ST. CLOUD – During the Civil War, the land that’s now known as Osceola County played a unique role in aiding the Confederate Army in the South, by providing something critically needed by the soldiers.
Anyone who has driven down U.S. 192, on the way from Kissimmee to St. Cloud, has likely seen the office of the Osceola County Cattlemen’s Association, dedicated to preserving the county’s cattle ranching industry. If they think about that office, they’ll quickly figure out what role the county played.
“Osceola County wasn’t Osceola County back then, but it played a role in that we were a large supplier of beef for the Confederacy and the army,” said Gary Schmidt. “There was an actual unit called the Cattle Guard back then, and it played a major role in the war. Of course, a lot of Florida was blockaded by the Union forces, but Florida provided more men per capita to the Confederate Army because Florida was so slightly populated, that we had more soldiers per capita here than any other state.”
The role that Florida – and, more critically, Osceola County – could have played in the Civil War will come to life on March 24-25, when two armies fight during the 19th Annual Battle at Narcoossee Mill in St Cloud.
The Confederate and Union armies will clash at Osceola County’s Ralph V. Chisholm Park in Narcoossee on March 24 and 25, allowing visitors to feel like they’ve stepped back in time, to 1864.
For nearly the past 20 years, this event has been organized by the Jacob Summerlin Camp, named for the cattle baron who helped grow so much of the Central Florida economy in the 1800s. The Jacob Summerlin Camp, a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, is a civic group formed in Osceola County in 1991. The Battle at Narcoossee Mill enactment raises funds for the camp’s charitable work, including scholarships, veteran monuments, grave markers, cemetery maintenance, and a Christmas charity program.
“Our local camp is the Jacob Summerlin Camp, and we came up with this idea as a way to raise funds to do charitable works,” said Schmidt, a member of the camp. “We do a variety of things for the community, and over the years, we were able to develop this event to help us do charitable work and fund our mission to build a number of monuments in our county in honor of the Confederate dead here. This is how it’s developed over the years.”
At the Battle at Narcoossee Mill, visitors can literally experience the the sights, sounds, and smells of the enactment, as they watch the cavalry, artillery, and infantry battle to capture or maintain control of a supply depot on the shores of East Lake Tohopekaliga.
It’s not a reenactment of a historic battle, but rather a depiction of how a conflict may have occurred during the war for Southern Independence on land that would become Osceola County after the war.
“There was not ever really a battle here,” Schmidt said. “It’s a enactment of a scenario of how a battle could have taken place in that era, in this area.”
Visitors to the campsite will be able to feel the explosion of cannon fire, made possible by Hollywood-style special effects and pyrotechnics. The battle commences at 2 p.m. on Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, although the campsite opens to the public at 9 a.m. both days, offering visitors a lot to see and do before the enactment starts.
“It’s become a popular event,” Schmidt said. “There are a lot of people up north who don’t want to be there in March, who come to see this. Before the actual battle begins, there are a variety of things they can go and do. They can see what the camps were like if they were living in that era, and they can go to the army camps and talk to the actors.”
There will be music played that’s authentic to the period, and a merchants area known as “sutlers.”
“Sutler’s Row was the merchants that would follow large armies and provide them with sewing kits and papers to write letters back home and various cooking items and little pieces for their shoes and things,” Schmidt said. “That in itself is a reenactment. They will have wares that the public can buy, and some of them will have books on the history of the era, and there will be blacksmiths and dress makers.”
There will also be food available, where the public can buy jumbo pulled pork barbecue sandwiches.
“On Saturday, there’s a Ladies Tea,” Schmidt said. “The ladies get together and have ladies tea and discuss topics of interest about what ladies’ roles were like back then. On Saturday night, there’s a reenactment ball where we get together to have some dances and share some punch.”
Parking for the battle is free. Adult admission to the camp is $5, and $3 for kids between the ages of 5 and 11. There’s grandstand seating available during the battle for spectators, who can also bring their own lawn chairs.
Chisholm Park is off Narcoossee Road (State Road 15), and north of U.S. 192 in St Cloud and south of State Road 417 and Lake Nona.
To learn more about this event, log on to www.JacobSummerlin.org.
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