Civil War reenactment in Florida ends after 40 years

AP member exchange story from The Tampa Bay Times

The Brooksville Raid was an incursion that Union troops launched into Hernando County, Florida, during the Civil War. It was commemorated annually by what is called the largest Civil War reenactment in Florida. (Photo by Walter via Wikimedia Commons)

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. – Each January, Hernando County scrambled to put out the welcome mat for what has been called the largest Civil War reenactment in Florida — the Brooksville Raid.

Hundreds of re-enactors clad in blue and gray would descend from across the state, bringing cast-iron skillets and muzzle-loading rifles, ready to warm breakfast over campfires. They’d drill and skirmish, fire cannons and tell onlookers what life was really like during the war.

Suttlers, the street vendors of the reenactment world, would come, too, selling historic wares. Women, with long dresses and bonnets, would attend the annual Ladies Tea. Students, bused in from throughout Florida, would be there to watch the proceedings, along with Boy Scouts — lots of Boy Scouts.

Now, that 40-year tradition has itself become history. Organizers have announced that there will be no Brooksville Raid in 2021, and unless a new site is found, perhaps none in the future.

The Tampa Bay Council of the Boy Scouts of America, owners of the 1,300-acre Sand Hill Scout Reservation, the event’s home since 1991, decided not to renew the agreement with event co-sponsors, the Hernando Historical Museum Association and the North Pinellas County Scout Sertoma Club.

“There were several issues that were discussed and contributed to the decision,” said Jim Rees, chief executive officer for the council. “Ultimately, the committee determined it was not in the best interest of the scout council to continue.” He provided no other specifics.

On their Facebook page, Brooksville Raid organizers cited the pandemic and declining profitability as factors.

Organizers and those who commented on the post also mentioned declining interest among young people in joining the reenactment community and the recent racial unrest across the country.