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A lesson in Civil War history

Confederate and Union soldiers re-enact a Civil War battle that occurred near Homosassa. The sides take turns winning.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 26, 2001

[Times photo: Brian Tietz]
A Union soldier walks past a crowd of spectators Saturday just before the re-enactment of the Raid on the Yulee Sugar Mill north of Crystal River.
CRYSTAL RIVER -- A two-day Civil War battle re-enactment featuring blazing cannons and muskets, along with lots of period costumes, drew a large turnout last weekend.

After being defeated by the Yankees at the fourth annual Nature Coast Civil War Re-Enactment on Saturday, the Confederates rebounded Sunday. They vanquished their Union foes to the delight of the mostly Rebel crowd. Confederate flags flew in larger numbers Sunday than the American flag.

The battle was billed as the Raid on the Yulee Sugar Mill, a reference to an actual blockade skirmish that occurred near Homosassa.

The mock battles, with artillery volleys followed by charging infantry and cavalry, were more grand than the original.

Also at the re-enactment were vendors selling muskets, knives, handmade clothing and jewelry of the era.

Demonstrations in soap making, battlefield medicine, cavalry and artillery techniques were offered throughout the weekend.

Among the demonstrations was featured speaker Nelson Winbush.

Winbush, 71, is the grandson of a slave, Louis Napoleon Nelson, who fought with the Confederates during the Civil War. Nelson served with the 7th Tennessee Cavalry, commanded by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who later formed the group that became the Ku Klux Klan.

Standing next to the Confederate flag that had draped his grandfather's coffin, Winbush defended both the service of African-Americans in the Confederate forces and the flag, often labeled as a symbol of racism.

"This is the most misunderstood flag in the world," Winbush said. "It has absolutely nothing to do with skinheads, neo-Nazis, the Klan or the Aryan Nation. This flag is very important to me."

Winbush also said that "about 90,000" African-Americans fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

"The first person killed in the Revolutionary War was a black man. Blacks have fought and died in every other war, so why not the War between the States?"

Winbush said that history unfairly depicts the role of blacks in the Civil War.

"The war wasn't about slavery," he said. "Only 15 percent of southern people owned slaves and most of them just owned three or four.

Winbush said that his grandfather didn't mind being a slave.

After the war, Nelson returned to "his master's" property and lived with him for 12 more years.

"That protected him from the carpetbaggers," Winbush said.

The audience cheered and applauded after Winbush finished.

Julie Munn, vice president of the re-enactment committee, thanked Winbush and invited him to visit again.

At least one person in the audience disagreed with Winbush's speech.

"Well, I guess you learn something new every day," said Cliff Christianson, a seasonal visitor from Wisconsin.

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