During the meeting, black activist H.K. Edgerton displayed a large Confederate flag and called Union soldiers rapists before leading the crowd in singing "Dixie." Despite his passion, Edgerton isn't even from Florida. The North Caorlina native, who claims to have been kicked out of the NAACP, is a traveling speaker who defends "southern heritage."
"Putting a Union monument at Olustee would be like placing a memorial to Jane Fonda at the entrance to the Vietnam memorial," said wounded veteran Leon Duke.
Each year, Olustee hosts a reenactment of a four-hour battle in which Union forces were routed by Confederate troops.
"Men died there. Let their spirits rest in peace," said a descendant of a Confederate soldier who died at Olustee, Nansea Marham Miller. "Let my grandfather rest in peace."
Another man who is a descendant of someone who died at the Battle of Olustee, Mike Farrell, proposed the new memorial because of his experience serving as an historical exhibitor at the park.
"I always have the visiting public approach me and ask me where the Union monument is on the battlefield, and I often tell them, 'There isn't any.' I'm not talking about what Jeff was talking about, which was a cemetery marker to the dead. What I'm talking about is a battlefield monument," Farrell said.
The three-hour meeting ended with no final decision, though Republican state Rep. Dennis Baxley won cheers when he proposed halting the monument from within the state house. "I can do a very simple proposal to the Legislature that we protect all monument sites," he said.
[Orlando Sentinel] [News Service of Florida]