Several folks have asked my opinion of the vandalism of memorials and monuments of late, particularly those for Confederates. I think my stance is clear, if you look back at previous blog posts. I’m not one to take advantage of controversial topics to generate web hits. But so long as folks are asking….
If you track the local news here in Loudoun County, an article which ran in Leesburg Today mentioned efforts to replace a highway marker lost during the fall. The marker noted the battle of Balls Bluff, fought October 21, 1861. Originally, I noticed the marker was “down” in November. It appeared over the years the point the marker attached to the pole had simply rusted out. Being a “good boy scout” I left it in place, but notified authorities. Unfortunately, someone picked up the marker at some point later on, leaving us with a lonely post along the highway and a gap in our public-facing historical interpretation. (See the full news article on the Leesburg Today web page.)
Jim Morgan and the Friends of Balls Bluff are now working to resolve that by replacing the marker. Jim is, as many will recall, the author of the definitive history of the battle. The Friends are currently raising the necessary money to cover the replacement of the marker:
Checks should be made out to Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, noting the money is for the Friends of Ball’s Bluff sign project, and sent to: Friends of Ball’s Bluff, c/o Temple Hall Farm Regional Park, 15789 Temple Hall Lane, Leesburg, VA 020176.
As the old marker’s 1927 casting mold is long gone, the Friends are taking the opportunity to update the marker’s text:
Just to the east, 1,700 Union troops crossed the Potomac River and clashed with 1,700 Confederates on 21 Oct. 1861. The previous evening, a Union reconnaissance patrol had mistaken a row of trees for a small group of Confederate tents. Brig. Gen. Charles Stone ordered an early-morning raid on this ‘camp.’ Confederates under Col. Nathan Evans confronted the Federals, who were then reinforced. Col. and Sen. Edward D. Baker took command and became the only U.S. senator ever killed in combat. The Federals were routed as they retreated across the river. Congress created the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War to investigate the defeat.
The original text, transcribed on HMDB, read:
One mile east occurred the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, October 21, 1861. A Union force, which had crossed the river at this point, was driven back over it by the Confederates.
Yes… more words in the text… keep in mind that the 1927 marker was written for the “Model T” travelers, so large font text. So we need an updated text that caters to the contemporary audience. The other point is that the marker indicated “one mile east.” Well when the Virginia Department of Transportation moved the marker from US 15 Business to the US 15 by-pass sometime a few decades ago, that was not updated.
There are some suggestions as to placing the marker at a point which has some direct link to the battle (i.e. near one of the old road traces or closer to the battlefield). More on that as details are worked out.
And… as the article notes, the Friends also have their annual fundraising dinner just around the corner:
The Friends of Ball’s Bluff also is planning its Ball’s Bluff Remembrance Day Dinner Feb. 22 at The Woodlands at Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling.
Morgan said the annual fundraising dinner—formerly known as the Edward Baker Day Dinner—has been renamed in response to concerns that the reference to President Lincoln’s close friend and Union commander who was killed at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff seemed to restrict the commemoration to honoring only one side of those involved in the conflict.
Morgan invites the public to enjoy what he calls “a rather delectable menu” and to hear renowned Civil War author Frank O’Reilly tell the story of the soldiers who fought at Ball’s Bluff and Fredericksburg. The 6 p.m. social hour is followed with dinner at 6:30 p.m., during which Reilly will speak. Dinner is $45 per person and reservations should be made to Dale Hook at NOVA Parks at 703-352-5900. Payment is required at the time of reservation. REHAU is the sponsor for the dinner.
Please consider donating to help the marker replacement project and attending the dinner.
Back in February 2006, a night of vandalism left three Gettysburg monuments damaged – the 4th New York Independent Battery at the Devils Den, 11th Massachusetts Infantry along Emmitsburg Road, and the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry near the Peach Orchard.
