Original Battle of Olustee Reenactment - 1977

Photograph courtesy of Lee Bishop

The following is the text of a January 2003 e-mail I received from Mr. Lee Bishop, who was a participant in the original Battle of Olustee reenactment in 1977. - T.R. Fasulo, Webmaster


I've looked at your web site several times, and enjoyed it's content. Enclosed is a pic [see above] from the first event in 1977. I'm the kid at the bottom left corner in uniform. My father, Gary Bishop, is at the top of the photo. He is the tall guy with the moustache and the modern ammo can under his arm. That's his 6-pounder we're pushing along.

The crew members in this photo are, by position:

My folks have several other pics of the Olustee events over the years, if you're interested. I have done a couple of Internet searches, and find a curious lack of info on early reenacting in general. Hopefully, you can find a place for these pics.

I reenacted Olustee from the very beginning, at the age of 7 (Okay, so I just stood there, but I was there in uniform).

My father had the only "authentic" artillery piece (a hand-built, 3/4 scale M1841 6-pdr) at the reenactment and it stayed that way for several years until others in the hobby (with full-scale guns) caught up and later surpassed our gun's place on the firing line.

At the first reenactment, all the "troops" filed through the crowd past a raised platform across the road from the museum, after state officials gave a speech on the battle. This was the way the event went for several years until the crowds grew too large for this to work.

The enclosed pic is of our gun crossing the small plank bridge to the field of palmettos where the battle took place. For some time, this was the photo that was used by the state to describe the event. There were so few guns at the event, my father and crew were asked to switch sides halfway through the battle! The gun would be "captured" and used by the "other side," which would of course be the same crew. I do recall watching my father take his kepi off, explaining later that he did that to not be too obviously the same folks (not likely, as Dad stands about 6 foot 7).

I genuinely do not remember any Union troops at the event, but that was a very long time ago and I was just a child.

The only decent Confederate unit I remember was the 5th Florida, which had Don Bowman and Tom Jessee in it. They and my Father's crew constituted the best-looking CSA troops at the first event in 1977. Many of the other troops were still wearing blue jeans and cowboy bib-type shirts at that time.

We continued to do the event for several years until my brother left for the Air Force in 1986. My father and I were among the very few folks in 1987 that had been to every Battle of Olustee reenactment for the 10 years since it started. We were promised a certificate showing this, but I suppose they were never printed because we never received them.

We still have all the certificates from the events, including the hand-signed, named ones from the first year (I remember the reenactment organizers in the museum building, Ray Giron and Tom Jessee if memory serves, working furiously to sign and name each of them). After the 10th anniversary event, we stopped bringing the gun as it was only my father and I by then. I think we stopped going altogether sometime in the early 1990s. I left Florida for good in 1998.

My God, what a great way to grow up it was. We looked forward to Olustee and Natural Bridge (near Tallahassee) each year. It was one of the few times we got to fire the gun, other than competition shoots that seemed to peter out sometime in the late 1970s.

I now live thousands of miles away from Florida, but I often think of the events we went to when I was younger. I still reenact, but instead of Civil War artillery, I now use a 1944 Jeep and wear the uniform of a WW II US solider. I did get to go to the Gettysburg event in 1998 when I was stationed at Nearby Aberdeen Proving Grounds as an Army Ordnance officer. That event was a sight to behold, but it just wasn't as much fun as stomping around the palmettos and weeds of northern Florida, dragging my Dad's gun into a firing position with folks who knew all by name.

I know the Battle of Olustee reenactment has gotten way too big to have the small-scale "family" atmosphere I remember. I have no intention of going back again, as it just couldn't be the same event I remember so fondly. I'm sure I'd recognize some familiar faces, but certainly most have moved on. But I'll never forget being there as a kid.

When we were at one of those first events, someone joked that someday maybe folks will reenact the reenactment of 1977. Maybe, as stranger things have happened. If they ever do, I think I'd like to see that.

Lee Bishop
Participant, Battle of Olustee Reenactment, 1977

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