Stew Lilker’s

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Battle of Olustee Festival:  Revisionist History Where Black Lives Didn't & Still Don't Matter

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – In nineteen days, the Olustee Battle Festival, the annual celebration of the February 20, 1864, Baker County Battle of Olustee, begins. Folks from all over the world will converge on the area to fill local hotels, fill up at fast food emporiums, and visit downtown Lake City for an "arts and crafts festival."

The center piece of the event is the Olustee Battle Reenactment. Thousands of white people along with their children, many waving the Confederate Battle flag, will be cheering their Confederate heroes on to victory while watching Americans blowing each other's brains out.

The local "hometown" newspaper, the event organizers, and other Florida news outlets proclaim and have proclaimed the Battle of Olustee as not only a decisive victory, but Florida's greatest moment of the Civil War.

Whitewashing the Past

In the official Confederate archives, General P.G.T. Beauregard informed President Jefferson Davis that the results of the fighting at Olustee were “insignificant,” largely because his own forces made “no serious attempt… to pursue” Union troops as they withdrew. (fn 1)

After the Union withdrawal, the timely advance and the bravery of the black Union troops, who allowed the Union forces to escape, was widely acknowledged.

One witness explained, “The colored troops went in grandly, and they fought like devils." (fn 2))

Reports also supported General Beauregard's conclusion that the Union forces escaped and the reasons surrounding it.

Plight of Black Union Soldiers
"Shooting niggers Sir...I can't control them"

The plight of the black Union soldiers did not go unnoticed. The memoirs of Confederate cavalry officer William Frederick Penniman explained the events after the battle. 

"Nearing the dusk in the P.M. and as I rode slowly over the field, it was niggers dead, niggers wounded in all directions, some severely, other not so much so, groans and prayers from the heard in all directions." (fn 3)

Penniman, heading back to his camp, continued, "A young officer was standing in the road in front of me and I asked him, "What is the meaning of all this firing I hear going on." His reply to me was, "Shooting niggers Sir. I have tried to make the boys desist but I can't control them."... I rode on but the firing continued."

Penniman continued, "The next morning I had occasion to go over the battle field again quite early, before the burial squads began their work, when the results of the shooting of the previous night became quite apparent. Negroes, and plenty of them, whom I had seen lying all over the field wounded, and as far as I could see, many of them moving around from palace to place, now without a motion, all were dead. If a negro had a shot in the shin another was sure to be in the head."

Black Lives Didn't Matter
The slave that came back as a Union solider

Penniman continued, "A very few prisoners were taken, and but a few at the prison pen. One ugly big black buck was interrogated as to how it happened that he had come back to fight his old master, and upon his giving some very insolent reply, his interragater drew back his musket, and with the butt gave him a blow that killed him instantly." (fn 3 (end))

There was a recurring accusation throughout the Civil War that Confederate troops were killing wounded black troops on the battle field.

U.S. General John P. Hatch was a U.S General, Union General, West Point graduate, and Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

Figures at the time showed the Union missing at the Battle of Olustee were telling: Union missing outnumbered Confederate by more than eighty-four to one.

“Most of the colored men were murdered on the field,” U.S. General John P. Hatch reported, following an investigation. (fn 4)

Burying the Dead

2015 Oak Lawn/Olustee memorial service. No union dead here.            (Battle Festival photo)

While the Confederates buried the remains of their own war dead, the remains of the Union soldiers, the loyal Americans who fought for, rather than against their country that day, were left to be rooted up “by the hogs...in consequence of which the bones and skulls were scattered broadcast over the battlefield,” a returning Union veteran of the battle recounted. (fn 5)

There never has been a thorough search to find and identify the remains of the Union troops, the loyal Americans missing at Olustee, of the kind that has occurred in Vietnam and most recently North Korea.

Olustee enthusiasts have not taken kindly to suggestions that loyal Americans be honored there.

During the hearings on proposals to erect an Olustee monument to honor the Union dead, neo-Confederate flag-wavers disrupted the hearings; one of Florida's most prominent legislators and head of the Judiciary Committee, Dennis Baxley, himself a member of The Sons of Confederate Veterans, argued against it.

Victory at Olustee: a historical sham

“Victory at Olustee,” as title headings in history books call it, was conjured up a generation after the Civil War ended. State law ordained that all children be taught the fictional version. (fn 6)

Monument dedication day, a day for the Confederacy.

In 1897, the Florida Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (fn 7), a white supremacist advocacy group, which also promotes the Lost Cause (fn 8) movement, began collecting funds to place a monument at the battlefield commemorating the Confederate dead. In 1912, with the help of a $2,500 contribution from the Florida Legislature, the monument was erected.

The "Battle Reenactment" began in 1977. Its origins and who supported or questioned it is still wrapped in local Lake City controversy.

The battle reenactment is mostly attended by white people and their white children and folks waving the Confederate battle flag watching reenactors blow each other brains out. The event is billed as the "Olustee Battle Festival."

It is sponsored by some of the areas largest corporations. Click here to see this years sponsors and scroll down. It appears that national sponsors like McDonalds are no longer sponsoring the event.

Murder at Olustee: An act too raw for little children

The murder of the wounded black soldiers, left on the field after the battle, plays no role in the festivities, an event that the organizers must have thought was just too raw for the little children to see after watching the glory of grown men running each other through with bayonets; watching exploding shells blowing off limbs, and blowing each other's brains out.


"Confederate soldiers were cogs in the military arm of the Confederate States of America, a government founded for the avowed purpose of preserving human slavery and fostering that institution’s propagation into new territories." (fn 9)

"The primary purpose of the Blue-Grey Army is to increase the knowledge of its members and the public about the historical events of the Battle of Olustee," so says the Blue-Gray Army, Inc, which also says the battle re-enactment is "but just a history lesson that the battle was fought by men on both sides who stood for important causes to them..." They do this without mentioning the Confederate cause.

