Link to Interactive Map of Jacksonville’s Civil War Monuments and Memorials HERE
The earliest monuments, built within a few decades of the war, are generally much simpler in message and tend to be dedicated to local soldiers who fought; both Confederate and Union monuments exist. In later decades, organizations representing veterans and their descendants spearheaded the creation of more Confederate memorials, which moved beyond commemorating local soldiers and events to celebrating the Confederate cause. These increasingly romanticized the Confederacy and in some cases downplayed Jacksonville’s substantial Unionist history. Starting in the later 20th century, local authorities and groups began erecting markers and establishing parks commemorating significant Civil War sites. These mostly strike a dispassionate, historical tone to document the local impact of a war long over.
These memorials reflect how the city has elected to remember the Civil War across its history. As Jacksonville enters the national debate over removing Confederate monuments, it is worth taking a comprehensive look at these memorials and the eras in which they were established.
Jacksonville’s earliest Civil War commemorations were the graves of soldiers buried there. These date from the earliest engagements in 1862 until at least 1938, when the last resident of the Old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Home died. Some wartime graves stand where soldiers fell in battle; after the war, veterans were laid to rest in plots all across the city, with hundreds located in the Old City Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery, and other resting places.
Stanton College Preparatory School: 1868, LaVilla
Old Stanton / New Stanton Unknown to many is the fact that one of Jacksonville’s oldest surviving Civil War-related commemorations celebrates a Union figure: U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Florida’s first school for African-Americans, Stanton opened in 1868; it remains Jacksonville’s oldest public school. Initially an elementary school, it subsequently added grades, and became a full-fledged high school under principal James Weldon Johnson in the 1890s. In 1953 it moved from LaVilla to its present location on West 13th Street, and in 1981 it was converted to a magnet school.
Streets and place names: 1868-
Jacksonville has been home to streets named after Civil War figures since at least 1868. Miles Price, the developer of Brooklyn and a Confederate veteran, named three streets in the new neighborhood after Confederates: Price Street, taken from his own surname, and Stonewall and Jackson streets, named after General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Other Jacksonville streets with potential Civil War connections include Downtown’s Lee (Robert E. Lee), Davis (possibly after Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy), and Stuart streets (perhaps after General J.E.B. Stuart). Many of these replaced earlier street names, and all run through LaVilla, a historically black neighborhood where a number of other streets are named for historical figures. Later streets and place names include the Westside’s Confederate Point.
Union Monument: 1891, Evergreen Cemetery
Location Jacksonville’s oldest Civil War monument is also the second oldest of a handful of surviving Union monuments in Florida. Union forces occupied Jacksonville four times during the Civil War, and it remained in Union hands after February 1864. During the war the city was a hotbed of loyal sentiment, and many prominent white citizens, as well as an overwhelming percentage of African-Americans, supported the Union. Erected in Evergreen Cemetery by the Grand Army of the Republic, the main Union veterans association, Jacksonville’s beautiful Union Monument features a soldier on a detailed column reading “In memory of our comrades who defended the flag of the Union, on land and sea, 1861-1865.” It is surrounded by the graves of ten Union veterans; many other Union and Confederate veterans and officials are buried elsewhere in the cemetery.
Hemming Park and Confederate Monument: 1898, Downtown
(Ennis Davis, AICP)
Location Built seven years after the Union monument, the Confederate column is Jacksonville’s most visible Civil War monument. Donated by Jacksonville-born Confederate veteran Charles C. Hemming and his wife Lucy Key Hemming, it is dedicated to Floridians who fought in the Confederate forces. Erected during a veterans’ reunion, it features a statue of a Jacksonville Light Infantry soldier atop a striking 62-foot column; the base features reliefs of Florida Confederates Edmund Kirby Smith and J.J. Dickison, a group image of soldiers, and a dedication from Hemming to his comrades. This dedication contains some of the flowery, effusive language common in later monuments, describing “deeds immortal” and “heroism unsurpassed,” but features no paean to the Confederacy itself. Like the Union Monument, it is largely a dedication to local soldiers. The park, previously known as St. James Park, was renamed Hemming Park to honor the column’s donor.
Confederate graves and memorial grandstand: Old City Cemetery, Downtown
Location The Old City Cemetery contains the graves of over 250 Confederate veterans. Many of these were residents of the Florida Confederate Soldiers and Sailors home, located on Talleyrand Avenue from 1893 until the last veteran died in 1938. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) purchased funeral plots for the residents in 1900; the first burial took place in 1902. Thereafter, the cemetery became the city’s primary location for Confederate Memorial Day observances, held to this day on or around April 26. In 1926, the UDC, together with the United Confederate Veterans and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), built a grandstand by the plots to accommodate growing attendances at Memorial Day ceremonies. In later years the UDC and SCV became the primary organizations erecting monuments locally, and their memorials often present a romantic view of the Confederacy.
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 Edmund Kirby-Smith Junior High School, then later High School before being restructured as a middle school in 1992, 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.
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.
