The monument to Confederate General G.T. Beauregard stood at the center of a busy traffic roundabout at the entrance to City Park. In the aftermath of the Charleston massacre of 2015, all symbols associated with the Confederacy faced renewed scrutiny and calls for their removal have become commonplace, as have public protests and anti-monument graffiti. What follows is the story of this monument’s origins and the conflicts it has inspired among New Orleans citizens.
When Louisiana native General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, nicknamed the “Little Creole,” died February 20, 1893, in New Orleans, his passing marked the end of an era. Beauregard was the last survivor of the top Confederate military leaders. According to the obituary printed in the Times-Picayune, Beauregard was an ideal soldier and leader “by virtue of courage.” Beauregard commanded the attack at Fort Sumter, the shots of which marked the outbreak of the American Civil War. He fought in the First Manassas and at Shiloh, and he defended Charleston from Union occupation for two years.
After the war, however, Beauregard advocated reconciliation between Democrats and Republicans in city and state politics, a move many former Confederates saw as a betrayal of “the Cause.” Though a proud and loyal southerner, the Times-Picayune declared, “in peace, he forgot he hated Yankees.” After the Civil War ended, Beauregard became president of the Jackson and Great Northern Railroad and was perhaps the most prosperous of the eight Confederate full generals as well as the most easily adapted to life in the New South.
The Beauregard Monument Association (BMA) formed shortly after Beauregard’s death, and was, like the Lee Monument Committee, composed entirely of men, an anomaly in post-war memorial associations. In their appeals to the public for donations to erect a monument for Beauregard, the Association stated that the monument would be an “enduring expression of his soldiers’ and countrymens’ admiration” and that “every citizen of his native state and city…and every southerner throughout the land” should show their respect and appreciation. By the time this public plea was published in 1895, monuments to Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Albert Sidney Johnston already stood on Louisiana soil.
The Beauregard Monument Association ran into numerous obstacles in their attempts to secure donations, both public and private. Yellow fever outbreaks hit New Orleans in 1897, 1898, 1899 and 1905. As happened with the Lee Monumental Association, most of the original members of the Beauregard Monumental Association, many of them veterans, died.
By 1908, the Beauregard Monument Association secured Alexander Doyle, the artist who created the Robert E. Lee statue, to create a statue of Beauregard. The City Park Association donated a plot of land at the park’s entrance to the monument. Yet after working for over a decade to secure funds, the Association was still short some four thousand dollars. When BMA appealed to the state legislature for an appropriation, it ran headlong into the Jefferson Davis Monumental Association. Each Association argued that their monument was the one most worthy of state funds. Newspaper editors and citizens also voiced their opinions. An editorial in the Times-Picayune stated that Louisianans had already “contributed liberally” to memorials and monuments of Jefferson Davis in other cities (most notably in Richmond) and that a monument to New Orleans’s “illustrious chieftain” whose “devotion to his state has made his example worthy of emulation” should take priority. Members of the Jefferson Davis Monumental Association traveled to Baton Rouge to plead their case in person, but it was almost all for naught. The state did not have the funds it was rumored to have and was only able to appropriate one thousand dollars to each association.
By 1910, the BMA had secured funds through public donation, veterans’ associations, the City Park Commission, the state legislature and the City of New Orleans. In 1913, the BMA laid the cornerstone for the monument and the statue itself was unveiled on November 11, 1915. A large ceremony accompanied the unveiling, with speeches by judges, veterans and chaplains, and musical performances. The bronze-cast monument depicts General Beauregard atop a horse and stands on a marble platform.
For many New Orleans residents, these monuments to prominent men of the Confederacy glorify slavery, racism, white supremacy, and oppression. After a 6-1 vote by the City Council in 2015, this statue was one of four Confederate monuments scheduled to be removed. The statue of General Beauregard was removed on May 17, 2017, in the middle of the night. Many protestors with Confederate flags had stood in the circle on and off for months following the city's decision for removal. The city’s current plan is for the monuments to be removed and housed in a city-owned warehouse until a more permanent location can be determined.