Should We Tear Down The Statues Of The Confederate Generals? - And Response

Friday, September 8, 2017

When President Trump recently wrote his tweet: “They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” he wasn’t referring to Civil War monuments that we know so well in Chattanooga. The military parks that surrounds us on Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain, Moccasin Bend, and in Chickamauga were created by an act of Congress in 1890 “to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

No, the statues in the public’s crosshairs, on the whole, were commissioned by one group. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) erected most of the statues that people want to remove.

The UDC started as a small group of about 30 women in 1894 in Tennessee. In the next few decades their numbers spread across the South and even to the North, and they had erected over 1000 Confederate statues.

Their statues, unlike the ones of the national park, were not approved by Congress; there was no public input, no community debate associated with their decisions, and no procedures for approval, like we associate today with public art. And they have a very different purpose.

According to Karen Cox, author of Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture,this work was done by women “because Southern white men who are defeated can’t go around building monuments to themselves.”

After the riots in Charlottesville over the statue of General Lee, even the UDC, in contrast to Trump, issued a statement that they were “grieved that certain hate groups have taken these symbols as their own,” and they denounced “any individual or group that promotes racial divisiveness or white supremacy.” Some people might rightly see that statement as disingenuous.

Let’s look deeper into our history.

Another movement took hold in the South at the same time as the North/South reunification. Perhaps the North wasn’t looking so closely or had just grown tired.

According to Fitzhugh Brundage, professor of history at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the spread of Confederate statues was an “orchestrated effort” at a time “when the South was fighting to resist political rights for black citizens.”

Racial segregation in the South was enforced by strict laws and customs such as requiring that blacks drink at separate water fountains, step aside when a white person passed on the side walk, or not to look a white person in the eyes; as well as prohibiting voter registration, limiting employment outside of certain jobs, or criminalizing interracial marriage.

The erection of Confederate statues gave force to segregation laws. The monuments to Confederate generals, often placed in conspicuous places of civic importance, said to whites: “You are still in control,” and to blacks, “You are not free.” 

Because the statues were privately paid for and installed, African Americans or any whites who objected had no voice in the matter. In fact, the statues implied “a degree of white cultural unity that had never existed in the region” before, during, or after the Civil War, according to Brundage. They perpetrated a myth of Confederate unity in the South and marginalized dissent.

The statues of Confederate generals proliferated at the same time that lynching was rampant—and they served the same purpose: to intimidate and threaten both blacks and whites from acting out of line with the laws of segregation.

It’s no wonder that many blacks chose to migrate out of the South. Like lynching, those statues spoke clearly enough.

The national history that we all share.

Chattanooga is awash in Civil War monuments. It’s part of our landscape, like the rocky bluffs of the wooded hillsides.

But these monuments don’t commemorate the cause of the confederacy. They recognize the movements of both armies and numbering the dead and wounded of both sides. . The theme was reunification: Veterans from both sides attended the dedication at Chickamauga in 1895. This is our national history, and it is extremely popular with tourists and scholars alike.

Why A.P. Stewart was chosen

A.P. Stewart was the natural choice for the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy because they are the A.P. Stewart Chapter of the UDC.

His background is mixed. According to records, A.P. Stewart did not support secession nor did he own slaves, but when Tennessee seceded, he went with his home state. He was one of the generals at the battle of Chickamauga. But after the war when he heard that Congress had passed a bill to create the military park at Chickamauga, he moved to the area and was active in the creation of the park along with Union veterans. Later he became its first commissioner.

The local chapter of the UDC could have recognized A.P. Stewart for his civic contributions after the war, but instead they dressed him as a Confederate general and included only these letters beside his name and dates of his life – “CSA.”

So what do we do now?

Because a privately funded group installed the statue and because it carries a divisive message that does not represent the nation as a whole, it should not be on the public square in front of the courthouse. It is not right for taxpayers to walk by his statue commemorating him as a warrior against the nation on their way to do business with the county.

However, we have a unique opportunity here to handle this issue in a way that is appropriate to honor all of our citizens.

We can leave him where he is but accompany his statue with the full and accurate historical context as described above. Or he can find a new home in the military park that he helped create.

Either way, this time around, the public, not a private organization, should be included in the discussion.

Eleanor M. Cooper

Community engagement strategist and author of Grace: An American Woman in China, 1934-74.

* * *

Eleanor Cooper's research on the origin of the A.P. Stewart statue at the Hamilton County Courthouse has given our city and county citizens a chance for a reasonable discussion based on now knowable facts rather than the usually, highly charged arguments with only personal reflections to guide the discussion.


Knowing who the originators of this statue were, how it was paid for, how it was placed, and the time and milieu in which it was created should give us a better chance to make an intelligent decision as to its right and/or appropriateness to be placed on the grounds where it sits than when we did not know before Ms. Cooper's research. 


Franklin McCallie

Dressing The Wound

I seem to have plenty of Irish to go around for everybody on this panhandling issue. All sides seem to be unwilling or unable to get to the heart of the matter.  Panhandling is just one of many symptoms (outcomes) of the same condition. Chattanooga is waging a multi-front war on poor people, not an overstatement. We read a new news story going toward proving it at least ... (click for more)

Why Do Young White Males Feel The Need To Kill? - And Response

Over the last few years we have seen multiple instances of young, white males killing multiple innocent victims. It is a very clear spike in the demographic and it can't be merely coincidental. We always hear that it was a disenfranchised individual with deep rooted problems, after the fact, but we don't see the same with females or brown people.    When we hear that ... (click for more)

Alexander Says Chickamauga Lock Construction Fully Funded For 4th Consecutive Year

Senator Lamar Alexander on Wednesday said the government funding bill will fully fund construction of Chickamauga Lock for the fourth consecutive year, providing up to $78 million – which is more than twice the amount of funding the project received last year.   Senator Alexander said he has made completion of Chickamauga Lock one of his top priorities as chairman ... (click for more)

Former Juvenile Court Magistrate Says Gay Marriage Is "Nothing You Put In Air Quotes"

A former magistrate at Juvenile Court, who claims she was fired by Judge Rob Philyaw because she is openly gay, said Wednesday that gay marriage "is nothing you put in air quotes." She referred to County Attorney Rheubin Taylor asking her about her ceremony in marrying another woman and raising his hands to form quote marks. Elizabeth Gentzler is suing Hamilton County, Judge ... (click for more)

Keiser, Wigg Power Ooltewah Past East Hamilton, 9-5, in 5-3A Baseball

Frustrated by an early season hitting slump, Ooltewah left-fielder Payton Keiser broke loose with four hits, including a clutch three-run triple in a five-run seventh inning, and drove in five runs as the Owls beat rival East Hamilton, 9-5, Tuesday in District 5-3A action in horrible weather for baseball. Keiser had run-scoring singles in the second and fourth innings and ... (click for more)

Cleveland Rally Tops Walker Valley, 4-1

CHARLESTON, Tenn – Cleveland pitching ace Camden Sewell is used to the gaudy individual numbers and he rarely disappoints. Unfortunately, he has walked off the mound a few too many times in tough battles such as the one with Walker Valley  Tuesday  night without the one number he most cherishes.   That number being the one you put in the win column. ... (click for more)