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Rare image shows dedication of Owensboro Confederate statue

The 1900 dedication of the “Soldiers Monument” – commonly known as the “Confederate statue” – is shown in this rare glass-plate image shot by Hancock County photographer Barney Gardner. This statue was removed the morning of May 31, the day after Memorial Day. The original glass plate is owned by local Jimmy Logsdon.

By C. Josh Givens

Hancock County resident Jimmy Logsdon has shared a rare glass plate image of the 1900 dedication of the “Soldiers Monument” – also known as the “Confederate statue” – which was removed May 31 from the lawn of the Daviess County Courthouse.

The image is attributed to Hancock County photographer Barney Gardner.

The early-morning removal the day after Memorial Day followed a protracted legal battle between the county and the Kentucky United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The removal came after Circuit Judge Lisa Payne Jones granted a motion from the bench that the statue belonged to the county, and not the UDC organization. The statue was erected in 1900, and became a focal point of controversy in the community in 2017 with a petition calling for removal.

The Kentucky UDC was formed in 2019 in response, and retroactively claimed ownership to 1970 following the demise of UDC Chapter 306 in Daviess County. Funding for the statue was secured by two organizations associated with Confederate heritage preservation.

The statue has been moved to the Daviess County Road Department for storage while the county decides its final fate, which could be relocation or an auction sale. The pedestal, reading “To Our Confederate Heroes 1861-1865,” and bearing the Southern battle flag inside a wreath, remains on site.

Rev. Rhondalyn Randolph, president of the Owensboro NAACP, told the Associated Press that she is thankful the statue is gone. She said the aim had always been “to promote truth for how things actually happened without romanticizing the Antebellum period.”

The monument was added to the National Register Historic Places in 1970 through an application by the county.

The “Soldiers Monument” as it appeared before the statue was removed by Daviess County workers on May 31. The pedestal remains on the lawn of the Daviess County Courthouse. The removal followed a decision in Daviess District Court which found the county Fiscal Court owned the monument, and not the Kentucky United Daughters of the Confederacy.

In 1997, 61 Civil War monuments in Kentucky were added to the Register through the Civil War of Kentucky Multiple Property Submission. The first Confederate monument in Kentucky was erected in 1869 in Cynthiana.

Kentucky citizens accounted for 125,000 Union soldiers, while the Confederacy recruited 35,000. The state never seceded from the United States and attempted to maintain neutrality, though a Confederate government was established in Russellville. Bowling Green was chosen as the capital.

George W. Johnson was the first Kentucky Confederate governor, and was killed at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 while serving with the Fourth Kentucky Infantry Regiment, a subordinate unit of the First Kentucky Brigade – the “Orphan Brigade” – which formed largely from west Kentucky at recruiting centers in Clarksville, Tenn.; Russellville and Bowling Green.

Other regional monuments of note, some involved in public debate, are:

  • Confederate Monument of Louisville (now located in Brandenburg) – The 70-foot monument was removed from near the Belknap campus of the University of Louisville in 2016, and was originally erected in 1895. A temporary restraining ordered blocked its removal for about month in the spring of 2016, before permission was granted to move it to Riverfront Park. The Brandenburg park is near the site Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his troops crossed the Ohio River for a raid into southern Indiana. An annual Civil War reenactment is held at the park.
  • Confederate Monument, Murray – Calloway County Fiscal Court voted to maintain the 1917 monument at its present location at the Calloway County Courthouse in 2020. The 16-foot tall monument features Robert E. Lee and once featured a working porcelain drinking fountain. Other drinking fountain monuments are located in Mayfield, Hopkinsville and Cadiz. The Mayfield monument was slightly damaged in the Dec. 10, 2021, EF-4 tornado.
  • Confederate Monument of Russellville – Erected in 1910, the monument honors Confederate veterans and the Confederate government, which formed within sight lines of the monument and sits in the town’s central park square. The limestone pedestal and arch highlights a bronze Confederate soldier, topped by a wing-spread eagle. The pedestal features the Latin phrase, “Deo Vindice” – the CSA motto, which translates to “With God our Vindicator.”
  • Butler County Civil War Veterans Monument, Morgantown – Dedicated in 1907 in a ceremony with both Union and Confederate veterans present, the life-sized statue of a Union soldier atop a 12-foot pedestal is one of only two in Kentucky remembering veterans of both armies. Gen. U.S. Grant, President Abraham Lincoln, and Confederate Gen. Joseph Wheeler are featured in relief around the base.

Some reporting in this piece is from the Messenger-Inquirer via the Associated Press.

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