Tampa’s Confederate Monument is Gone!


On my way to class at the University of Tampa I stopped by the old County Courthouse to check on the Confederate Soldiers Monument.

Here is what I saw:

This is what it used to look like.

The soldier facing to the left marches briskly north to battle, rifle on his shoulder. The soldier facing south, head bandaged, hat in hand rifle dragging at his side, returns defeated and bowed, spirit still proud.

Steve Contorino, the Tampa Bay Times reporter who covered this story’s ups and downs, found reports of the speeches when Hillsborough County accepted this monument from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911. “The keynote speaker, state attorney Herbert S. Phillips, had this to say ‘The South stands ready to welcome all good citizens who seek to make their homes within her borders. But the South detests and despises all, it matters not from whence they came, who, in any manner, encourages social equality with an ignorant and inferior race.'”

Before the Civil War and during its early years, white Southern firebrands were not ashamed to proclaim their cause: Slavery. In Phillips’ statement you can see that by 1911, 45 years after the war, white Southerners knew they had lost the war, but believed they had won the struggle for white supremacy and the suppression of blacks. They were not ashamed of what they believed was a cause that was right and just. They publicly proclaimed the meaning of this and the other monuments.

I played a small part, which I’ve described in earlier blog posts, beginning with my op-ed essay in the Tampa Tribune a year ago calling for this statue to be moved from public property, and including testifying twice before the County Commissioners.

At the first meeting, in June, to consider the matter, the commissioners voted against moving the statue. The next month, the commissioners reversed themselves and voted to move the statue to a private cemetery in Brandon, a town in Hillsborough County. The next month, in August, the commissioners, some of whom evidently really hated the thought of moving this monument to rebellion and the defense of slavery, voted that the monument would only move if proponents of the move could raise $140,000 in the next 24 hours.

To their surprise and chagrin, I surmise, the dedicated GoFundMe page quickly collected the money. Tony Dungee, the beloved former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, contributed $5000 and challenged the local professional teams to contribute. They did. They contributed tens of thousands of dollars through the Chamber of Commerce. The mayor of Tampa contributed $1000.

The week of Labor Day work began after a last-ditch suit to stop removing the statue was dismissed. Of course, work stopped as hurricane Irma approached. As you can see it was mostly completed, only the base remains.

I think this is remarkable. I’m new to Tampa, but I knew about these monuments all over the South. I’m impressed that, Americans, white and black, forward-thinking, favoring equality and justice for all citizens and residents have been able to dismantle these symbols of racism that proclaim an irreconcilable belief in white supremacy.

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Did Black Men Serve in Confederate Armies Part III


A commenter to a post about the Gamble Plantation asserted that many blacks freely served in Confederate armies. This falsehood is widely believed among the “heritage not hate” Confederate monument and flag supporters, neo-Confederates, and some southern educated white Southerners. Some of those who spoke at the recent Hillsborough County Council meetings in favor of preserving the County’s Confederate Soldiers Monument on the Courthouse grounds told this canard to the Commissioners.

I’ve written about this subject in two previous posts, Part I and Part II. In Part II, I described the Cleburne Memorial of January 1864. This proposal, to enlist black men in return for their freedom, by Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, one of the South’s best division commanders, was so scandalous that Jefferson Davis ordered it kept secret, and the Confederate War Department ordered all copies destroyed. A single surviving copy was found decades later in some regimental papers. If the Confederates had been enlisting black men as soldiers Cleburne’s proposal would have been unnecessary. If the enlistment of black men were merely undesired, as it was at the beginning of the war in the North, then the strict secrecy and destruction of all evidence of the proposal would have been unnecessary too. The Confederate government and Confederate armies did not enlist black men.

How did white Southerners, Confederate officials, officers and soldiers view armed black men, such as the soldiers in the United States Colored Troops regiments? They were horrified at the thought. They did not consider them legitimate soldiers worthy of respect due honorable enemies according to the laws of war of that time.

Confederate soldiers were enraged to face black armed men. There are well-known incidents, such as at Ft. Pillow and at the Battle of the Crater, in which Confederate soldiers shot down surrendering black men. But this must have been common, if unremarked. A case I know about is the battle of Olustee, a place in northern Florida. This was the largest battle fought in Florida, which was on no strategic interest to either side. About 5000 Confederates blocked a force of about 5000 U. S. Army troops including regiments of black soldiers. Among those regiments was the famous 54th Massachusetts. This battle was a Confederate victory, and Union forces left the field. Confederate soldiers murdered wounded black men who remained on the field. This fact is not known from official records, of course. But Confederate men described what they did or what they saw in letters home, some of which have survived to be read by historians. Supportive of the reports in these letters is the fact that the ratio of dead Union soldiers to all casualties was much higher than in typical Civil War battles.

