The Fight Over the Confederate Monument

You wouldn't exactly call it the "Battle of Gettysburg," but the fight over the location of Laurens County's monument to the Confederate soldiers of the country was none the less just as bitter. Though not a single drop of blood was spilled, many withdrew from the battle in the courtroom, wounded, or at least their pride was wounded.

Few doubted that the local soldiers of the Confederate army should be forever memorialized somewhere in the county seat of Dublin. The only questions were how elaborate should the monument be and where should it be located. The ornamentation would only be limited by the size of the budget. In those days there was no shortage of civic minded and philanthropic citizens, especially when it came to honoring the boys in gray, who were their fathers, fathers in law and grandfathers. There were still a few veterans themselves who had grown from mere boys during the war to very successful businessmen.

The owner of the Idle Hour restaurant was one of the first to sponsor a benefit for the monument. After nearly four years of planning, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Confederate Veterans signed a contract for the monument in the spring of 1908. The monument committee was led by J.A. Thomas. Thomas was a native of Dublin who was a teenage veteran of the war and later rose to the rank of Brigadier General as commander of the United Confederate Veterans in the 1920s. Other members of the committee were B.H. Rawls and W.W. Robinson. The contract with Cordele Marble Company called for the unveiling of the monument on Confederate Memorial Day in 1909. The committee decided to go with a smaller monument to cut the cost down to thirty five hundred dollars.

The monument committee, already hurting from the failure of the fund drive to materialize to unveil the monument on Confederate Memorial Day in 1908, began the construction of a concrete foundation in the center of the intersection of Jefferson Street and West Jackson Street. The county commissioners believed the more proper, and safer, site would be on the southwest corner of the courthouse square. Though the age of the automobile was just beginning, the commissioners knew that auto traffic would increase over the years. Some may have contemplated that the intersection would later become the intersection of two major Federal highways. The board appropriated one thousand dollars for the project if the monument was actually placed on the courthouse grounds and not out in the street.

At first, local veterans relented and agree to the move if the county was going to pay - an offer which would have pleased their wives and daughters and would have allowed the dedication in April. But when it became apparent that the county could not donate, the veterans of the Camp Hardy Smith took issue. The former soldiers hired attorney W.C. Davis to prepare papers to enjoin the relocation of what was their monument, believing it was they who fought and they who should have the right to determine its location. The veterans were waiting for anyone to move their monument before springing into action.

The pressure was on. City street crews were paving the streets around the center of the city with vitrified brick. The city council warned that if the foundation is moved before the paving force finishes work so that the plot of ground can be paved, that it will not be allowed to be moved. The monument had arrived, though the contracted payments had not yet been paid for. The ladies of the United Daughters of the Confederacy were getting anxious. They didn't want another Confederate Memorial Day to pass without a monument.

Meanwhile contractor I. C. Huffman was at work attempting to move the foundation from The intersection to the courthouse square. When it became apparent that the move could be made and somewhat easily, the veterans dispatched a courier to meet Judge Martin who was on the bench at Hawkinsville. Once the judge signed the interlocutory papers, another courier was standing by waiting to deliver it as rapidly as possible back to the courthouse. Once back in Dublin, the veterans were confident that Sheriff Flanders would personally serve them on Mr. Huffman and put a halt, albeit temporary, to the removal work.

Much to the consternation of the old Confederates, Judge Martin sent the technically defective papers back. Once the errors were corrected, they were resubmitted back to the judge in Hawkinsville. Huffman kept working and got the substructure out of the ground and began the processing of moving it the short distance to the square.

Judge John Martin, who was in town to grant charters to new corporations in the city, sided with the veterans and issued a restraining order prohibiting the county from moving the monument from its original site. Judge Martin reasoned that the commissioners could not legally donate to its establishment. Therefore, the commissioners would have no say so in the matter. The veterans, who preferred no monument at all to one on the courthouse square, cheered after winning the first round of the battle.

While the veterans were reveling in victory, the ladies of the UDC were making their own battle plans. A major offensive was set into action. Within a few weeks the fighting was over. How they did it and how many arms they had to twist or how many threats they had to make will never be known.

J.R. Broadhurst, chairman of the Street Committee of the City of Dublin, announced the compromised location. The committee voted not to place the monument in front of the courthouse. In fact, they moved it entirely out of the bounds of the street and decided to place the monument at the eastern apex of the triangle in front of the Carnegie Library, which was erected five years previously.

The unveiling was delayed until June 3 in celebration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis' birthday. The committee hoped to place it between a pyramid of stacked cannon balls and a fountain.

Another battle erupted. The sculptor and the committee couldn't come to terms on full payment. The parties agreed that until the monument was paid for, or at least to the satisfaction of the sculptor, the monument would remain on its site with a veil. Three years went by and finally on April 26, 1912, the monument was unveiled and those who gave their lives in defense of Georgia and the South would be forever memorialized.