ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A Confederate memorial that was recently moved from downtown St. Augustine to the Trout Creek Fish Camp has been the target of vandalism.
Someone tried to set the nearly 30-foot stone pillar on fire, a spokesman for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said. The memorial and the surrounding concrete pavement were also sprayed with orange paint that read “You make us look bad.”
The memorial, which honors 46 Confederate soldiers, was finally erected at its new home at the Trout Creek Fish Camp on Thursday, but crews still needed to take beams off the nearly 150-year-old memorial, which was encased in packaging from its long journey.
Whoever vandalized the statue trespassed, threw oil on it and then set the packing material on fire overnight. It wasn’t much of a blaze, authorities said.
The base was visibly charred by the city said foam pieces that are protecting the plaques served as a repellent and the fire did not take.
It’s unclear what time the fire was set, and no one is in custody.
A contractor told News4Jax there are no cameras at the fish camp. Deputies said they will investigate any cameras around the area to see if they can spot suspects.
City officials, St. Johns County investigators and the contractor were at the scene Friday morning, assessing the damage.
For now, the city still owns the memorial until the “artifact lease agreement” has been executed with the property’s owner, Randy Ringhaver.
Ringhaver will have to decide whether to put security measures in place.
By noon Friday, a fence perimeter had been put up around the memorial.
“We don’t need no more tension in our community. We don’t need any more anger. That needs to be set aside,” said St. Augustine resident Douglas Manucy. “We just want to appreciate the history we have. There’s a lot of history in St. Augustine, and it comes from all over. Let’s preserve it and appreciate it, and let’s not destroy it.”
Someone tried to set Confederate memorial on fire that was recently moved from St. Augustine to Trout Creek Fish Camp. Orange Spray painted graffiti on memorial & on concrete “You make us look bad.” Oil is seen on memorial. @wjxt4 https://t.co/J0D0ucJTtH pic.twitter.com/dRlWHwPjIC— Brittany Muller (@BrittMullerNews) September 25, 2020
The memorial, which previously stood in the Plaza de la Constitution in the heart of St. Augustine, arrived 13 days ago at the fish camp but the cement where it’s now sitting needed to settle for the past week and crews were finally able to place it in its permanent position Thursday in front of a pavilion on the fish camp grounds.
The contractor hired by the city told News4Jax another layer of concrete will be poured around the memorial to complete the project. Plaques will then be placed once crews fill the bottom with dirt.
Ringhaver also proposed a park and sidewalks so future generations can visit the site.
The journey from the plaza to the fish camp took four days and had to be undertaken carefully because the contractor charged with moving the 100,00-pound memorial wanted to be sure it arrived in one piece.
After contractors spent time carefully packing the memorial for the move, the journey began Sept. 9 with a three-block ride from the plaza to Avenida Menendez, where it was staged for transport on a barge the next day.
Jeremy Patterson, vice president of Progressive Construction, said the diesel engine transporter the monument was loaded onto featured a hydraulic dolly system that drives itself via remote control. The monument -- dolly system and all -- was loaded onto the barge for the 94-mile trek by water on Sept. 10 after a crane spent hours creating a makeshift ramp to roll it aboard.
While the memorial’s new home was only 18 miles away from the plaza by land -- about a 30-minute drive -- the decision was made to take the journey by water instead -- north on the Intracoastal Waterway, then into the St. Johns River near Mayport and south, past downtown Jacksonville and on to the fish camp along State Road 13.
The trip was expected to take as much as 15 hours, but the delivery was delayed Sept. 11 because the crew opted to wait for daylight in the mouth of the creek before finishing the trip. The barge finally arrived just before 7:30 a.m that day -- more than 19 hours after it left the bayfront -- and docked west of the bridge because it couldn’t fit underneath to directly access the fish camp property.
It took roughly two hours to unload the monument from the barge, along with the necessary equipment required to move it. That included a truck, a crane and a forklift.
Due to wet and muddy grounds, crews placed down steel plates and ramps to protect the 100,000-pound monument during the transport across State Road 13, which wasn’t completed until Sept. 12, when utility workers raised power lines to allow it to cross the highway and arrive at the fish camp.
In June, the St. Augustine City Commission voted 3-2 in favor of moving the Confederate monument that was built in 1872 in downtown St. Augustine.
There have been protests over the removal of the monument, but no protesters were out Wednesday for the first leg of the move. Spectators lined the streets and there was a heavy police presence.
The city said the move was expected to cost $236,000.
A statue of Confederate Gen. William Loring that was located feet away was also removed last month. The University of Florida, which owns the property where the Loring monument stood, relocated the statue to private property.