The park repaired the 114th Pennsylvania first. I’m not certain how quickly, but it was restored by the time I entered the memorial into HMDB in 2009. With the bronze statue broken up and parts missing, the 4th New York Artillery required more work. That monument was not restored until December 2011. And finally, seven years and a couple months later, the 11th Massachusetts is set right.
Up to the second week of April this year, the memorial looked like this:
Notice the missing cap and flat appearance of the top.
Restored, to its original appearance, the monument sports an arm wielding a sword.
You can see the cracks and filler remaining as scars from the vandalism.
The Gettysburg National Park blog has photos showing the repair work. (An earlier post has photos of the damage done in 2006 along with how the arm was recreated.) At the time the vandalism took place, estimates were over $60,000 for repairs. I’ve not seen the final bill for all the repairs.
From the Boston Herald:
Famous 54th Regiment Monument Vandalized
A woman is in police custody after officials say she splashed yellow paint onto a historic downtown monument honoring African Americans who fought in the Civil War, apparently because she wasn’t happy with how it depicted history.
Boston cops say they arrested Rosemine Occean, 38, of Quincy after responding to a report of vandalism to the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial.
Capt. Stephen Owens of the state Bureau of Ranger Services, which oversees the nearby State House, said the woman parked her car on Beacon Street around 4 p.m., got out and began dousing the century-old memorial with yellow paint, even hitting nearby pedestrians in the process.One man whose daughter was splashed stopped the woman from leaving until police arrived, Owens said.
“She was just sitting there on the bench with a can of paint in her hand, talking to police,” Owens said. He said the woman was spotted just weeks earlier trying to break a sword from the statue and today indicated to authorities that she was upset with how the memorial depicted history….
Follow up stories from the Boston Herald provide more details of the incident:
A paint-splattered Quincy woman was charged yesterday with defacing a historic downtown monument honoring black soldiers who fought in the Civil War after officials say she splashed yellow paint on it because she was unhappy with how it depicted history.
Boston cops arrested Rosemine Occean, 38, after responding to a report of vandalism to the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial. Police say Occean had paint on her face, hands and clothes, and Capt. Stephen Owens of the state Bureau of Ranger Services said she still had a paint can in her hands. Occean is due to be arraigned today on charges of willful and malicious destruction to city property.
Owens said the woman parked on Beacon Street at about 4 p.m. and began dousing the century-old memorial, splattering passers-by in the process. Owens said she was spotted weeks earlier trying to break the Shaw sword and yesterday told police she was upset with how the memorial depicted history.
Another article goes on to say Mrs. Occean, who has a history of mental illness will undergo a psychiatric evaluation while being held on bond.
We don’t often see cases of monument, memorial, or marker vandalism solved so quickly. Only limited details about the misrepresentations of history, which motivated Mrs. Occean, have been reported. So we’d do well to avoid speculations in that regard, or any comparisons to other similar acts.
- Woman Arrested For Vandalizing Boston Statue (boston.cbslocal.com)
- Famed Massachusetts 54th Regiment statue defaced (wcvb.com)
- Woman arrested, accused of defacing statue in Boston Common (wcvb.com)
- Remembering the 54th Regiment (streetsofsalem.com)
- Attack by 54th Massachusetts unit observed in S.C. (bostonherald.com)
- Booker T. Washington dedicates a monument to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts (grandoldpartisan.typepad.com)
The Philadelphia Inquirer posted a piece on efforts to restore the Cumberland County Civil War Memorial in Bridgeton, New Jersey:
It is a forlorn sight in what should be a place of honor. The statue of a musket-bearing Civil War soldier, in Bridgeton City Park for nearly a century, is headless, the top of the musket broken off, too.
“Who would gain by this? Why would someone even think to do it?” said Bridgeton Chief of Police Mark Ott. “This isn’t even just a chip off the base. Someone had to get up 10, 12 feet and work hard to break off a huge piece of granite.”….
The 1,100-acre park has always been Bridgeton’s jewel. The desecration of the Civil War statue, discovered Dec. 6, is painful, said Mayor Albert Kelly.
