On Moving and Removing Monuments (and a poll!)

Just because the Confederate Battle Flag no longer flies on the grounds of the South Carolina state house does not mean that the debate over the display of Confederate flags, icons, and symbols is over … including monuments to Confederate leaders and soldiers. Today we consider the last category.

Monuments are creatures of the place and time when they are erected (and where) just as much as they are ways of paying tribute to a person, event, cause, soldiers … whatever the subject of the monument. They tell us as much about the people who erected those monuments as they do about the subject of the monument. One need only recall the history of the major monuments in Washington, DC, as well as the debates over more recent monuments placed in the nation’s capital to understand this point. Even ugly monuments (see here) have their own special message, although in some cases I believe the monument may actually mock or denigrate its subject (see there).

Moreover, what goes up at times comes down or moves elsewhere … or is changed. Anyone familiar with the Gettysburg battlefield can tell you that monuments change and are relocated. Such was the case with the monument to the 23rd Pennsylvania on Culp’s Hill, for example (given that an ancestor of mine served in that unit, it is of especial interest to me). The top of the monument was changed and the monument itself was relocated. I think the final result is appropriate and appealing, but I didn’t erect the monument or indicate its original location. American (and world) history is filled with stories of monuments being pulled down (see New York during the American Revolution or, more recently, Baghdad, April 9, 2003). Just this spring South Africans removed a statue of Cecil Rhodes from the grounds of Cape Town University (this article sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?). Some monuments ought to be moved, I think, because they are in poor locations. Such is the case with a recently-erected statue of Robert E. Lee at Antietam, which is actually located within Union lines just west of Middle Bridge.

That said, I would oppose removing altogether any Confederate monuments currently on public land set aside as a battlefield park (Gettysburg is the most visible example). In those cases, signage may be educational (look at the monuments erected by the former Confederate states at Gettysburg, and you’ll understand that explication can lead to an enriched understanding … the same goes for monuments for the loyal states). But the monuments themselves should stay.

What about other Confederate monuments that dot the southern landscape? Take for example, Charlottesville, where equestrian statues of Lee and Jackson stand a few blocks from another statue to Albemarle County’s Confederate veterans? Let them stay, I say … although I’m perfectly willing to admit that it’s not my opinion, but the opinion of the people in Charlottesville and Albemarle County that counts for more.

What about the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis? Let’s set aside the discussion over the proposed return of the Forrests’ bodies to where they were originally interred. Should that happen, it’s up to the folks in Memphis what to do, although they should think about it (I think the statue should remain in Memphis, but, again, my opinion may not count for very much). Maybe it could be moved to Nashville to displace that rather unseemly representation of Forrest.

In short, I don’t think the widespread or wholesale removal of Confederate monuments is a good idea. I would not remove the one in Arlington National Cemetery, for example, although that monument begs for explication and contextualization. I think it would be better to look at ways of commemorating other people and events (and establishing counter narratives) to place these monuments in a better and richer context. (For example, I would oppose the removal of the monument to Confederates or the statue of Wade Hampton on the state grounds in Columbia). Sometimes, there exist provisions for change (the case of Statuary Hall comes to mind … if states choose to commemorate different people, well, that’s an exercise of a state’s prerogative, and I thought the Confederacy was all about that).

But you may feel differently. So here’s a poll giving you the chance to express your position, and if you need to clarify or elaborate on it, there’s always the comments section. Please spend more time elaborating or clarifying than offering the usual whining about “you should have asked this question” … let’s see you get your own blog and do better. 🙂

48 thoughts on “On Moving and Removing Monuments (and a poll!)

  1. Rob Baker July 15, 2015 / 2:09 pm

    I believe that a fight against monuments is a lost campaign. There should be a fight for contextualization.

  2. jim July 15, 2015 / 2:19 pm

    Leaving monuments in the hands of those who don’t care or dislike them is not a good idea. Monuments in the hands of the Federal government, State governments or private hands have great flexibility to have context added. No so much city and towns where they are resented.

  3. James F. Epperson July 15, 2015 / 2:19 pm

    I wanted to select two options—“keep them in place, but with appropriate new interpretation” and “it’s up to the locals.”

