History Unfolds on Baker County’s Olustee Battlefield
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park commemorates the site of Florida's largest Civil War battle, which took place Feb. 20, 1864.
More than 10,000 cavalry, infantry, and artillery troops fought a five-hour battle in a pine forest near the small town of Olustee. The battle ended with 2,807 casualties and the retreat of Union troops to Jacksonville until the war's end just 14 months later.
It was the bloodiest battle fought in Florida during the war, and included the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the 35th United States Colored Troops, both composed of African-American soldiers and liberated slaves.
The state park is located within the Osceola National Forest and is open year round, with hiking trails, picnic area, an interpretive center, and Civil War artifacts and memorials. Visitors can hike a mile-long trail, right into the actual battlefield, which has interpretive signs describing the events that took place here.
Annual Battle of Olustee
A full-scale battle reenactment takes place every year in the park, on President’s Weekend in February. Visitors can watch the battle unfold, just as it did in 1864, in a highly choreographed, immersive setting. You can also experience period music concerts and crafts, lectures, battlefield surgical practices and mingle with reenactors who set up authentic camps to portray the lives of soldiers and civilians during the war.
Military camps and drills by infantry and artillery are scheduled throughout the weekend, including color ceremonies, cavalry demonstrations, food and more.
On the same Presidents Weekend, just 10 miles west of the battlefield, historic Lake City also commemorates the historical event with the annual Olustee Festival. The two-day celebration hosts food vendors, artisans, and period costumes and wares.
A memorial ceremony, held at Oaklawn Cemetery, kicks off the event. Oaklawn is the final resting place of many, mainly Confederate, soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Olustee. Many reenactors travel into the city to participate in the parade, filled with much pomp and circumstance.
Historic Lake City
Lake City is the seat of nearby Columbia County and in 1864 was the largest community in the vicinity of the Battle of Olustee. Civil War and other area history is accessible year-round, especially through the Lake City Columbia County Historical Museum.
The museum features a Blue-Grey room, filled with impressive artifacts, both Union and Confederate, from the Olustee Battle. Native American, African-American, World War I and World War II history of the area also are featured.
For a Treat, plan your visit to the area to include lunch at Mima’s 1940 restaurant. They use locally sourced ingredients, with a signature Hispanic flair. Don’t miss their burgers and Cuban coffee.
For more information about Baker County, see Baker County: Back Roads, Backwoods, Rich History.