“It is where we all go to have some peace,” Kelly said. “We have had so little crime there. It’s the place Bridgeton honors, no matter what else is going on.”
Ott said the musket from the eight-foot-tall Georgia Ebony granite statue was found near the piece’s 14-foot base. The head, partly mutilated, showed up a few days later in a ditch several hundred yards away….
Into the breach has come Rich Mendoza, a retired music teacher in the Deptford schools and an amateur Civil War historian. He is captain of the “re-created” 12th N.J. Volunteer Infantry Company K, which mustered out of Bridgeton from a building that still stands at the corner of Commerce and Laurel Streets, Mendoza said.
Mendoza, 65, who grew up in Deptford and lives in Voorhees, will emcee a benefit concert Saturday to help pay for reconstruction of the statue. The Libby Prison Minstrels, a group in which he plays guitar, will be joined by a brass band, a fife-and-drum group, and a balladeer, David Kincaid, all doing Civil War-era music. The event will be held at the Marino Center on Washington Street in Bridgeton. Tickets are $10 and available through Bridgeton City Hall…. (read more)
There are more details about the benefit concert on the New Jersey Civil War Sesquicentennial website.
And with that link, let me say again what a fantastic job the New Jersey Sesquicentennial Committee is doing. In my opinion, the work of the committee stands out as a model example of how to approach the sesquicentennial at the state level.
In my clips from the article, I skipped over, for brevity, the Inquirer’s description of the Bridgeton community. Since I don’t know the particulars, I can only go off what the article mentions. Still I find it interesting the mayor mentioned the park as a place “where we all go to have some peace.” While I cannot speak directly for Bridgeton’s memorial and park, that statement echoes the purpose of the Civil War veterans organizations as they established memorials around the country – looking for a place to both honor the sacrifice, yet find some peace on this earth.
This story is making the rounds on many Civil War news websites:
DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — The 140-year-old white marble monument that sits in front of the Walton County Courthouse attracts little attention.
The memorial dedicated to the confederate dead from the Civil War has been there since 1927, yet it is missing pieces and goes mostly unnoticed by passers-by.
The monument has been designated by historians as the first one erected in Florida to pay tribute to confederates killed in the war. However, many details about the memorial come from folk tales rather than documentation….
As the state marker indicates, the Walton County memorial was the state’s first Confederate memorial, and was moved a few times over the year. But the marker’s text does not provide all the details. The news article does offer more of the story. And apparently not all those moves were “administrative”:
The Ladies’ Memorial Association originally decided to place the monument at Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church, but others disagreed and the group placed the statue in the front lawn of the early court-house in Eucheeanna.
At some point, John Morrison, a state delegate, his brother Murdoch Morrison and some of their employees loaded the monument onto a wagon and brought it to Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church.
According to Moore’s book, the brothers threatened violence against anyone who tried to stop them.
The president of the women’s group, Jeannett J. McCullom — McKinnon on the statue — filed a complaint with the First Judicial Court. The case was dismissed.
McCullom appealed to the Supreme Court of Florida. In January 1874 the court found for McCullom and the monument was moved back to the Eucheeanna courthouse.
In September 1927, the statue was moved a final time to its present location in DeFuniak Springs when the city became the county seat.
So why would Mr. Morrison object to placing the memorial at the courthouse? I’m no Florida history expert (and would ask those who are to weigh in here), but there are some leads to follow. A John Morrison of Walton County signed the Florida Ordinance of Secession in January 1861. Then there is a John Morrison who served on Florida’s State Constitutional Convention in 1865, also representing Walton County. I’m going to assume these Morrisons sent to the conventions are the same person as that who “threatened violence” as the memorial was moved to the Presbyterian Church.
Now did Morrison just want the memorial to complement the church grounds? Was Morrison a perhaps “scalawag”? Or did Morrison just have something against public memorials?
I don’t know, but suspect there’s a good story out there which might well draw attention to a monument that has lacked such for many years.