Jim Limber Kidnapped and Brought to Beauvoir

Statue026It looks like Gary Casteel’s statue of Jefferson Davis holding hands with his biological son and “adopted” son, Jim Limber, has found a new home at Beauvoir.  You may remember that this statue was commissioned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in hopes that it would be placed next to the Lincoln statue at the Tredegar Iron Works.  That deal fell through and left the organization scrambling for alternative sites.  At one point they even asked the state of Mississippi to accept it.

Since the SCV meant to “educate” the public about Jefferson Davis and race relations during the Civil War with this statue, it is hard not to see this new home as reflecting nothing less than a complete and utter public relations failure.  The reason the statue ended up here has nothing to do with political correctness or any other catch-phrase that is currently en vogue.  It has to do with the fact that the statue has little to do with solid history and has everything to do with the current SCV propaganda machine which would have the general public see the Confederacy as part of some sort of civil rights movement.  I’ve written quite a bit about this particular story over the past year if interested.

SCV May Offer Davis-Limber Statue to Themselves

It looks like the Davis-Limber statue may wind up in a place where very few people will get to see it.  The statue was origininally offered to the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar before the SCV pulled out of the deal.  They are now looking to see if the state of Mississippi is interested in it; this is likely to go down in a ball of flames.  A few people associated with Beauvoir have expresed interest in the statue.  This would be an ideal place for the statue since it served as Jefferson Davis’s residence after the war and is currently managed by the Mississipi Division, SCV.  It’s a beautiful place and by all appearances the SCV has done an excellent job of restoring the property following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Still, if the deal goes through it is hard not to consider the entire project to be a failure.  After all, the goal was to counter or balance the Lincoln-Tad statue on the grounds at Tredegar, which many in the SCV find offensive.  Don’t ask me why.  A sitting Lincoln with his arm around Tad doesn’t seem to me to be very shocking.  Finally, if the deal does go through the SCV would have offered the statue to themselves.  I wonder if they will accept it.

Please Accept Our Statue

0_61_statue_320The Sons of Confederate Veterans is still trying to find a home for their statue of Jefferson Davis and Jim Limber.  The statue, which cost $100,000, was originally planned for the grounds at Tredegar in Richmond next to the statue of Lincoln and his son Tad.  The American Civil War Museum accepted the statue, but made no promises as to whether it would be displayed and how.  Apparently, the SCV doesn’t know the first thing about how museums operate.  Now they are offering the statue to the state of Mississippi.  Good luck boys, but in this political climate my guess is that you don’t have a chance.  My offer still stands to use it in my classroom as an interpretive piece to help my students better understand the continued influence of the Lost Cause.  What do you say? We will take very good care of it.

Between the statue, their big ass Confederate flags flying over Southern highways, and their endorsement of a NASCAR driver, the SCV has demonstrated their commitment to wasting money and their inability to take Southern heritage seriously.

I’ll Take It

Looks like Brag Bowling and the SCV are going to look elsewhere for a home for their statue of Jefferson Davis and Jim Limber.  I reported on this story a few days ago.  He is rightfully concerned that, given the lack of preconditions attached to the donation of the statue to the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar, they may decide never to display it.  I would suggest, however, that his bigger concern is that they will display it.

As a steward of SCV money, I’m not going to take that risk, where it might not be displayed or it might be made in a way that denigrates the intent of the statue,” he said. “Theoretically, they could take the thing and melt it down. I think Richmond has missed an opportunity to open up the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

How might the museum display it in a way that “denigrates the intent of the statue”?  Well, they might do what museums do and include an interpretive panel that would give the visitor information about Davis and his view of blacks and slavery or his broader racial outlook.  It might even include information about the antebellum-postwar myth that slavery was a benign institution.  If I were Bowling I would cease to give interviews about this issue and move on.  The problem he is dealing with is the lack of an easy target to use to shape the image of a people/organization whose heritage and history are being attacked.  In this case it’s impossible since the mission of the museum is to tell the story of the Civil War from the perspectives of Union, Confederate, and slave.

Just in case the statue fails to find a home I would like to make a pitch for my classroom.  Next semester I will be teaching a class on memory and the Civil War, which will include an entire section on statues and other public historic sites.  I am planning two field trips, the first through Charlottesville and later to Richmond.   What better way to remember Davis than to use him as a teaching tool in a classroom full of young Virginians.

Give it some thought.

Postscript: Richard Williams has a thoughtful response to my post (even if he fails to provide a link) which you can read here.  His suggestion that Tredegar might place the statue in a “circus setting” is unpersuasive unless he can provide examples where this has happened in the past.  I’ve said this before and it bears repeating that Tredegar was not responsible for the placement of the Lincoln-Tad statue back in 2003.  The reason there is no historical marker explaining Lincoln’s racial outlook is because the statue was placed to commemorate his visit to Richmond in April 1865. It has nothing directly to do with race unless you want to explore how the black community received Lincoln.  This, of course, is quite different from Lincoln’s own evolving views on race.   As for how the Davis-Limber statue ought to be interepreted, Williams has this to say:

There was no reason for the statue to be purposely misinterpreted as representative of the institution of slavey as a whole, (that notion is utterly ridiculous) nor should the statue be used to make the false claim that most Southerners want to cover up or dismiss the evils of slavery. That too is utterly ridiculous.

Williams would have us believe that this statue is best interpreted as a reflection of the benign side of race relations and slavery.  First, I agree with Williams that the statue ought not to be interpreted as “representative of the institutiton of slavery as a whole” – a narrow focus on Davis would be sufficient.  Visitors would need to know that Davis was a wealthy slaveowner who believed in white supremacy and served as president of a nation whose expressed goal was the preservation of slavery and the maintenance of white supremacy.  I also agree with Williams that the statue should not be interpreted as a conscious attempt on the part of Southerners to “dismiss the evils of slavery.”  That would be to mistakenly reduce all Southerners to one narrow position, which would dismiss the diversity of opinion over how the past is identified and embraced.  What I would say, however, is that it is reflective of how the SCV has chosen to remember the history of the antebellum South as well as the Confederacy.  Much has been written on the history and agenda of the SCV by such historians as Gaines Foster, W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Thomas Brown, Robert J. Cook, and Charles R. Wilson – most of whom were born and teach in the South.  To suggest that the commission of the Davis-Limber statue is not to be understood as an extension of that broader narrative/agenda is ludicrous.