Arizona — or at least the southern half — was a Confederate territory before it was a United States territory.
The debate over U.S. Civil War memorials honoring Confederate soldiers has raged across the nation for the past couple of years, reaching a crescendo in New Orleans recently as the mayor had city employees pull down statues in the dark of night.
But the issue isn’t only a Southern one.
Arizona has half a dozen Confederate memorials, and a small highway southeast of Apache Junction is named after Jefferson Davis — the first and only president of the Confederate States of America.
Despite activity elsewhere, there’s been no real effort to remove them here.
The most public memorial is located across from the state Capitol in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza. Another memorial marks the Arizona location of the Civil War’s most western battle.
Arizona — or at least the bottom half of what is now Arizona — was a Confederate territory.
The Battle of Picacho Peak occurred about 60 miles south of Phoenix. It involved two dozen men. After several hours of fierce fighting, the Union cavalry withdrew and the Confederates fled to Tucson. Three men died.
Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, called in 2015 for the Capitol memorial to be removed and the highway renamed.
“We can’t go through our daily lives honoring symbols of hate, symbols of separation and symbols of segregation right now,” Bolding said at the time.
According to the Associated Press, Gov. Doug Ducey at the time promised to look into renaming the highway.
But neither Bolding nor Ducey — nor anyone else — asked the state Board on Geographic and Historic Names to consider a name change, according to spokesman Matt Roberts.
Lobbyist Kevin DeMenna, who chairs the state’s Legislative Governmental Mall Commission, said there are no recent requests to the commission to consider removing the memorial.
But he said such a decision would be up to the state Legislature.
Neither Bolding nor any other lawmaker in recent years has introduced legislation to remove the Capitol memorial.
Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, proposed legislation in 2016 to install a memorial for Union soldiers in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza. It never received a public hearing or vote.
Curt Tipton, an adjutant with the Arizona division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, called efforts to remove memorials around the country “ridiculous.”
“Taking down a statue because somebody is offended is ridiculous,” he said. “It’s part of history.”
He said his organization is opposed to removing any historical monuments in Arizona, whether it’s a Confederate memorial or Tucson’s memorial to Pancho Villa.
He said people are often surprised to learn that Arizona was a territory in the Confederacy before it was ever a territory of the United States, and said more than 300 Confederate soldiers are buried in the state.
Arizona Confederate memorials:
- Memorial to Arizona Confederate troops, Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix.
- Arizona Confederate veterans memorial, Greenwood Cemetery, Phoenix.
- Jefferson Davis Highway, U.S. Highway 60 at Peralta Road, Apache Junction.
- Arizona Confederate veterans memorial, Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sierra Vista.
- Battle of Picacho Pass monument, Picacho Peak State Park.
- Monument at the four graves of the only Confederate soldiers killed in action (by a group of Apaches) in Arizona, Dragoon Springs stagecoach station east of Tucson.
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