Black soldiers who were captured alive might well be sold into slavery with the profits distributed among the rebel regiment’s men. When Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland and Pennsylvania in May 1863, his army sold into slavery any black people, slave or free, who were unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. I can’t say that I’ve read that Lee ordered this, but it could not have taken place without the knowledge of some ranking officers.

President Lincoln promulgated the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Here’s Jefferson Davis’s proclamation in response. It is worth reading this, or reading about it. I’ll just summarize his argument this way. The tyrant Lincoln was encouraging black people to rise up in arms against their legitimate owners. That is, he was encouraging a slave revolt. Indeed, more than encouraging it, he planned to arm the brutal and brutish blacks. This, according to Davis, was an outrage against all civilized Christian society. The Confederacy proposed to try any captured black Union soldiers as if they were slaves in armed revolt against their masters. The penalty for this was death. White officers of black regiments were also threatened with death. You can see this dramatized in Glory, the movie about the 54th Massachusetts. The black soldiers, then in training heard Davis’s proclamation and were offered the opportunity to leave the regiment, as the risks of combat to them were apparently much beyond those normal to soldiers. Lincoln’s response to this was to direct that one Confederate prisoner would be put to hard labor for each captured black man sold. This led to Confederates to ease the treatment of captured blacks somewhat.

In the first years of the Civil War the two sides did not maintain prisoner of war camps. They would exchange captured men, after they signed a parole promising not to return to combat. Of course, many and perhaps most paroled men returned to combat. Confederate armies, however, refused to parole captured black soldiers. All were considered escaped slaves. Those that could not be returned to their masters were nevertheless enslaved. Union forces demanded that all Union soldiers be treated alike and paroled. Negotiations failed to produce an agreement to restore the parole system. Jefferson Davis contributed to these negotiations by pointing out that Confederate armies were under no obligation to return their property in blacks captured from Union armies any more than they’d be expected to return captured horses, mules, or oxen. It was this breakdown of the parole system over Southern insistence that blacks were not legitimate soldiers that led both sides to establish the War’s notorious prisoner of war camps.

Conditions in these camps on both sides were poor, and death rates were high. As the South faced shortages of food, clothing, and material for its armies and citizens Union prisoners were in particularly dire straits. The Confederate prison at Andersonville, where thousands of men were kept without shelter, with inadequate food, and, basically, no medical treatment, was notorious.

Over the course if the war this failure of the parole system worked to the North’s advantage because it had much more manpower available to its armies, while a Confederate prisoner could not be replaced in its forces.

If Confederates at all levels denied the legitimacy of black soldiers in Union armies, they certainly weren’t going to enlist blacks into their own armies. Indeed, they did not do so until the last weeks of the war, in utter desperation for men in arms. The Confederate Congress heatedly debated the matter, with typical sentiments being such as this: If blacks can make good soldiers then our entire theory of this war is wrong. Enlistment was not approved until March, and, so I read, a few dozen slaves were enlisted and began training. But the war ended in April 1865.

If it were the case that many black men freely served, as the commenter asserted, then this debate would have been unnecessary. That these legislative debates and their final outcome occurred demonstrates that before that time, the Confederates did not enlist black men.

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Did Black Soldiers Serve in the Confederate Army? Part II


A commenter responding to one of my essays about the Gamble House asserted that many black soldiers served in the Confederate Army. I cited his remarks in my earlier post of the same title as this one. There I also linked to an essay by a professional historian who wrote about the matter in the New York Times, and to an essay that described the origins of this wildly false claim. Many among the supporters of Confederate monuments, Confederate flags, and many people educated in the South believe this claim.

In my first essay, I included and discussed a photograph of an armed Confederate white officer and an armed black man in Confederate uniform. These pictures of black men in Confederate uniform, of which there are a few, show black slaves brought by their commissioned masters to the army as personal servants. They do not show black Confederate soldiers.

I’m not a professional historian, but I’ve read a lot as an amateur. I have some things to say about this subject beyond my first post.

