A Boom in Confederate Monuments, on Private Land

by SABRINA TAVERNISE, NYtimes:

One of the proudest moments of Robert Eldreth’s life was erecting a Confederate monument on a patch of grass behind the Georgetown Historical Society in 2007. It was the first monument to Delawareans who had served the Confederacy, and the fact that it came 142 years after the end of the war hardly mattered.

“It’s a lesson in history,” said Mr. Eldreth, who led the group that put it up. “It’s about our roots and the sacrifices that those citizens here in Delaware made. To me that’s so honorable.”

But amid the furor over Confederate monuments, touched off by the violence in Charlottesville, Va., two weeks ago, an unexpected reality has largely been overshadowed: While old monuments erected in bygone eras are coming down, new ones continue to go up.

In Crenshaw County, Ala., a new monument to “unknown Confederate soldiers” was unveiled on Sunday in a private park. In the small East Texas town of Orange, a giant concrete ring of 13 columns, representing the states the Confederacy claimed as its own, is going up on private land at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. In North Carolina, a bronze statue of the Confederate general Joseph Johnston was installed at the Bentonville battlefield in 2010.

“There has been a Civil War memorial boom going on over the last 20 years,” said W. Fitzhugh Brundage, the chairman of the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At least 36 have gone up in North Carolina alone since 2000, he said, as many as were put up between 1940 and 1990. Of those, 20 are to Confederates and four are to Union forces. The rest memorialize the war in general, including one dedicated in 2012 to Civil War horses.

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But if the memorials of yesteryear were put in busy public squares, today’s are mostly appearing far from the bustle of daily life on plots of private land, or on battlefield sites, Professor Brundage said. It is a sign that while most Americans may oppose the tearing down of old monuments, the building of new ones is no longer finding acceptance in broader society, something even proponents of the monuments acknowledge.

 

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