The American Civil War divided the country between the industrialized northern states and the agricultural southern states that depended upon slave labor to support their economy.
Disagreement over the issue of whether or not individual states had the right to decide if slavery should be legal within their borders led to the War Between the States.
Florida was the third state to secede from the Union, in January 1861, behind only South Carolina and Mississippi. As the largest supplier of beef and salt to the Confederate army, Florida played a vital role in the Civil War.
For those interested in learning more about this conflict, the Rossetter House Museum and Gardens in Eau Gallie is hosting “Civil War Living History Day” on Saturday, April 16, from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is $2.00 for adults, with no charge for students.
Representatives from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will have an encampment on the northern lawn of the Rossetter House, while members of the Confederate Sons Association will be based on the south lawn.
“We are the Indian River Camp 47, of the Confederate Sons Association based in Brevard County,” says Commander Tom Mills. “We have two types of members. Compatriots, male members with proven genealogy documentation link to his Civil War ancestor. Legionnaires are male and female members whom have a love of history and Civil War history in particular.”
At the Civil War Living History Day, CSA members will be dressed in period attire. Civil War style tents will show what camp life was like for soldiers. Tables will be set up with displays of authentic CSA muskets, swords, and related equipment and clothing. Soldiers will march and fire their weapons.
“Ladies table displays focus on the importance of a lady’s role and life experiences thrust upon them during the War Between the States and the support and struggles they endured maintaining the homeland in the absence of their husbands, sons, and family structure,” says Mills.
“At least two camps of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will be participating in the Civil War Living History Day,” says Captain Jim Ward.
Lucius L. Mitchell Camp 4, SUVCW is based in St. Cloud, but covers a six-county area. A small rural town until well after the Civil War, St. Cloud experienced significant growth after being designated as a retirement community for Union veterans of the Civil War.
Camp 7 of the SUVCW will be coming from Pembroke Pines to participate in this Saturday’s event at the Rossetter House Museum.
“Displays will range from authentic muskets and rifles, tents, uniforms, other artifacts or replicas, and writing from or about the time,” says Ward. “Members will be available for discussion and demonstration, and to help answer questions.”
Remnants of the divisiveness of the Civil War can still be seen today.
Debates continue over whether or not battle flags from a vanquished rebel army should be displayed on government owned flagpoles. Some communities are beginning to look more critically at Confederate monuments and statues on public property. Discussions about race relations continue.
Descendants of both Confederate and Union soldiers agree that we must continue to learn from our difficult past.
“We live in the fast lane where too many people, and young people in particular, have not been taught first by their families and foremost by our schools, all of this nation’s struggles, conflicts, and battles,” says Mills. “The focus should be on people’s heritage, factual history accounts, and not try to change one’s history because it was not pretty or in one’s perception, not correct.”
Mills adds that events like the Civil War Living History Day are an excellent way for people of all ages to learn about our shared past, and Ward agrees.
“People benefit from learning about and better understanding the Civil War because parts of those experiences inform our current experience,” says Ward. “For example, the phenomenon of the ‘wide awakes’ appears similar to the ‘99%’ activities not long ago. Another benefit, perhaps better understood as an obligation, is to remember the individuals comprising the large number of American casualties in this effort to bring us from antebellum times to today.”