Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Olustee
The Battle of Olustee is the largest, annual Civil War event in the southeastern United States. Over 1,700 Civil War reenactors (men, women and children) come to the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park every year from all over the United States. Some reenactors even journey from Europe for the event. These reenactors portray military personnel (infantry, artillery, cavalry, medical), members of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, and Civil War era civilians and sutlers. We also host numerous Civil War authors and historical exhibitors throughout the weekend. You can listen to almost continuous presentations under our large (9,000 square feet) tent. Plenty of seating is available.
While a number of the reenactors camp in the modern area, most camp in Civil War style—from tents in all sizes and styles to campaign (no tents and just what they can carry on their backs). The camps are everywhere. Many are strictly military, others are civilian and still others are combined. We encourage you to visit the authentic camps, wander among the campfires, listen to the soldiers and civilians and ask questions. Remember, this is our hobby and we cannot wait to tell you about it. In fact, the hardest part will be to get us to stop talking about it. Reenactors have been known to follow fleeing spectators to their cars, still telling them "what the Civil War was all about" as the spectators frantically rolled up the windows and sped off.
While you should not wander through the modern reenactor camps, you are welcome to visit the authentic Federal (Union) infantry and civilian camps, the combined Federal and Confederate cavalry and artillery camps, and the Confederate infantry and civilian camps.
Although there are far larger events held annually in the United States, Olustee favorably compares with the best in its sutler attendance. Sutlers are Civil War-era merchants. During the Civil War every regiment or brigade had a sutler licensed to follow along and sell "extras" to the men. These extras included food items, such as cans of sweetened condensed milk (a favorite with the men); to clothing, such as civilian-style shirts; to some items hidden away from the eyes of the Provost (military police).
Olustee usually has 40-50 sutlers in attendance and these sutlers must pass inspection for the authenticity of their goods and appearance. In fact, the number of authentic sutlers is a big draw for reenactors wishing to buy another item for their impression, because "if it isn't sold at Olustee, it's probably not sold anywhere." Olustee's sutlers sell everything from rifled-muskets to housewives (sewing kits) to hardtack. A full range of military uniforms and accouterments (leather straps and belts, cartridge boxes, holsters, bootees, etc.) are also offered. Some are inexpensive, but most are expensive due to their adherence to authentic patterns and materials. [Note: I remember at one event when a spectator "fell in love" with an officer's cavalry slouch hat and asked the price. His wife's mouth dropped open and eyes widened when the sutler told them and she quickly convinced her husband that it wasn't a necessity. If you want inexpensive and "farby" (non-authentic) Civil War hats or other clothing, I suggest you shop at South of the Border, Disney or the local Halloween costume store. Speaking of hats, some headgear made by certain highly-regarded sutlers actually sell for a lot more money after years of wear then when they were purchased new. Believe it or not!]