Our general misunderstanding

by Walter Pierce

He’s been dead almost 153 years, but Gen. Alfred Mouton will be reanimated Tuesday evening.

The public discussion in Lafayette over the monument to Confederate General Alfred Mouton gets real Tuesday evening when supporters on both sides of the debate about relocating the Downtown statue get their say before the City-Parish Council. The meeting is expected to draw dozens if not scores of people, most with strong opinions.

What’s at stake? Nothing, aside from furthering a much-needed public dialogue in Lafayette about how we got to where we are, which will inform how we get to whatever’s next. Tonight’s discussion before the council is merely that — discussion. The council will not vote to do anything about the statue, and even supporters of relocating the general with whom I’ve spoken say they don’t expect our fair city to ever do anything about our Confederate monument.

Indeed, calls for relocating the monument, erected in 1922 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, are born of a movement across the former Confederacy to honestly engage with our past — something groups like the UDC were never interested in during the Jim Crow era when they stippled the South with monuments to a break-away republic that lost the bloodiest war in American history. The United Daughters focused exclusively on the “bravery and nobility” of Confederate heroes while downplaying what those heroes were fighting for — slavery. And for many of us who favor relocating the statue — not destroying or mothballing; simply moving it out of a place of public prominence — that’s the issue: not who Gen. Alfred Mouton was but why our community thought fit to erect a monument to him in 1922, six decades after his death on the battlefield at Mansfield, La.

Proponents of leaving the monument alone will argue that the monument is about our history and that calls to relocate it are about rewriting history. The more compelling argument is that erecting the monument in the first place was part of a concerted, trans-Southern effort to rewrite history. And besides, it’s not everyone’s history insofar as our black neighbors in Lafayette never bore fealty to those who enslaved their ancestors.

Another facet to all this is the permanent injunction against relocating the statue that the city agreed to in 1980 after the UDC sought a restraining order preventing the city from relocating the monument to the current City Hall a half mile away.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. Public discussion of the monument is the third of three discussion items on the agenda, so it will likely commence at 6 or 6:15. It will be broadcast live on AOC and can also be streamed on The live stream can be accessed from the home page of Lafayette Consolidated Government.

Read our February cover story, “A Monumental Question,” for more on General Mouton.