Tag Archives: South Georgia Confederate Monuments

The Real Danger to Confederate Memorials

Today, 18 July 2017, Confederate monuments are being vandalized at the most rapid rate in their history. I’ve woken up almost daily to read of new mischief regarding these embattled Southern icons. Anyone destroying public property should be dealt with accordingly by the courts, plain and simple. It’s all happening so fast, I can’t even keep up.  First, I want you all to know that they won’t be removed from these pages. They are safe here because they’re history. But what is not safe or welcome here are comments from those who identify with or defend White Supremacist, Neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, Ku Klux Klan, and related fringe movements.

As a Southerner, I’ve known racists my entire life, of course, but I know there are many more well-meaning people who are not of that ilk who simply revere the history of the region and their ancestors. Unfortunately, for too many years there has been a conflation of “white” history movements with Confederate history and a lukewarm attempt, at best, by heritage groups to distance themselves from it. I see the Sons of Confederate Veterans loudly denouncing racist movements on their website but also blaming other protesters. Everyone knows that when both sides come ready for war they both have some blame. But making it about that takes just enough of the spotlight away from the racists to embolden them, ensuring a perpetual nazi-Confederate connection to the outside world.

And it doesn’t help to say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, or to dismiss it completely, as many do. Taxation and states rights were in the mix, but the entire wealth of Southern states was dependent on the ownership of human beings. And yes, most monuments were erected at the height of the Jim Crow era.  There’s no way to avoid the fact that slavery and the terror-filled lynching campaigns of the Jim Crow era were wrong and it provided an easy “in” for the fringe elements. And this isn’t a recent phenomenon. From the birth of the 20th-century Klan on Stone Mountain in 1915 until today, there has been a relationship between Confederate symbolism and racist ideologies.

Ironically, the recent “coming to light” of these pathetic elements has precipitated a hysteria that threatens the existence of these monuments more than any perceived political correctness or  political view has ever done. I hear from everyone that they’re sick of being labeled a racist for being Southern, or for defending a Confederate monument; the way I see it, to get around that you need to call these racists out, loudly, and don’t equivocate. When the world sees people surrounding a Confederate monument singing Russia is our friend or angrily waving the flags of the Third Reich, what else will they think? It’s not just that the media portrays it that way. It’s really there. Of course I like to think that if any of these lunatics showed up at a re-enactment of legitimate historical value they’d be nicely asked to leave or risk getting their asses kicked. But it has to stop being okay for these people to attach themselves to the symbolism and iconography of the Confederacy.

If communities legitimately decide to remove monuments, that, too, is their business. I personally believe it should be put to votes locally when the issue warrants it; state laws can’t prevent vandalism. And if communities choose to remove a monument, it’s their call. But there is no way to tell Georgia’s story without paralleling Confederate history. And that’s why I document not only monuments but homes, battlefields, cemeteries, and more. I’m sure it will displease people on both sides of the spectrum.

One might be surprised by the words of Robert E. Lee regarding these monuments, but I tend to agree that removing physical totems does not erase history: As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated, my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt … would have the effect of … continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour. (Letter to Thomas L. Rosser, 13 December 1866, via Lee Family Digital Archive). I’m not surprised that the descendants of the most prominent Confederate families have come out against the monuments in recent days, largely, I’m sure, as a result of long-term frustration with the racists who have co-opted them for more nefarious purposes. But again, they are on this website because they are history and part of the physical landscape I document.

I’ve worked at a state historic site devoted to the end of the Confederacy. I serve on the board of  a museum based on a town founded by Union veterans. I’ve spent 10 years photographing and documenting Confederate history alongside African-American history. I haven’t done this out of a need to be politically correct yet I have received angry messages from white and black Georgians on a variety of perceived slights, almost always related to racial issues. I haven’t conceded to either before and I’m not starting now. History is history but we don’t need the help or representation of those who don’t understand, nor care for it. 

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Confederate Monument, 1879, Columbus

Confederate Monument Columbus GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

One of the earliest official Cofederate monuments erected after the war was raised in Salisbury Park in Columbus to great fanfare. One of the last battles of the Civil War, albeit two weeks after Lee’s surrender, was the Battle of Columbus. This may account for Frank M. McKenney’s description in The Standing Army: History of Georgia’s County Confederate Monuments (Wolfe Associates, Alpharetta, 1993): “The women of Columbus were fervent Confederates. They were the first to observe Confederate Memorial Day, on April 26, 1866, and plans for a memorial to the local war dead began even before the war ended. The Monumental Club was formed March 10, 1865.” On the date of the monument’s dedication on 26 April, contractors Muldoon and Karnes had failed to erect the shaft. Their defense was that the inscription had not been chosen, which it had not. It lay nearby on the ground as a makeshift platform covered with flowers served as the focal point. Governor Alfred Holt Colquitt was the principal orator and over 5000 guests were in attendance. The Auburn Cadets and other out of town military units marched in a parade, as well as the local militia. The monument was quietly raised sometime in June. It cost $4500. Granite steps were added for $500 in 1881 to increase the height. The inscription: Gather the sacred dust – Of warriors tried and true – Who bore the Flag of our Nation’s trust – And fell in the Cause tho lost still just – And died for me and you

