Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Pensacola's Confederate Monument (Conclusion): "The Narrator's Narrative"

Newspapers have been a powerful force in channeling the priorities and decisions of elected officials and the public for a long time. To the extent that the Lost Cause narrative has had a role in racist activity since the Civil War, it must be acknowledged that the narrative never would have survived without a pervasive and persistent “narrator” in the form of the newspapers. But we don’t hear about that. We hear about the malignant politicians, judges, racist activists, Confederate veterans, and Confederacy nostalgia enthusiasts, and...the monuments, but not the newspapers.


With the Lost Cause narrative’s originator, Edward Pollard, rescinding many of the more volatile views that he expressed in his first book on the Lost Cause by 1868, it is doubtful there would have been a Lost Cause narrative without the newspapers propagating views and promoting policies that some today believe reflect the tone and sentiment of the Lost Cause narrative.


Vitally important today, though, is that our news media not use that same powerful voice to create a narrative that is false and harmful like their editorial staffs did in the late 1800s. The conduit that the news media was able to establish between those with power and the public was extraordinarily effective in the late 1800s, and it is even more so today.


Take for instance the News Journal’s July 18, 2020 editorial titled “City Council right to reject myth of ‘Lost Cause’ monument.” The newspaper had repeatedly championed the notion that the Lost Cause narrative was thoroughly enmeshed in the monument’s origin and history, managing to put down opposing views as “myths” in the days and weeks leading to a pivotal City Council meeting. Then, after the City Council voted to relocate the Confederate statue, the July 18 editorial came along and congratulated the City Council for essentially buying into the News Journal’s theory and for opposing the “myths.” That’s part of the power of the news media. It decides what is myth and what is fact, often on the turn of a phrase and the flimsiest of evidence.


One example of this was the News Journal’s effort to make the case that the monument was a racist symbol when it cited a speech delivered during the 1912 Memorial Day observance at the Confederate monument. In its June 29, 2020 article, the News Journal told of its April 27, 1912 issue in which it described Kirke Monroe’s speech as “one of the best ever delivered here on such an occasion” in assessing the speech in which Monroe said, “This is a struggle for white supremacy.” That citation was meant to be practically the final word on what the News Journal described as the monument’s racist origins and past.


However, while the News Journal leveraged that speech as being indicative of the time and of the gatherings at the monument, it ignored the speeches that were given the year before and the year after during which nothing at all was said of white supremacy.


During the 1911 Memorial Day observance, Reverend Eugene R. Pendleton spoke dramatically about the cost of the Civil War to both sides and concluded his speech with words of unity, “No enduring union can be built upon hate or distrust, and when we commemorate the death of our own heroes of the south, we must not begrudge a tear for the boys of the north, and as we wind a laurel wreath around the tombs of Lee and Jackson, we must not be unwilling to place fragrant roses and southern Jasmine over the graves of Grant and Lincoln. Let the past go, and face the living present and budding future. Let our banner be peace, and a common patriotism.”


The speech at the monument in observance of Memorial Day in 1913 was delivered by Oliver J. Semmes who spoke affectionately of the dead of both sides in the war. He said, “Honor to Confederate soldiers, whose ashes lie in our cemeteries; unlimited, spontaneous honors be theirs, and may the spirit of Robert E. Lee and U. S. Grant and those of the immortal hosts they led, forever enjoy a common happiness beneath the shades of the same trees across the river.”


How is it that the newspaper was able to search for and locate the highly inflammatory language from one of its articles from 1912 to support their position, but not from the articles in 1911 and 1913 and other years that provided an entirely different perspective unless its position was biased from the outset?


There is no doubt that there was a narrative in the post-war South that romanticized the lost cause and that there were many in public office and in the news media who were almost solely responsible for propagating that narrative. There is also no doubt that there were politicians who worked aggressively to suppress and otherwise infringe on the rights of African Americans as soon as the South was free of Federal Reconstruction management, and there were news media outlets that gave them cover because they were essentially “Party” newspapers.


There is no denying as well that African Americans were treated contemptuously and sometimes brutally during the post-Reconstruction era (and before) in many parts of the country, including Pensacola. It is also certain that long after the monument was erected, it became a rallying point for racists as they gathered around the monument as though it represented their cause although their cause had nothing to do with reverently honoring war dead.


What is in doubt for many is whether the monument, erected in the swirl of so much racist activity, was separate from that activity in its original purpose and was truly constructed to honor those who had valiantly given their lives in a war of secession that they—the common soldiers—the sons of Florida—did not start. There has been a sense among many, including those who addressed the crowd on June 17, 1891 at the monument’s unveiling ceremony, that the “cause” for which the common soldier fought was the principle of simply doing one’s duty.


Again, why did they go to war? Because their states called them to war. What was the “cause” that they died for? The common soldier’s cause was duty. The common Confederate soldier didn’t choose the battles and wasn’t in the room where the politics, policies, and strategies were birthed. And again, he was an instrument of his state government; honoring him when he is dead is a stark reminder of the cost of war and politics. If anything, particularly in the case of the American Civil War, the story of the cost of that war and the politics behind it should be more fully told, not shunted away in half-truths.


In my view, the inclusion of engravings of tribute to Confederate leaders on the monument detracted from the monument’s central theme of honoring the Confederate war dead because those engravings mean that the monument actually does much more than honor the war dead. The tributes on three of the monument’s four panels have an entirely different nature than the fourth which honors the dead because they do honor the leaders of the movement that was defeated and discredited in the outcome of the war, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.


I also believe that racists who used the monument as a backdrop for their demonstrations in the early 1900s to the 1970s did more harm to the legitimate symbolism and historical value of the monument than any present-day political movement could ever do. I also believe current feelings about the monument’s meaning to today’s African American community must be seriously and fairly considered, but it’s difficult to ignore the role the news media has had in stirring up animosities and division through their distorted reporting and commentary.