"Located near the spot where the intersecting Interstates 10 and 75 form a gigantic diagonal cross, like the one on the Confederate [battle] flag, Olustee is another of those places where important truths, along with the dishonored remains of true American heroes, lie just beneath Florida’s quirky, postmodern surface." (fn 10)

The recent decision by the Florida Gateway College board to end funding of the "Olustee Battle Festival," was an enlightened first step in telling the truth of the Battle of Olustee.


fn 1:  The Truth About Florida’s Civil War History, and Finding Florida, T.D Allman
fn 2:  see fn 1
fn 3:  From the Reminiscences of William Frederick Penniman
fn 4:  Finding Florida, T.D. Allman
fn 5:  see fn 4
fn 6:  see fn 4
fn 7:  United Daughters of the Confederacy
fn 8:  the Lost Cause
fn 9:  Fellow Southerners! (see 2 paragraphs before comments)
fn 10:  The Truth About Florida’s Civil War History

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

On February 10, 2018, William Steele of VA wrote:

The question has been asked, "Why would you celebrate those who rebelled against the government of the United States of America?"

While none of us today were living back then, I think the answer is well known.

I believe world history has ample evidence that when a people believe that their economic status is threatened past a certain point, the people as a collective will rebel and even engage in war, in hopes of eliminating such a threat.   Most history scholars might agree that the plurality living in the South at that time may have believed that their economic status and their way of life was being threatened by the Federal Government and the Northern States.

The term commonly used back then was “states rights” and perhaps many felt that their economics and their way of life were being abridged by the Federal Government.  After years of what they saw as being threatened and having no recourse, separation from the Union, a rebellion against their government, was their only alternative.

This reminds me of another time in US history when people felt the need to rebel against their government because of infringement upon their economic condition and way of life.

This rebellion was called the American Revolution.  Here, the colonialists rebelled against England. Perhaps those living in the south around the first half of the 1800s felt the same as their fathers and grandfathers did in 1700s. That rebellion resulted in the birth of the United States of America.

We celebrate those people, our forefathers, who rebelled against their government.  I guess the old adage is true:  rebel & win = patriot; rebel and loose = traitor.

Let’s celebrate our history – our entire history. It made what America is today – a great nation that continues to learn, evolve, and lead.

William Steele


On Feb. 8, 2018, former Lake City Police Captain Rudolph Davis wrote:

Being a nonresident and also a former resident for over fifty years, it is a fact that the Battle of Olustee was fought in Baker County and not Columbia County. This was the only time in the history of the United States of America, that we had two Presidents (Abraham Lincoln, America's President, and Jefferson Davis, Confederate President).

My question to those who believe the Confederate soldiers should be celebrated is this: why would you celebrate those who rebelled against the government of the United States of America? If people were to rebel against government today, they would be arrested and sent to prison, not celebrated.

I understand that the Confederate soldiers fought for what they believed in, but they were wrong and if we choose to celebrate them, we should celebrate every other murderer and those who rebel against the government. The Confederate soldiers were murderers who slaughtered union soldiers, who were fighting for the true government. The Confederate soldiers were rebelling against the government of the United States of America. This is why Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, was arrested and accused of treason after the war ended.

Rudolph Davis


On January 30, 2019, Neil Miles wrote:

Sir, I have just read your most slanted Northern opinionated story of fantasy and I laughed my head off.

You see Sir this travesty of what you call a fact based description is just the typical rant of one who is just part of today’s Progressive Socialist Society. You sir, are just another of a long line of Snowbirds that once entrenched here in our backyard want nothing more than to latch on to all things Southern and cry like babies about things that you don’t like where you decided to plant your roots.

Yes, we know you well, we’ve lived with those like you many times before. It seems that the last time I read the history book it was your side that were the invaders here that day. You are of the type that seeks only to promote the Great heroics of the Union while demonizing the other side with half truths and lies. This sir is the same tactics used by those who live in dark shadows and love to spread discontent among the good people and neighbors you have choose to live with. Yes, we know you very well.

You Sir are only a modern day bloodsucker that in olden times went by the names of Carpetbagger and Scalawag, those that sought to live off of the misfortunes of the downtrodden. Yet, we shall dismiss your rants, instead, we will look to Truth and light rather than dwell on your poor excuse of a paper of lies of days gone by.

Please, write and spread your words of the Adversary for those of us who know you will always be Valiant in the defense of our Southern Land you can rest assured.

Deo Vendice                                                Sincerely Yours in the Cause, Neil Miles


On January 30, 2019, Doc G of Branford, FL wrote:

Stew, You’ve got me stewing!

Being a non-resident and somewhat outside observer, I have to say that it appears you have an inordinate amount of complaints and/or hatred about Lake City and Columbia County, and southern culture in general, especially for someone who chooses to continue his residency there.

Maybe you’d be happier if you returned to your hateful yankee (lower case intended) roots.  I know the people of Lake City would be.

As far as revisionist history goes, perhaps you should lose your holier-than-thou attitude and consider the atrocities and words of your native war criminal, William T. Sherman: “War is hell!”  Better yet, give equal press to the actions of criminal-in-chief, Lincoln the Great, who, besides being responsible for the deaths of over 600,000 Americans in a war that could have been avoided, oversaw the hanging of 38 Sioux in Minnesota.

More than likely, as a full-fledged member of the ignorati, you’ll just continue being a shill of the Southern Poverty Law Center, espousing their brand of hate while parroting their revisionist history.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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