Home / Government and politics / Residents Call For Removal Of Local Confederate Statue

Residents Call For Removal Of Local Confederate Statue

By
The confederate soldier statue stands outside of the Alachua County Administration Building. Due to recent controversy in the nation, the monument's downtown location is raising concern for the local community.
A Confederate soldier statue stands outside of the Alachua County Administration Building. The monument’s downtown location is raising concern in the local community due to the recent Charleston massacre. Camila Guillen / WUFT

Updated on: 7/01/2015 at 4:42 p.m.

A ten-foot tall copper sculpture of a U.S. Civil War Confederate soldier stands outside the Alachua County Administration Building in downtown Gainesville.

The anonymous soldier holds a musket. His hat, creased shirt and pants are intended to represent and commemorate the Confederate dead at the Stonewall Camp No. 1493.

“In memory of the Confederate dead 1861 1865,” is written on the statue’s front base, with a Confederate flag in between the years.

The left side of the base reads, “They fell for us, and for them should fall the tears of a nation’s grief.” The right side: “They counted the cost and in defense of right they paid the martyr’s price.”

Jesse Arost feels the monumental statue represents a different message.

In the wake of the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, Confederate symbols across the nation are being eradicated. Arost feels the same should be done with the statue in town.

Arost, a Gainesville resident, created a petition on change.org, along with a Facebook page, demanding the removal of the statue. The petition currently has over 20 signatures.

Another petition has also been started on change.org requesting the statue remain where it is. This petition has over 500 signatures.

An event on the Facebook page invites the public to congregate Thursday, July 9, to demand the county remove the statue. The event also provides an opportunity to sign the petition.

The page asks the public to attend the Alachua Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, July 14, to voice their opinions on why the statue should be taken down.

Arost said he plans to present the petition at the meeting.

Commissioner Ken Cornell said he has been contacted about taking the statue down, but wants to hear the history of why it was erected why some want to see it taken down.

“I think the real value is not in either keeping it up or taking it down, but for me the real value is the public’s discussion as it relates to the policies that we have at the county commission,” Cornell said. “Everybody’s voice is important.”

Alachua County Commission Chairman Charles Chestnut IV did not have a comment about the statue.

Commissioner Robert Karl Hutchinson reflected on the words written on the monument and how the idea behind them may no longer be relevant, which he shared on the Facebook page.

A major goal of secession was to retain slavery which should not be considered sacred in 1904 or 2015,” Hutchinson wrote.

The sculptor John G. Segesman created the soldier after the Kirby Smith and J.J. Finley chapters of the Daughters of the Confederacy requested it be made. It was unveiled in 1904.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy, organized in 1894, is the oldest patriotic organization in the United States.

Hutchinson mentions in his post the option of moving the statue to the Matheson Historical Society’s park, where it would be among other sculptures already there depicting the history of Alachua County.

“I think it’s really important to understand that removing the statue is not enough. It’s not anywhere close to enough,” Arost said. “It’s not actually going to cause any real change on the ground for the oppression that people face in this country.”

Arost said the idea and hope behind the event is to rally people to support the ongoing cause and ongoing struggle of those who are oppressed.

“It’s going to require tremendous amount of work,” Arost said. “We need everyone’s support, all of the supporters we can get, to end white supremacy in this country.”

About Camila Guillen

Camila is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

Check Also

Bills Would Prohibit Florida Abortions After Fetal Heartbeat

A pair of controversial bills introduced in the Florida Legislature aim to ban women from attaining an abortion when a fetus’ heartbeat is detected. The “heartbeat bill,” as it is commonly known, seeks to ban abortions at the time when a fetus' heartbeat can be detected with a vaginal ultrasound. That can be as early as 5 1/2 to 6 weeks after gestation.

42 comments

  1. Jesse Arost seems to want this to be about race instead of history. I agree that there are some places that the Confederate Flag shouldn’t be flown but tell me we didn’t see this coming. Give an inch and then lose a mile. I guess there are those that won’t be satisfied until all history with the Confederacy is erased. The world just seems to be losing all touch with common sense and tolerance unless it pertains to some people directly. :o( http://www.texasconfederateveterans.com/Black%20Confederates.htm

    • Marcia Winchester Marwede

      I totally agree with Bill Turner. Racism is being spread by those who claim to be supportive of all races. Read between the lines. Wake up Gainesville and America!

      • I agree with the above posts. The monument is history. History should not be censored. Removing/moving the statue is censorship.

