CLARKSVILLE, Tennessee (CLARKSVILLENOW) – Signage for the Confederate Soldiers Memorial Bridge and corresponding monument have both returned to their previous locations after spending a few months in storage.
Almost 20 years ago, the sign and memorial was erected on Cumberland Drive by Frank P. Gracey Camp 225 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The inauguration of the bridge was approved by a 7-4 vote of Clarksville City Council in August 2001.
Both were removed in June. The decision to do so, made by Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, was directly linked to the growth of the Black Lives Matter social justice movement. As peaceful protests took place in Clarksville for 93 consecutive days on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, outrage on both sides resulted in a rise in violence in the county.
“I made the decision to remove and store the monument and sign in early June, out of caution during the heat of the George Floyd protests. I didn’t want them to be vandalized or become a critical point, ”Pitts told Clarksville Now this week.
However, the mayor said the end of local protests and the recent return of Confederate memorials were purely coincidental and unrelated.
The mayor also said he never spoke to local Black Lives Matter activists about removing or returning the monument and sign.
Civil war hospital burial place
Gary Libiano, commanding officer of Frank P. Gracey Camp 225, told the Leaf-Chronicle in June that the monument was “nothing more than a gravestone.”
A mass burial site is located in the former home of the Clarksville Female Academy, which was converted into a hospital during the Civil War. Years later, after erosion in the area, many of the dead were moved and interned at Riverview Cemetery, according to the newspaper’s records. But up to 200 people could still be buried there, Libiano said.
The monument itself tells the story of the site and is inscribed on the monument with the names of the doctors who worked at the hospital, which includes two black nurses, Sisters Mary and Susan Bibb. They were also buried in hospital after dying of illness. It is not known whether they were moved with those interned at Riverview or whether they still remain at the site.
Libiano’s attorney, H. Edward Phillips, who is working with the city on a solution to manage the monument, said Confederate and Union soldiers were treated in hospital and buried at the site.
However, the monument does not mention this, it focuses on Confederate soldiers and it is titled “Confederate Soldiers Memorial”. It is also decorated with symbols of Confederation.
And, while the monument could be designed as a gravestone only, Frank P. Gracey Camp 225 has this purpose statement listed on the group’s website. It was delivered by Lieutenant General Stephen Dill Lee during a speech in 1906:
“To you, sons of Confederate veterans, we will take up the defense of the cause for which we have fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the fame of the Confederate soldier, the custody of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles that he loved and that you also love, and those ideals that made him glorious and who you also cherish.“
“Stephen Dill Lee, when he gave that accusation in 1906, he wasn’t saying that you are now going to try to re-enslave everyone. That’s not what he said, ”Phillips said when asked about the quote.
“The backdrop is this problem of movable property slavery, because it drove the economy, but to them at that time, in 1906, they weren’t saying, ‘Go ahead and approach anyone who is not like you, ”continued Phillips. “What they were saying was remembering the virtues they had, imperfect as man was, remembering things that were really good.
Tangled Civil War History
Phillips himself is involved in this issue on a personal level: some of his ancestors fought alongside the Union during the Civil War, and those in his family who were drafted into the Confederate Army did so without. want it, he said.
Asked about the Confederacy’s desire to support slavery, Phillips said the issue was more complex than this singular aspect.
“Do you really think people living in the 21st century want to go back to the days of the 1850s?” Phillips asked.
Verifiably, there are those who refuse to speak out against white supremacy, and in fact embrace it, although Phillips has said they are part of the vast minority.
“If we want to sit down and say that everyone in this country has a feeling like this, or a lot of people have such a feeling, then what unites us as a nation? ” Phillips said.
Ongoing legal discussions
When Clarksville Now asked the mayor about the group’s statement of goals, Pitts made it clear that installing the monument was not his idea.
“Let me just say that the decision to place the monument and name the bridge was made by city council in the early 2000s, long before I was elected mayor. So it’s a situation that I inherited, and I’m trying to deal with it and get a proper outcome for the city, ”Pitts said.
Libiano, on behalf of the Clarksville Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the city are in legal discussions to determine what to do with the monument and the bridge sign. While there are discussions among some members of the Clarksville government to eventually rename the bridge or remove the monument, that decision is not up to Pitts.
“The monument is protected under the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, so any re-designation or removal of the monument would have to be approved by the Tennessee Historical Commission. Our town lawyer continues to seek a legal settlement with the sons of the Confederate veterans regarding the monument and bridge, ”Pitts said.