Future of SA’s Confederate Statue Still Uncertain One Year After Its Removal

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Courtesy / Ben Olivo / Folo Media

A crane lowers the Travis Park statue of a Confederate soldier onto a truck for removal in the early hours of Sept. 1, 2017.

One year after the Confederate monument in Travis Park was removed, a decision about its destiny remains in the early stages.

Two lawsuits over the statue’s removal are pending, according to City spokeswoman Thea Setterbo. City officials have declined to provide specifics about where the statue is currently being stored.

“We are currently in litigation in lawsuits filed by two separate groups challenging the City’s ownership of the memorial,” Setterbo said. “All components of the memorial have been stored in the secure location until the lawsuits are resolved.”

The two groups are the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of the Confederacy.

The monument featured an unnamed Confederate soldier standing atop of a square pillar. The 40-foot tall monument also bore the inscription "Lest We Forget Our Confederate Dead." City Council voted 10-1 to take the monument down and put it into temporary storage after hours of citizen testimony on Aug. 31. At 1 a.m. the following day, workers wearing masks to cover their faces loaded the statue onto a truck with its company logo obscured.

Who owns the statue?

The San Antonio branch of the Daughters of the Confederacy, the Albert Johnston Sidney chapter, originally sued the City last year after it took the statue down. In its lawsuit, the organization claims the City violated its members’ right to due process when it removed the statue without consulting the Daughters. The Daughters also assert the statue’s removal violates their First Amendment right to free speech.

The Daughters also sued the City over ownership of a time capsule embedded in the monument’s cornerstone. A week ago, U.S. District Judge David Ezra ordered the Daughters and the City to find an expert archivist to examine and preserve the contents of the time capsule, which the Daughters of the Confederacy maintain have significant historical and monetary value. The time capsule is being stored in the City's climate-controlled archival room.

Chapter president Robin Terrazas said the Daughters consider the monument their property since they funded it and erected it in 1900. The year before, Terrazas said, the City Council of San Antonio granted them the use of Travis Park through an official city ordinance.

“We are still maintaining it belongs in Travis Park because we were given the ordinance in 1899,” Terrazas said. “It was never revoked, that remains the rightful place for it.”

President of the Albert Sidney Johnston Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy Robin Terrazas.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Robin Terrazas, president of the Albert Sidney Johnson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, is suing the City over the removal of the Confederate monument.

No time limit was established in the 1899 ordinance, so the Daughters should be able to continue using Travis Park to display the statue, said Thomas Crane, the attorney representing the local Daughters chapter.

“We interpret what the City did as giving [the Daughters] an easement or a license,” Crane said.

Crane said the discovery process of the lawsuit – when lawyers gather evidence – will not be over until late September. October is the earliest a trial date could be set, he said.

The meaning of Confederate monuments

William Dupont, who teaches historic preservation at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said he has used this Confederate monument as a teaching lesson for his graduate students.

“It highlights the issues of what we call value-led management of cultural resources,” Dupont said. “It’s a design approach, to consider and have an open discussion about what are we prioritizing and which values are most important to contemporary society.”

St. Mary's University history professor Teresa Van Hoy acknowledged the monument commemorates many things but stressed that the meanings ascribed to it cannot be cherry-picked. It was erected less than 40 years after the Civil War, so people still had personal ties to the Confederacy, she said. A daughter may see the statue as a remembrance of a father lost in the war.

“Her sorrow and her pain, and the love for the South and the cause her daddy died for — nobody can deny her that,” Van Hoy said. “That is real and beautiful, a daughter’s love for her father.

The Confederate monument raises 40 feet above the ground and is centered directly in the middle of Travis Park in downtown San Antonio.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Before its removal one year ago, the 40-foot Confederate monument stood in Travis Park in downtown San Antonio.

“For other people, [the statue] means other things. The Confederacy explicitly endorsed slavery. For other people, that statue there is somebody who fought to keep them and their ancestors enslaved. That’s also real, and that can’t be denied, either.”

Much of historic preservation is contentious, Dupont said. He gave the example of buildings up for demolition. There are always two camps, he said – someone advocating to save it, and someone saying it’s better for the public good for the building to be removed.

