A Confederate bronze and granite statue that overlooks a portion of Arlington National Cemetery is among the monuments being recommended for removal by the Congressional Naming Commission. The 108-year-old memorial was erected following the reinterment of White Southern troops who’d lost their lives fighting in the American Civil War.
Erected in 1914, the monument depicts Southerners heading off to fight in the Civil War, followed by their slaves, one of which is carrying a soldier’s baby. It’s topped by the statue of a woman wearing a crown of olive leaves and carrying a laurel wreath, pruning hook and plow stock. She’s intended to represent the American South, and below her is a Biblical inscription, which reads, “They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Beneath her is a circular base of shields, featuring the coats of arms of the 13 Confederate states and Maryland. They’re located near a Latin inscription, which translates to, “The victorious cause was pleasing to the gods, but the lost cause to Vato.” This equates the South’s failure to seceed to a noble “lost cause.”
In around 1900, White Southern troops began to be reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery. At the time, the graves were segregated, with Black troops “buried alongside former slaves and poor Whites.” This remained until 1948, when US President Harry Truman desegregated the cemetery, by way of Executive Order.
The Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense That Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America – better known as the Naming Commission – has now recommended that the monument be stripped and removed from Arlington National Cemetery. It’s slated to list the monument among other Confederate memorials in its final report to Congress, which is due October 1, 2022.
“It is problematic from top to bottom,” said retired Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, who serves as the Naming Commission’s vice chair.
The commission has been working to create a list of Confederate monuments that should be removed. They’ve also been working on a list of US military equipment and installations that should be renamed. This includes nine bases: Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Lee, Virginia; and Fort AP Hill, Virginia.
The Naming Commission is slated to include the renaming of the US Navy vessel, USS Chancellorsville (CG-62). The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser takes her name from the Battle of Chancellorsville, the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. The battle is considered one of Gen. Robert E. Lee‘s biggest wins of the Civil War, and it’s where Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was mortally wounded.
“What did they say when they commissioned the ship? We looked at what used to be in the boardroom, and there were pictures of Lee and Jackson in the boardroom, and that’s been taken out since then,” said Seidule. “So we looked at the entire context and felt as though this commemorated the Confederacy, as an unanimous decision among the eight commissioners.”
Monuments related to both Jackson and Lee have been removed in recent years. This includes statues of Lee in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia. The state saw some of the biggest demonstrations during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in 2020.
The Military Sealift Command (MSC) oceanographic survey ship, USNS Maury (T-AGS-66) will likely also be renamed, as her namesake, Matthew Fontaine Maury, the “Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology,” later joined the Confederacy.
The Naming Commission was created following the passing of a law by Congress in December 2020. The initiative, which is slated to cost an estimated $62 million, has been working diligently since then to decide which Confederate monuments and memorials should be changed and/or removed. The changes listed in the commission’s final report are expected to begin in early 2024.