    BTW, Mayor Landrieu wants to eliminate several Confederate monuments in New Orleans.

      • John Foskett July 15, 2015 / 3:25 pm

        So you’d leave the plaque at Dartford Station? 🙂

  4. Laqueesha July 15, 2015 / 2:57 pm

    After the fall of the Soviet Union, some countries in Eastern Europe got rid of their Communist monuments.

    On one hand, I don’t believe that we should have statues celebrating evil men. The Europeans didn’t think so, hence their tearing down of Communist statues and relegating them to museums.

    Then again, I can see how the monuments can be useful if kept up with contextual plaques as a teaching statement. This can show people how historical monuments are not factually infallible and can be abused for political purposes, as many, if not most C.S. monuments went up in the early 20th century with the rise of Jim Crow and segregation (not surprisingly so). Some, such as a few in Maryland, are even located in areas that were Unionist during the war!

    That’s my take.

  5. Brad Griffin July 15, 2015 / 2:59 pm

    I find it interesting that Dylann Roof was so fascinated with Zimbabwe and South Africa. He was born the same month that apartheid came to an end in South Africa.

    In South Africa, as you have said, a monument to Cecil Rhodes was torn down earlier this year. In Zimbabwe, they want to dig up his body and send it back to Britain, which is precisely what is being proposed in Memphis. Roof saw obvious parallels between the fate of White Southerners in the South and White Rhodesians and South Africans.

    I haven’t seen anything to suggest he was familiar with the Democratic Republic of Congo, but statues of Stanley were also torn down there and colonial cities were renamed. Leopoldville became Kinshasa, Elisabethville became Lubumbashi, Stanleyville became Kisangani. As early as the 1970s, copper thieves were tearing down power lines there.

    Now the NAACP wants to tear down the Mississippi State Flag and blow up Stone Mountain. Perhaps their goal is to illustrate that Roof was right and that America’s experiment in creating a “Rainbow Nation” will end up like the dystopias in South Africa and Zimbabwe?

    • The Lamp July 15, 2015 / 6:22 pm

      Cool, Brad, I hope they do! We should get an OPP party together for that!

      We can play this, you remember this song Brad, doncha? 😉

    • Msb July 16, 2015 / 12:00 am

      Pretty big leap from the Congo to Mississippi, isn’t it? Among other things, the NAACP is a citizens’ association and not a government, and a number of other people also want to state flag to change.

      • John Foskett July 16, 2015 / 10:30 am

        Actually not such a big leap. After all, Stanley fought briefly for the Rebs before later aligning himself with the notorious Belgian King Leopold and butchering countless numbers of the black locals. Think: Fort Pillow Exponential.

        • Brad Griffin July 16, 2015 / 11:03 am

          Actually, the notorious Belgian King Leopold II was the only force that stopped the Zanzibari Arabs from enslaving all of Central Africa.

          • John Foskett July 16, 2015 / 12:39 pm

            I wouldn’t go too far with giving him the Nobel Prize on that one. He needed the Central Africa labor force for his own needs. And he wasn’t paying the minimum wage, by the way. Think “rubber”. But you knew that…..

          • Brad Griffin July 17, 2015 / 1:08 pm

            Yeah, I know quite a lot about it.

            There were a few thousand Europeans in an area the size of Europe for all of about 10 years. That’s nothing compared to the East African slave trade which was suppressed by Belgium from the west and Britain from the east.

          • John Foskett July 17, 2015 / 2:28 pm

            If only Leopold had been as efficient at counting as the Wansee Protocol gang was. We’d know a lot better where he ranks from a statistical standpoint. He definitely passes the eye test even without the advanced stats. .

      • Brad Griffin July 16, 2015 / 11:00 am

        Not really.

        Whether you look at Jackson or the Mississippi Delta, wherever blacks have taken over, the area has gone into decline just like Congo, Liberia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc.

        • Jimmy Dick July 16, 2015 / 11:23 am

          I love the way you lie and twist the truth like the racist you are. Fortunately, people recognize your lies and reject your racism.

          • Brad Griffin July 17, 2015 / 1:18 pm

            Where am I wrong?