“It’s complicated, because it’s a continual process of considering what’s important to society,” Dupont said. “Sometimes, things that are important aren’t always good or bad, they’re just history. They’re lessons we need to understand, and they’re in the tangible built environment.”

Terrazas said she sees the statue as a history lesson for San Antonio.

“The point of it going up in the first place was to honor and remember Confederate soldiers who lost their lives,” Terrazas said. “It’s not, as some people say, there to promote racism. That was never part of it. It is there to remind us of things we don’t want to see happen again as well.”

Van Hoy disagreed. The Confederacy, the cause that this statue commemorates, saw slaves as subhuman, she said.

“In the end, my basic view is if anything ever denied anybody's humanity, it doesn’t deserve to represent Texas,” she said. “And the Confederacy, in its very constitution, it denied the humanity of enslaved peoples. I just don’t see how Texans can think that that’s how they want to be represented on public land.”

23 thoughts on “Future of SA’s Confederate Statue Still Uncertain One Year After Its Removal

  1. The view of Africans as inferior (I don’t think subhuman is correct) was hardly unique to the Confederacy. Remember, Providence. RI was the center of the slave trade, some slaveholding states (e.g. Delaware and Maryland) were not in the Confederacy (their slaves were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation), and 60 percent of the electorate voted against Lincoln. Van Hoy takes an extreme position.

    • Bring all confederate monuments down everywhere
      and place them in a museum,and any natural monument like stone mountain
      erase them.

    • Providence outlawed the slave trade without going to war though. The Confederacy, as we know from their secession documents, waged war on Union at the mere threat of it’s cessation. This isn’t an extreme position, your denial of their actual position is the extreme one.

  2. You forgot to mention that the city broke the statue. We can only expect that they will completely destroy the Spirit of Sacrifice in their efforts to erase history.

  3. The soul-numbing institution of slavery was important to the agricultural South just as the mind- and body-numbing institution of factory work was to the industrial North. Joseph Campbell suggested the story of Cain and Able can be viewed as the story of the agrarian culture versus the hunter-gatherer society. Modernity wins. In like manner, if one views the war between the states as the battle between the economy of crops and farmland versus the profits of the industrial revolution, the fight of brother against brother takes on a new meaning. Modernity wins again.
    Hundreds of statues across the North commemorate the memory of Civil War participants. They were erected, like hundreds of monuments across the South, around 1900. Many historians believe the reunification of Northerners and Southerners as comrades-in-arms during the Spanish-American War prompted these memorials. The dedication of these edifices were attended by veterans of the North and South alike in a spirit of national reconciliation.
    The area around Washington, D.C., has dozens of memorials to recall the men and women associated with the Civil War. Actually, thousands — if you include the monuments to members of the Grand Army of the Republic buried in the lawn surrounding the Robert E. Lee Memorial. Many people may not know that in June 1900, Congress authorized a hill in Arlington National Cemetery be set aside for the burial of Southerners who fought in the Civil War. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson spoke at the dedication of a Confederate Memorial in Arlington.
    If our federal government has no compunction about remembering all Americans, North and South, who served in the Civil War, perhaps we could ask our national legislators if we could move the Travis Park memorial of “Our Confederate Dead” to a place at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. And then, finally, perhaps we could let the participants of the Civil War rest in peace.

  4. Nothing changes in society except the words of the guilty. One oppressed group rises up to oppress another. Whether it’s call “Diversity”, “Social Justice”, “political correctness”, or whatever the latest term is, it’s still used for vengeance, and to deny civil rights to a targeted group. Cultural and racial genocide (and some cases suicide) is happening in the US, Europe, South Africa, and has already happened in Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa all in the name of “social justice” (aka vengeance). This present day evil is called good and just by it’s promoters. It will take a few generations to see the evil in this time as it did for us to see passed evil.

    • Manifest destiny is what the European oppressors called it all over the world to justify taking what indigenous peoples
      already had rights to,and you call it revenge,it’s justice.

      • Yep. Been going on for like forever. Just like the Comanches who took the land from the Apaches, and the Apaches who took it from the Coahualitecans, who took it from whoever and so on. Or the Mongols who took half the known world from whoever was in the way. Get a grip.

