What started as a friendly gathering quickly turned into a protest when members and supporters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans demanded that a new monument to honor Union veterans not be built in the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection proposed the location of the monument and held a workshop Monday night to hear feedback. Names were drawn from people who signed up to speak on the matter.
One of those people, Jim Davis, spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said members didn’t take issue with the idea of a monument being built, but rather with the location being so close to an already existing monument.
“That’s a historical and cultural resource and it should remain the way it is,” Davis said. “There’s another 600-plus acres that has been loaned to this state … I welcome them to put it there.”
Contrary to Davis, Lloyd Monroe, president of the Olustee Monument Commission and representative of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, said he did a thorough investigation of the park and found no Union representation.
“We inspected the State Battlefield Park and we did not find a monument within the park that honors the sacrifice of those soldiers, in fact, they’re not mentioned,” Monroe said.
But some think the Union has no place being represented in southern states at all.
H.K. Edgerton, president of Southern Heritage 411, carried a giant Confederate flag with him into the workshop. When he spoke, he riled up the Confederate supporters with strong words about what he believes the new monument should represent.
“There is no place in the south land of America to memorialize Yankee soldiers,” Edgerton said. “This is an army that came here raping, robbing, stealing, killing and murdering our people. The kinds of things that happened here under the sanction of Abraham Lincoln were for these men to commit total warfare against innocent men, women and children who could not defend themselves.”
The workshop was never meant to cause so much resistance, and Union representatives said they didn’t intend to misrepresent the hallowed grounds.
Mike Farrell, former department commander of the Sons of Union Veterans, said there’s equal representation for battlegrounds all around the country — north and south –and that there need to be in Olustee as well.
“On every Civil War battlefield in the country — north or south of the Mason-Dixon Line — there are Confederate and Union monuments,” Farrell said. “Whether they be in proximity, close or far away, it’s really not relevant. Our country is one united country.”
But the real debate seemed to be in the level of representation itself.
Davis went on to explain the current monument mentions Union soldiers and the fight they took part in. In his mind, that’s enough.
“If you go read the monument and read what it says, it talks about both sides,” Davis said. “If you go back and look at the pictures of the dedication of that monument, there is a huge American flag with Confederate and Union soldiers all around it.”
The next step in the process will likely be finalizing a location so the state can instruct the park as to what measures need to be taken to build the monument.
For now, both sides stand strong.