Remove the monument, or don’t. But let’s do what we do in full appreciation of history and a recognition of the purposes for which the monument was constructed. The fact is that many today are fired up about a history they don’t even know, and the news media hasn’t helped.


Consider what the four speakers at the unveiling ceremony for the monument on June 17, 1891 had to say about what it stood for and see if you believe it was part of that Lost Cause narrative or if it really was primarily a monument honoring the Confederate war dead.


Judge also the effect on the so-called “Lost Cause” narrative of an unchecked and coordinated political and media campaign to advance that narrative. Ask yourself if the “Lost Cause” narrative could have endured without their advocacy. Would the controversy surrounding the monument today have endured without it and without modern revisions of history?


Finally, there’s a scene in the movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” in which the reporter, Mr. Scott, had been interviewing Ransom Stoddard, the man whom everyone mistakenly believed shot the outlaw Liberty Valance. When Mr. Scott realizes that Stoddard didn’t shoot Valance and that his entire reputation and fame were based on a myth, Scott thought for a moment then he threw his interview notes that told the true story into the fire. When Stoddard asked him, “You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?” Scott answered, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”


It seems that that’s where we are. The legend has become “fact” and that’s what is being printed.

Pensacola's Confederate Monument (Part 7): "The Chicago Affair"

Something happened on May 30, 1895, four years after the Pensacola Confederate monument was unveiled, that many probably didn't expect: a Confederate monument was built, not in Atlanta or Vicksburg or Fredericksburg or Manassas. It was erected in Chicago's Oakwoods Cemetery and unveiled in an extraordinary ceremony well attended by veterans of the Blue and the Grey. The monument was a 30-foot granite column topped with a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier, a figure based on the painting "Appomattox" by John Adams Elder like the one that stands atop Pensacola's Confederate monument.

The Chicago Tribune published a front page article in its May 31, 1895 issue about the event under the headings, "Ends All Ill Will," "Animosities of the Rebellion Buried at Oakwoods," "Blue Joins with Gray," "Confederate Monument Dedication is a Big Success," "Are American Heroes All," "General Hampton's Speech Spirited and Full of Patriotism."

Former Confederate General Wade Hampton of South Carolina delivered the main address. It was as magnanimous as it was reverent to the Confederate dead whom the event was designed to honor. "No monument in the world has such an honorable history as attaches to yonder one. That marks the graves of no victorious soldiers, but of the followers of a lost cause; it stands not on Southern soil, but on Northern; the men who rest under its shadow come from our far-off southland; and it owes its erection not to the comrades of these dead soldiers, but mainly to the generosity and magnanimity of their former foes, the citizens of this great city."

Speaking of both, the honor of those in Chicago who made the monument possible and of the Confederate dead who fought and died for the principles in which they believed, General Hampton said, "In the name of my comrades, dead and living, and in my own name, I give grateful thanks to the brave men of Chicago who have done honor to our dead here, not as Confederate soldiers, but as brave men who preferred imprisonment and death rather than freedom obtained by dishonorable sacrifice of the principles for which they were willing to die."

Then, General Hampton spoke for the hundreds of thousands of enlisted soldiers who went to war, simply as a debt of duty. "Of the 6,000 Confederates buried here not one was an officer; all were privates, in no way responsible for the unhappy war which brought a myriad woes upon our country. And yet these humble private soldiers, any one of whom could have gained freedom by taking the oath of allegiance to the Federal Government, preferred death to the sacrifice of their principles. Can any possible dishonor attach to the brave men of Chicago because they are willing to recognize the courage and devotion to duty of these dead Confederates? Every Southern man felt a call made upon him by his State was an imperative command, and his duty was to obey without hesitation and at all hazards. When the North called on its citizens to rally to the old flag they responded to the summons from a sense of duty, as did the people of the South to the call made on them."

Papers throughout the country, newspapers like the Morning Democrat (Davenport, IA), the Marion Daily Star (Marion, OH), the Montclair Times (Montclair, NJ); the Springfield Leader and Press (Springfield, MO), the Spirit of Jefferson (Charles Town, West Virginia), the News-Journal (Mansfield, OH), the Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, NE), the Times Herald (Port Huron, MI), the Reading Times (Reading, PA), the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA), the Courier (Waterloo, IA), the Alameda Daily Argus (Alameda, CA), the Journal Times (Racine, WI), the Knoxville Journal (Knoxville, TN), the Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, WI) published reactions to the unveiling of the monument written on other editorial pages from around the country:

"They seem to have concluded out in Chicago, anyway, that the war is over. 
 - Boston Globe

"There is nothing small about Chicago. She has no ill will against the dead heroes in gray." 
Nashville American

"To our view the Chicago incident did far more to obliterate Mason and Dixon's line than anything which has occurred since the war." 
Oswego Palladium

"The Confederate monument dedicated at Chicago is something more than a pure granite shaft, with tablets of bronze. It is a monument to the good sense and genuine patriotism of the American people." 
New York World

"When fair southerners strew flowers on the graves of the Union dead, and that people of Chicago assist in the dedicatino of a Confederate monument, it is safe to conclude that in some portions of the country at least the cruel war is ended." 
Detroit Free Press

"History furnishes few events as encouraging as the dedication of the Confederate monument in Chicago. It shows that the soldiers of the north and of the south are not only brave enough to do battle, but they are brave enough to forgive and forget." 
Detroit Tribune

"They can unveil all the Confederate monuments they please. It is not the causethe lost causethey are honoring but the bravery and life some men gave to that cause. The cause itself is as dead and buried as the quarrel of Ghibellines and Guelphs. 
Cincinnati Commercial Gazette