Columbus Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Marion County Courthouse, 1850, Buena Vista

Marion County Courthouse Buena Vista GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Marion County is likely unique in that it has two antebellum courthouses still standing, this one and the one at Tazewell. The brick for this courthouse was fired locally. A remodel in the 1890s transformed it from a plain vernacular appearance to its present Neoclassical style. It was modernized in the 1960s.

buena vista ga thaddeus oliver monument photograph copyright brian brown vanisning south georgia usa 2010

There is a second confederate monument on the lawn. Though his claim to sole authorship of the famed Civil War poem and song, “All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight” is now disputed, Thaddeus Oliver (b. 25 December 1826 in Twiggs County) remains one of Georgia’s favorite Confederate sons. In 1850 he went to Marion County and taught at the Buena Vista Academy, was admitted to the bar in 1852, and was serving as Solicitor General of the Chattahoochee Circuit when he mustered into Confederate service on 15 April 1861. He died of wounds in a Charleston hospital on 21 August 1864.  His famous poem was purportedly written at Aqula Creek, Virginia, in August 1861. He is buried about ten miles west of Hawkinsville (Georgia Highway 26 at Loggins Road).

National Register of Historic Places

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Confederate Monument, 1916, Buena Vista

Confederate Monument Buena Vista GA Marion County Courthouse Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Located on the grounds of the historic courthouse, Marion County’s confederate monument was dedicated by Mrs. Minnie S. Weaver, local UDC Chairman, on 23 August 1916. A crowd of over 2,000 came out to hear the Honorable W. B. Short and Lucian Lamar Knight deliver the keynote addresses. This was the last Confederate monument dedicated in Georgia in the Confederate commemoration era. The 12-foot-high ornamental bench, known as an exedra, is unique among Georgia’s official monuments.

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Confederate Monument, 1911, Jeffersonville

twiggs-county-confederate-monument-jeffersonville-ga-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2013

This monument’s  location away from the courthouse  was long a source of controversy. When I photographed it, it was still located on Georgia Highway 80 across from the courthouse. Russ Huffman and Tommy Fountain, with the help of the Lt. James T. Woodard SCV Camp 1399 worked for at least a decade to have it moved to the courthouse lawn. Billy Humphries writes: The Confederate statue has now been moved and prominently placed on courthouse square, thanks to efforts by the SCV (Son’s of Confederate Veterans) who raised funds to move numerous confederate statues and monuments to more secure and more appropriate locations. Regarding Peggy Anderson’s comments…… the disagreement over placement of the monument was reportedly over a disagreement between families who lost sons to the war and a family or families who did not send their son’s but supported the war effort with supplies and money. Both were important, of course, but the argument of a spilled blood sacrifice prevailed over a sacrifice of money to support the war…. So, the courthouse lost a statue at the turn of the century…. 100 years later the statue now has a more respectable resting place. At least this is the local legend. It is fact, not legend, that the names on the statue are all those of white soldiers.

The text of the monument, located on all four sides, is thus:  To the Twiggs County Soldiers and Those who Sacrificed All to Establish the Independence of the South 1861 – 1865; Twiggs Volunteers – Capt. Jas. Folsom – 4th Ga. Reg.; Twiggs Guards – Capt. Jas. Barclay – 6th Ga. Reg.; Faulk Invincibles – Capt. E. S. Griffin – 26th Ga. Reg.; Slappey Guards – Capt. U. A. Rice – 48th Ga. Reg.

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Colquitt County Courthouse, 1902, Moultrie

historic colquitt county courthouse moultrie ga photogrpah copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2012

This Neoclassical Revival landmark was designed by the Andrew P. Bryan Company. It hasn’t always been painted white. The Confederate Monument, on the lawn, was erected in 1909.

colquitt county confederate monument moultrie ga photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2012

Visit GPB for a wonderful walking tour of historic Moultrie.

National Register of Historic Places

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Courthouse & Confederate Monument, Vienna

dooly county courthouse vienna ga confederate monument photograph copyriht brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2009

National Register of Historic Places

Vienna’s Romanesque Revival courthouse was completed in 1892. It originally featured a spire, which was later removed due to structural concerns. William H. Parkins was the architect. The confederate monument was dedicated by Dooly County’s surviving veterans and the Vienna United Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter 1097 on 26 November 1908. The kepi on the soldier is a rare authentic feature absent from most confederate monuments, but nearly as rare is the fact that a woman was the principal speaker at the dedication. Miss Mae Forehand was a rousing orator, according to accounts of the day.

Source: Frank M. McKenney, The Standing Army: History of Georgia’s County Confederate Monument, W. H. Wolfe Associates, Alpharetta, 1993.

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