Mayor responds to inquiries about context of confederate memorial
Mayor Nancy E. Shaver
Special to Historic City News
I try with every vote I take to do the right thing to represent our town; and in this case, to consider those who lived here in the past and those who will come in the future. I did considerable homework so that I could review the recommendation thoughtfully.
I did not watch the Committee meetings –because reviewing the result, not the effort (which was considerable, and I am grateful for that) was our task. And I tried to put myself in the place of a first-time visitor to the memorial. Context has a pretty simple meaning in this case; clarifying the influences of the time so a visitor can better understand what they are looking at and interpret it for themselves, like any other monument or memorial on our Plaza.
This means to me that any explanation had to communicate clearly and crisply in a couple of hundred words (not the 600 proposed) as do the other markers. The example we saw at the October city commission meeting when we approved contextualization was exactly that. What I saw in the recommendation did not achieve that end. It seemed both overreaching and incomplete.
Here are a few of the gaps I saw:
- Explaining the memorial itself; the lightning strike, the first war memorial in public space, the broken column (I never knew about that until someone explained it to me years ago and you can’t readily see it from the ground)
- Closing the gap in recognition of the black dead from the Civil War; 12 Union dead, and 3 Confederate as I understand it. (A separate plaque-another memorial?) Our Plaza contains the names of all war dead from our town except these men and I feel strongly that they need to be added to our public space.
- Describing the time; St Augustine in the Civil War was a frontier town of about 3000, of which an estimated 500 went to war on both sides, a mix of Menorcans (3 generations themselves removed from indentured servitude), Spanish, Blacks who were both enslaved and free.
We define ourselves by history, and history is rarely simple or pretty. But our task, as I saw it, was to provide information so that each person could experience the memorial with an understanding of its time and place.
I do hope the matter will be reconsidered.