"Among those who participated in the unveiling of the Confederate monument at Chicago yesterday were some of the bravest and most noted men who fought in the Union army. If such men saw nothing improper in attending the exercises, it is for others to refrain from criticism." 
Grand Rapids Democrat

"The monument erected in Chicago to the Confederate dead who died in prison there was unveiled with appropriate ceremonies and without kindling the fires of rebellion. From flowers watered with tears, treason does not grow. Southerners are not worse but better for grieving over the unreturning brave, their comrades is a lost cause." 
Terre Haute Gazette

Pensacola's Confederate Monument (Part 6): "Voices of the Unveiling"

Whatever else was happening in the South in 1891 and afterward, it seems appropriate and important to interpret Pensacola's Confederate monument's origins through the words and actions of those who were directly involved in its christening rather than rely only on concurrent yet potentially unconnected events such as the discrimination and suppression of African Americans, the Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws that were so rampant throughout the South and in other parts of the United States for 100 years after the end of the Civil War.

The tortured linkage of the Lost Cause narrative to the construction of the Pensacola Confederate monument implies that honoring the dead with the monument wasn't merely concurrent with the propagation of the Lost Cause narrative but that it was synonymous with advancing the narrative. It means that in spite of the emotional sentiments expressed at the memorial's dedication, those expressions were cynically insincere because what Pensacolians really cared about when they funded and erected that monument was suppressing African Americans instead. But we don't hear diatribes against African Americans in these speeches; we hear about their war dead and the reasons that they went off to war

Why did they go to war? Because their states called them to war. So, what was the "cause" that they died for? Was it slavery or states' rights? The common soldier's cause was the same as it has been in every war fought by Americans since the beginning. The "cause" was duty. The common soldier then was little different than the common soldier of today in that he didn't choose the battles and wasn't in the room where the politics, policies, and strategies were birthed. He was an instrument of his state government; honoring him when he is dead is not a glamorization of war or its politics, it's a reminder of the cost of war and politics.

But the July 4 News Journal editorial described the monument as “a piece of stone intended to dignify, sanitize and whitewash all the treasonous sentiments and corrupt behavior of those who had unjustly seized power in this city.”

Let’s listen to the voices of that day in 1891 and judge them for ourselves...

Under an overcast sky, the dedication parade formed and marched to the monument as the divisions that formed the parade positioned themselves around the reviewing stand. After a prayer was said by Reverend H. S. Yerger, Master of Ceremonies Colonel W. D. Chipley announced the singing of "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Of the rendition of the song, the June 18, 1891 issue of the Pensacola News reported, "With the aid of the band the song was rendered, Mr. J. W. Lurton directing, and with a pathos and fervor that left no doubt of the sincerity of those who voiced its sentiments."

The song, "My Country 'Tis of Thee" ("America") was a popular de facto National Anthem of the United States until the Star Spangled Banner was adopted in 1931.

Then, as soon as the drapery that surrounded the monument was dropped to the ground, the band struck up the song "Dixie" "but the music for a moment was lost in the great cheer which sped heavenward from those ten thousand throats, and the scene became wildly animated as hats, handkerchiefs and flags were waved high in the air," according to the Pensacola News article.

When the cheering subsided, Colonel Chipley introduced Pensacola attorney Evelyn C. Maxwell for the introduction of Florida Governor Francis P. Fleming. 

Maxwell was the son of former Florida Secretary of State and Chief Justice Augustus Maxwell, and the grandson of former Justice Walker Anderson. Maxwell grew up in Pensacola and became a criminal court judge in 1892 and a circuit judge in 1896. Then, he became a Florida Supreme Court justice in 1902 and served in that capacity for two years.

Of the Governor, Maxwell said, "With the first notes of war he responded to the call. Young in all save his ardor of patriotism, a youth who had not yet reached man’s estate, he enlisted in the fight. The strength of devotion steeled those sinews which time had not yet matured, and throughout the long years which followed he remained at his post in the desperate struggle for what he felt to be the right. In Virginia, in Tennessee and in North Georgia he followed the fortunes of the Southern arms, until the curtain fell; the wager of war was decided against him and he bowed to the bitterness of defeat. The end came and with it he recognized that the same devotion to his state which in time of war called him to arms demanded in time of peace that he accept the issue of the fight and take up again the duties of civil life. He laid aside the captain’s sword, which he had so hardly won, and devoted himself to the task of raising his loved state from the prostration which marked the close of hostilities to that proud position in a prosperous South which she now holds."

Governor Francis P. Fleming, Florida's 15th governor, a Democrat and a Confederate war veteran, took the stand next. He said that while some might say that the South fought a war in vain which resulted in the loss of property and the useless loss of lives, he could not think that the lives of soldiers were lost in vain. "The world is richer and better for such libations poured upon the altar of Country, and the contribution to history made by Southern valor and Southern heroism, in a war waged to maintain the right of self government and in defense of homes and family altars from invasion and destruction. And now that more than a quarter of a century has passed and we can recall our motives in the clear light of mature deliberation, with most of our comrades asleep in their graves and the great Creator of the universe looking down upon us, we may face the whole world and declare it to be our sincerest conviction that men never went forth to battle with a clearer consciousness of the purity of their motives, or the righteousness of their cause." Then, he spoke of the present, "Let us cherish the memories of the past to be transmitted as a sacred heritage to posterity. But let us be equally true to the duties of the present and the hopes of the future. Let us remember that the stars and stripes is our flag and the emblem of a united country to which our allegiance is due."

Next to address the audience was Reverend J. H. Curry who introduced the event's primary speaker, Colonel R. W. Davis.