            Blacks took over Jackson. The city went into decline. Blacks took over the Mississippi Delta. The region went into decline. Blacks took over Birmingham. The city went into decline. Blacks took over the Alabama Black Belt. The region went into decline. Blacks took over Memphis. That city also went into decline.

            I’m sitting here writing this in St. Charles County, MO. Virtually everyone who lives here used to live in St. Louis. The White people who live in St. Charles are refugees who moved here to rebuild civilization after blacks destroyed St. Louis.


            ^^ I recently snapped this photo of the yards signs which I saw all over St. Louis which say, “We Must Stop Killing Each Other.” East St. Louis in Illinois is even worse. I have to drive through there on my way home this evening. I won’t be getting off the I-64 until I am at least in O’Fallon. It is far too dangerous.

          • Jimmy Dick July 17, 2015 / 3:26 pm

            Once again, Brad lies his ass off about white flight to give value to his racist ideology. Keep on with the lies. A carpet wishes to be as good as you.

        • T F Smith July 16, 2015 / 10:31 pm

          Blacks took over in Liberia?

          Wow, who lived there before the blacks showed up?

          Tell me more…

          Perilously historical analysis.

          • Brad Griffin July 17, 2015 / 1:20 pm

            Oh yes, “Liberia.”

            It was an American colony for freed slaves. It was going to be the black version of the “Land of the Free”:

  6. OhioGuy July 15, 2015 / 3:42 pm

    Yes, there are a number of monuments in court house squares in Unionist eastern Kentucky to Confederate generals and/or soldiers. I would be for interpretive plaques that stated that a statue was put up when the Lost Cause mythology was on the ascendency and that the majority of local boys actually volunteered for Union regiments, maybe giving the the actual figures for that county. My information about this phenomenon comes from original research of a former student of mine. He did two master’s theses on Kentucky in the Secession Crisis. One of these with a focus on volunteering — done in the history department — has now been turned into a book published by the UK Press. The other one, which I directed in journalism, looked at editorial positions of newspapers. They both found the same general pattern of Unionism throughout the state, except in some counties bordering Tennessee and those in the far west Jackson Purchase area.

    Similarly, there is a county in West Virginia, not far from where I now live, that consolidated all the county high schools a number of years ago. They decided on the nickname and mascot for the new school — The Richie County Rebels, with a CSA colonel mascot. One big problem. The county, along the upper Ohio River valley, was heavily pro-Union during the insurrection. I would be for changing the name in that case. It just totally misrepresents historical reality.

    • jclark82 July 15, 2015 / 5:42 pm

      The sad thing about my home state of Kentucky is that while it sent three soldiers to the Union for every rebel there are 72 monuments to rebels and just two for Union soldiers.

      There is discussion of removing the Jeff Davis statue out of the state Capitol and place it in the history center. My pick for a suitable replacement would be MG Robert Anderson, MG John Buford or a USCT soldier. It would be a good start in correcting the imbalance.

      Jerry Sudduth Jr.

  7. Sandi Saunders July 15, 2015 / 4:16 pm

    I do not support any wholesale effort to remove monuments or memorials. I think we can look at some that might need to be moved or removed but as a whole, they are a testament to history and simply offering a tutorial plaque that tells the whole truth would be the educational purpose they should serve. It is history and it is our history. The flag is a wholly separate issue IMHO and it needs to go from government property and license plates (with the exception of government memorials that have a historical reason to display the flag).

    The racism, secession, anti-government, anti-Civil Rights use of the flag cannot be discounted or ignored any longer.

    Defacing and vandalizing memorials, statues and monuments is criminal and wrong. I will not defend that either.

  8. Jimmy Dick July 15, 2015 / 4:37 pm

    I am for a case by case basis. The ones that are clearly erroneous need to be corrected. The ones that were placed to honor whites in order to keep blacks down need to go. The segregation monuments need to be relocated to a place where it is clearly marked that these monuments were created to honor terrorists, scum, traitors, and racists by the same. Failing that, blow them up.

    • Mark A. Snell July 16, 2015 / 5:45 pm

      Why do you always come across, to me at least, as so self-righteous? “Failing that, blow them up.” Really?

