Florida Republican Fights to Keep Battlefield Focused on the Confederacy
By Janie Campbell
When a group of residents asked to add a monument to Union soldiers at the site of the largest Civil War battle in Florida, neither they nor park officials thought it would be an issue — after all, there are already three memorials to Confederate soldiers on the grounds at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park near Lake City.
But Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) responded to the idea by filing a bill that would strip park system administrators of the authority to approve historical markers and put that power instead in the hands of the Florida legislature.
Baxley, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, filed HB493, and Republicans on the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee passed the bill 7-6.
As Michael Van Sickler pointed out in the Tampa Bay Times, the bill seems to “contradict” conservative principles by wedging in an extra layer of government to determine local affairs.
“I think it’s a sad day,” Lloyd Monroe, president of the Olustee Monument Commission for the Florida chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans, told the Ocala Star-Banner when the bill was filed. “It’s unfortunate that [Baxley] wants the legislature to micromanage an executive department … The park belongs to all the people of Florida. It doesn’t belong to a particular sub-set of people.”
The issue first arose last February, when members of the Sons of Union Veterans, dissatisfied with a mass grave marker that many felt was too far removed from a main battlefield, put in a request for an obelisk memorial at Olustee that, like a large Confederate memorial nearby, would be visible from the battlefield during events.
“There were twice as many Union casualties there as Confederate,” Union memorial supporter Charles Custer told The New York Times. “They fought. They bled. And they are really not recognized anywhere.”
Among the Union casualties at Olustee were three black regiments, including the famed Massachusetts 54th. After the battle ended, some wounded black soldiers were shot and clubbed to death by Confederate soldiers.