He told the crowd gathered around him, "No monumental pile, however sublime or beautiful in sculptor’s conception or architectural build can justly commemorate the heroism and glory of these crownless martyrs—these ungarlanded heroes of Confederated hopes, fortunes and sympathies. Ah, no, not to perpetuate their fame do we erect this monument; a nobler purpose impels us, a holier motive urges us. This monument is to be a sublime, but silent witness of our abiding faith in the rightness, honesty and sincerity of the principles for which the great sacrifice was made—it is to be a perpetual proclamation of our loyalty to what was and is and forever shall be—conviction to duty at any cost short of honor and integrity."

He told the audience that while they gathered to honor those who died in defense of the principle of commitment to duty, they stood united as Americans. "This monument is a pledge of our appreciative remembrance of those who spent and were spent in defense of cherished principles, contended for, crushed but never surrendered. No one can censure us for honoring our heroic dead; nor can they attribute this endeavor to do so to motives antagonistic to our common country, the grandest, freest, best government on God’s earth—our American Union of States, indissoluble forever, under the common banner of a common brotherhood for God and human rights eternally."

Addressing the possibility that the event would be misinterpreted as being centered on the romantic image of the Southern soldier, he said that they were there to honor their dead. "This was the more than poetic-inspired conception of the brave, romantic Southerner, whose very name is a synonym for chivalry—a chivalry that dare resist an insult offered to a brother—quicker even than to self—than rather die than surrender personal honor. This was the secret and inspiration of that sublime struggle a score and ten years ago. But the result is gone into history and we do not now come to revive any discussion; but we do come to honor ourselves in doing honor to our deathless dead; and while we loved them living we more than love them departed."

Finally, the event's primary orator, Colonel Robert W. Davis took his place to deliver his speech.

He cautioned the audience that although he intended no offense, he would speak the truth. He said, "We have assembled to-day for no festive purpose, for no trivial cause, but to perform a grave and sweet duty, sad to give outward sign and public expression to the feeling of our hearts."

He said that within the past few years, a crumpled parchment dated January 10, 1861 was found in the basement of the State Capitol on which sixty-nine of their representatives added their signatures to the ordinance that withdrew Florida from the Union and "plunged us into war, and made all the sad history that followed—contained the decree that made fame for some—dug graves for many—wrought tears and spilled blood."

He then spoke in defense of the secession ordinance, for which Florida never published a "declaration of causes" as four other Confederate states had, "...for all the brave men who fought and bled and fell in advocacy of the principles of that Ordinance of Secession, I shall say here to-day under a Florida sky, and in the face of all the people of this great and now reunited country, as God is my Judge, I believe the people of Florida had the right to separate in peace from the American Union—that we had the same right our forefathers of the American revolution had. Yet, though we fought for the same principle our forefathers fought for, upon the same red hills of Old Dominion, and along the same sea coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia, where our forefathers bled, we are told now, and our children are taught, that one was American patriotism, and the other criminal rebellion and treason."

But then he was clear that as he believed the secession was not treasonous, he said he believed that to be the case as a credit to the dead they were assembled to honor that day. “Do not misunderstand me. I am not speaking with vain regrets. I am not carping that we did not succeed. I am not clamoring for another war. I do not now wish to see the American Union dissolved or its growing greatness retarded or destroyed. I do not wish to open old wounds, or re-kindle the old and now extinguished flame. I only speak out my heart in justice to the memory of those who died for a principle they believed in—who fought for a cause they deemed just, and to preserve whose memory this granite shaft is unveiled to-day."

Believing that the Northern soldiers who fought against them would not harbor ill will toward them for honoring their dead, he said, “My friends of the North—my generous, brave and noble friends—you who fought against us in those days, and you who conquered us and who replaced the Southern cross by the Stars and Stripes over a re-united land, you do not blame us for refusing to turn our backs on our own brave dead, or for defending the principles which actuated and moved us; nor do you sympathise with a certain and unnamed United States senator, who in a recent speech in the United States senate scoffed at the loyalty of the Southern people and sneeringly said of them—“They have their own heroes, their own anniversaries; they celebrate their own victories; they rear their own monuments to civil and military leaders whose claim to glory is that they fell for slavery and anarchy.” [from a speech by Sen. John J. Ingalls (R-Kansas) on the U. S. Senate floor on January 23, 1890]

In a further declaration that he opposed continuing the strife between North and South, he attributed the fomentation of disharmony to those who never wore a uniform during the war. “God be praised that the country now, North and South, has no toleration for those who attempt to foment and keep alive the strife they never dared enter when it raged in reality, and who fight over for political purposes battles the smoke of which they never saw, and the roar and rattle of which they never heard."

He then returned to visions of the fanfare of young men marching off to war, but added that while he had hoped to go to the fighting himself as a young man, he lived to regret that he ultimately did. “Oh! what years, Oh! what a war? How vividly we recall the days when the boys marched off. I see now the bright faces of the plumed and uniformed men as, to the step of fife and drum, they marched along. I see now the smiles of fair women—smiles that shone through tears, as with fluttering kerchief they waved their loved ones away to the war. I was a boy then and lived in Georgia. I remember the first company of gallant men that left my old home with waving banners and gay beating hearts. I remember, too, that their destination was Pensacola. In my boyish fervor I was afraid the war would end before I grew old enough to enter it, and I lived to regret that it did not."

He also expressed the hope that every town in the south would honor their war dead. "History has embalmed the deeds of the soldiers on both sides of this great conflict, but it will be the historian of the future who will do the Southern soldier the full meed of praise. I wish every hamlet, in every country, in every Southern state had a monument to their soldier dead. I would that every mile post along every Southern road could be shaped into a separate monument for some soldier and his name and deeds could be inscribed upon it. Then the poor private who bore the brunt and heat of battle might be personally perpetuated. Whereas now, we must content ourselves with speaking of them collectively as the “Confederate dead...”