        • I don’t think you understand “censorship.” To call for removal of a public statue that commemorates a treasonous assault on the actual United States, predicated largely on the preservation of human slavery, and that cost far too many lives is not “to censor.” Just as the removal of, say, a public statue commemorating the British would not be “censorship.” People are free and able to learn about the atrocities of the Civil War, but such does not mean that we have to commemorate the Confederacy. You’re conflating “censorship” with a sense of obligatory commemoration.

      • “Racism is being spread by those who claim to be supportive of all races.” What does this even mean?

    • Statues, monuments, and flags do not teach us about history. Their erection clearly gestures to a sense of pride; we should not be proud of a treasonous assault on the United States, especially one that was largely predicated upon the preservation of human slavery. If one wants to learn about the Civil War, one reads a book, watches a film, or goes to a museum. This is why, despite the fact that we were once a part of British Empire, we do not have statues, monuments, or flags commemorating the British. I know, I know: this sounds expedient and logically axiomatic, but it’s basically following the logic of the above argument. Heads up: the Confederacy lost; it does not exist; it engaged a bloody war with the actual United States. No need to wave its flag or commemorate its soldiers.

    • It’s not about destroying history at all. It’s about equality. Doesn’t anyone think it strange that there are confederate memorials but no memorials for the lives of the slaves? This town and state has a BADDD history of racism and the only way people are going to be happy is if that changes.

  2. There is so much more to this conversation and I wish it had been captured in this article. The reporter mentions the Facebook Feed on Hutch’s page, so she should have been able to relay the complexities of this issue, as well as found some other, credible sources to include in the story. Only one resident is quoted and he holds an extreme view as to fate of the statue (completely destroying/removing it). Only10 other people signed his petition at the time of my writing, which hardly calls for a sensationalized headline of ‘”Residents call for the removal..” I hope the follow up story after the Commission’s meeting gives readers a glimpse in to the broader issues surrounding this subject, rather than this simplified, pudding version.

  3. The statute should be left in its current location. The County could place a historical marker in the context of the statute to help put it in context. It serves as a reminder that history is full of events, good, bad, and complex.

    A marker could describe the area’s involvement in the Civil War and why this statute was constructed 39 years later. The statute reminds us that the Civil War was a one of the deadliest wars, and that strong feelings persisted decades later. The fact that the statue was commissioned by relatives of those lost gives it added meaning. A marker would remind people to read the inscriptions on the statute in that context.

    Monuments of events of historical significance should stay where the public can see them – lest history be repeated.

    • A monument or flag clearly gestures to a sense of historical pride. Lest we forget, the South fought (and lost) a treasonous campaign against the United States, and while much of the war can be traced to geo-economic issues, it was also about the preservation of human slavery. We do not need to erect or preserve Confederate flags or statues to remember the Civil War. A flag or statue, in fact, teaches us little to nothing about the war, and perhaps even gives the false historical sense that we should be proud of such a treasonous attack, proud of human slavery. We can learn about the Civil War in museums, books, film, which is where we already learn anything meaningful about the war. We were once a part of the British Empire, yet we do not have statues or flags commemorating that part of our past–because they were enemies. Germany banned the swastika after WWII, and while I do not call for a total ban, to maintain statues commemorating a failed treason largely predicated upon human slavery seems absurd. The sum total question is: do Confederate statues and/or flags symbolize something of which we should be proud, or rather the inverse? And if it is the latter, then we need to stop talking about “heritage” and start talking about real historical responsibility.

    • Perhaps what the issue here is that too much attention is given to one side. Why are there no memorials for the lost lives of slaves during the Civil War? Why not erect a new statue? Something that memorializes ALL the lives lost during the Civil War. Not just the scumbags fighting for slavery.

    • Thank you for reading my comment above.

      Much of the public – perhaps most, depending on which research one reads – does not go to history museums on a regular basis. That is unfortunate, but it is reality. Trends show a general decline, with younger people less likely than older people to visit history museums.

      Historical artifacts have the ability to teach in a way that book learning does not. A war memorial from relatives of those who served or died during a war is much more powerful than simply reading about a war in a textbook and remembering some data for a test. A historical marker provides context for why a memorial was erected and why the people who put it there felt a certain way. It can remind us that history is more complex that simply good or bad.

      For many plantation owners and powers of the time in state governments, the Civil War and succession were about slavery. But most southerners (94-96%) did not own slaves. Most soldiers were young. Many believed they were fighting for their state’s freedom.

      We can remember war dead without agreeing with all goals of the war. There have been wars in the past 50 years that were very controversial, and for some good reasons. Yet few people would advocate removing war memorials to those soldiers. They believed they were fighting for freedom when they enlisted and they should be remembered for their service, even though we may justifiably disagree with many goals of the wars.

