Following our nation's fratricidal conflict, both sides sought to commemorate the sacrifices that their soldiers and sailors had made. Monuments, erected mostly in public spaces during the late 19th and early 20th century, were a way for communities and veterans' groups to ensure that no one would ever forget the local men who had fought and died in the late war. Today, Confederate war memorials survive as an enduring part of the Southern landscape, although not without controversy linked to the taint of slavery. But for every statue or monument in a Southern town, there is a counterpart in a Northern hamlet, waiting to be discovered. In this post, I'd like to share with readers just a small sample of Civil War memorials that I've come across in Virginia and Massachusetts.
One of the most visible monuments in Northern Virginia is the statue of a lone Confederate soldier looking down Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria, his backed turned to the nation's capital. The sculpture, known as "Appomattox," was erected in 1889 by the Robert E. Lee Camp of the United Confederate Veterans and honors Alexandrians who died while serving the Confederacy. No matter how many times I get to Old Town, I like to pause to reflect on this statue, which seems so anachronistic in today's Northern Virginia of young, upwardly mobile, and diverse transplants. (I previously wrote about the statue's role in Civil War memory and explained why it makes sense to preserve such monuments, however uncomfortable they may make us feel today.)
|Confederate Statue (1889), Alexandria, Virginia|
|Confederate Monument (1908), Leesburg, Virginia|
|Civil War Memorial (1875), Nantucket, Massachusetts|
This past October I traveled to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a charming small town in the heart of the Berkshires. There too I found a Civil War monument dedicated to local citizens who had fought for "liberty and union." The impressive monument, unveiled in front of the City Hall in 1876, is topped by a bronze statue of the goddess Victory. Great Barrington took its obligation to the town's native sons very seriously and kicked in about $5,000 to erect the monument. Private citizens contributed the balance. The effort to place a monument also spurred the construction of the new City Hall at the time.
|Civil War Monument (1876), Great Barrington, Massachusetts|
|Inscription on the Great Barrington Civil War Monument|
Tara Bahrampour, "Despite Virginia's Role in Electing First Black President, Confederate Soldier Statues Hold Their Ground," Washington Post, March 21, 2009; The Historical Marker Database, Entry on the Confederate Statue, Alexandria, VA: The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Art Inventories Catalog, "Civil War Monument 'Victory'"; Eduard Stackpole, "The Forgotten Town in the Sea is Rediscovered: The Beginning of Nantucket's Great Revival--1870," Historic Nantucket, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Fall 1988); Charles James Taylor, History of Great Barrington (1882); Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, VA, Leesburg Confederate Monument Collection, 1901-1908 (PDF file);