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.