      I believe that enhancing the public’s understanding of history – the good, the bad, and the complex – through historical markers near historic war memorials is preferable to hiding these artifacts of history.

      Thank you again for reading my (long) comment.

      • I appreciate your tone and sentiment, though I still disagree. You give a compelling argument, nonetheless, in that people who were Americans died (albeit Confederate soldiers) during the war. I stand by my fundamental assertion, however, that statues/flags/monuments are markers primarily of respect and pride, rather than primarily of history (though history plays a part). Most Nazi soldiers said they did not know what they were getting into, participating in, and, even if they did, had little choice. I don’t mean to condemn Confederate soldiers; I only mean to say that we should not in any way embrace the Confederate cause. It was, after all, a treasonous war against the United States, and one largely predicated upon human slavery. In that sense, I think we would not be losing much history by removing such statues/flags/monuments, and rather gaining in national identity. Again, I do appreciate your comment and tone, as well as your opinion. It is a tough debate.

        • Thank you for reading my above comment. The main sin of the Confederacy was slavery. As for leaving the Union, the Federalist papers and other records from when the U.S. Constitution was ratified indicate that it was the belief of states forming the new government that they could later leave if they wanted. Nothing in the Constitution at the time prohibited leaving. It is doubtful that law you colonies -north or south – would have given up their newfound freedom if they didn’t have the option of leaving.

          Perhaps the biggest irony is that slavery was truly a “lost cause.” Moral concerns aside, most other territories in this hemisphere were getting rid of slavery due to changing technology and economics. The Civil War was truly an unnecessary war caused by bad diplomacy.

          As for the statue, today’s newspaper story notes that the news of the era reported that both Confederate and Union veterans were present at its dedication. It was more of a unifying force – a way of acknowledging the past and making up. That seems strange to many of us in 2015 – hence why a historical marker would help us place it in context.

        • Thank you for reading my above comment. The main sin of the Confederacy was slavery. As for leaving the Union, the Federalist papers and other records from when the U.S. Constitution was ratified indicate that it was the belief of states forming the new government that they could later leave if they wanted. Nothing in the Constitution at the time prohibited leaving. It is doubtful that law you colonies -north or south – would have given up their newfound freedom if they didn’t have the option of leaving.

          Perhaps the biggest irony is that slavery was truly a “lost cause.” Moral concerns aside, most other territories in this hemisphere were getting rid of slavery due to changing technology and economics. The Civil War was truly an unnecessary war caused by bad diplomacy.

          As for the statue, today’s newspaper story notes that the news of the era reported that both Confederate and Union veterans were present at its dedication. It was more of a unifying force – a way of acknowledging the past and making up. That seems strange to many of us in 2015 – hence why a historical marker would help us place it in context.

          • Thank you again for responding and reading my comment. I would say: Yes, but the Federalist papers were not the Constitution, but rather a means by which to rally support for the ratification of the Constitution. As such, I would say that any notion that a given region can secede from the Union is unreasonable, historically or otherwise. I agree that slavery, due to economic shifts, perhaps would have died out, anyway, but that does not account for the material reality of the Civil War (treasonous South against the United States). This is what I take issue with, if anything: that we embrace a flag/statute/monument/whatever that attacked the United States. You make note of the “unifying force.” Lincoln was rather soft on the Confederacy after they lost, as you know, and the Union was quite apologetic during Reconstruction. I’ll wager this: if Lincoln had known the South would continue being what it continued being, and what it still is today, he would have thought twice about that. If the South wants to (re)unify, they would have never flown that flag, erected those statues in the first place. If it’s an issue of history or heritage, then we must ask ourselves what kind of history or heritage we want to present.

          • Thank you again for responding and reading my comment. I would say: Yes, but the Federalist papers were not the Constitution, but rather a means by which to rally support for the ratification of the Constitution. As such, I would say that any notion that a given region can secede from the Union is unreasonable, historically or otherwise. I agree that slavery, due to economic shifts, perhaps would have died out, anyway, but that does not account for the material reality of the Civil War (treasonous South against the United States). This is what I take issue with, if anything: that we embrace a flag/statute/monument/whatever that attacked the United States. You make note of the “unifying force.” Lincoln was rather soft on the Confederacy after they lost, as you know, and the Union was quite apologetic during Reconstruction. I’ll wager this: if Lincoln had known the South would continue being what it continued being, and what it still is today, he would have thought twice about that. If the South wants to (re)unify, they would have never flown that flag, erected those statues in the first place. If it’s an issue of history or heritage, then we must ask ourselves what kind of history or heritage we want to present.

