Friday, May 28, 2004

Florida's Civil War Sites: Olustee 

In my previous post I suggested that Fort Pickens, located at the mouth of Pensacola Bay, was a Civil War site worthy of mention in guide books.

Another site is the Olustee battlefield. Located about 50 miles west of Jacksonville, Olustee (or Ocean Pond)was the largest battle fought between Confederate and Union forces in Florida (February 20, 1864). The site is preserved as a state park and is the scene of a large annual reenactment.

I believe I first learned about the Battle of Olustee as a child, while visiting the ante-bellum Gamble Mansion in Bradenton, Florida. I distinctly remember the uniformed tourguide pointing to a lithograph of blue and gray soldiers in combat. The guide mentioned that this was a great victory for the Confederates and then pointed out, with some scorn, that the Yankee forces had included colored troops.

In fact, three black units were present at the battle: the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry (which just months before had charged Fort Wagner in South Carolina), the 35th United States Colored Troops of North Carolina and the 8th United States Colored Troops. The latter unit had been newly formed and largely untrained -- in the course of the battle it suffered the heaviest regimental losses of any in the engagement.

This is significant in that Olustee was a bloody battle:
The casualties at Olustee were staggering compared to the numbers that fought there. Each side had about 5,000 men present. Union casualties were 203 killed, 1,152 wounded, and 506 missing, a total of 1,861. Confederate losses were 93 killed, 847 wounded, and 6 missing, a total of 946. This works out to about 40% for the Federals and 20% for the Confederates. The 47th New York had 313 casualties and the 8th U.S.C.T. 310. Among the Confederate units, the 32nd Georgia lost 164 men and Bonaud's Battalion 107. For the North, the casualty percentage was among the highest of the war, and Olustee ranks as the third bloodiest for the Union when comparing the casualties to the number engaged. Letters and diaries from the men involved indicate that the battle was the equal of, if not worse than, the savage fighting a number of the veteran regiments had experienced in the campaigns in Virginia or the Western theater.
In the aftermath of the battle,"roaming bands of southern troops" killed black troops who had not been able to retreat. The fate of captured black soldiers was well known, as the following first-hand account indicates:
The battle lasted from three o'clock P.M. until dark, when a retreat was ordered by the Commanding General. The wounded, both white and colored, were placed in ambulances and wagons of all kinds, and hurried to (the towns of) Baldwin or to Barber. I cannot but speak of the conduct of Dr. Alex P. Heichold, Surgeon of the Eighth, who was particular in collecting the colored troops who were wounded, and placed them in his ambulance and pushed on for a place of safety. Some one thought the white troops should be brought away also; but Dr. H. said: "I know what will become of the white troops who fall into the enemy's possession, but I am not certain as to the fate of the colored troops," and pushed with alacrity towards Baldwin.
The Federal goals in mounting this expedition were to use the port of Jacksonville as a means to shipping [captured?] "cotton, lumber, Timber, Turpentine, and the other products of the State," to cut off "commissary" supplies originating in Florida, and to obtain recruits for "colored regiments."

A political objective of the campaign was the desire of some Republicans to see a loyal government installed in Florida:
1864 was a presidential year, and various factions within the Republican Party hoped to organize a loyal Florida government in time to send delegates to the Republican nominating convention. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase was particularly intrigued with this possibility. Chase's protege Lyman D. Stickney, the Union Tax Commissioner for Florida, lobbied hard for an increased Federal military presence in the state. President Lincoln became aware of Chase and Stickney's machinations, and Lincoln himself hoped to see a loyal Florida government returned to the Union under the terms of his December, 1863 Reconstruction Proclamation.
But the Confederate victory at Olustee denied the Union any of its goals, and played an important role in keeping Tallahassee the only Confederate state capitol east of the Mississippi that was not captured by Federal troops.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Florida's Civil War History 

I picked up the newly-published Guide Book to America's Civil War Sites at a local bookstore and a quick check of the table of contents indicated that Key West's Fort Zachary Taylor was the only Florida location listed.

