The annual Battle of Olustee is a carefully choreographed re-enactment of Florida's largest Civil War battle.
But for the volunteers who charge across the field on foot and horseback, the battle doesn't always go according to script.
Take the nasty horde of fire ants that swarmed up Mike Bodnar's leg while he worked with others to fire cannons over the weekend.
"I thought, 'Why me?' " he said.
Bodnar, 48, of Savannah, initially resisted attempts by his fellow soldiers to stand down and leave the field. But eventually, he agreed to stand down to avoid mishaps that might occur if he helped fire the cannon while he was distracted by the piercing ant stings.
Bodnar's ant encounter during Saturday's battle re-enactment brought some good-natured ribbing from fellow volunteers about the "dancing" that "Ant Bait" did while swiping away the ants.
But he was back in action for Sunday's re-enactment, the main event of the weekend at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park, east of Lake City.
Volunteers who participate at Civil War battlefields around the country say Mother Nature is the most unpredictable part of such re-enactments.
"So far, I've been lucky," said Jon Lewis, a Savannah resident who volunteers alongside Bodnar. "My turn is coming."
Re-enactors can tell tales such as a rider thrown from a horse who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when the horse relieved itself.
At one battle, soldiers flushed a herd of deer out of the woods and onto the battlefield. It was both unexpected and true to life because similar wildlife encounters occurred during Civil War battles, said Ken Kelley, a Hollywood, Fla., resident taking part in the Battle of Olustee.
He said he participated in one Civil War re-enactment of the Battle of Chickamauga when torrential rains forced soldiers to go through knee-deep red clay.
Other times, the wild card can be a runaway cavalry horse.
"You've probably got a bigger chance of a horse losing its rider and going berserk in a re-enactment than you would in a real battle," said Ray Meinberg of Bradford.
To prepare for the Battle of Olustee, organizers ensure removal of at least one piece of nature that would cause pain for re-enactors. The field typically is pockmarked by prickly pear cactus.
The amount of cactus cleared before the battle fills up 10 55-gallon trash cans, according to the state park service.
Re-enactors said it's worth the time and money spent out of their own pockets to re-create an important piece of history.
Eddie Cockman of Brooklyn, Ga., recalled one Battle of Olustee when a 4-year-old boy could not understand why soldiers who had "died" on the battlefield were later able to walk around.
"I think when he saw me walk through the woods, he thought I was a ghost," Cockman said.
When he heard the boy's mother try in vain to convince the boy the soldiers didn't really die, Cockman said he stopped and handed his musket -- twice the boy's height -- to the child so he could see it was real.
"I tell that story all the time," Cockman said. "That was worth every penny I've spent."
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