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Olustee Sesquicentennial Set for February 14-16

USCT Reenactor
Bob O'Connor

The Battle of Ocean Pond/Olustee, FL took place 150 years ago, on February 20, 1864. Although not a large battle in terms of participants (about 10,000 soldiers combined) the casualties were relatively large by comparisons to other battles. There were 2,807 casualties including losses from both sides. On February 15-16, historic reenactments will take place at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park to commemorate the battle.

The Union army had been sent to northern Florida to help block the shipment of supplies northward into George and South Carolina. Among their numbers were three regiments of U.S. Colored Troops (the 54th Massachusetts, the 35th USCT and the 8th USCT) who were looking to recruit from Florida’s free black population

Confederate troops lying in trenches routed the Union soldiers in the five hour battle and sent them scurrying back to Jacksonville. The USCT regiments were sent in late in the battle, after it was lost, to cover the backs of the fleeing Union soldiers. Over one-third of the Union’s 1,800 casualties were colored soldiers.

This is the 38th year of the battle reenactment which is one of the largest held annually in the south. The first year’s reenactment of the battle was actually staged during the halftime show of a college football game.

In addition to the reenactment, the Olustee Festival is held in downtown Lake City on Friday and Saturday. That event includes a craft show, reenactors parade, food, continuous entertainment and lots of children’s activities.

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