Then he advocated for something that some today have called for, more monuments that tell a more complete story. “In Jacksonville, in this state!—mind you in Florida—a Southern state, a similar ceremony to this took place within a month past, but it was not the unveiling of a Confederate monument, it was the ceremony of unveiling of a monument to the Federal dead. I was not present but had I been able I should have been there. I was pleased too, that the sentiments expressed on that occasion were so manly and loyal and at the time the merits of the Southern soldier were so fully recognized. There is no reason why these monuments may not stand side by side, and yet speak out for the merits of their respective dead."

He seemed to anticipate the controversy that has surrounded the monument in recent years when he pleaded, “Monument, stand there, and may the hand of time deal gently with you. When the winds sweep around you, stand a sturdy symbol of the Confederate soldier as he stood while the winds of adversity swept around him; stand through the ages yet to come that posterity may know how we loved and cherished our martyred dead."

Finally, he addressed the young soldiers who were in the crowd and were part of the parade in reminding them where their loyalties resided, “Young Soldiers: You who stand in line before me, your gay plumes floating in the breeze; you are not Confederate soldiers, but you are soldiers of your state and common country; you are the guardians and protectors of the pubic peace. Some of you may have been in the late war; some of you may be sons of those who fought under the stars and bars, or under the stars and stripes—it matters not now. You are ready to march at the call of your state or at the call of the general government. You are from good stock, from whichever side you sprang. Let me point you to these veterans and to the dead soldiers of whom I have been speaking, for if you wish examples of valor and heroism you will find them there."

Pensacola's Confederate Monument (Part 5): "The Grandest Display"

On June 18, 1891, the day after the unveiling of the Confederate monument, the Pensacola News ran a front page article under the headline “The Dedication” and subheadings “Pensacola’s Confederate Monument Given to History” and “Grandest Display Ever Witnessed in This City.” The article that followed was pure prose, “A grand scene—grander by far, indeed, than pen might adequately picture.”

The first section of the article described the crowd that gathered for the unveiling:
Ten thousand people on Palafox hill.
A vast mass of surging humanity, surrounding a granite shaft on which stood a veiled figure.
On balconies, in windows, in some instances on the roofs, of adjacent dwellings were people whose eyes were bent upon that central spot containing the monument.
Far down into the different thoroughfares leading to that point the mass had boiled over, and struggling for position from which to gain a better view the constituents of that great concourse caused an ever rolling wave, created by human heads, that apparently swept toward the centre, only to recoil and sweep back again.
Slightly raised above the heads of the multitude near the monument was a stand which was also peopled. To the stand from the summit of the shaft two cords were leading.
Directly those close to the stand were seen to uncover and bow their heads. Those on the stand did the same. The act betokened a prayer.
The article continued:
The 17th of June, 1891, has gone into history. And for the people of Pensacola the date shall be an ever memorable one—the most glorious day that old city has ever known.
Yesterday she welcomed and entertained more than 3000 people; yesterday her old streets resounded to the marching of a regiment of the citizen soldiery of Florida; yesterday she gave to the world a lesson in patriotism that will stand for ages; yesterday she became first of all the cities of the South in paying monumental tribute to the memory of the Confederacy’s dead president—Jefferson Davis; yesterday she honored herself, as one of the orators of the occasion put it, in honoring her own dead and the dead generally of the old Confederacy.
The article also included a note of appreciation for the contributions that were made to the project: some of the names on the list of donors would be familiar to many Pensacolians today: S. A. Moreno, H. Baars, Lewis Bear, W. A. Blount, Geo Bonifay, F. C. Brent, W. D. Chipley, A. V. Clubbs, A. F. Mallory, A. E. Maxwell, J. N. Moreno, E. A. Perry, C. C. Yonge, Jr., for instance.

The final section of the article set the scene of the unveiling:
Wednesday, the 17th of June, 1891 was born in a cloud-burst. The rain came down in torrents, and the outlook was indeed a gloomy one. Fears were entertained that the weather would not clear in time for the observance in full of the programme arranged, and the doubts were by no means dispelled when at noon the wind shifted and a break to the north and west became visible.
But Nature’s proposition for a truce was in good faith, and, though the sky was overcast throughout the afternoon, not another drop fell, and the exercises were conducted without let or hindrance.
The rain had the effect of laying the dust, which would have proven very disagreeable, and much less preferable than the mud which succeeded it. The atmosphere also was cooled by the showers, and rendered more bearable by the thousands who came out to see the parade and witness the ceremony.
The parade included notable names such as Master of Ceremonies W. D. Chipley and assistant marshal F. R. Goulding. Governor Fleming was in the first division as were the Ladies of the Confederate Monument Association and the President of the city and the board of commissioners. The second division was led by assistant marshal D. G. Brent and an array of military rifle squads and guards from around the state. The third division consisted of young ladies representing the 15 Southern states, the Grand Army of the Republic (a Union military fraternal organization), and the Sons of Veterans. The fourth division was led by assistant marshal R. M. McDavid and consisted of local fraternal organizations: Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Knights of Honor, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and musicians. The fifth division was led by assistant marshal S. A. Moreno and the fire department.

