By Julio C. Zangroniz
(April 2013 Civil War News)
Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw digs an Olustee soil sample, one of four to be gathered at U.S. battlefields, with an aide. (Julio C. Zangroniz)
OLUSTEE, Fla. — The Florida National Guard secured a “piece of land” for a very special project during a ceremony at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park
Before the start of the 37th annual reenactment, Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw, adjutant general of Florida, described the project just before he knelt down and started scooping up some soil.
The Guard is trying to collect samples from as many as 16 battlefields, both here and abroad, where the State of Florida has fielded troops. Then, on Sept. 16, all those samples will be deposited at the Guard’s parade grounds in St. Augustine.
The international samples will include 12 locations as widespread as Japan and Indonesia, and some European countries, according to the general. U.S. soil will come from Chickamauga, Ga.; Cold Harbor, Va.; and Gettysburg, Pa., in addition to Olustee.
The Guard’s parade grounds are currently unnamed, but it is likely that the facility will receive a new designation at the September ceremony. It will mark the 448th anniversary of the first muster of Florida militia, in 1565, under Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles, according to Florida National Guard command historian Gregory A. Moore.
During his remarks, General Titshaw recalled a visit he made to the Olustee Battlefield with his family in the 1990s. He added that a relative on his mother’s side fought and died in the Feb. 20, 1864, battle while serving in the 9th Florida Infantry.
The general thanked the reenactors in attendance and praised their dedication to history and to the memories of their predecessors, regardless of which side of the American Civil War they had served.
“We appreciate both sides being here today and I hope we will remain friendly through the rest of the event,” the general joked before shaking hands with reenactors and awarding some of them a special commemorative coin.
For more information about the Florida National Guard project, visit the organization’s website at http://www.nationalguard.com.