Naturally I thought several other Florida sites should have been included, starting with Fort Pickens, located on Santa Rosa Island, at the mouth of Pensacola Bay. Arguably, this is where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

On January 13, 1861, just three days after Florida's Ordinance of Succession was passed, shots were exchanged between Federal troops at the fort and a party of reconnoitering "intruders."
By pure luck, the United States war sloop, Wyandotte, happened to be at anchor off the island. Marines from the Wyandotte landed and helped [the]thin band of Union loyalists mount the fort's cannons, which in winter normally remained disassembled.
Shortly thereafter as many as 8,000 Confederate troops were assembled in Pensacola, but before any serious attempt to capture the fortification could be made, Lincoln reinforced the garrison (April 12, 1861).

Subsequent warfare consisted of occasional raids and one "battle" in October, 1861, at which casualties consisted of 67 Union and 87 Confederates. Toward the end of November both sides engaged in an artillery duel.
Over these two days, 5,000 Union and 1,000 Confederate projectiles were fired, most falling short of their targets into Pensacola Bay. So thunderous was the noise that it is said "thousands of dead fish floated to the surface of Pensacola Bay, and windows shattered seven miles away in the town of Pensacola."

When the guns finally fell silent late on November 23, nothing had been gained by either side. One soldier was killed by enemy fire at Ft. Pickens. The Confederates suffered no fatalities Confederate-held Fort McRee was heavily damaged, however.
By April, 1862, Confederate forces began evacuating Pensacola and Federal troops occupied the town the following month.

Fort Pickens, along with Fort Zachary Taylor, remained in Federal control throughout the war.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


In the current issue of Wired magazine, Bruce Sterling warns that the United States' scientific credentials are being squandered by a drive for ideological purity: "the Bush administration has systematically manipulated scientific inquiry into climate change, forest management, lead and mercury contamination, and a host of other issues."
When politicians dictate science, government becomes entangled in its own deceptions, and eventually the social order decays in a compost of lies.

State-sponsored pseudoscience always fails, but slowly, like a wheat field choked with weeds. It fails in predictable ways, and these are the very ways in which the Bush science policy is going to fail.

The rot begins to set in when honest local institutions, appalled by high-level misdeeds, denounce federal policy as corrupt and corrupting, just as the [Union of Concerned Scientists] has done. There will be much more of this: congressional investigations, high-minded committees. Government officials will temporize by getting scientists to "compromise" and "split the difference" between actual science and partisan jiggery-pokery. This will fail because science just isn't politics. You can't legislate that E=mc21¼2.

Before long, the damage will spread beyond our borders. International scientific bodies will treat American scientists as pariahs. This process has already begun in bioethics, meteorology, agriculture, nuclear science, and medicine, but doubts will spread to "American science" generally.

Meanwhile, gaps will open between research establishments in the US and other countries, much like the one that now yawns between American and Korean stem-cell producers. US science will come to have a stodgy, old-fashioned, commissar-style inability to think and act freely.
Political litmus tests are becoming increasingly common in the formation of science panels -- those who deviate from the conservative/religious-right ideology of the Bush administration have little input into the scientific decisions that influence our lives every day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Schiavo Case 

Mark Lane has a roundup of editorial comments on the recent court decision in the Terri Schiavo case. The consensus is that Governor Bush should leave this matter to the judiciary.


Comment overheard last night: "George [H. W.] Bush was considered a failure for not "finishing the job" during the Gulf War; now he looks like a genius."

