A monument to Confederate soldiers that was removed in 2017 from the city of West Palm Beach, Florida has found a new home in Baldwin County, where a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said he hopes it will be protected by the state’s embattled historical monuments law.
Earlier this month, Fort Blakeley Camp 1864, Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), re-dedicated the monument and a stone marker explaining its history at Confederate Rest Cemetery in Point Clear. According to news reports from South Florida, the monument was one of many around the nation targeted by protestors and local governments in the wake of the Charleston church massacre in 2015, where a lone white nationalist shot and killed nine congregants of a black baptist church in a racially motivated attack.
The perpetrator of that crime, Dylann Roof, had previously been pictured with Confederate memorabilia and other symbols tied to white nationalism. The nationwide trend to remove Confederate monuments stepped up in 2017, after racially charged protests in Charlottesville, Virginia culminated with another white nationalist plowing his car through a crowd of anti-fascists, killing one.
In West Palm Beach, the monument dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in 1941 stood in a public cemetery and quickly became the target of vandals. Before the city voted to have it removed, it was spray-painted with the words “NAZI,” “KKK” and “ANTIFA,” while someone also broke off a portion of it with a sledgehammer.
Larry Nelson of Fairhope, a member of Camp 1864, said he was contacted by an acquaintance in Bay Minette with ties to a member of the UDC.
“[The UDC] didn’t want it removed, but it’s my understanding the mayor of West Palm Beach — a woman from up North — had it taken down and put in a warehouse somewhere,” he said. “So they started looking for a place to take it. Florida has no laws protecting monuments and we thought with Alabama’s law it would be safe here, so we started looking for somewhere to relocate it.”
In May, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which requires local governments to obtain state permission before moving or renaming historically significant buildings and monuments that date back 40 years or more.
The bill was written in response to the movement taking place nationwide, but the city of Birmingham also attempted to remove a Confederate monument in Linn Park. Last month, in the moments before he officially retired from the bench, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo overturned the law, arguing it infringes upon a municipality’s right to free speech. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall swiftly appealed and on Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court granted Marshall’s motion to stay Graffeo’s judgment.
But regardless of the case’s outcome, Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa, author of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, said the law as written has no bearing on monuments relocated to Alabama from other states, particularly those on private property.
“If [relocation] becomes a trend, and the law is upheld, a question like that would have to go through a committee,” Allen suggested. “But if it’s on private property, it’s safe.”
When it came to logistics, Nelson said Gary Wolfe of Wolfe-Bayview Funeral Home, who is “sympathetic to Southern monuments,” offered to cover the expenses and labor for the monument’s relocation. The privately owned Confederate Rest Cemetery is managed by the Point Clear Cemetery Association, which entered into an agreement with Camp 1864 to host the monument while Camp 1864 will be responsible for maintaining it.
Two weeks ago, with no media notified in an attempt “to keep the negativity out,” Nelson said Camp 1864 rededicated the monument in front of a crowd of about 100 sympathizers. The spray paint has been removed but the sledgehammer damage remains. The ceremony including a flag raising, musket and cannon fire.
Adorned with an engraving of the Confederate flag, the inscription on the monument reads: “Forever now, among the immortal dead, whose dust belongs to glory’s dreamland, sleeps the fair Confederacy. Right principles can never die, no cause for which the brave have bled in virtue’s name, for which the true have kept their faith, for which the dead have died in holy martyrdom, was ever lost!”
Meanwhile, as Confederate monuments fall around the country, this is the second erected in Baldwin County in the past year.
Last June, Camp 11 of the SCV dedicated a 9-foot-tall marble and granite statue of a Confederate soldier at Fort McDermott in Spanish Fort.
Back at Confederate Rest Cemetery in Point Clear, which is the final resting place for more than 300 southern soldiers who didn’t survive medical treatment at the nearby hotel (now the Grand Hotel), Nelson said it may become home to other Confederate monuments targeted for removal elsewhere.
“We put the word out to anybody else to who has monuments,” he said. “We’d like to bring them here and put them in our cemetery where they will be respected and protected.”
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