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.

  • David Obermark

    Let’s just tear down ALL the monuments. Every monument constructed offends SOMEBODY. Tear them all down so nobody is offended by any monument.

    Enough about this monument nonsense. Let us settle things by taking dynamite to all of them. Will that satisfy you and will you then shut up?

  • See this will be unacceptable to many of the “heritage not hate” crowd too, because it apparently really is about hate.
    The only purpose of honoring Davis is to commemorate and honor the CSA and the cause it fought for, that cause being slavery.
    Davis had no high minded sense of home and country when he encouraged his state of mississippi to secede, it was to protect and preserve the institution of slavery. The same was true of every other state that seceded. They all explicitly said so in their articles of secession. Some of the Generals may have had such reasons but not the men who served in the CSA’s ruling government.

    • Bird

      What you say might have merit if this were actually about the statues, but it isn’t. If it weren’t statues it would be something else, because it’s the fight between factions in the culture war that drives it.

      • Oh so we all need to support a Jeff Davis statue because “the Culture War”?
        Pretty sure doing that will only make it more likely you guys lose your culture war but whatever have fun dying on that hill.

        • Eric McGrane

          They were also attacking Joan of Arc and friggin’ Columbus statues too. Joan.Of.Arc. Keep covering your eyes to what’s really happening. This has nothing to do confederate history. It has everything to do with eliminating Western culture entirely.

          • Can you give a single good reason why there should be statues to Jefferson Davis anywhere outside of Mississippi?
            Or even at all?
            Removing Jeff Davis is not going to result in removing Washington, Joan of Arc, or Columbus, precisely because each of those individuals have good reasons for remaining in places of honor, reasons Jeff Davis lacks.

          • Eric McGrane

            Your question is inconsequential. The statues exist. I’m not the one suggesting that action be taken to alter current status. Its the people wanting to destroy historical monuments responsibility to make their case. I guess you’re not too informed of the whole “slippery slope” concept. I’ll say it again: This has nothing to do with confederate history. Did something change from August of last that somehow increased the racism coefficient of the stone that comprises the monuments? Weird.

          • Downstater

            Union and Rev. War soldier statues have also been attacked. And Confederate ordinary soldiers graves desecrated. This is driven by mob mentality at this point.

        • Bird

          No, we need to support tax cuts and ignore this stupid BS. Nobody has to die on that hill if they go fight on a different one. You’re letting the media set the Republican agenda by engaging in this BS. They’ve convinced you that you have to have an answer for this, instead of you convincing them that they have to have an answer to tax cuts.

          • Bird

            Btw, your feeling you need to respond to accusations of racism, etc, is because you believe its true. If they told you to stop having pink hair you would roll your eyes and think they were morons, you wouldn’t feel the need to argue the point.

          • The fact you guys feel the need to fight a decision to remove Jeff Davis strongly suggests accusations of racism are in fact true.
            Unless you can give me a Davis centric reason for keeping the statue?

          • David Obermark

            If the Jefferson Davis monument must be removed, the same justification can be used to demolish the Washington and Jefferson monuments and Mount Rushmore.

            The anti-monument anarchists are already demanding the removal of Christopher Columbus monuments.

          • What justification? Washington and Jefferson weren’t traitors to their country.

          • David Obermark

            That Davis, Lee and Jackson were traitors is NOT the justification given for why their monuments should be removed. Washington and Jefferson match up with the justification that is given.

          • Bird

            I just think the whole idea of removing civil war statues is stupid. It doesn’t have anything to do with feelings about racism one way or the other .. it’s just dumb. Apparently most Americans agree with me.

    • David Obermark

      midwest, I agree with you about the reason the Confederate states seceded. But what about the justification for removing monuments?

      Monument haters are starting to protest against Christopher Columbus monuments. What is after that? Mount Rushmore and the Washington and Jefferson monuments?

      Will even the Gateway Arch in St Louis be off limits? After all, it glorifies the westward expansion of white men who subjugated prairie Native Americans. Must we remove this monument too?

      Do not accuse me of exaggerating, I previously mentioned protests against Christopher Columbus.

      It is like like the whole argument with gay marriage. It started with same sex marriage rights and they won. It started with gay marriage, now it gets to allowing men into women’s restrooms. They started off with LGBT rights and now what we is arguing over is rights for LGBTQIAPK. They keep adding letters. Once you open the floodgates, there is no stopping the flood waters.

      • Downstater

        Agreed, they will never be happy. It will only set more precedent for removing the rest of the monuments.

  • Bird

    It’s a waste of time to try to figure out a practical solution to a nonsensical argument. It’s like trying to figure out logically how to create an agreement between people who are fighting about whether or not the man in the moon eats the cheese that the moon is made of, or if he abstains.

  • Eric McGrane

    Piss off. Leave the damn monuments alone. None of these were any problem until hard leftists instructed ignorant sheep/followers to be outraged. This suddenly became an issue in 2017, huh?

  • Downstater

    Who the freak was Alexander T. Augusta? (No, I didn’t read the article).

  • Downstater

    They want “Context”. How about we put a Yuge sign under Davis’ monument that says “Best Democrat President Ever”.

  • Jerel C. Wilmore
  • EMBuckles

    Actually, after the Civil War Davis became President of an insurance company in Tennessee. He was offered to become President of Texas A&M University, as it is now named, but declined the offer. Mississippi wanted to send him back to the US Senate as a US Senator but the northerners in it would not let them. In his later years he strongly urged reconciliation and peace. Prior to the war he had been US Secretary of War (predecessor of the Secretary of Defense) and had been a US Senator.

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