And he had half-a-million troops.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Our Activist Judiciary 

Randy Barnett at the Volokh Conspiracy:
. . .with extremely rare exceptions, courts are not imposing their preferences on individual citizens. They are stopping legislatures from imposing their preferences on individual citizens. When speaking of imposing one's preferences, there is a huge difference between a court mandating gay sex--which no court has--and stopping legislatures from putting adults in prison (where they may well be raped) for engaging in consensual with an adult of the same in the privacy of their own homes, which has now been held unconstitutional. [his emphasis]

Monday, May 10, 2004

The Fruits of Hubris 

Jacob Levy, at The Volokh Conspiracy:
I now suspect that at the end of the day Iraqis will be much better off but the U.S. will be noticeably worse off than if the war had not taken place. Iraq will end up as a more federal, more constitutional, more democratic state than exists in the Arab world so far. But, after the eventual Iraqi state has rearmed sufficiently to put down all the internal threats, it will also be more authoritarian, more militaristic, more theocratic, and more anti-American than it might have been. The U.S., however, will have sacrificed a great deal of its moral capital and credibility in the process-- moral capital and credibility that it needs in order to fight both the military and the social-transformation fronts of the war on terror.
In his post, Levy provides comments by several conservative to middle-of-the-road commentators who now have serious questions about the Bush Administration's competence in its handling of the war in Iraq.

Ignorant and Proud of It! 

The Palm Beach Post looks at this year's Legislative session:
The budget isn't very good . . . It insults schools with faint raises, and it keeps social services at the shabby bottom of the national heap. Lawmakers failed to do many things the governor said he wanted. They made a hash of voter-mandated pre-kindergarten, couldn't get together on making it harder for voters to mandate anything else and left education vouchers in Dodge City, where crooks, schnooks and con artists can get them.

What lawmakers could do was require the U.S. flag in public classrooms, and, by golly, they did. They didn't offer to pay for the flags.

It was a session like other recent sessions, high on flag-waving foofaraw but low on the people's business.
The preference for innocence over expertise afflicts not only politics but government. If you want to sound off on education to the Legislature, you need a fat checkbook but no teaching experience. To write welfare laws, consult the Bible, not social workers actually in the field.

The tyranny of experts has been replaced by the inefficiencies of ignorance. Anyone can understand flag-waving, so this generation of lawmakers can wave the flag. And everyone can cut taxes because this generation runs on promises to cut them.

All else is unknown and dangerous territory. Making rules for our complicated society is hard. You have to know something. By default, the Legislature's working consensus is that it's better to let the state muddle along without rules, reforms and the other hard governmental stuff. Well, Republicans always said that government was the problem, not the solution. Now that they have the opportunity, they are proving it.
The Post is too kind. Instead of using the term "preference for innocence" I think "willful ignorance" would be more accurate.

POWs in Florida 

Geitner Simmons writes on the United States' POW problems during World War II. The story of German POWs in Florida has been chronicled by Robert D. Billinger, Jr. in Hitler's Soldiers in the Sunshine State: German Pows in Florida.

One of the problems prison authorities confronted was that many in the civilian population considered the POWs to be living too well:
One of the military's fears was that its adherence to the Geneva Convention would be misconstrued as "coddling." Indeed, in Florida--as throughout the United States--these charges arose in the press. It would take two studies and reports by the House Military Affairs Committee to satisfy critics. Two such stories swept Florida, added to national concerns about "coddling," and had to be dealt with by the Military Affairs Committee. One story concerned elaborate-sounding menus at the POW facility at MacDill Field in Tampa. The other, which came on the heels of the first, was about a "strike" by German POWs at a bean-canning plant in Belle Glade.
Gary Mormino, writing in The New History of Florida (edited by Michael Gannon)discusses an American problem that was highlighted by the presence of POWs in Florida:
In 1943, Herbert Krensky was traveling by train from Miami to Jacksonville. When the train stopped at Ocala, a platoon of German POWs, dressed in their Afrika Corps uniforms, boarded the train. The prisoners had been picking citrus. "When our train stopped at Waldo," remembered Krensky, "we stopped for a moment . . . On the platform were these colored servicemen, one of them was wounded and hobbling on crutches. They tried to board with their tickets in hand. The conductor refused to let them board . . . He told them that since there were no colored coaches that they would have to ride in the baggage car."
I have talked with long-time Floridians who told of interned Germans and POWs being fed in restaurants that would not serve blacks -- civilian or military.

