Monday, March 28, 2011

Growing Interest in the Role of African American Soldiers in Florida

Battlefield Scene at Marianna
With the exception of the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, which took place early in the war, most of the key battles fought in Florida during the War Between the States involved African American soldiers.

The famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry played a critical role in the Battle of Olustee (or Ocean Pond), which took place on February 20, 1864. (See www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee for more.) A strong detachment from the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) carried out a bayonet charge during the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864 (see www.battleofmarianna.com) and soldiers from the 2nd and 99th USCT regiments made at least eight charges against entrenched Confederate troops at the Battle of Natural Bridge on March 1864 (see www.exploresouthernhistory.com/nbindex). There is also some evidence that at least a few African Americans fought on the Confederate side in the latter two battles.

I was pleased to see a number of African American citizens in attendance at this year's memorial service and reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. It was the first time that a unit of black reenactors had taken part in the annual commemoration and the result was that a much wider spectrum of the community came out to enjoy the activities.

I've also noticed since the reenactment, which took place on March 6th, that I have received a surge in emails seeking information about the role of black soldiers in Florida during the war.

I think this is an outstanding development. The war in Florida included military aspects of importance to several races and many cultures. The higher the interest becomes across the spectrum of Florida's citizenry, the stronger will become the interest in preserving and visiting the state's important Civil War sites. To me, it seems that if this growing interest in the role of the USCT regiments that fought in the state can be nurtured, the result will be a great expansion of interest in the importance of Florida's battles and raids.

2 comments:

JFH said...

I too have an intrest in USCT's especially Co. B of the 3rd USCT. Elements of this unit raided Marion County on March 10, 1865 and burned the Marshall and Holly plantations. I believe they also participated in the action at "Lake Church Hill" near Lynn on the same date. Any information greatly appreciated!! JFH

Dale said...

Thank you for the inquiry. I am not familiar with the raid you mention but will take some time this week to research a little and see what I can find. If anyone else has info, please chime in!

Best,
Dale