A petition to remove the historic statue of Confederate Lieutenant General Alexander P. Stewart in front of the courthouse in downtown Chattanooga has gained more than a thousand signatures.
The General A.P. Stewart chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy requested requested the monument be placed there in 1915 and the bust was unveiled in 1919, 11 years after Stewart’s death.
Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga professor and petitioner, Dr. Betsy Darkens, stated in an interview with FOX 17 that the statue “is a slap in the face to African Americans who have suffered from racism for over 400 years,” and that the statue is “an offense to Americans of all races who believe in racial equality and harmony in our country.”
Darkens went on to say, “You have to work at making the country better. And one of the big problems in this country is the persistent racism we have here, whether it’s intended or unintended. We need to deal with it.”
Maryville College Professor, Aaron Astor stated in an interview with WATE Channel 6 that “Statues don’t necessarily represent history per say as much as they represent collective memories. When we think about a statue we have to think about what it represents…We also have to think about the time that it was put up and the reasons.”
Astor went on to say, “The longer a layer sets in the harder it is for a variety of reasons, to sculpt out and to remove that,” said Astor. “The best way to add our contemporary view…is to add a new layer, a monument that celebrates something and to not remove it.”
On Wednesday, October 7th, 10 people are slated to present their case to the Hamilton County Commission and along with their signed petition.
The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act protects statues like Stewart’s from being removed unless the Tennessee Historical Commission grants a waiver. And submitting an application for a waiver is required to come officially from the county commission.
Alexander Peter Stewart was born in Rogersville, Tennessee and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842.
At the start of the Civil War in 1861, although he was a strong anti-secessionist, Stewart accepted a commission as Major of Artillery of the Tennessee Militia. Shortly thereafter, he entered the Confederate Army as Major of Artillery.
By November of 1861, Stewart was appointed as Brigadier General and led the defenses in the Battle of New Madrid.
In April of the following year, he joined the Battle of Shiloh and led his brigade in the first-day attacks on the “Hornet’s Nest” area in the center of the Union Line.
In the Confederate Heartland Offensive, Stewart’s brigade fought at the Battle of Perryville and later at the Battle of Stones River.
Stewart was promoted to divisional command and to Major General in June of 1863 and fought at the Battle of Hoover’s Gap and the Battle of Chickamauga.
Stewart also fought at the battles of Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca and New Hope Church commanding a division early in the Atlanta Campaign of 1864. He was promoted to temporary Lieutenant General on June 23, 1864.
Stewart next took part in the Battle of Peachtree Creek and then led the Third Corps in the Battle of Ezra Church.
Stewart continued to the lead the Third Corps during the Franklin-Nashville campaign in the Fall of 1864, participating in the Battle of Franklin in November and the Battle of Nashville in December.
Following the war, Stewart moved to Missouri in 1869 and became an insurance executive. In 1874, he moved to Mississippi and served as the Chancellor of the University of Mississippi until 1886. From 1890 to 1908, he was the commissioner of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.