A Dog's Life 

I don't consider myself a "dog person", but Eileen Mitchel suggests we should aspire to being more like one:
I'd love to wake up each morning absolutely thrilled for no reason other than it's yet another day. Sure, I'm in good health, have wonderful family and friends, a roof over my head and food in my cupboards. Yet still, I complain. Where's my whirlwind romance, best-selling novel or Caribbean cruise? Why can't I make more money, lose more weight, have more fun? And is it Friday yet?

Ah, but to a dog each and every boring, monotonous, repetitive day is an absolute adventure. Just the mere appearance of their guardian is enough to elicit an unbridled joy that's the human equivalent of winning the lottery. And what about a ride in the car? A walk in the park? A scratch behind the ears? Suggest any of these simple, mundane activities and I usually have to steer clear of Elvis' tail, wagging so ferociously it practically slaps each side of his ribcage.
I'd love to work and play like a dog, with total dedication, purpose and concentration. Like the service dog that carefully guides his guardian across a busy street or through a bustling crowd. Observe how seriously a border collie will try to herd playing dogs in a dog park. Watch how focused a golden retriever remains on that airborne Frisbee. See how vigorously a Labrador swims through water. Nothing lackadaisical or halfhearted here. Dogs aren't mulling over their walk tomorrow, their meal tonight or their nap in 10 minutes. Dogs live in the moment. Enthusiastically, they embrace each second of the here and now, be it a day in the field guiding cattle, a Sunday in the yard chasing squirrels or simply a restful afternoon snoozing in a pool of sunshine. Suddenly, dog-tired sounds more like an aspiration than a complaint.
Arf Arf!

Saturday, May 08, 2004

More Florida Bloggers 

BlogWood is a "Tampacentric" blog that doesn't pull its punches:
Anyway, my point is that the police in Tampa have never been known for their diplomacy, especially when dealing with poor and/or minority residents. Civil rights? If you’re poor, you have none. The police are in charge. Period. Cross them at your peril. And when I say cross them, I mean things as simple as refusing to show an ID when being harassed. See, in this country, we are not yet required to carry our papers everywhere we go.

But if you’re poor, it’s a different story.
Even if you don't agree, it's an interesting read.

My prevous post referenced Abstract Appeal, by St. Petersburg lawyer Matt Conigliaro. He describes it as "The First Web Log Devoted to Florida Law & The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals."

Two very different blogs, but both worth keeping up with.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Terri Schiavo Case 

Florida attorney Matt Conigliaro at Abstract Appeal analyses the recent ruling that Gov. Bush's attempt to keep Terri Schiavo on life support is unconstitutional. As was predicted at the time it was passed, "Terri's Law" was a flawed piece of legislation.
The constitutional challenge began last year, after the Legislature enacted what has come to be known as "Terri's Law." Despite the judicial branch's decisions that Terri would not want to receive a feeding tube in her condition, and the removal of that tube in accordance with Terri's judically-determined wishes, the new law authorized the Governor to order a feeding tube inserted into Terri or anyone else who met the law's very-Terri-like criteria. The law was in effect for only 15 days, and during that time, Governor Bush ordered Terri's tube reinserted. Michael Schiavo then challenged the Governor's actions and the new law as unconstitutional. That case was assigned to Judge Baird. It has gone on for over six months with various procedural issues receiving the most attention, but yesterday Judge Baird issued a ruling (available here) in favor of Michael Schiavo on the merits of his challenges. Judge Baird ruled Terri's Law unconstitutional.
Stepping back from it all, I am a little surprised that Judge Baird's order was as short as it was. He did not address a handful of significant arguments that will need to be resolved in favor of Governor Bush if the Governor is ultimately to win this case. Judge Baird has apparently decided that he has addressed enough arguments to doom Terri's Law, and if he is wrong on all of them, then he can address the others later.
Gov. Bush has appealed and it will take many months, if not years, before this case is finally resolved.

Sittin' on the Dock of Bombay 

Let the boss wait a little longer for that report. Here's over 4,000 "bungled lyrics" of your favorite songs, including this Juice Newton hit:
Just call me angel in the morning baby,
Just brush your teeth before you kiss me, baby!!