      • Jimmy Dick July 16, 2015 / 9:07 pm

        Sure. Why should we leave monuments to terrorists standing? Look up the Liberty Place monument and figure out that one.

        • Bert July 17, 2015 / 3:49 am

          I also selected case by case removal, and did just look up The Battle of Liberty Place (and its monument). Good example. It would be a little easier to accept/understand (even if we disagree with) the views of the so called Heritage folks about their Confederate ancestors if they could accept how bad it looks when they support symbols of (and monuments to) clearly racist events.

  9. Chunk July 15, 2015 / 6:34 pm

    I believe that every Confederate monument on federal land should be removed and replaced with a monument to honor the slaves, without whom the Confederates had no cause of action to plunge our nation into civil war. And not just one monument but many, starting with a memorial to John Punch — then other memorials to the countless unnamed souls who were born, partus sequitur ventrem, into slavery and who died, oftentimes miserably, in slavery as well.

    I also believe that putting 12″ × 24″ plaque next to a bigger-than-life monument of a psychopathic slaveholding white-supremacist to explain that he really doesn’t deserve commemoration is absurd. However, I think ripping down the bigger-than-life monument reeks of Nazi book burnings or ISIS obliterating antiquities or fundamentalists burning Beatles’ albums. The first mistake was erecting the monuments and it may well be another mistake to sledgehammer them out of existence after so many years. So it’s a dilemma.

    Perhaps the feds could initiate a program of buying land in the South, or even seizing it, to build museums where plantations once stood — museums that systematically document the horrors of slavery — from the Middle Passage, to the auction blocks, to the tetanus-infected dirt-floored shacks, to the pig troughs from which the slaves ate, to the so-called “nigger boxes” where slaveholders tortured their chattel. All of it. The feds should build a museum in Memphis, TN, near the location where Nathan Bedford Forrest made his fortune selling slaves. The museum should include a life-sized statue of Forrest whipping a slave in the barn, to “break” him, as other slaves hold the victim upright. Likewise for Robert E. Lee and all the other reprobates lionized by Southern idiots.

    Then, when we have as many monuments in honor of the slaves as we have honoring the slaveholders — then I believe we could have a national conversation about razing these awful memorials to these wretched men.

  10. Rosieo July 16, 2015 / 1:17 am

    Bedford Forrest should go back to his original cemetery where family put him but his monument with explanatory plaque could remain in that Tenn. park ( though perhaps this is one statue that should be retired )… As bonus, moving remains would be interesting… would there be ceremony ?

  11. Bob Huddleston July 16, 2015 / 7:48 am

    For a time there was a GOP movement to replace James Shields in the National Statuary Hall with native son Reagan.

  12. Lyle Smith July 16, 2015 / 8:32 am

    The monuments are perfect as they are and speak for themselves. Hopefully people years from now will be able to appreciate them as we do.

  13. Bob Huddleston July 16, 2015 / 10:28 am

    In front of the Colorado state capital building is the common statue of a Civil War soldier, in this case a Yankee, with a listing of the battles which had Colorado volunteers as participants. One of the battles is Sand Creek.

    What should be done about it? The solution a few years ago was to include an interpretive marker, explaining the inclusion of Sand Creek.

    On the plaza in Santa Fe is a monument labeled “To the Heroes Who Have Fallen in the Various Battles with [word chiseled out] Indians in the territory of New Mexico.” IIRC, the missing word was “Savage.” Last time I was there I did not see any explanation of what the missing word was or when it was removed.

    • Chunk July 16, 2015 / 10:48 am

      Build a monument to the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre and rename Mount Evans.

      • John Foskett July 16, 2015 / 4:35 pm

        You can leave the name. The danged thing isn’t a “legit” 14er anyway, what with a road to the bloody top. (And yes, I put Pikes in the same category).

        • Chunk July 16, 2015 / 5:36 pm

          The road does not change the altitude’s legitimacy but Evans’ role in Sand Creek places him in the same category as Nathan Bedford Forrest. Denver should name its city dump after John Evans and Colorado should rename the landform that bears his name to Mount Massacre — a fitting tribute to his legacy.

