74ºF

38 descendants of Civil War soldiers sue St. Augustine to preserve monument

Lawsuit seeks to prevent damage to oldest Civil War monument in Florida

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Less than a week after the St. Augustine City Commission voted to have a Confederate monument removed from the Plaza de la Constitution, 38 direct descendants of fallen Confederate soldiers filed a lawsuit to stop it.

The lawsuit questions whether the city can safely remove the monument, the oldest Civil War monument in Florida.

The lawsuit filed says, “This monument was a communal effort, public art, and social history. Ex-soldiers and politicians had a difficult time raising funds to erect monuments so the tax mostly fell to the women, the mothers, widows and orphans, the bereaved fiancees and sisters of the soldiers who had lost their lives.”

DOCUMENT: Jill Pacetti, Veterans Council of St. Johns County and Military Officer Association of America vs. City of St. Augustine

Though St. Augustine officials wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, they said they can’t make any guarantees on a safe removal because it’s a challenge preserving historic objects.

There were signs from both sides of the debate surrounding the monument on Monday.

Jill Pacetti is a direct descendant of a veteran on the memorial. He called last week’s vote disheartening. She signed the lawsuit that’s against the city’s handling of the monument and is representing other families in the petition

“We just feel like to bring the memorial down because of a race issue is not going to bring the community together,” Pacetti said. “No one went through the necessary steps to even look at the architecture of the memorial. Can it be moved? Can it be taken apart?”

The petitioners are requesting a temporary injunction to prohibit the city from relocating it until a study is done by a review board.

The petitioners want to get expert opinions on the feasibility of relocating the monument. They want to keep the injunction in place until the court is satisfied with the relocation plan to preserve the structure of the monument.

A historic preservation officer with the city told News4Jax that appropriate steps for removal are being taken.

“You want to have a very accurate documentation of it so that, when it is reconstructed, relocated, that it can be done accurately and sensitively,” Jenny Wolfe said.

She said the process can take several weeks and were quoted a cost of $162,800 for consultation and removal.

“And to that I would say that it’s not just a dollar cost, but it’s a cost to our community, of our values, what is important to us,” Wolfe said. “What’s the dollar amount that we want to put on that?”

There is still no word on where the monument will be be taken. There are recommendations for museums and cemeteries where people can still go to pay their respects.

The 30-foot tall monument lists the names of fallen soldiers was placed in Plaza de La Constitution in 1879 in an area designated in 1970 as a national historic landmark.

They say “the Monument is a form of expressive speech with a message related to the War Between the States and does not include Confederate markings.


About the Author: