And then there were none. You might have missed it, but the last known Confederate monument in Southern California has been removed from public view. The memorial had been placed along Highway 99 near Bakersfield almost 80 years ago by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, whose specialty was sponsoring monuments to white supremacy across the nation. The unassuming commemorative plaque was part of a bizarre plan to celebrate Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States, as "Father of National Highways." Three weeks ago, the 800-pound marker was hauled off to a weedy outdoor storage area and fenced off from public view behind the Kern County Museum.
While Confederate statues and monuments around the nation get removed, defaced, covered up or toppled, some new memorials are being erected by people who insist their only purpose is to honor the soldiers who died for the South. Supporters of these new Civil War monuments describe a determination to hold onto their understanding of history. "What I want to get across is how much the South suffered, not only through the war but after the war, during the Reconstruction years," David Coggins said. His Confederate Veterans Memorial Park in Brantley, Ala., dedicated a memorial to unknown Alabama Confederate soldiers in September.
The adage holds that history is written by the victors, but, as the masked, bulletproof-vested municipal workers who assembled in New Orleans at three o'clock in the morning on Confederate Memorial Day might attest, the most indelible version of the American past was authored by those who lost the Civil War. The workers were there to remove an obelisk dedicated to the Crescent City White League and the Battle of Liberty Place, in 1874. Clashes over American history are typically fought with duelling sets of footnotes and the subjective shade of historiographic essays. This one, which involved death threats issued to the mayor and the contractors bidding on the project, risked being fought using tools with considerably higher stopping power. Four monuments in all, including those memorializing Robert E. Lee, P. G. T. Beauregard, and Jefferson Davis, were slated to be removed, and on Sunday protests and counter-protests broke out over the removal.
Even after the last of the Trumpist mob was driven from the Capitol last week, more than a dozen insurrectionists still occupied what President-elect Joe Biden calls America's "citadel of liberty." Monuments to 10 Confederate soldiers and officials stand within the National Statuary Hall Collection, along with several other rebel portraits and busts throughout the building. Being carved in stone and cast in bronze, these rebels can no longer physically damage American interests, as did their spiritual descendants last Wednesday. But as long as they remain, the statues will continue to send a deeply destructive message: Sedition against the U.S. government is cause for celebration. It was a message that Trump's rioters embraced.