          • John Foskett July 17, 2015 / 2:25 pm

            It does change the altitude’s “legitimacy” if you can sit in a vehicle and book on up to the summit. Nothing beats hoofing 4,000 feet in 4 or so miles, only to emerge onto a parking lot. The only thing I’ll give it is that there are a couple of routes which can only be done at a time of year when the road is closed.

          • Chunk July 17, 2015 / 7:38 pm

            I apologize for being unnecessarily provocative, but I believe you’re trying to say that it’s illegitimate to ascend a summit by automobile. I would only agree with you if someone believed that they were actually hiking when in fact they were driving. Either way, the altitude does not change; only the means of accessing it.

            Summits of all shapes & sizes surround the Mount Evans Wilderness, so if Evans doesn’t light your fuse, then there are 15 other trailheads within a few miles’ radius that will. It’s like Baskin Robbins, except instead of choosing flavors, you can pick your trail by indigenous trees, seasonal flowers, native wildlife, number of streams or lakes, physical difficulty, or sheer elevation. My favorite is Rosalie Trail because it cuts through a pristine forest of bristlecone pines that that have retained their conical shape because the ridge faces due east where the wind doesn’t touch it (the wind always comes off the Divide from the west). Of course, I learned about bristlecone pines when I drove up Mount Evans Road and saw that ancient grove.

            And I want to amend my previous comment. Colorado needs to rename Mount Evans AND the Mount Evans Wilderness.

  14. Ned July 16, 2015 / 11:28 am

    I picked ‘case-by-case basis’ though I also agree with the “left to the community etc” option — these don’t seem to me like exclusive choices.

    A few I’d like to see go are the Confederate statuary in the US Capitol — I think it would be nice if those states could select someone to honor in the Capitol who hadnt taken up arms against the US. I’d also be in favor of replacing the Davis monument on Monument Ave in Richmond. I’m not into nostaligic longing for the Confederate good old times, which is the vibe I get from the one.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 16, 2015 / 11:34 am

      These positions have been offered as exclusive choices in much of the early discussion about this, where people decided not to offer their preferences by saying it was a local decision. Watch for future polls.

    • Bob Huddleston July 16, 2015 / 9:09 pm

      Perhaps john C Calhoun and Wade Hampton could be replaced by Robert Smalls, a man who *did* fight for freedom both of himself as well as his family.

      • Chunk July 17, 2015 / 7:53 am

        Robert Smalls — now he was a true American hero: As a slave he hijacked a Confederate transport vessel, saying, “I thought ‘The Planter’ might be of some use to Uncle Abe” (Genovese). He also provided invaluable intelligence to the Union about Charleston Harbor — enough intel that the CIA lists him as a spy in the Civil War. Indeed, Robert Smalls deserves a larger-than-life-sized monument, along with all the other slaves who served as spies for the North.

      • OhioGuy July 17, 2015 / 9:38 am

        Agree on Smalls. One of the main roads in Beaufort, South Carolina, is named after him and has been for at least the last ten years.

  15. OhioGuy July 17, 2015 / 8:53 am

    Just past over the Woodrow Wilson bridge, wife driving, between Annapolis and Richmond. There was a big brass relief of his profile on the entrance to the bridge. I don’t give racist presidents a pass just because they were once academics. This bridge should renamed. How about Union Army Road to Richmond Bridge?

  16. OhioGuy July 17, 2015 / 8:55 am

    Just past over the Woodrow Wilson bridge, wife driving, between Annapolis and Richmond. There was a big brass relief of his profile on the entrance to the bridge. I don’t give racist presidents a pass just because they were once academics. This bridge should be renamed. How about Union Army Road to Richmond Bridge?

  17. OhioGuy July 17, 2015 / 9:02 am

    Now we just past the exit to Jefferson Davis Highway. I propose it be renamed Dahlgren Raid Heritage Highway.

    • OhioGuy July 17, 2015 / 9:12 am

      That should be “passed” though I wish that name was in the “past.” 😡

  18. OhioGuy July 17, 2015 / 9:09 am

    Near us in Ohio, much to my consternation, we have the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail. The locals were being terrorized by him. It’s not our heritage. I don’t mind them marking his trail and having appropriate historical markers along the way, but the word “heritage” in this context really galls me.

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