Olustee Battlefield Re-enactment
On Friday February 18th, through Sunday the 20th, I (Joseph) was able to participate in the Olustee Battlefield re-enactment with our friend Greg Smoak. Daniel participated Saturday night through Sunday evening.
The Olustee Re-enactment took place where the battle was fought 147 years ago, and the surrounding area. Friday was an inactive day where we re-enactors made sure we had everything needed for the activities on Saturday and Sunday. Greg, Daniel and were participating with the "3rd Florida/35th Massachusetts Infantry re-enactors".
On Saturday, we woke up while it was still dark, and many had coffee around the campfire. As the sun began to rise, and reveille was played we gathered our accoutrements (Canteen, haversack) and gear. (belt, cartridge bag, cap box). After roll call we marched to "Colors"--the posting of both the American and Confederate flags. The band played a rousing rendition of "Dixie" to the cheers of all Confederate re-enactors present. Following the posting of the colors, our unit (3rd Florida) and many others loaded into buses headed for Lake City. After breakfast on the grounds of a local church, we marched in a Civil War themed parade through Lake City. I'm not sure how far it was--but it must have been at least a mile and a half. After the bus ride back to Olustee, we were able to relax for a few hours.
Soon we were on the march again. This time, we acted as Union troops for the first battle which represented the initial skirmish won by the Union. After a lengthy march down a dirt path, our unit (and many others) attempted to advance in a straight line through a pine grove with palmettos everywhere. Unfortunately it is very hard to keep a group of soldiers, each carrying 10 lb. rifles, in a straight line while marching through uneven terrain heading into battle. After emerging from the stand of pines, we charged onto the battlefield, managed to arrange ourselves in a straight line and prepared to slowly advance on the Confederate lines. After that, it was kind of a blur--we followed orders to load and fire, did that for a few minutes--and then advanced some more. After about 30 minutes, the Confederate lines began to falter and we began to push them off the field. Being it was my first time on the battlefield, I wasn't quite sure what to do--but I learned fast. Behind us, one of the officers was calling out for "more casualties". What that means is to follow what happened in the battle--we need more people to "die". It looks quite unrealistic if our lines would simply fire at each other all day. So--when they asked for casualties, I acted as though I was hit, and went down. Soon thereafter the battle commenced and the order to "resurrect" and re-form was issued. The rest of the day was free--most of it was spent in camp, but Greg and I did look around at the Sutler tents some.
Sunday is always the big day at Olustee. Up until about 1:30 (excluding colors) we were free, but when afternoon hit we were once again gearing up for a march. We got to be Confederates, so we were pretty excited! After marching into position off of the battlefield, we waited for orders to march on-field. Greg, Daniel and I were new at re-enacting--and all the "fresh-fish" have an initiation. We were supposed to take water and gunpowder and rub it into our faces. That way everyone could tell we were fresh-fish--so they could watch out for us.
We got plenty of action on the field--driving the Union completely off the field after a good hour of fighting.
I was able to get over 36 rounds off during the battle! At the end all the soldiers filed into position in front of the crowd and fired a salute. Now that the battle was we marched back into camp (we march everywhere) and proceeded to break camp.
Re-enacting is a lot of fun. I was able to participate in the re-enacting of our past which was truly a unique experience. I also saw battle both as a Confederate and a Union soldier. Experiences like the Olustee Battlefield re-enactment give us a glimpse into what our country was like in the past, and what our forefathers stood for.