The Confederate government did not enlist black men, either slaves or freemen, into the Confederate army until a few weeks before the end of the war and only a few dozen at that. Indeed, Southern white people widely feared the possibility of a slave revolt, and most states banned arming slaves.

Consider the remarkable Cleburne memorial, as it is known. In this context, memorial is an old word for what we today might call a memorandum or a white paper. Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne was an Irish immigrant to Arkansas. He was not a slave owner. When Arkansas seceded from the Union, he allied himself with his new compatriots and enlisted in the Confederate armed forces as a private. He had had military experience in Ireland, and he advanced rapidly through the ranks. By January 1864, he was among the Confederacy’s most respected and capable division commanders. Union bullets struck him down among his men in the battle of Franklin in Tennessee, a calamitous Confederate defeat.

July 1863 had seen major Confederate defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The first of these put an end to Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North, and the second opened the Mississippi River to Union traffic to New Orleans and severed the Confederacy’s western states and source of supply from the eastern states. There were other important battles in the western theater in the fall of 1863, such as the bloody battle of Chickamauga, a Confederate victory, and the remarkable Union victory at Chattanooga in a series of battles. Cleburne, a division commander in the Confederate Army of Tennessee, was at both of those battles.

By January 1864, Cleburne concluded that a Confederate defeat was inevitable. The problem was that the North had too many men, and the South too few white men. The North was enlisting free northern blacks, and any escaped slaves who reached Union lines in the South and wished to enlist. The South had about 6 million whites and 4 million black slaves. The North had about 21 million whites, and about half a million black slaves in border states. Since the South did not enlist black men, free or slave, they had to find their fighting men from a population less than a third of that available to the Union. Thus, even a victory such as Chickamauga, the second bloodiest battle in the war after Gettysburg, could not sustain the rebellion. At this point, he prepared his memorial. He obtained the approval of his subordinate divisional commanders, and submitted the document to General Joseph Johnston, Command of the Army of Tennessee, the second most important Confederate Army. General Johnston convened a meeting of his divisional and corps commanders to consider Cleburne’s proposal, that the South enlist blacks in return for their freedom. This proposal was so incendiary and controversial that all those who attended the meeting were sworn to secrecy. The generals in attendance refused to endorse Cleburne’s proposal, and General Johnston refused Cleburne’s request to forward it to the Confederate government in Richmond.

Major General W. H. T. Walker, however, found the proposal so shocking and disgraceful that he forwarded the memorial directly to Jefferson Davis, with the recommendation that it be condemned. General Walker explained

The gravity of the subject, the magnitude of the issues involved, my strong convictions that the further agitation of such sentiments and proposition would ruin the efficiency of our army, and involve our cause in ruin and disgrace constitute my reason for bringing the documents before the Executive.

Jefferson Davis replied

Deeming it to be injurious to the public service that such subject [the employment of slaves as soldiers in the army] should be mooted or even known to be entertained by persons possessed of confidence and respond of the people, I have concluded that the best policy under the circumstances will be to avoid all publicity, and the Secretary of War has therefore written to General Johnston requested him to convey to those concerned my desire that it should be kept private. If it is kept out of the public journals its ill effects will be much lessened.

These quotations are from a University of Kentucky site, linked to above, that includes a copy of Cleburne’s scandalous document. It is worth reading for its 19th century prose, and its facts, analysis, and logic. It should have been persuasive under the circumstances, except that the thought of enlisted black soldiers was contrary to the stated purposes and ideals of the Confederacy. The events surrounding Cleburne’s memorial would make no sense if it were the case that the Confederate government openly enlisted black men into its ranks.

General Walker asserted that to enlist black men would “ruin the efficiency of our army and involve our cause in ruin and disgrace.” Part of white Southerners conviction that they would win their independence by force of arms arose from their ideals of manhood. Only white men could stand shoulder to shoulder with comrades in the face of murderous enemy fire. Only white men could accept the discipline necessary for successful warfare. The low and shiftless black race was, in this way of thinking, only suitable for slavery. Southern whites confidently believed that they far exceeded their Northern former countrymen in this measure so necessary for victory.

Indeed, many Northern white soldiers felt the same way as Southern whites about valiant manhood and blacks. The Union did not enlist black men at the beginning of the war, and once they were enlisted, many Northerners, officers and soldiers did not trust them. Union black soldiers fought in segregated units with white officers. The movie Glory, about the famous 54th Massachusetts regiment, shows the story of one of the earliest Northern black regiments. Slaves who escaped to Union lines after the Emancipation Proclamation went into force in January 1863, could enlist in US Colored Troops Regiments, also segregated with white officers. About 180,000 black men, 8 or 10% of the total Union men in arms, served in these regiments. You can visit the monument to this regiment on Boston Common facing the State House.

