Removing a Monument

One of the issues involved with battlefield restoration is that in fact it calls for a series of compromises. It would be very hard to restore a battlefield to its pre-battle condition, for example, because you would have to remove a lot of things, including park roads, towers, paths, and monuments. It’s difficult to restore a battlefield to its appearance at the time of the battle as well, because the battle itself changes the terrain on which it is fought. For example, I’m sure those of you who have visited Little Round Top have noted the stone fences that cross the military crest near the summit. Should those be removed? After all, they weren’t there at the time of the battle. And then there’s the monuments as well as the early efforts to ease the experience of visitors to the field, which sometimes went to excess (I’m thinking here of the loops up at Little Round Top and the Bloody Angle at Gettysburg, the latter of which is still easily visible due to the different shading of the grass there).

Let’s switch the Sickles proposal around. You are empowered to authorize the removal of a monument on NPS land on a Civil War battlefield. You must choose one. Which one do you remove, and why?

18 thoughts on “Removing a Monument

  1. Bill Shepherd April 28, 2013 / 4:19 pm

    The “Little Mac” at Antietam. But I’ll procrastinate and demand reinforcements first. Hold it. Did someone forget to build it?

  2. wgdavis April 28, 2013 / 5:26 pm

    The McKinley Monument at Antietam. A monument for serving coffee to the troops and then becoming president? He must be the idol of every military mess server in the world!

    • wkerrigan April 29, 2013 / 3:29 am

      The McKinley monument at Antietam is my favorite oversized monument! Love its ridiculousness.

  3. Al Mackey April 28, 2013 / 5:32 pm

    The Louisiana Memorial at Gettysburg. Those toes that look like fingers just creep me out way too much.

  4. Allen Carl Guelzo April 28, 2013 / 5:48 pm

    The Eternal Peace Light Monument. To erect this repulsive 1938 gimcrack, the Gettysburg National Military Park (then under the inexplicable direction of a landscape architect) obliterated the John Forney farm buildings and re-graded Oak Hill, thus doing as much violence to the original battlefield landscape as the unlamented Gettysburg Railroad, the Tipton photographic shed on Litrle Round Top, and Camp Colt. What’s worse, it was a monument designed in the finest Il Duce-style, and while it ostensibly was supposed to honor the last surviving Civil War veterans at their last general encampment, the timing in every other respect could not have been worse. Hitler had just swallowed Austria in the Anschluss that March, and would meet in another month with Chamberlain at Munich, to be followed by Kristallnacht in November. In Asia, the Japanese invaded China the year before, and the US gunboat Panay was attacked by the Japanese only nine months before FDR came to Gettysburg to pull the cord that unveiled the Eternal Peace Light Monument. The world was about to be plunged into the diametric opposite of peace, and the EPLM was, in reality, a monument, not to the veterans, but to wishful thinking and American isolationism. I will be happy to be the first to vote it off the battlefield.

    • Corey Meyer April 28, 2013 / 6:38 pm

      I would agree with the good professor.

    • Bob Huddleston April 28, 2013 / 7:54 pm

      Amen to this — the of the monument is a major eye sore!

    • Joshism April 28, 2013 / 8:31 pm

      I agree with this argument.

    • wkerrigan April 29, 2013 / 3:32 am

      Unfortunately placed, but the Eternal Peace Light Monument has become a significant symbol of the history of the memory of Gettysburg and the Civil War.

  5. Nancy Harper April 28, 2013 / 5:49 pm

    Well thought out question – what is it we are preserving and why ? This takes discussion , reflection and thought. Interesting that you point out the battle changed the landscape – and this is really what is being preserved; hallowed ground , significant buildings and cultural items.

  6. M.D. Blough April 28, 2013 / 8:47 pm

    I’m not going to get into that one. Every monument someone hates, another passionately loves.

    There are few more complex issues than what to preserve and why, but I get a little tired of those who lump in the monuments, particularly those erected by veterans and/or states in honor of those veterans while survivors were still alive, with gas stations, modern government buildings, and tourist traps. The monuments, provided that they aren’t permitted to proliferate to a level where it looks like a very crowded cemetery, help in the interpretation of the battlefield and are as much a part of the memorial aspect of the park as the cemetery is.