Next: Part 6: "Voices of the Unveiling"

Pensacola's Confederate Monument (Part 4): "Proud Pensacola"

Railroad executive and former Pensacola Mayor W. D. Chipley wrote a letter to the editor of the Pensacola News (the predecessor of today's News Journal) to encourage the public to support the effort to raise funds for the construction of a Confederate monument in Pensacola. The newspaper published that letter and commented on it in its April 27, 1890 editorial, writing "This noble and timely appeal of Col. Chipley should meet with a responsive echo in the breast of every true citizen of Escambia county. ...it will not be long 'ere a stately shaft will cast its shadows across the daily paths of the sons and daughters of the dead heroes to remind them of the brave deeds of their fathers, and that a brave people delights to honor the memories of those who died fighting for their country." The monument which had been in the works for a number of years had a champion in the local political hierarchy and the Pensacola News.

The Pensacola News published an almost poetic rendition of the approaching unveiling of the Confederate monument which would bestow honors on the Confederate war dead in a grand ceremony. In its June 17, 1891 issue, the newspaper announced, "To-day they will turn back the pages of history and renew with interest more intense the study of a heroism and self-sacrifice which brought the civilized world amazed to its feet in contemplation thereof; to view again, through the lapse of years, a devotion to home and country that evoked the unstinted admiration of earth's millious; to gaze down a memory-shaded vista, undimmed by a quarter cycle of a centuriate time, to the ensanguined period when their fathers, sons, brothers, friends and comrades yielded up their lives in the championship of a cause they deemed but just, in defense of principles they regard as right. The cause was lost. But green in memory's fond embraces remain the gallant dead and their valorous deeds."

The editorial continued, "Pensacola is proud of herself to-day. And prouder still will this old city of the old South be, when the sunset gun this evening shall announce the conclusion of those holy exercises transmitting to her keeping and guardianship that reminder of the patriotism of the sons of the South, which stands in monumental form with its roots in her very bosom."

It concluded, "Join with us to-day in this ceremony which shall give to posterity as to our contemporaries an evidence of the appreciation in which we hold the valor of Southern soldiers; which shall illustrate our love for the heroes of our lost cause; which shall attest in material form our veneration of the statesmanship and soldiery of the dead Confederacy."

But the Pensacola News wasn't the only Southern newspaper to take such a strong positive position with respect to Confederate monuments. Somehow, these other newspapers managed to endorse the construction of Confederate monuments in spite of having no Governor Perry or White Democrat government appointees to press the issue for them...

These newspapers (and more) published articles that endorsed Confederate monuments between 1885 and 1900:

February 7, 1885 - The Semi-Weekly West Tennessee Whig (Jackson, TN)
April 28, 1885 - The Eufala Daily Times (Eufala, AL)
April 28, 1885 - The Macon Telegraph (Macon, GA)
April 30, 1885 - The Tuskaloosa Gazette (Tuscaloosa, AL)
January 9, 1888 - The Tenneseean (Nashville, TN)
June 7, 1888 - The Jackson Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS)
October 16, 1891 - The Memphis Appeal-Avalanche (Memphis, TN)
October 11, 1893 - The Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, SC)
May 5, 1894 - The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC)
July 4, 1897 - Daily Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, AR)
June 4, 1891 - The Daily Commercial Herald (Vicksburg, MS)
June 4, 1891 - The St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, MO)
April 27, 1893 - The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, GA)
July 13, 1894 - The Daily Journal (New Bern, NC)
April 26, 1894 - The Chattanooga Daily Times (Chattanooga, TN)
December 7, 1898 - The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, AL)

Next: Part 5: "The Grandest Display"

Pensacola's Confederate Monument (Part 3): "A Monument Wrapped in a Narrative"

The June 29, 2020 News Journal portrayed the renaming of the square and the subsequent placement of the Confederate monument there as owing to the racist motives that inspired the 1885 Florida constitution and the replacement of the elected Pensacola city government with appointees, the "coup." Then, it said that the renaming of the square and the monument was an outcome of and then a part of a post-Reconstruction revisionist story line called the "Lost Cause" narrative.

The articleand the subsequent editorialadvanced the notion that the construction of the Confederate monument was connected to the "Lost Cause" narrative on very little evidence other than the testimony of historians who made broad and sweeping statements about what happened in those days and why, again without evidence other than their word and the fact that these events occurred within the same span of time.

As the Lost Cause narrative goes, Southerners who were vanquished in the Civil War engaged in a revisionist telling of the war's causes and outcome. They didn't deny that the "cause" was lost in the war, but they believed it enjoyed a second life after the war. The Lost Cause is characterized by an overly romanticized depiction of the chivalry and nobility of the Southerner, a denial of the abuses imposed on slaves, and a lofty exultation of its heroic wartime leaders. The theory holds that Southerners who lived and acted within the Lost Cause narrative understood that they lost the war, but that they would win the peace. The proposition was that they would win the peace by suppressing Blacks and imposing their will on them, even though the war was lost and slavery had ended. The theory is stretched further in using the Lost Cause narrative to explain the rationale behind the construction of Confederate monuments.

Without dredging too deeply into the origins and nature of the Lost Cause narrative, let's say that while it was an actual phenomenon, mostly because it was contemporaneously documented, it probably gets more credit for influencing events in history than it earned. It's worth noting that even its presumed originator, Edward Alfred Pollard, stepped back from the more volatile aspects of the narrative as Reconstruction made some of his predictions and aspirationssuch as a return to armed conflict and a resumption of slaveryunlikely to succeed. In fact he followed his original "Lost Cause" book, "The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates" published in 1866 with "The Lost Cause Regained" two years later in 1868, which was really an entirely "new thought," according to biographer Jack P. Maddex.

