BY DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
The largest Civil War battle fought in Florida was in a small town in Baker County called Olustee, about 15 miles east of Lake City. Several Black Union military units fought in the battle that took place in February 1864.
The Battle of Olustee is re-enacted each year in February at the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park in the Osceola National Forest.
On Feb. 15, 2020, the battle will be fought on the same battleground with hundreds of spectators re-enacting the battle.
The re-enactors study the life of a historic character and portray that character in every aspect possible – in appearance in dress and speech.
The Voices of Pride re-enactors are seeking people interested in portraying those characters.
“There are many unknown people of color, who gave outstanding service in the Civil War and the Voices of Pride want to introduce those characters in educational programs at the Battle of Olustee re-enactment and on public programs,” said Mary Fears.
“Frederick Douglass is widely known, but not John Scobel, a free man of color who served the Union as a spy. Neither is widely known, the character of Robert Smalls, a slave on the Confederate ship Planter, who stole the ship and delivered it to the Union fleet,’’ Fears noted.
“That feat of courage was recognized by President Lincoln, and Smalls later became captain of the Planter. Today, there is a United States vessel, which bears the name of Robert Smalls.’’
‘Badge of honor’
She also cited the name of Elizabeth Keckley, a seamstress and close friend and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. Keckley raised funds to help escaped slaves who fled to areas surrounding Washington, D.C. during the Civil War.
“It is a badge of honor to become a Civil War re-enactor and portray the life of a little known person of color who served the Union in the Civil War. This service ultimately helped lead to the Union victory and freedoms enjoyed today,’’ Fears added.
People interested in becoming a Civil War re-enactor can contact Fears at 386-843-2807.
For more information about the Battle of Olustee re-enactment, visit http://battleofolustee.org.