    Also, the goal of the current General Management Plan was never a stalk of grass by stalk of grass diorama style recreation of the battlefield (there was very little support for Alternative D, which would have been much more strict in what would be allowed to stay but which would not have touched the monuments and interpretive markers): The summary of the final plan describes C, the chosen alternative:

    “Alternative C, the proposed plan, builds on and incorporates most elements of Alternative B. It includes rehabilitation of the large-scale landscape elements present during the battle, and would rehabilitate the major landscape features and circulation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Alternative C also includes a new museum complex with greatly improved museum interpretation, and a set of coordinated measures to manage visitor use and transportation. Like Alternative B, this alternative would strengthen interpretation of the role of the town in the Battle and its aftermath, and link it to the battlefield. It would strengthen partnerships at all levels.

    Within the Battle Action Resource Area, Alternative C also proposes the rehabilitation of those small scale landscape elements – fences, woodlots, orchards and other features – that were significant to the outcome of the battle. This alternative would enable visitors to appreciate the obstacles and terrain that confronted troops during the battle. Alternative C also calls for rehabilitation of the significant design features of the Civil War portion of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and the Battlefield Commemorative Resource Area. Its approach to rehabilitation would broaden the scope of overall interpretation and expand the number of venues that could be well understood by and interpreted to visitors, providing relief for heavily visited and adversely impacted sites.

    Alternative C also proposes relocation of park offices and some visitor facilities to the Visitor and Park Services Overlay Area and away from the Major Battle Action Resource Area.<<

    D, on the other hand, was described as follows, "Alternative D builds on and would incorporate nearly all the measures identified in Alternatives B and C, including restoration of the features that were significant to the outcome of the battle and to the development of the Soldiers' National Cemetery and the commemorative areas of the park. It includes a new museum complex, actions to manage visitor use and transportation, and partnership initiatives with the Borough of Gettysburg and elsewhere.

    In addition, Alternative D proposes rehabilitation, restoration or reconstruction of all of the features present in 1863 that can be adequately identified and documented, across the entirety of the park. Alternative D would restore original design elements of the commemorative landscape system of monuments, avenues, and monument groups. In keeping with the restoration effort, it would emphasize the use of the commemorative avenues and monuments as the primary interpretation of the park and would eliminate modern interpretive measures, such as wayside exhibits.<<

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 28, 2013 / 9:05 pm

      Let me ask a different question: the Delaware and Maryland monuments at Gettysburg were put in place as part of a particular landscape that no longer exists. Would you have them remain in place? Should they be relocated? Relocation isn’t out of the question, as monuments displaced by the old Cyclorama Center will be returned to their former location as part of the plan in that area.

      • M.D. Blough April 28, 2013 / 11:08 pm

        On those two, I don’t have any issue with relocating them since I don’t recall the location having any huge significance to either state. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that those states have been given that option but chose not to but I’m not positive on that. OTOH, when the rehabilitation of the area is complete, it may well be a nicer location than it was.

        Monuments have been relocated and even replaced in the past. I think the critical thing has been whether that has been done with the consent or at the initiative of the monument’s sponsor, not as a judgment against the artistry of the monument

  7. Jerry Desko April 28, 2013 / 11:53 pm

    I think all the monuments should be left alone, including the inherited R. E. Lee at Antietam and Longstreet on a Shetland Pony at Gettysburg. All of them have been allowed space on the field by whatever entity governed their placement at the time. I think one’s dislike of a monument is insufficient reason for its removal after all, one man’s fascistic shaft is another man’s austere and overwhelming Soviet bloc monolithic monster.

    As for the movement of some monuments, I think that can be done for good reason if the monument’s position is of no significance. Movement for safety concerns may also be valid, such as the poor Teutonic soldier of the 74th PA Infantry that is located at a sharp curve on Howard Avenue. I think before another car hits it and completely demolishes it beyond repair, it should be moved.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 29, 2013 / 2:28 pm

      Perhaps the Land of Little Horses could sponsor the Longstreet monument. Hey, that gives me an idea …

      • Jerry Desko April 29, 2013 / 4:03 pm

        You have too much time on your hands at this time.

        More importantly, what do you think of the Giants’ draft choices?

        • Brooks D. Simpson April 29, 2013 / 4:07 pm

          I am far more concerned about the Stanley Cup playoffs. Smart to get an offensive lineman, but I wonder about all of these Hokies.

  8. John Foskett April 29, 2013 / 7:43 am

    As an example of a class of monuments which I would remove, the Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg. The true “monument” is the battlefield. Erecting smaller edifices to commemorate heroism, etc. is reasonable (provided the number is limited – again, Gettysburg is an offender) but I’ve never understood why folks decided to recreate Caesar’s Rome with some of these massive structures. A giant granite gazebo is amusement park material. Of course, when one sees the interior of a typical Victorian mansion, one grasps that there was some fascination with man-made clutter.

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