Friday, November 15, 2013

New Petition opposes Union Monument at Olustee


Olustee Battlefield
A new petition drive has been launched in opposition to plans for erecting a Union monument at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park.

The petition opposes the monument because it specifically honors only one side in battle, a dramatic Confederate victory that created a fiery scandal for the Lincoln Administration.  The primary monument on the battlefield, erected many years ago, honors the soldiers of both sides.

Current Monument at Olustee
There is no real Confederate monument at Olustee, yet the proposal to place a new Union monument there seeks to build one specifically honoring only the side that lost.  The monument would not specifically honor Union dead as there already is a monument at Olustee for that purpose.

Personally, I oppose the monument at the park because Olustee Battlefield is one of the most pristine battlefields in the nation.  Monuments serve their purpose, but it is rare to be able to visit the scene of a battle that is preserved in a state so close to its appearance at the time of the 1864 engagement.  I favor keeping the landscape open, but would welcome a much nicer museum at the park if anyone really wants to start a project to do something productive.

Existing Monument to Union Dead
I also have to ask whether the state would be so willing for a monument honoring only the Confederate side to be placed on the battlefield or at any of Florida's other state parks in this day and age?  If not, then we should not erect monuments honoring the other side either, but only memorials to the men of both armies.  And there already is one of those at Olustee.

If you would like to sign the petition, please do so by following this link:

http://www.change.org/petitions/state-of-florida-parks-department-stop-the-special-monument-at-olustee#share

To learn more about the Battle of Olustee and Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park, please visit http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

CSS Florida artifacts on display in Virginia

CSS Florida at Brest, France
Courtesy Naval Historical Center
Rare artifacts from the famed Confederate warship CSS Florida can be seen as part of an exhibit at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.

An official museum of the United States Navy, the museum focuses on the 237 year naval history of the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. The artifacts from the Florida are there because she went down at Hampton Roads after being captured by the U.S. Navy in 1864.

A sampling of the exhibit can be seen here:  http://hamptonroadsnavalmuseum.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-few-items-from-css-florida.html.

A screw-propelled steam cruiser of roughly 700 tons, the Florida was built in Great Britain under the name Oreto. The Confederacy purchased her under a secret agreement and the Oreto steamed away from England in March 1862 disguised as a merchant ship. Once she reached the Bahamas, the vessel was refurbished as a warship and in August was commissioned the CSS Florida.

CSS Florida running the blockade into Mobile Bay
Courtesy Naval Historical Center
Commanded by Lt. John N. Maffitt, she headed for Cuba and then ran the Union blockade into Mobile, Alabama, on September 4, 1862 to complete her outfitting.  With Maffitt still in command, she ran back out through the blockade on January 16, 1863.

Over the next eight months, the cruiser captured 22 prizes and outran every attempt by the Union Navy to catch her. The Florida wound up in Brest, France, where she remained until February 1864 when she again put to sea, this time under the command of Lt. Charles Morris. She took another 11 prizes before putting into the port of Bahia in Brazil.

There, in flagrant violation of Brazilian neutrality, the USS Wachusett attacked the Florida and towed her to sea. Brazil protested this illegal act in one of its harbors and U.S. courts agreed, ordering that the ship be returned to that country.

Before the court order could be carried out, however, the Florida was sent to the bottom in an "accidental" sinking that many historians think was carried out at either the suggestion or order of U.S. Admiral David Dixon Porter.

The Hampton Roads Naval Museum is open each day but Monday, although hours vary. To learn more, please visit http://www.history.navy.mil/museums/hrnm/index.html.