Tag Archives: South Georgia Confederate Monuments

The Real Danger to Confederate Memorials

This is an update of a post originally published on 18 July 2017. Vandalism of Confederate monuments first got a lot of notice at that time and I predicted it would continue and perhaps become more widespread. It is happening on a much greater scale today and will likely continue. While I have never advocated nor endorsed vandalism, my original piece was an equivocation of why we should leave the fate of these monuments up to the communities where they exist. I no longer make that equivocation. I felt that the monuments were “safe” because they were a part of history. But as I stated 3 years ago, their fate will continue to be tied to their ongoing connection to White Supremacist, Ne0-Nazi, White Nationalist, Ku Klux Klan and related fringe movements. The most prominent groups dedicated to Southern History have failed miserably in distancing themselves from these ignorant buffoons and in that failure they are just as responsible for the destruction of the monuments as any of the current protesters and vandals. As the descendant of poor white farmers who fought for the Confederacy, I have no interest in continuing to elevate wealthy slave-owning officers to the god-like status given them by so-called Southern Partisans. They have never represented my background or life experience, nor the background or life experience of the vast majority of Southerners. It’s true that most of men who died for the Southern cause never owned slaves, but were pawns in an effort to preserve the wealth of men who did and had no interest in anyone’s rights but their own. As you’ll read below, even Robert E. Lee took offense to such memorializing.

As a white Southerner, I’ve known racists my entire life, but I’ve known many interested in Southern history who aren’t racists. Unfortunately, the longstanding conflation of “white” history movements with Confederate history has brought us to the present moment. I hear from people all the time that they’re sick of being labeled racists 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. And parading around a few black members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans as a workaround to prove that you’re not what the rest of the world sees isn’t addressing the problem. When the world sees people surrounding a Confederate monument singing Russia is our friend (it is NOT) or angrily waving the flags of the Third Reich, Southern Heritage has already lost the battle. It’s not just that the media portrays it that way. It’s not caving to political correctness. It’s really there. It has to stop being okay for these people to attach themselves to the symbolism and iconography of the Confederacy if any of the historic reminders are to survive.

And it doesn’t help to say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, or to dismiss it completely, as many apologists 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.  From the growth of the slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest’s original Klan in the years following the Civil War, to the rebirth of the Klan on Stone Mountain in 1915, there has been and remains a relationship between Confederate symbolism and racist ideologies.

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.

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 Southern 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 it won’t and shouldn’t survive in the public square as long as its defenders attach themselves (or make no effort to rid themselves of) radical racists. 

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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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