In my next post of this subject, I’ll describe the Confederate government’s and Confederate Army’s view of these black Union soldiers, as this also supports the idea that white Southerners did not accept that black men were legitimate soldiers.

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Did black men serve as soldiers in the Confederate Army?


Our post from last December, Why Do the People and Government of Florida Honor Judah P. Benjamin at the Gamble Plantation State Park? has drawn a few comments. Here’s the most recent:

takebackUS (@wc983)

August 15, 2017 at 5:50 am Edit

You do realize many blacks freely served [in] the confederacy and owned slaves. Your rhetoric is boring!!

To this I replied:

Dear takeback,
How would it have been possible for a black slave to “freely” serve in the Confederate army? A slave could not freely do anything.
You are misinformed about black Confederate soldiers. The idea of arming black men was horrifying to Southern white people, to the leaders of the Confederacy, and to Confederate soldiers. The Confederacy only began to enlist black men bearing their owner’s manumission papers, in the final weeks of the war out of desperation. Only a few dozen were enlisted, and they did not take part in combat.
I’ll write a blog post about this for you and our readers.

Here’s the promised blog post. Continue reading


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Arctic Sea Ice Extent: Sprucing up a Chart


This important and useful chart was on the National Snow and Ice Data Center site on August 8, 2017:

But I found it unusually hard to read. Here is my spruced-up version:

No more hard-to-read vertical text. Zero-based, thus enabling one immediately to see how much lower the extent was in 2012 and is projected to be in 2017. Date of measurement prominent in the title area. Labels close to their items, so the eye doesn’t have to travel back and forth to interpret. Percentage of total ocean area on the left axis, as opposed to square km values in the original, for which one would have to know that the Arctic Ocean’s total area is 14m+ square km in order to realize that the ice extent remains nearly 100% at the start of May.

To me, the original’s main errors were 1) not being zero-based, which forces you to imagine the full picture in order to grasp the real meaning, and 2) expressing measured ice area on the left axis instead of % of total Arctic Ocean area, forcing you to look elsewhere to find out how full or empty the Arctic Ocean actually was/is of sea ice. A basic rule of user interface design is, “Don’t Make Me Think!” unnecessarily. That’s the title of my favorite user-interface book, written lightly and gracefully by Steve Krug and well worth a read.


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Tampa to Move Its Confederate Soldiers Monument

Hillsborough County’s Commissioners voted to move the Confederate Soldiers Monument from in front of the Courthouse Annex to a private cemetery in Brandon, a nearby county town. This reverses the decision they voted for just a month ago. That vote was 4-3 to keep the monument. This one was 4-2 to move it, with one of the previous keep it voters not present and another switching sides.

Ordinarily, the Commissioners set aside an hour for public comments. Each speaker gets 3 minutes. Today, more than 100 citizens wished to speak on this issue. The first 30 or so were given 2 minutes each and the rest 1 minute. Alas. It still took nearly 3 hours for everyone to have their say.

It turns out that in the month since the last meeting, the Commissioners had been seeking a suitable new location, and, it turns out, that one fellow, who likes the monument but agrees that it doesn’t belong on public property, offered to raise the funds. Evidently, he began a GoFundMe campaign with a significant contribution.

In the previous meeting, I’d judge that supporters and opponents were split fairly evenly, but slightly more for removing the monument. Today, however, those 120 speakers, of whom I heard about 2/3rds, were 9 to 1 in favor of moving the monument.

It also turns out that Tampa’s mayor and its city council spoke out against the monument, and the owners of two of the professional teams, the Rays and the Bucs, spoke out against it.

Here’s my prepared testimony. I gave the commission copies of my prepared remarks, although I had to leave out plenty in my one minute. It was hard to decide which of my golden words to omit.

The divisive and racist monument honoring only those Florida Civil War soldiers who fought for the Confederacy should be given back to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It should be removed from public property.

Hillsborough County should create a new memorial to all the soldiers from Florida who fought in the Civil War. This includes the 2000 white men, loyal to the United States, who fought in the First and Second Florida Calvary regiments, and the more than 5000 black men, former slaves who escaped from their owners and served in United States Colored Troops regiments. The purpose of the people who created this monument, and of the County officials of 100 years ago, and of today’s monument supporters, was and is to erase these loyal soldiers from history.

