Over the weekend, a vandal defaced a monument to Orange County’s Confederate pioneers in Santa Ana Cemetery with red spray paint. Now, one side of the pillar read “racists” in graffiti. Santa Ana police took a report on the vandalism on Sunday and assigned the case to a property crimes detective. Billed as “the largest Confederate monument in the Western United States” when dedicated in 2004–yes, you read that right–by the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) Camp 1770, the memorial already faced an uncertain future following race riots in Charlottesville two summers ago.
That’s when former Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano exposed the monument, one of the last of its kind in California, in all its shamefulness.
The pillar is etched with “1861 C.S.A. 1865” on top in paying tribute to the Confederate States of America. Down below rested a Southern Cross of Honor complete with the Stars and Bars. It appears that whoever was responsible for the vandalism also took it off the monument.
Then, there reads the main inscription on that same side.
To honor the sacred memory of the pioneers who built Orange County after their valiant efforts to defend the Cause of Southern Independence.
Former SanTana mayor and amateur historian Gordon Bricken got the bright idea to erect the monument he’s now buried a few feet from when, apparently, OC’s Confederate veterans-turned-pioneers didn’t get their proper historical due. One of the pioneers that the pillar stands to remember is Henry W. Head, the former Gray who went on to join Nathan Bedford Forrest’s original Ku Klux Klan. Head moved to present-day Garden Grove, became a state assemblyman and helped in early efforts to have OC secede from Los Angeles County.
Of course, the OC that eventually came into existence tried its damnedest to keep blacks out while keeping Mexicans segregated throughout the years. The sordid history behind the tribute is, of course, rarely mentioned in write ups on the vandalism.
That allows for folks like Patricia Bricken, Gordon’s daughter, to tell the OC Register that the monument her father helped bring about was never intended to glorify the Stars and Bars and anything that the Rebs may have done during the Civil War. Sure…
She also bemoaned that the tribute stood on private property and wasn’t forced on anybody. But in the wake of Charlottesville, cemetery district officials did a double take on the monument and couldn’t find any records or permits approving it. The SCV Camp 1770 apparently gave up when cemetery officials offered them a chance to keep the monument under certain modifications and conditions. In turn, they approved its removal earlier this month.
“We are outraged by this vandalism to the CSA monument in the old Santa Ana cemetery,” wrote Robert L. Williams, SCV Camp 1770 commander, on California Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Facebook page. “There is no right; no excuse, for vandalism and destruction of property, especially in a Memorial Park.” The group claims the memorial was approved by the cemetery board in 2003 and vows to fight its removal. They also blame cemetery security staff for being “complicit” in the vandalism. Last year, SCV Camp 1770 paid for and added a black granite plaque honoring 10 Confederate veteran OC pioneers like Orange city father William T. Glassell, SanTana city treasurer John M. Lacy and Head.
OC’s towering tribute to its Confederate pioneers, covered in tarp following defacement, is spending what could be its last days by being emblazoned in headlines and stories that miss the historical irony of its fate. As Arellano noted, Gordon Bricken’s The Civil War Legacy spells out his own motivation for the monument effort when youth vandalized a Confederate marker in Santa Ana Cemetery.
On Fourth of July weekend, a vandal returned the favor in red.
Updated with quote from Robert L. Williams of SCV Camp 1770.