Bacon: Take Down the Jefferson Davis Statue, Erect One to Alexander T. Augusta

By James A. Bacon
Cross-posted from

The Richmond Times-Dispatch makes a good recommendation regarding the Civil War statues on Monument Ave: Take down the statue to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.

Society may be too divided to find common ground on this issue, but if compromise is possible, then removing Davis’ statue would be a key element of any settlement. Unlike Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, and Stonewall Jackson, Davis was not a native Virginian. He was an unrepentant advocate of slavery, not conflicted morally in any way. He was not a soldier; he did not uphold martial virtues such as courage, leadership and tactical brilliance on the battlefield. And he did nothing to bind the wounds of the Civil War. There really is nothing good to be said about the man today. His statue should be moved to the Museum of the Confederacy or some such institution for display as a historical artifact.

What would be displayed in Davis’ place? Some have suggested honoring General George H. Thomas, a native Virginian who chose to serve in the Union army and who also distinguished himself during the war. A statue to Thomas would be in keeping with the theme of Civil War generals on Monument Ave, and it would replace a now-universally reviled figure with an admirable one.

An even better candidate would be Lt. Col. Alexander T. Augusta, the highest-ranking African-American to serve in the Union army. Born in Norfolk as a free black, Augusta learned to read while working as a barber. Leaving Virginia, he struggled against discrimination to pursue his goal of becoming a physician. Eventually, he succeeded, and in 1863, he was commissioned as Regimental Surgeon of the Seventh U.S. Colored Troops, an office he served with distinction. After the war, he promoted the self-help movement among former slaves, served as the first black faculty member of the Howard University medical school, and fought discrimination against African-Americans, as can be seen in his Wikipedia profile.

Replacing a statue of Jefferson Davis with one dedicated to Alexander T. Augusta, a military man and an exemplar of many virtues, would preserve the unique character of Monument Ave., eliminate the least defensible of its Confederate statues, and honor an admirable and accomplished African-American who has received less recognition than he deserved.

Combine this idea with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s idea of installing signage to provide the historical context of the remaining statues, and we can avoid blotting out all reminders of a politically incorrect past.

James A. Bacon is a Richmond area-based writer who runs Bacon’s Rebellion, a blog dedicated to in-depth journalism on topics related to state and local government. He is the former publisher and editor-in-chief of Virginia Business magazine, editor of Bacon’s Rebellion newsletter, and author of “Boomergeddon,” a book warning Boomers that an eventual collapse of federal government finances would shred the Social Security and Medicare safety net they are counting on for retirement.

Cover Photo: Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.

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