J.E.B. Stuart Middle School: 1966, Westside Location In 1966, Duval County Public Schools elected to move Nathan B. Forrest High School to a new location on Firestone Road and convert the former structure into a middle school named after Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart.
Joseph Finegan Elementary School: 1968, Mayport Location The last of Duval County’s schools named for a Confederate figure commemorates General Joseph Finegan, a Confederate general operating primarily in Northeast Florida, and the namesake of Camp Finegan. Unlike all of Jacksonville’s schools named for Civil War figures besides Kirby-Smith, its namesake was a local figure. It opened late in Jacksonville’s struggle with school desegregation, which finally ended in 1971.
Museum of Southern History: 1975, Fairfax Location Members of the Kirby-Smith Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans founded this private museum in 1975. Its collection was originally kept in private homes, and opened to the public in 1982; a full-fledged museum was established on Herschel Street in 1993. The museum generally promotes a romantic image of the Confederacy and the “Old South”, downplaying slavery’s role in the Civil War, although it is home to many one-of-a-kind artifacts and an impressive library.
Maple Leaf Wreck: Rediscovered 1984, Mandarin
(Ennis Davis, AICP)
Location In 1864, during the fourth Union occupation of Jacksonville, the U.S. Army troop transport ship Maple Leaf struck a Confederate torpedo mine in the St. Johns River near Mandarin. Four soldiers died, and the ship quickly sank. After the war, no interested salvagers could be found, so in 1882 the Army Corps of Engineers dragged the wreck to a safer location in the river. It remained there for over a century before a team of local divers rediscovered it in 1984, buried under 7 feet of silt in 20 feet of black water. The mud had left the wreck and its contents remarkably well preserved, and afterward over 3000 artifacts were recovered, making it one of the most valuable archaeological sites associated with the Civil War. The wreck is inaccessible, but the artifacts are in display in the Museum of Science and History, the Mandarin Museum, and institutions across the country. A historical marker describing the Maple Leaf’s sinking and discovery stands in Downtown Jacksonville.
Camp Captain Mooney Cemetery: 2001, Westside - Edgewood
Location The cemetery itself dates at least as far back as its earliest tombstone, from 1877. Additionally, local lore has long held that the cemetery originated when Confederate dead were buried where they fell in the Skirmish at Cedar Creek back on March 1, 1864. The discovery of several unmarked graves may corroborate this notion. The United Daughters of the Confederacy fought for the cemetery’s preservation for decades, even as the surrounding area was developed for warehouses and I-10. In 2001 they bought the site and made it a true Civil War memorial, setting up tombstones as well as markers commemorating the battle. Some of these markers promote the UDC’s Confederate-focused view of history; a Confederate flag flies at the site above a plaque reading: “This flag flies in honor of all those who fought serving our country to keep it flying.”
Camp Milton Historic Preserve: 2001-2006, Westside
Location Camp Milton represents Civil War history done right. The preserve encompasses the site of Camp Milton, a major Confederate fortification constructed in February 1864. One of Florida’s most important Civil War sites, it was a major staging ground for over 8000 Confederate troops before it was captured by Union forces from Jacksonville later that year. The site was lost for over a century before being rediscovered in 1973; the state subsequently purchased part of the property in 1981. In 2001, the City of Jacksonville took over the site and purchased additional parcels through the Preservation Project for the creation of a park. The preserve includes the old Confederate earthworks - some of the few remaining in the state - as well as trails, a preserved Florida cracker farmstead, a historical center, and a reconstructed picket line and reenactment ground.
Skirmish at Cedar Creek plaque: 2005, Westside
Location On March 1, 1864, ten days after the Battle of Olustee, Union soldiers from Jacksonville engaged a small Confederate force at Cedar Creek near present-day Lenox Avenue. The brief running skirmish led to the deadliest fighting Duval County saw during the Civil War, with one Union soldier and seven Confederates killed, and 16 wounded. According to local tradition, some of the Confederate dead are buried in the nearby Camp Captain Mooney Cemetery. The Sons of Confederate Veterans placed a bronze marker detailing the skirmish in 2005; this was unfortunately stolen in 2010, and subsequently replaced with a PVC version.
Camp Finegan monument: 2015, Westside - Marietta
Location Named for General Joseph Finegan, Camp Finegan was a major Confederate fortification located near present-day Lenox Avenue eight miles west of downtown Jacksonville. It was established in 1862 during the first Union occupation and served as the Confederates’ main base in Northeast Florida. In February 1864, Union forces captured Camp Finegan during their fourth and final occupation of Jacksonville, and renamed it Camp Shaw. After the war, it was gradually absorbed by urban sprawl and its location was lost for nearly a century; its exact parameters are still not known with certainty. Some Marietta residents believe the encampment extended as far northwest as their neighborhood. In 2015, interested locals erected a small monument, featuring a Confederate soldier and a plaque, on the grounds of the Thomas Jefferson Civil Club. There have also been attempts to preserve an undeveloped tract that Marietta locals believe may preserve part of Camp Finegan.
Article by Bill Delaney