Maddex reported that in the latter book, Pollard withdrew some of his earlier positions. He wrote, "Showing new respect for President Abraham Lincoln and the northern masses, he called their intentions for Reconstruction moderate and acceptable. He endorsed all of Johnson's programs including the suppression of the Confederacy, his military occupation of the South, his insistence on emancipation and repudiation of Confederate public debts, and his excluding of many 'rebels' from general amnesty. Secession, Pollard now argued, had been a legal nullity, and the northern conquest had been 'a government merely recovering its own territory and re-asserting its authority over its own subjects.'" Moreover, Pollard "renounced the 'two nations' premise" that held that the North and South conflicts were essentially conflicts of cultures constructed upon different economies, a difference between economies and cultures shaped around a free-labor workforce versus a slavery workforce.

Thus, much of what has been made of the Lost Cause narrative had been repudiated by its author by 1868 and even more so later. That left only the politicians and newspapers to advance its discredited precepts.

It also seems that too much is made of some of what have been described as features of the Lost Cause narrative such as the claim that the war was lost due to the South being overwhelmed by the North's troop strength, wealth, and resources. That likely arises out of Lee's farewell address after the surrender at Appomattox in which he wrote, "After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources." It is unlikely that Lee would have written that his army was overcome because of the South's inferior courage, tactics, and leadership because he simply wouldn't have believed it was true and he wouldn't have said it under those circumstances if it was. At times, the use of the Lost Cause narrative to explain events seems to reflect a resentment over the fact that the South wasn't sufficiently supplicant, which ironically mirrors the sentiments of radical Republicans in the late 1800s.

They over-exert their efforts to assign a vile motive to understandable behaviors like Lee's assertion that the South lost the war because it was out-manned and out-resourced by the North or the South's desire to honor its war dead as heroes. They split hairs to say that monuments honor a Lost Cause because, they say, they pay tribute to discredited principles when, in reality, they pay tribute to soldiers who died heroically for causes and principles that they believed were just. The true sentiment is actually etched into the Pensacola monument and it's recorded in the words of the men who spoke at its dedication.

The News Journal's determination to prove that linkage is illustrated in the June 29, 2020 Pensacola News Journal article in which the newspaper claimed, "A 1904 book on Confederate monuments published by the Confederated Southern Memorial Association preserves part of an 1890 fundraising letter sent by William Chipley, a Pensacola politician and former Confederate officer... The letter quoted Perry's wife noting the location of Lee Square in front of the school where the monument should be placed aimed at educating future generations about the 'Lost Cause.'" Then, the article accurately quoted Chipley's letter although the aspersion had already been cast when it characterized his motives as being aligned with the Lost Cause narrative, "Coming generations will learn, with their daily lessons, to honor our beloved dead." In telling it that way, the June 29 News Journal article said that honoring the South's "beloved dead" was synonymous with the racist Lost Cause narrative.

The book cited by the News Journal was titled "History of the Confederated Memorial Associations of the South," published by the Confederated Southern Memorial Association in 1904. The words "Lost Cause" were used only four times in the entire book, always in reference to the war itself, not to the romantic vision of the post-war South that the News Journal described, and certainly not in reference to the Pensacola Confederate monument. Not once.

Again, if we go to a primary source, in this case page 6 of the April 27, 1890 issue of the predecessor of today's Pensacola News Journal, the Pensacola News, we see that in Col. Chipley's fundraising letter dated April 22, 1890, he didn't quote Mrs. Perry as the News Journal said; he made a suggestion to Mrs. Perry "...That work be commenced at once in the center of R. E. Lee Square in front of public school No. 1 where coming generations will learn with their daily lessons to honor our beloved dead." Again, the words "Lost Cause" were neither used nor implied in his letter.

The theory that the Lost Cause narrative had significant implications on policies that included the decision to build Confederate monuments throughout the South is an example of the tendency that historians have to encapsulate complex events in simple terms that make the digestion of the conclusions that surround them more palatable to an audience that isn't particularly inclined to conduct its own research. Where these "nutshell" approaches are lacking, however, is in their failure to fully consider and reflect the nuances of context and compound factors that tend to reveal the motivations of those who made history. When they're not overdone, these captions on history can be useful; but when they are overdone, they can distort our understanding of history.

The June 29, 2020 News Journal article theorized that the Lost Cause narrative was tied to post-Reconstruction racism in the South and that the honors that were bestowed upon the South's war dead and other heroes was associated with both the Lost Cause narrative and racism. Without citing specific causal evidence, the News Journal article connected those three elements merely by virtue of the fact that they occurred within the same period of time. Historians and journalists alike are cautioned not to assume that because two or more events occur at the same time, one necessarily causes the other, but that seems to have happened here.

If the Lost Cause narrative theory was validly applied in the recent reporting on the Pensacola Confederate monument and the connection of the narrative to the construction of the Confederate monument was also validly applied, the News Journal's June 29, 2020 article and July 4 editorial were silent in mentioning the pivotal role Pensacola newspapers played in advancing the narrative and in reconciling the fact that the evidence of corruption that the News Journal cited in the June 29 article didn't line up with the way events were recorded in Pensacola newspapers while the monument's construction was being considered.

Pensacola's Confederate Monument (Part 2): "Conflicting Stories"

Again, we can agree that no one currently on the Pensacola News Journal's staff would take the kind of racist stances that it did in its 1905 and 1935 articles, so let's turn to the question of whether the News Journal reached too far in its June 29, 2020 article when it drew connections between the racist activity that was cascading through the Southand in some parts of the North and Westafter Reconstruction and the construction of the Confederate monument in Pensacola.

The first link in that alleged connection occurred when Florida Governor E. A. Perry replaced the elected city governments of a number of Florida cities with appointed members of provisional local governments in what the June 29, 2020 News Journal article characterized as a "coup." The News Journal reported that "Perry revoked Pensacola's city charter in 1885, along with other Florida cities, and created state-appointed city governments made up completely of white Democrats." Then the newspaper cited a historian who said, according to the paper, that the action was a coup d'etat to end Black participation in local government and fill city governments with white supremacists. That statement in this context leaves the implication that replacement Pensacola city commissioners F. C. Brent, W. D. Chipley, George W. Witherspoon, Edward Sexaner, W. H. Hutchinson, John Burns, and S. S. Harvey were white supremacists, even if they didn't say it outright.

