By MARGIE MENZEL
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
The state parks system is on the hot seat and a House leader is calling for action over a proposed monument to Union soldiers at the site of the biggest Civil War battle fought in Florida.
The bid to add a Union monument to the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park near Lake City has drawn a furious response, with about 100 people attending a Monday night public hearing at the Columbia County School District Auditorium. Representatives of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the state parks, moderated the hearing.
Passions ran high, at one point erupting in a spontaneous chorus of "Dixie" led by a black man, H.K. Edgerton, who called Union soldiers rapists and wielded his large Confederate flag like a conductor's baton as the audience sang.
Speakers blasted the proposal as disturbing hallowed ground in a rural community where most families stay for generations.
"Putting a Union monument at Olustee would be like placing a memorial to Jane Fonda at the entrance to the Vietnam memorial," said Leon Duke, a wounded veteran.