On the grassy lawn outside the Anderson County courthouse, along with monuments honoring Anderson countians who served in World War I, World War II and the Mexican-American War, stands a marble statue of a Confederate soldier.
The mustached man wears a broad-brimmed hat and holds his rifle in his hand. The stone base on which he stands is inscribed with the names of dozens of men who died or were injured while serving with the Confederacy in the Civil War.
“It is the county’s statue,” said Lawrenceburg Mayor Robert Goodlett. “I grew up here and it was just there all the time.”
While Lexington, Louisville and other cities around the country debate what to do with their controversial statues, so far there seems to be little appetite to change or relocate statues in public spaces in smaller towns and cities throughout the state.
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Goodlett said he had received just one email from a citizen who “thought that we should have a discussion about it,” but since the city isn’t responsible for the statue, that would fall to the county government.
Anderson County First District Magistrate Rodney Durr said he has not heard any local concerns about the statue.
Likewise, Jessamine County Judge-Executive David West said he has heard no complaints about Jessamine County’s bronze Confederate statue, which was dedicated in 1896.
“You couldn’t find two people out of 10 that would know what that was,” West said. “I think that’s probably because it’s not a (specific) person who participated.”
The statue in Nicholasville was one of many mass produced at Louisville’s Muldoon Monument Co., said Anne Marshall, a Lexington native who is an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University.
Interestingly, she said it was originally commissioned by a locale that wanted a Union soldier, but when that buyer backed out, the figure’s belt buckle was recast to say “CSA,” for Confederate States Army.
The statue honors “Our Confederate Dead” and bears an inscription on the front that says, “Who they were few may know, What they were all know.”
Rather than focusing on the Confederate marker, West said Jessamine County is choosing to highlight Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark. It was the Union’s third-largest recruitment and training center for black troops, and more than 10,000 trained there, often accompanied by their families.
In most of those places, there appears to have been little recent discussion about the markers.
Two exceptions are Daviess County, where officials are considering whether to move their statue, and McCracken County, where the future of a statue in Paducah’s Fountain Square has become a matter of public debate.
In Danville, a statue of Confederate Capt. Robert D. Logan that was dedicated in 1910 stands adjacent to a historic Presbyterian Church on Main Street.
As is common, the base says the monument was erected “to the Confederate dead” by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and veterans of Boyle County.
The UDC was responsible for spearheading many of the campaigns to erect such monuments between 1895 and the 1920s, Marshall said.
Marshall, the author of Creating a Confederate Kentucky, said such monuments are the last, most visible, reminder of a celebration of “the Lost Cause.”
Marshall said the UDC worked to make sure history books didn’t have a bias against the Southern interpretation of the Civil War and succeeded in getting a state statute passed that banned the performance of “racially incendiary” plays such as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a popular traveling show at the time.
For a while, she said, the Fayette County courthouse had a “Confederate Room” where groups like the UDC met.
“This monument stuff is just what we see today,” she said. “That was just one piece of this Lost Cause puzzle.”
You’ve got to figure out if the Confederate monument symbolizes the cause or the people who died.
Brian McKnight, a professor of history at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise
In Kentucky, there are many more Confederate monuments than those honoring the Union cause.
State historian James Klotter, a professor of history at Georgetown College, said that as the Civil War dragged on, Kentuckians grew weary of Union occupation and became more sympathetic to the Confederacy.
After the war, he said, “they joined the defeated side.”
For years, he said, Kentucky’s Democratic party was dominated by former Confederates, and all of Kentucky’s governors until 1895 were Confederate sympathizers.
“Kentucky was very much like a Southern state in its racial views,” he said.
Now, he said, “it’s a different time and a different state and a different mindset.”
“It’s hard to find a compromise that everybody can agree with,” Klotter said.
Many people hold the monuments dear for a variety of reasons.
An online petition was created on Change.org last year by “Kentuckians for Kentucky Values” in an effort “to preserve all monuments of every war, especially Union, and Confederate.” More than 20,000 people have signed the petition, which is addressed to Gov. Matt Bevin.
Klotter and others said it’s important to try to find a way of bringing peace to all involved.
“People were complaining about it before, but we ignored them,” said Brian McKnight, a professor of history at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. “Whites ignored that kind of complaint. Black people knew better than to complain.”
Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center compiled a list of more than 1,500 public symbols of the Confederacy throughout the country. While the monuments, road names and other public Confederate references are concentrated in the deep South, about 40 are in Kentucky.
The statues of John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge at the old Fayette County courthouse building of course made the list, along with the statue of Jefferson Davis that stands in the state capitol building.
And then there is the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site, a state park outside Hopkinsville that marks the birthplace of Davis with a 351-foot obelisk.
In Central Kentucky, monuments honoring Confederate soldiers are located in cemeteries in Georgetown, Versailles, Cynthiana and Mount Sterling. A monument in Eminence marks the resting place of Confederate soldiers who were executed by the Union.
The Unknown Confederate Dead Monument erected in a private cemetery in Perryville is also on the list. It marks the site on private land where an unknown number of Confederate soldiers who died at the Battle of Perryville were buried.
McKnight said it’s important to consider the context in which each Confederate memorial was erected.
“You’ve got to figure out if the Confederate monument symbolizes the cause or the people who died,” he said.
What else is there?
Besides physical monuments, Confederate memorials endure in a few holidays and place names in Kentucky.
By Kentucky statute, June 3 is recognized as Confederate Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis Day, though the holiday is not officially observed.
Lee County is named by the Southern Poverty Law Center as having a Confederate connection. The Kentucky Encyclopedia says that while “most sources say the county was named after Robert E. Lee,” it was probably named for Lee County, Va., “to which many of the county’s inhabitants trace their roots.”
“Nobody really knows,” said state historian James Klotter.
Kentucky roads that made the law center’s list include Jefferson Davis Drive in Madisonville, Jefferson Davis Highway in Elkton, Robert Lee Road in Marion County and General Ross Drive in Erlanger.
None of the historians consulted knew for certain who “General Ross” was a reference to.