Letter affirms Confederate monument opposition

Veterans Park, Bradenton
The Veterans Council opposes moving the county's historic Confederate memorial to Veterans Park in Bradenton. - Cindy Lane | Sun

BRADENTON – Manatee County commissioners face opposition by the Manatee County Veteran’s Council to placing a historic Confederate monument in Veterans Park.

Veterans Council chairman Carl Hunsinger sent County Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac a two-page letter on Oct. 21 detailing the council’s position.

“As you are no doubt aware, the Manatee County Veterans Council has had a number of spirited discussions regard the County Commission’s recommendation to relocate the Confederate statue previously located at the historic courthouse to either Veterans Park or to Gamble Plantation Historic Park. The Veterans Council cannot endorse the commission’s current recommendation,” Hunsinger’s letter began.

The local Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the memorial monument in 1924. In August, the county commission ordered the monument be removed from its location in front of the Manatee County Historic Courthouse that serves as the Clerk of the Court’s office.

Confederate Monument and Courthouse
The memorial Confederate monument stood in front of the historic courthouse in downtown Bradenton until Aug. 24, 2017. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

The commission requested the removal due to public safety concerns raised before and after a large protest took place in the courthouse square. The granite monument was damaged and fractured while being removed. It is currently being stored in an undisclosed location until county commissioners decide where to put it next. The plan is to repair the monument after it’s moved to its new location.

Hunsinger’s letter noted the Veterans Council represents approximately 40,000 veterans who are also county voters.

“With the Veterans Council responsibility to protect the original intent for Veterans Park, ensuring that only veterans serving the uniformed services of the United States of America be honored, and only those individuals from Manatee County would have their names memorialized on the walls, statues or memorials contained within Veterans Park. And please remember, these walls, statues and monuments were funded by private donations,” the letter states.

“Throughout our discussions, we have focused not only on what is best for Veterans Park, but also what is best for Manatee County. With the contentious nature of this issue, we believe there is significant risk of damage to present monuments, plaques, etc. contained within Veterans Park should the Confederate statue be relocated there. This, along with other issues, formed the basis for the overwhelming majority of council members to not endorse the county commission recommendation. However, our non-concurrence does not mean we do not have a recommendation. The council believes commission was on the right track in proposing relocation of the statue to Gamble Plantation Historic Park. Therefore, the Veterans Council strongly urges the county commissioners to expeditiously move forward and work with the State of Florida on relocating the statue to Gamble Plantation,” Hunsinger’s letter concludes.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said county officials have been in contact with state officials about the Gamble Mansion location.

“We are waiting to hear back from them,” she said last week.

Gamble Mansion
The Gamble Mansion in Palmetto is open for guided tours six days a week. – FloridaStateParks.org | Submitted

The Gamble Plantation Historic Park website says it is believed that Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin took refuge in the mansion after the fall of the South, until he could arrange for safe passage to England. In 1925, the United Daughters of the Confederacy saved the mansion and the 16 acres of land it stands on in Ellenton.

Guided tours are now given six days a week.