Indiana historical marker commemorating the Laurel birthplace of Confederate General Francis Shoup
(Photo: Indiana Historical Bureau)

Historical Marker for Indiana-Born Confederate General Under Review

(LAUREL, Ind.) — Indiana is discussing whether to rewrite a historical marker noting the birthplace of a Confederate general.

Francis Shoup was an Indianapolis miliitia commander — until he moved to Florida on the eve of the Civil War and joined the Confederate Army. He’s credited with an innovative network of arrowhead-shaped defensive forts dubbed “shoupades,” which forced General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union Army to detour on its route to Atlanta. But a marker for his birthplace in the Franklin County town of Laurel claims he advocated letting Black soldiers enlist. An Indiana Historical Bureau staff report calls that both inaccurate and misleading.

The report argues the statement makes Shoup’s position sound more significant than it actually was. It says the marker “furthers a pervasive [and] dangerous myth” that Black soldiers were among those fighting for the Confederacy. Confederate President Jefferson Davis firmly opposed allowing African-American soldiers to join the Army, writing it would “revolt and disgust the whole South.” Only in the final week of the war, the report says, did a small number of African-American soldiers begin drills, and none saw combat.

The report notes Shoup’s suggestion wasn’t rooted in any notion of equal rights, but his theory that slaves were already conditioned to be obedient, or could be made so through harsh discipline and their own “simple-mindedness.” And the report argues the word “recruitment” itself is misleading, since slaves had no power to enlist but would be forced into a different form of servitude.

The report also calls for more context for Shoup’s primary claim to fame, saying the marker fails to
mention the work crews which built the shoupades near the Chattahoochee River included about a
thousand slaves.

Historical Bureau deputy director Michella Marino says the board of the Indiana State Library will review the recommendation, in consultation with the Franklin County Historical Society. She says the marker could be replaced with a rewritten version including proper context, or, conceivably, could be removed entirely. She says there’s no timeline for a final decision.

The marker was installed in 2006. A previous review in 2011 concluded the wording was accurate, but did not address the question of context.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett this month ordered the removal of a monument to Confederate prisoners of war from Garfield Park. There’s also an obelisk in Terre Haute’s Woodlawn Cemetery marking the grave of 11 Confederate POW’s who died at a prison camp in the city. Terre Haute officials say that marker is controlled by the National Park Service through a federal easement on the land.

Indiana’s more than 600 state historical markers include one northwest of Fountain Square honoring
African-Americans who did fight in the Civil War: the Indiana-based 28th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, who fought for the Union.

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