        • It was a REACTION to an overbearing federal government whose every intent was to drain resources from the south at the lowest cost possible to the business interests in northern states. It was NEVER about slavery (the north had three slave states during and AFTER the war). The Confederate states wanted the freedom to engage in trade treaties with Europe and the Union didn’t want the price competition.

          You do touch on the ACTUAL reason so many in government oppose any icons from that era….they represent rebellion against an overbearing, tyrannical government!

          • I think you are right, we should really let the south secede now. Never too late. Of course they are 10 of the 15 poorest states in the nation, always have been

          • ANOTHER good reason for you to stay OUT of the south! We also have the LOWEST cost of living to offset your imagined “poverty” levels. In your minuscule mind the Civil War was fought over slavery because the northern industrialists sure didn’t want the RESOURCES from those poor southern states! Stop getting your history from watching Oprah!

          • Rick do you actually LIVE in the south or are you getting your info at the local Starbucks? there is a reason more and more people are leaving both coasts and coming here and it isn’t poverty!

          • you didnt really respond to forbes. lets stay on topic.

        • I wish people would stop with the Nazi Germany comparisons. First the Nazis were a political party and the German army managed to remain independent of it until the last months of the war. Secondly the Nazis fought a war of conquest with an ultimate goal of exterminating an entire race. Third, the Nazis from 1938 onward acted as an aggressor invading sovereign nations. The Confederacy on the other hand attempted to do the EXACT same thing the Colonists did on 1776, break away from their mother country. The Confederates only made TWO attempts to invade the North, the first didnt even make it into the North. It wasn’t the Confederates that burned whole cities to the ground. They didn’t wage total war against the civilian population. They didn’t loot and ransack Northern cities. You want to make a comparison to Nazi Germany let’s talk about the glorious grand Union.

  4. David McCallister

    This Arrost seems to be a socialist activist. Check out his book review regarding a replacement for capitalism. He’s a card carrying member of the Blame America First movement. He is now officially discredited. Hopefully the Gainesville officials get to hear about this. http://www.amazon.com/review/R16VPSMXSW9DL8

    • After reading the link attached with this comment, I agree wholeheartedly with the above perspective. Arrost has his own agenda!
      The Monument is a piece of history and should stay!

    • “Blame America First movement?” You know you’re protecting a Confederate statue, right? A monument that embraces a treasonous assault on America? Were you trying to be ironic?

      • Fighting for what you believe in is not treason. States believed in States Rights, and Lincoln did not. The south was no more “treasonous” than the founders of our great country. The only difference is they lost.

        Had they won slavery would have been abolished shortly after but states would have retained their power to control them selves.

    • so what?

  5. Most the people memorialized by that statute had nothing to do with Slavery. They were soldiers defending their families from an invading army. An invading army had terrorized innocent Civilians all across the south.

    I agree, put a new historical marker near it to clarify it’s purpose, but don’t erase history. That would make us no better than the Taliban.

    • An invading army, are you kidding! The South is the one that started the war and they were perfectly happy to invade the North. They did well for the first three years it was only when they began to lose that they claimed “self-defense”, WHAT A CROCK!! The bully picks a fight then gets his butt kicked and cries that he got beat up. Are you kidding me!!! Rule # 1: Don’t pick fights you can’t win. Rule # 2: If you’re stupid enough to ignore Rule # 1, at least have the dignity to admit you made a mistake and take you beating like a man and not cry about losing like some whinny punk.

  6. The only people I know who have tried to bury history that they did not agree with are the Taliban, ISIS and the Nazi Party. I know it is historical ignorance that pushes this, but do we really want to stand with those who try to eradicate history they don’t like? What lessons will we be able to learn from that time in history? But then, these are not people interested in history, only emotion. I refuse to re-enslave people who gained their freedom 150 years ago by encouraging them to give power to and fear a piece of cloth or any monument to the dead.

    • Look up textbook history, Texas. Then, get back to me. The south in general has actually rewritten history. Most people think the civil war was about states rights. When first and foremost it was about the states having a right to own people. It’s the owning people part that is the point.

  7. I can not understand why anyone would want to erase history. Do we not want to learn from our mistakes or are we doomed to keep repeating the same ones over and over again? I realize that there are people out there that want to make anything to do with our own, yes our own history disappear. Are we ashamed of it, so much that we need to hide it from everyone? Are we at a point in history that we need to disappear in order to become “politically correct”? Are we going to “PC” ourselves right out of existence?

  8. What is wrong with people. The statue is part of the area’s history. We have gone over the top in pc. When will this stop?

    • It’s not really pc. It’s defending the right of a minority feel that they have a role in their community. They clearly feel they do not. That is what the US is founded on, minority rights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *