Confederate Park: 1914, Springfield
(Ennis Davis, AICP)
Location In 1914, 8,000 Confederate veterans camped in what was then named Dignan Park for a national reunion. The City of Jacksonville commemorated the event by renaming the grounds Confederate Park. The park, which previously hosted an Iowa Volunteer Infantry regiment during the Spanish American War, was originally named for Peter A. Dignan, the city’s first Director of Public Works and later the local Postmaster. The fact that Dignan was a progressive, northern-born Catholic may have contributed to the decision to strip his name from the park. The Sons of Confederate Veterans erected a marker commemorating the Confederate reunion and renaming.
Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy: 1915, Confederate Park, Springfield
Location A year after the renaming of Confederate Park, the local United Confederate Veterans chapter erected this monument to the women of the Confederacy. It features an aesthetically pleasing neoclassical marble pavilion with a statue of a Southern woman reading to her two children. A triumphant flag bearer tops the pavilion, while cannons facing north to the Union enemy flank the area. With this monument, Jacksonville’s Civil War memorials moved from primarily commemorating local soldiers to celebrating the Confederacy; here it commends women across the Confederate states who “who sacrificed their all upon country’s altar.”
Kirby-Smith Middle School: 1923, Springfield
Location Originally named Edmund Kirby-Smith Junior High School, this was the first school in Jacksonville named for a Confederate, and the second named for a Civil War figure after Edwin M. Stanton. Unlike most other local schools named for Civil War figures, Edmund Kirby-Smith was a local, born in St. Augustine. He achieved fame as the only Confederate full general to come from Florida, and served at the First Battle of Bull Run and later in the trans-Mississippi theater of the Civil War.
Robert E. Lee High School: 1927, Riverside
Location In 1927, the growing county decided to replace Downtown’s overcrowded school for white students, Duval High School, with three new schools in the surrounding neighborhoods: Andrew Jackson in Brentwood, Robert E. Lee in Riverside, and Julia M. Landon in South Jacksonville (present-day San Marco). Lee is the only one of the three with no local connection - the city is named for Jackson, and Julia Landon was a prominent figure in Jacksonville’s education system. However, the choice of the leading Confederate general was not remotely controversial to white Southerners in the 1920s; Lee was a widely popular figure thanks to his military prowess, personal reputation, and post-war reconciliation work. After his death he was a major source of Confederate nostalgia; across the South many schools and institutions were named for Lee, and many monuments were dedicated to him.
Line of Intrenchments Marker: 1931, Downtown - LaVilla
Placed in 1931 by the Jacksonville Historical Society, this marker commemorates the Union presence in Jacksonville from 1862-1865. However, the text is not entirely clear. It references two infantry regiments that participated in the third Union occupation of Jacksonville in March 1863, the 8th Maine and the 6th Connecticut, but the “Line of Intrenchments” appears to refer to the wooden wall that Union forces built around the city during the fourth and final occupation in 1864. This wall ran from McCoys Creek to Hogans Creek, encircling most of what is now the Downtown Northbank and LaVilla. The plaque represents an early attempt to convey Jacksonville’s Civil War history in a neutral fashion. However, it is noteworthy that it only mentions white units, eliding the major role played by black U.S. troops in the region. The marker is affixed to the outside of the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, formerly the Jacksonville Union Terminal train station.
Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park: 1950, Northside - New Berlin
Location Yellow Bluff Fort was an important strategic position for Confederate forces fighting the Union gunboats that controlled the St. Johns River after March 1862. After the Union abandoned Jacksonville in April of that year, Confederate forces built a series of batteries to take on the gunboats that stayed on the river. A major Union offensive in October caught the Confederates unprepared; after a skirmish at St. Johns Bluff, the Confederates abandoned both it and Yellow Bluff. Both Confederate and Union forces subsequently occupied the site. The state established a park in 1950, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy supplied a monument featuring a cannonball and plaque. The plaque contains a pro-Confederate dedication to “the Confederate soldiers who defended Jacksonville.” Currently, the plaque is riddled with bullet holes and is due for replacement. Other attributes of the park include the ruins of the battery and cannons.
Nathan B. Forrest High School: 1959 (Westside High School since 2014; Westside)
Location The most contentious of all of Jacksonville’s Confederate memorials was Nathan B. Forrest High School, renamed Westside High School in 2014. Especially in the later 20th century, Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest proved controversial due to his early leadership in the original incarnation of the Klu Klux Klan and his activities during the Fort Pillow Massacre, where men under his command killed surrendering Union troops, most of them African Americans.
Founded nearly 100 years after the Civil War, Forrest High School started a trend that saw Duval County name several new, segregated schools after Confederate figures. Forrest was founded amid the furor over Brown v. Board of Education, the 1955 case in which the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional. Like other Southern school districts, Duval County defied the ruling and continued expanding its segregated school system. By 1968, as the era of segregated schools wound down, Duval County had added five new segregated, whites-only schools bearing the names of Confederates. The United Daughters of the Confederacy led the charge to name the school for a “distinguished Southern leader”, eventually settling on Forrest. This selection caused no end of headaches for the district after segregation ended in 1971, and locals repeatedly demanded the name be changed. In 2014, after decades of debate, the School Board changed the name to Westside High School.
Jefferson Davis Middle School: 1961, Westside
Location In 1961, the Duval County School Board branched the middle school off of the recently created Nathan B. Forrest High School. Keeping with the Confederate theme, they named the new institution after Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Like Forrest, Jefferson Davis was a segregated whites-only school created in defiance of Brown v. Board of Education. It was the second of five schools created in a span of nine years to be named for Confederates, four of which are located within miles of each other in the Westside suburbs.
Stonewall Jackson Elementary School: 1965, Westside
Location The Duval school board created this elementary school to serve the area near Nathan B. Forrest High School and Jefferson Davis Middle. It retained both the whites-only status and the Confederate theme of the other schools, being named for General Stonewall Jackson.
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