Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Different Sort of Battle at Olustee

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Different Sort of Battle at Olustee

Article excerpt

OLUSTEE -- Susan Ballard strolled about the Confederate

encampments at the Olustee Battlefield Historic Site near Lake

City yesterday wearing 25 pounds of clothing.

She wore a typical silk and linen Sunday day dress. There was

also the chemise undershirt, the pantalettes, the corset, the

corset cover, numerous petticoats, the pluming skirt with its

eight wire hoops, the morning cap, the lace gloves, and on and

on. She had spent over an hour getting dressed.

But at least Ballard, 24, of Dade City, didn't have to face the

cross-dressing controversy.

While history shows the Confederacy toppled the Union troops in

the 1864 Battle of Olustee, sending them scurrying back to

Jacksonville, another battle is still being fought at Olustee

and other Civil War re-enactments.

It's a disagreement over women portraying male soldiers. The

dispute simmered yesterday at the 21st re-enactment of Florida's

largest Civil War battle.

About half the male re-enactors, by most estimates, disapprove

of women in the ranks. Most attribute their disapproval to

historical accuracy, saying there's little or no documented

proof of how many women fought at Olustee.

"It's really too bad that so many men are ignorant of their

Civil War history; it's documented fact that women disguised

themselves as men and fought," said Shelbie Mercer, 25, of

Columbia, Ala., a fighter for the 15th Alabama Infantry.

Many re-enactors, some of them Civil War buffs, agree there are

about 400 documented cases of women fighting in the war.

Similar to many units, the 7th Florida Infantry has a set of

criteria for admitting women as soldier re-enactors, said Mike

Crane, 48, of Hollywood, who portrays a captain. The women must

be able to drill and perform as well as the men, they must know

and adhere to all safety rules and they must be undetectable as

women from 10 paces away.

"If they meet the criteria, then I really cannot complain,"

Crane said. "But those who want to do it to be politically

correct, I wish they'd keep their correctness out of my hobby. …

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