These days, the monument’s supporters say that to remove the monument would be to erase history and dishonor their ancestors who were only fighting to defend their homes.

Consider actual history, as written by many modern historians.

Florida’s Confederate soldiers were not defending their homes. The United States Army did not attack homes in Florida. The state was a strategic backwater, and while the Union forces took control of Jacksonville, and maintained control of Key West, Pensacola, and a few other places along the coast, they avoided seizing ground from the insurgents.

Most Florida Confederate regiments fought as part of the Army of Tennessee and the Army of Northern Virginia. They were not defending their homes in Florida. Indeed, they took part in invasions of Kentucky, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

While Union armies did not attack Florida homes, the Confederate army under command of General P. G. T. Beauregard burned Pensacola in 1862. That is, the Confederates burned Florida homes. The Union did not. (Commissioner White, New Orleans had a monument to Gen. Beauregard, the man who ordered the destruction of Pensacola, until recently.)

Confederate soldiers were angered to face black soldiers in Union regiments. Confederate armies did not treat captured black soldiers as prisoners of war to be exchanged, but sold them into slavery. Often, Confederate soldiers shot black soldiers attempting to surrender or lying wounded on the battlefield. After the largest battle fought in Florida, the 1864 Battle of Olustee, Confederate soldiers killed wounded black Union soldiers who remained on the battle field. Erasing this from history, I doubt that modern day re-enactors re-enact this war crime.

As this bloody war has been over for 150 years, Hillsborough County can include Confederate soldiers in a monument to all of Florida’s Civil War soldiers, but it is historically and morally wrong, divisive and racist to only honor white Confederate soldiers.

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Trump and His True Believers


I’ve sent you the below quotes from Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer before. I read them again today in light of having experienced 6 months of Trump in power. If Hoffer is right — and FWIW I for one think he is, given his experiences with Nazism and similar movements — then Trump is a classic instance of a mass-movement leader. But I think Trump fails in one key aspect and therein lies reason for hope. Read on.

“It is futile to judge the viability of a new movement by the truth of its doctrine and the feasibility of its promises. What has to be judged is its corporate organization for quick and total absorption of the frustrated. … The man just out of the army is an ideal potential convert, and we find him among the early adherents of all contemporary mass movements. He feels alone and lost in the free-for-all of civilian life.”

“… deprecation of the present, a facility for make-believe, a proneness to hate, a readiness to imitate, credulity, a readiness to attempt the impossible, and many others which crowd the minds of the intensely frustrated are, as we shall see, unifying agents and prompters of recklessness.”

“The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ.”

“Strength of faith, as Bergson pointed out, manifests itself not in moving mountains but in not seeing mountains to move.”

“There is an illiterate air about the most literate true believer.”

“The fanatic cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to his reason or moral sense.”

[Characteristics of the mass-movement leader] “Exceptional intelligence, noble character and originality seem neither indispensable nor perhaps desirable. The main requirements seem to be: audacity and a joy in defiance; an iron will; a fanatical conviction that he is in possession of the one and only truth; faith in his destiny and luck; a capacity for passionate hatred; contempt for the present; a cunning estimate of human nature; a delight in symbols (spectacles and ceremonials); unbounded brazenness which finds expression in a disregard of consistency and fairness; a recognition that the innermost craving of a following is for communion and that there can never be too much of it…”

[The characteristic that I don’t see in Trump] “… a capacity for winning and holding the utmost loyalty of a group of able lieutenants. This last faculty is one of the most essential and elusive.”

“The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world. Charlatanism of some degree is indispensable to effective leadership. There can be no mass movement without some deliberate misrepresentation of facts.”

About the reason for hope, Trump’s advisers and lieutenants seem loyal but not capable. Think of the chaotic rollout of the first attempted ban on Muslims. It’s easy to undo and break things, difficult to design and build useful new things. What useful new thing has this group invented or created or accomplished in its first 6 months, or even begun in earnest on? Nothing I know of.

The talking heads on liberal television, for example Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, harp endlessly on the twisting of facts and gross unfairness of statements and opinions and so forth coming from Trump and his supporters. But I think the commentators miss the point and end up only reinforcing Trump by talking incessantly about the man. You’ve said it several times: shut up, go heads down, flood the polls in 2018, and throw out the bums. Unfortunately we can’t throw out Gorsuch. He will poison our lives from here on.


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