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The History Of Pensacola's Confederate Monument

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media

The Pensacola City Council on Tuesday could vote to remove the Confederate monument. The monument, which rests on Lee Square in Pensacola, was erected in 1891, 26 years after the end of the Civil War.

The monument features three Confederate leaders: Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy who died in 1890; Stephen Mallory, secretary of the Confederate Navy who lived in Pensacola after the war; and Edward Aynesworth Perry, a relatively unknown Confederate general and governor of Florida in the 1880s. Perry was the driving force behind the monument's creation.

WUWF spoke with Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal who researched the history of monument and gave context to the current debate over its future. His story was published June 29.

Here are some highlights from Little’s story and some excerpts from our interview:

A lot of monuments went up right after the war. Many historians agree the monuments erected in the 1890s were an effort to push the “the Lost Cause.” “What the Lost Cause does is an attempt to take a military defeat and interpret it as a cultural victory. That's the essence of the Lost Cause,” said Michael Bulter, a professor of history at Flagler College in St. Augustine. “The Lost Cause proclaims that the South lost the war, but won the peace. White southerners got to reconstruct the region on their terms.”

“When you speak to a lot of historians there really isn’t a lot of division … that this was a very deliberative effort to recast the Civil War into a different narrative.”

“Pensacola at the time after the Civil War was a multicultural city … of 50% African American and 50% white, and the city government was run by a coalition of African Americans, Hispanics and whites.”

William Lees, executive director of the Florida Public Archaeology Network, and co-author Frederick Gaske documented the history of every Confederate Monument in Florida in a 2014 book called "Recalling Deeds Immortal: Florida Monuments to the Civil War."

“Lees and Gaske noted that Pensacola's monument was an example of a ‘Lost Cause’ monument and the first monument to not just soldiers of the war but Confederate leaders at a time when the ‘Lost Cause’ narrative was galvanizing the public's memory of the war.

Reader reaction: “People were just really happy to learn about the history," said Little.

Tom Ninestine is the managing editor at WUWF. He began August 1, 2019. Tom is a native of Geneva, New York, and a 1983 graduate of King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he studied journalism and political science. During a 29-year career in newspapers he worked for the Finger Lakes Times in his hometown; The Daily Item in Sunbury, Pennsylvania; and the Pensacola News Journal from 1998-2016.