(via Blunter than Realty

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Buck? I Don't See No Stinking Buck! 

Jacob Levy at the Volokh Conspiracy calls President Bush's handling of the Iraqi prisoner abuse situation a sorry state of affairs:
If Bush genuinely thinks Rumsfeld failed him and failed to fulfill his own responsibilities, then surely the time has finally come to demand Rumsfeld's resignation. If not, then an authorized public humiliation is unjustified. This looks like Bush attempting to deflect responsibility away from himself-- "The buck stops with that guy"-- while simultaneously refusing to demand that Rumsfeld take responsibility. It's petulant and childish.
And probably scripted by Karl Rove.

The Past is Never Past 

Mark Howard, editor of Florida Trend magazine, visits the Old Jail in St. Augustine and reflects on how different perceptions of the past affect various aspects of life.
As we left the jail that day, the most single lingering impression I had was of the massive gulf between the folksy tour guide and the brutal reality of the jail's racial history: If nothing else was clear, it was suddenly obvious to me why not a single tourist at the site was African-American.

The problem is not, of course, that there's something racist about the operator of the jail attraction or its tour, but simply that there's something racist in the history of the place itself. What for whites is a funky old historical jail must be something quite different, and much more ominous and present tense, to blacks. Perhaps not so coincidentally, a story in the local paper during our visit described efforts by the local black population to revitalize the local NAACP chapter, amid complaints from some black residents of mistreatment at the hands of local deputies.
Howard cites recent University of Florida research that indicates many blacks are uncomfortable in public parks and historical sites because of their "unsafe association" with the history of these locations.

Florida has taken steps to incorporate the experiences of all its citizens into the state's history, but Howard thinks we still have a way to go:
Memory lane is still largely a segregated address: We're still not very good at integrating our approach to history -- so that different groups can experience our shared past in ways that don't involve glossing over its less savory aspects, or turning the whole thing into a big exercise in guilt-mongering.

. . . [T]he country's changing demographics have plenty of implications for the managers of tourism sites, whether a park or a fort or an old jail. In thinking about how to appeal to an increasingly diverse population, those managers will be wise to reflect on all the ways that the past is still very much with us -- all of us.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Fairy Tale Kingdom 

South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Ralph De La Cruz visited Tallahassee during the Legislative session and deemed it a
. . . realm where the rich perpetually need help and the poor should learn to work harder. Where rulers appropriate money for monuments to themselves and brush crumbs off their robes to the masses.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Low-Bid Blues 

Governor Bush considers privatization of government services to be his mission. How's it going?
A riot involving at least 40 teenage inmates erupted Sunday afternoon at Florida's besieged maximum-security prison for girls, requiring more than two dozen police officers and fire-rescue workers to intercede.
The melee is the latest in a litany of unsettling incidents at the privately run prison west of West Palm Beach, which has been plagued by chaos since it opened in 2000. The State Department of Juvenile Justice is in the process of transferring the contract to run the 100-bed prison from Premier Behavioral Solutions to Lighthouse Care Centers. That transfer is expected to take place May 14.
The girls sentenced to the prison have criminal records. Some have committed serious felonies, such as drug dealing or assault. Others have skipped school, run away from home, prostituted themselves or continuously violated their probation for minor crimes. Most have spent the majority of their youth in locked institutions. Many suffer from mental health problems.

"We had a couple who actually tried to commit suicide or self-mutilation," [Palm Beach County sheriff's Lt. Ken] Thomas said of the girls who acted up on Sunday.
Last year, the Palm Beach County state attorney launched a grand jury investigation into conditions at the prison. "The jurors blamed [the private company running the prison] for consistently failing to meet its contractual obligations and the state for poor oversight."

UPDATE: The Palm Beach Post reports that the "melee began when three teenage inmates of about a dozen playing flag football stripped off their clothes and started running around. [Department of Juvenile Justice regional director Darryl] Olson said the three had just returned to the prison from a stay in a mental-health crisis unit. They may have planned to act out in hopes of going back to the hospital, which some find more pleasant than the maximum-security prison, he said."

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