  5. Don’s citing of Woodrow Wilson as supporting reconciliation with the Confederacy is apt. As president, Wilson presided over the segregation of Black workers in the federal government, including separate eating facilities and separate toilets. When prominent civil rights leader William Monroe Trotter, who had endorsed Wilson’s candidacy after a favorable meeting with him, finally got a White House meeting to protest the segregation, Wilson threw him and his delegation out after instructing them that the segregation was intended to help blacks by shielding them from White racism. Wilson was clear: “Wilson said that his cabinet officers ‘were seeking, not to put the Negro employees at a disadvantage but … to make arrangements which would prevent any kind of friction between the white employees and the Negro employees.’ Trotter found the claim astonishing, and immediately disagreed, calling Jim Crow in federal offices humiliating and degrading to black workers. But Wilson dug in. ‘My question would be this: If you think that you gentlemen, as an organization, and all other Negro citizens of this country, that you are being humiliated, you will believe it. If you take it as a humiliation, which it is not intended as, and sow the seed of that impression all over the country, why the consequence will be very serious,’ he said.” (Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 2015)
    In other words, if Blacks saw the action as racist, that was their problem. This is exactly the argument that those who would use public space to celebrate those who fought for the system of slavery use to discount those who are offended by it.
    And if you buy the argument that the war wasn’t about slavery, you need to read the actual reasons given by delegates to the Texas convention that ratified Secession: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ref/abouttx/secession/2feb1861.html
    It’s not for the faint of heart. A sample: “That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.”

    • Don’s words were “in a spirit of national reconciliation”. What you said was “Wilson as supporting reconciliation with the Confederacy”, it carries a different meaning. Don’s words seem to be about bringing us together as a whole. Yours seem to carry the meaning of Wilson giving positive acknowledgement to the Confederate cause, and every evil that came forth as a result. It read like “yeah he would do that”. Not trying to speak for him or for you, just my interpretation of the obvious difference between what both of you said.

      I believe Don was suggesting that the erecting of statues was a symbolic shaking of hands after the fight, more so an acknowledgement of American fratricide if you will, that we should give nod to one another out of respect for the blood shed and great loss on both sides, but not as a positive nod to the cause of slavery or the later segregation supported by Wilson’s administration. For his time, Wilson was actually known as a idealist progressive Democrat supporting labor rights and (trying and failing) to prevent further world wars. He worked to establish an income tax on higher incomes and also worked to build the League of Nations. Let’s not paint the canvas with a single swift brush stroke and call it a portrait.

      Wilson was also a young boy during the Civil War, born in Virginia. I can only imagine that in his mind the monuments were to bring a sense of closure to that traumatic episode in our past, in his past, but not to signal his support for the Confederacy. More a signal to support the losses that both sides suffered, including his own, recognizing that ‘those people over there’ are actually still ‘our people here’, all of those who fought as actually being a part of one body at war with itself, mending those people back together as one nation.

      My McFarland/MacFarlane forefathers were immigrants to both the North and the South during the Civil War era. Some had left Scotland 100 years previous and moved to Ireland, and then fled famine to the USA. Those directly from Scotland came to the Carolinas and fought for the South. Others ended up in Nova Scotia and the North. Do you really think they came over here with the intent to fight for slavery? Really didn’t have to do with slavery for them, but ironically fleeing oppression and famine in their own homelands. Trying to start again as immigrants and some as first generation Americans. If they wanted to build something new in America, they had to take part in the American causes, usually depending on where the boat landed. So they fought, and they fought one another. Their role in battle, I don’t believe for a second, was not to support an institution that they had nothing to do with building or taking part in for generations as many had. I’m not praising them for fighting for the South, but I’m not ashamed of them either. I don’t mind honoring them today. You can spit on our legacy of supporting the ‘wrong side’ of history if you like, but I rather like the acknowledgement and that we honor one another as we become one country again, one body, and as we heal as a family.

