Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Olustee Battlefield

Located about two hours east of Tallahassee and about 5 miles off of I-10 sits a little known Civil War battlefield that seems like it has been forgotten. Granted not too much of importance happened in Florida battle-wise during the war however the Olustee Battlefield is certainly not a way to create interest amongst youth. In fact this is without doubt one of the most disappointing Civil War sites you will ever visit.

Once you turn in it starts to go downhill. Parking is not clearly marked and in fact--just park anywhere really. There is a little building that houses the "museum" if you wish to call it that. After you get past the crude sign on the door telling you to keep it closed so the air conditioning doesn't get out (trust me the air left long ago as it was hot in the building) you step into a small and dark room that contains a few minnie balls and a couple of uniforms that you can't tell if they are authentic or reproduction. The most interesting item on display is a battle flag but there was no marker to tell the visitor anything about it. Off in a side room is a tired television playing an old video about the park. We sat and watched for a few minutes but it didn't do anything for me.

Located in a display box is an assortment of pamphlets/books that are supposed to be available for purchase. Alas there is no bookstore, gift shop, or even human being anywhere to be seen. In fact there weren't even any maps or handouts with information on the battle or what is there.

Things don't get too much better once you step back outside. Seeing that you don't have any information to orient you to what is what the next logical step would be to look for interpretive markers or any kind of signs for help. Again, don't look too hard, you won't find them. What you will find are a couple of cannons with no signage to tell you whether they are authentic and if so if they were actually at the battle. There are also a couple of makers that have been placed to commemorate the battle. Once you have seen this I would suggest taking a pass on the nature trail. The portion we walked is like every other nature trail in Florida--pine needles, mosquitoes, some brush, lizards, and not a heck of a lot more. We walked the first portion and took the cut through that led back towards where we started. If there was more to see it was not marked at all so I doubt we missed anything by not going further.

Olustee Battlefield does host a large reenactment every February that might be worth going to but I don't think I'll be doing that. Unfortunately the battlefield is a long way from just about everything and does not make for a worthwhile day trip. If you are driving by then by all means stop but don't make a special trip.

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