florida. Four hours later, more than 3,000 lie dead and dying in these pine woods.
Soldiers on the battlefield
Despite injuries and losses of nearly a thousand men, their victory on the battlefield rallied the Confederates to continue the fight.
Confederate reenactors waiting to engage
Walking you between interpretive stops within the pine forest where the battle took place, the Olustee Battlefield Trail unfolds the drama of what occurred.
Juxtaposed with the beauty of a longleaf pine forest untouched since the Civil War – a counterpoint to the surrounding pine plantations – it’s a gentle 1.1-mile walk.
Olustee Battlefield Trail
The hike through Olustee Battlefield is short, but its historical significance is great. More than 2,000 men died in this forest on February 20, 1864, when Confederate and Union forces met and fought Florida’s bloodiest battle
The Olustee trailhead adjoining the front gate provides access to a portion of the statewide Florida Trail.
It includes a short loop through the longleaf pines known as the Nice Wander Trail.
Florida Trail, Nice Wander Loop
In the Osceola National Forest, this short loop along the Florida Trail adjacent to Olustee Battlefield is one of the easiest places in the state to see red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Battle of Olustee
An annual reenactment held in February re-creates the battle and encampments. With nearly 10,000 participants, it’s one of the South’s largest reenactments.
It’s an excellent educational experience, especially for those unschooled in Florida’s Civil War history.