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Scissors with cut lines are visible on the Robert E. Lee Monument and is part of the recent vandalism of Confederate monuments in New Orleans, La., Saturday September 17, 2016.

Advocate photo by SOPHIA GERMER

The Civil War was only a year old when New Orleans fell, to remain under union occupation until the South gave up the ghost in 1865.

Long after hostilities concluded, the city adopted the mantle of a Confederate bastion, erecting statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard.

The imminent removal of those statues has been denounced as an attempt to rewrite history. But the history they stand for might be regarded as revisionist itself.

Robert E. Lee, has stood atop his column since 1884, but the Civil War was an even more distant memory by the time the statues of Davis and Beauregard were dedicated in 1908 and 1915 respectively.

The coalition that sued to keep the statues in place vows to fight on, although last week's ruling from the federal appeals court strongly suggests that further resistance is pointless. The statues will be squirreled away and, perhaps, re-erected later off the beaten track where they cannot catch the eye and offend the sensibilities of casual passers-by.

Of the three CSA heroes about to disappear from the streets, Beauregard is the odd man out, not only because he was from here, the pride of the Creoles, but because he became a champion of racial reconciliation during Reconstruction. Beauregard was not only leader of the Unification Movement, but enjoyed such a reputation for integrity that he was hired to preside over drawings of the Louisiana lottery to counter suspicions of corruptions that were to prove well justified.

Alexander Doyle's fine equestrian statue of Beauregard stands in the intersection between the top of Esplanade Avenue, main thoroughfare in the neighborhood that belonged to the Creoles, and the entrance to City Park. Whether it adorns the cityscape, or constitutes an affront, is a question on which opinion is split largely on racial lines.

If there had been a case for sparing any of the statues, Beauregard's might have gotten the vote. But his brazen likeness does not honor his efforts to introduce racial equality. He sits there as the general who led the assault on Fort Sumter that precipitated the Civil War.

Also slated for removal from public display, thanks to a separate court ruling, is the Liberty Monument, the obelisk erected in 1891 to celebrate the White League's bloody but short-lived 1874 victory over a Reconstruction force in the streets of New Orleans. But that monument has been consigned in recent years to an obscure location. In any case, it honors bloodshed in a racist and treasonous cause, and we will be well rid of it.

There is no shortage of black people who think the same applies to the statues of Beauregard, Lee and Davis, and the City Council voted 6-1 to go along with Mayor Mitch Landrieu's demand to get rid of the whole caboodle. There is no shortage of white people who think their heritage has been betrayed. Either way, the cityscape everyone grew up with will be radically altered.

The question now becomes how much further we go in obliterating the relics of the Old South. Old Hickory, for instance, went down in history as the victor in the Battle of New Orleans, but he was also responsible for the Trail of Tears, and there has therefore been some agitation to bring a removal crew into Jackson Square.

Meanwhile the city still has a park and a street named for Benjamin Palmer, the firebrand preacher who was against the old Louisiana lottery, but also on the opposite side to Beauregard over racial reconciliation. Palmer remained an apologist for slavery until his death early in the 20th century.

Landrieu suggests that once Beauregard, Lee, Davis and the Liberty Monument are gone, “we will have the opportunity to join together and select new unifying symbols that truly reflect who we are today.”

History does not suggest that reaching agreement on whom to honor will be an easy task. Indeed, the moment Landrieu announced his plans for the monuments, it was clear that the racial divide remains in place. We'll have to hope he isn't just whistling Dixie.

Note. Thursday's column, in some subsequent references to the Southern Poverty Law Center, transposed letters in its acronym. SPLC it is, not SLPC.

Email James Gill at jgill@theadvocate.com.