I am uniquely conflicted about the Augusta Confederate monument matter because of having ancestral blood on both sides of the Civil War.
My paternal great-grandfather fought under the Union flag, as did my grand uncle who was killed at Chickaumauga.
My maternal great-grandfather fought under the Confederate flag.
I am proud of them all as American patriots who fought for causes that I doubt they fully comprehended. They were just young men of low military rank called to protect their states.
I have a solution for Augusta. Don’t “tear down” any monument memorializing the dead and those who participated in that war. Rather, let us spend our monies building new monuments.
I hereby petition the Augusta Commission to erect a monument to my great-grandfather who fought for the Union. He ended up raising his family in my hometown Augusta, and civically contributed substantially to a better Augusta.
Many monuments exist in America to both Union and Confederate leaders. To see them, simply Google it or see Wikipedia’s “List of Union Civil War Monuments” or “List of Confederate Civil War Monuments.” Most are in Washington, D.C., paid for by our tax dollars, and sit on U.S. government property – owned by us. I hope they don’t tear down all those statues.
Augusta is blessed with a Broad Street median that runs from Second Street to 14th Street, and that median would make a beautiful corridor to build monuments. One Augusta – let’s just do it!
A speech was given by Robert Benham many years ago to The Rotary Club of Augusta and I was in the audience that day. Benham is the great-grandson of a former slave. He was the second African-American graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law and the first African-American chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. He still serves today as a Georgia Supreme Court justice. We have indeed come a long way!
His powerful message still burns in my memory. The chief justice recited a quote by poet Edgar Guest about “Tearing Down.” It was obvious Chief Justice Benham was in Augusta to build good will among all, regardless of race. Here is the Edgar Guest poem he recited:
“I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam, and the side wall fell.
I asked the foreman: ‘Are these skilled –
And the men you’d hire if you had to build?’
He gave me a laugh and said: ‘No, indeed!
Just common labor is all I need.
I can wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken a year to do.’
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care
Measuring life by a rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well made Plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?”
J.D. Herman Sr.