Published: Jan 07, 2011 12:57 AM EST
Updated: Jan 06, 2011 7:19 PM EST

This week, Florida will mark the 150th anniversary of splitting away from the United States, and joining the Confederate States of America.    Some groups are urging a public marking of the sessquicentennial;   other people question the wisdom of marking the start of the war between the states.

"It is a matter of pride, a marking of the heroic struggle of southerners who stood with their states and their homes, instead of giving in to the Northern states," said Robert Gates of Ft. Myers, the historian of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.   "It is part of history, not shameful at all, but a source of pride for me and many other southerners."

Florida officially broke off from the Union on Jan. 10, 1861.    It joined the Confederacy, and sent thousands of men to fight on the side of the south. 

"We want to honor our past, the same as anyone else," said Gates.   He says his ancestors rode with  General John Morgan during the war.    "You have to know where you have walked, before you know where you are going.   History is very important, especially to Southwest Florida."

The county was named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee.   His portrait hangs above the place where commissioners meet.   His statue stands in a median in downtown Ft. Myers.

Some people told us that it's better and wiser to put 1861 behind us.   "A waste of time and energy.  Means nothing to me," said one man.   Earl  Barnes, an African-American, says white southerners just want to make themselves feel better, after the election of Barack Obama as President.    "They want to make this about race, about the time when blacks were enslaved.   We've gone from the chains to the White House," said Barnes.