      If you really want to point fingers for slavery in the Americas and discuss who is to blame historically, who we shouldn’t be constantly honoring, look at the Spanish and the Portuguese. Perhaps the African kings who were willing to round up and sell their own people in an attempt to compete with the riches of other African kingdoms. Perhaps to the Islamic caliphates previously establishing a tradition of slavery in both Spain and in Africa alike even centuries before them. They all played a role in this. They lived and died in support of slavery. The first bloodshed of slavery which initially fell and dropped into the water may have rippled outward to the Anglos of the South but the droplet which caused the ripple was far from them. The blood of slaves in the Americas stains the hands of many different peoples in many different nations, over many centuries, and of all colors. I always find it interesting where we draw the line as a starting point, especially here in San Antonio when we focus on merely the last 300 years (ref Mr. Seale’s podcast), it always seems to have a political foundation, and it reeks of partisan politics.

      I see the tearing down of these statues as not an attempt to heal as one body, but as creating a newly revived divide. A new tearing apart of our country in a desire to shame one group so that the other may dominate. I don’t think it is justice or social justice, but a political move to cause division and create an enemy where there isn’t one in order to gain votes and establish a new type of supremacy, and it has the ring to it of cultural fascism.

  6. Of course the war was about slavery, an institution protected by the.Constitution. Slave holders had rights to their property; northern states sought to deprive citizens of those rights by refusing to enforce laws such as the fugitive slave laws. The war was also about the right of secession. Southern states were not the first to claim such a right. So, slave holders were upholding the Constitution while northern states (including some slave holding states) said screw the Condtitution, you’ll do as we say. BTW slaves in northern slaveholding states were not freed until the Constitutiin was amended by enactment if the 13th Amendment.

  7. Of course, the Civl war was about slavery. But, just as certain is that most Confederate soldiers did not fight for slavery. What person would endure the hardships they did endure for material gain? How many of your buddies would you watch die of pneumonia before you decide you have had enough? How many times would you tramp through the snow with rags for shoes before you decide you have had enough? Those memorials and statues are memorials. They were supported by Union and Confederate veterans. The nation came together to erect those memorials, North and South. The current move to remove those memorials “undoes” much of that work to bring the country together.

  8. As a person of mixed origins, I appreciate all that my father’s ancestors endured. They came in chains, and they were rounded up, slaughtered, and the remnants of a once great people were deposited on small patches of land in the Dakotas.

    As a veteran, I also understand that each Soldier takes on his own battles when he (or she) decides to pick up arms. The Civil War wasn’t about 1 thing, or even two things. There were many components that lead to the Civil War, and to point at one single item is not only naive, it demonstrates that in this great age of information, if one chooses to do so, it demonstrates their lack of being willing to understand. Those were different times. Our country has come so very far. Those monuments don’t remind me of oppression, it reminds me of how desperate people were to lay down their lives for an ideal. It also reminds me just how far our great country has come. And if things didn’t happen exactly how they happened, none of us would be here.

    Put the statue back. The repairs need to come out of the personal pockets of each of the council members who voted to move it, and out of Sculley’s pockets. The statue didn’t belong to the city.

  9. I left out an important element of my earlier post. Also at play was that the North and South had totally different world views. The author SC Gwynne focuses on the John Brown affair.

    The rabid John Brown chopped up a family that did not think the way he did about abolition and then, with financial support from northerners, moved on to Harpers Ferry. His objective was to institute a slave revolt in which the slaves, as they did in the Carribean, rise up and kill all the whites they could lay their hands on. Well, it didn’t work out for John. He was captured and sentenced to hanging and there was no uprising.

    At the moment of his hanging, church bells throughout the north pealed in honor of their hero.

    So here’s the South looking at this. Hey, we have slaves, sure, but in that we are protected by the Constitution, we are not breaking any law. But you Yankees make a hero out of guy who would have us all killed at the hands of our property, you refuse to obey the laws regarding the return of fugitive property, and you don’t give a hoot about the Constitution. You know what? We’re leaving.

  10. The people who desire to destroy monuments are no better than anti history terrorist and they like the past muslim zelots or nazis , are just as evil.and should be jailed and hunted down by all good men.to preserve truth, justice and honor God bless America.

    • Wow! Finally, someone hit on the REAL truth about taking away history!
      What we are seeing today are two extream groups tearing everything apart. The brown coats (all but Perry and Brockhouse) aka SA City Council, Mayor, and City Manager decide what is to go and what is to stay. When will we have to burn our history book collections?

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