However, the February 21, 1885 issue of the Pensacolian newspaper published the text of the Governor's proclamation that stated that the basis for the replacement of the elected commissioners was that the city was $200,000 (approximately $6 million in today's dollars) in debt and had defaulted on the interest it owed. Whether the city's debt was legitimately the reason for replacing the commissioners or was a convenient excuse for ejecting African Americans from office in Pensacola wasn't mentioned in the Pensacolian newspaper, nor was the proclamation that authorized the change of city government mentioned in the June 29, 2020 News Journal article.

But the Pensacolian editorial staff did address the change of leadership and the debt a month later in its March 21, 1885 issue when it wrote of the new commissioners, "All right-thinking people must acknowledge that the present is infinitely preferable to the past," even as it noted that the move to replace the elected commissioners wasn't popular among a majority of the citizens. It also referenced the fact that the new commissioners were "at the outset, confronted with a heavy, interest-bearing debt" that they should dispose of without hardship to Pensacola's citizens.

So, either today's Pensacola News Journal mischaracterized the Governor's replacement of the commissioners in 1885 as a "coup," or the Pensacolian deceived the public about the matter in 1885.

The second link in the alleged connection was Governor Perry's involvement in the writing of the 1885 Florida constitution. In its June 29, 2020 article, the News Journal wrote, "Perry oversaw the writing of a new state constitution that got rid of the one written during Reconstruction, and the new constitution enabled a poll tax and other policies designed to disenfranchise Black citizens." Throw in the Pensacola "coup" that the News Journal alleged and that's how the newspaper characterized Governor Perry's first six months in office.

It's true that the 1885 constitution authorized a poll tax as a requirement for voting (Article VI, Section (8), required racial segregation in schools (Article XII, Section 12), and prohibited marriage between "a white person and a person of negro descent" (Article XVI, Section 24). 

But to draw a connection between that and the decision to build a Confederate monument seems to be a bit much since of the thirty-eight states that required poll taxes in 1923, all but eleven of them were in Northern and Western states. Also, segregation policies were not only common in the South, they were widespread in the United States, and in 1896, segregation was ruled constitutional in schools, churches, and public transportation in the U. S. Supreme Court 's Plessy v Ferguson decision.

So, if the writing of poll taxes and segregation into the Florida Constitution of 1885 led to the construction of the Confederate monument in Pensacola, it didn't seem to have the same effect in Northern and Western states that had the same kinds of provisions.

The third link in the alleged connection was the renaming of Florida Square to R. E. Lee Square. In its June 29, 2020 article, the News Journal reported, "The state-appointed commissioners who ran the city government of Pensacola entered office and began renaming one of the most prominent points in the city from Florida Square to Robert E. Lee Square after the Confederate general in 1887 — the name it still bears today."

The article gives the impression that the new commissioners were seated then they immediately turned to the work of renaming the square, but in truth, they had a debt to resolve when they entered office and the square wasn't renamed for another two years after they took office.

Then, as the posting of the ordinance in the July 2, 1887 issue of the Pensacolian newspaper recorded, the commissioners renamed the square, which at the time was at the northern edge of developed Pensacola, "R. E. Lee Square" at the same time that it renamed three streets, citing as the reason for doing so the fact that the existing names were all duplicates in Lee’s Map. As the city grew during those years, they named and renamed several streets. (Today's residents who are confused by the multiple names assigned to the same thoroughfares might wish the 1887 commissioners' successors had renamed more streets.)

The 1885 map of Pensacola shows that there was a Florida Square where today’s Lion’s Park is located between 12th and 13th Avenue south of East La Rua Street. The map (right) doesn't show a Florida Square where the current Lee Square is although there was one there in 1887.

In spite of the theory of a racist motive behind renaming of the square on Palafox Street for a Confederate military hero and the subsequent erection of a Confederate monument there, history suggests a different motive.

As the June 29, 2020 News Journal article accurately stated, the location was "one of the most prominent points in the city" and it "overlooked downtown Pensacola from one of the highest spots." But the fact that it was one of the most prominent points in the city was because it overlooked downtown Pensacola from one of the highest spots. It is those two factors that help explain why it was renamed for a Confederate military hero. The city commissioners could have chosen any open space in Pensacola—like the other Florida Square—so why the Palafox Street location?

Many Pensacolians are aware that Lee Square sits atop Gage Hill, named for British Revolutionary War General Thomas Gage. General Gage was the British Commander-in-Chief in America during the early days of the Revolutionary War when the British began tightening the screws on the Colonists. When the British occupied Pensacola between 1763 and 1781, General Gage built Fort George on the hill because it overlooked Pensacola and its vulnerable fortifications. From its vantage point on the hill, the fort protected the old Spanish fortifications that the British had refurbished for the defense of Pensacola. When the Spanish overwhelmed British forces during a siege in 1781, the Spanish assumed control of the fort and renamed it Fort San Miguel (St. Michael). Then, during the War of 1812 Battle of Pensacola in 1814, the fort was targeted by General Andrew Jackson who led his army against the British and Spanish who were holding Pensacola. Finally, with the British making a hasty retreat from Pensacola, the Spanish surrendered Fort San Miguel to Jackson.

The spot on which Florida Square then R. E. Lee Square was situated was more than a patch of grass; it had been a site of military significance for more than 120 years by the time it was renamed R. E. Lee Square in 1887.