By now most readers of this blog have heard about the continuing discussions in Memphis and elsewhere on the fate of the bodies of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife Mary Ann. Debate over the Forrests, a monument commemorating the general, and the park in which they are currently buried commenced before the Charleston murders, with the name of the park being changed to “Health Sciences Park” (really?) on Union Avenue (that should bring a smile to some faces). In the wake of those murders and the discussions that have ensued, the Memphis City Council took the next step, proposing to remove the Forrests’ bodies and return them to where they were originally buried, a place Forrest himself chose–a Confederate cemetery.
There’s also a discussion about removing the statue to Forrest that stands at Health Sciences Park, but I think that’s a different discussion and one that some would say hinges on the outcome of this discussion. It’s not clear to me how the Forrests stay if the statue is moved, and without the Forrests, the statue might well be moved elsewhere (including to the cemetery in question, where I believe it would be treated with more respect).
As you might expect, there’s been cries of outrage from various parties, but I think this particular case deserves more thoughtful commentary. After all, this act honors Forrest’s wishes, not the wishes of those who moved the bodies before (thus establishing that it’s okay to move bodies, right?) or the wishes of some folks today. Andy Hall’s offered a very sound case for returning the bodies from whence they came.
I endorse that position given the particulars of the case. The return of the bodies will allow people to see Forrest at rest where he wanted to be at rest, and the conditions of the cemetery should improve as heritage groups work to enhance it. That some people advocate this course of action for different reasons should not deter those who seek to honor Forrest from finding this a desirable solution.
Bodies have been moved before. Ask Forrest. Sometimes people threaten to move them because of the condition of the place where they rest. Ask the descendants of Ulysses S. Grant. In this case, given the circumstances, I think the return of the Forrests to their original resting place is entirely appropriate and should be seen as an opportunity by those inclined to celebrate his life. It is true that I’m not among those people, but I don’t favor removal as a slam against Confederate heritage. Rather, the particulars of this case cry out for a more reasonable discussion.
So … another poll, and the comments section is open.