August 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
Those of us who had successfully ended the display of Confederate flags at the Confederate rest area of the City of Madison, Wisconsin’s Forest Hill Cemetery had decided to leave the issue of the two Confederate monuments there to others.
Others have now acted.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin ordered the removal of the those two Confederate monuments from the Confederate rest area.
One, plaque on a rock, has been removed. The other, a stone with the names of those buried in the rest area, will soon be removed by heavy equipment.
Replacement Marker Suggestions
University of Wisconsin history professor Stephen Kantrowitz states that a replacement informational marker will be needed.
That replacement marker can correct the historical inaccuracies of the current marker:
The plaque misidentifies the unit of the deceased Confederate POWs as the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment. The correct name of the unit was the 1st Alabama, Tennessee, & Mississippi Infantry Regiment.
The plaque had two crossed Confederate battle flags.
The Confederate soldiers buried in Madison, Wisconsin may never have served under those flags on the plaque.
That battle flag was adopted by the Army of Northern Virginian in December, 1861. The soldiers buried in Madison were captured three months later in March, 1862 probably before Confederate units that far west on the Mississippi River had begun to use that as their battle flag.
Including the unit flag the 1st Alabama, Tennessee, & Mississippi Infantry Regiment on a replacement plaque is unnecessary. That can be left to displays in the nearby the Wisconsin State Historical Society’s museums.
Why Confederate Monuments Must Be Removed
Respecting Our Union Dead
The Confederate’s violent treason resulted in the deaths of 360,000 to 432,000 members of our armed forces, some of whom are also buried in our Forest Hill Cemetery. The level of honor being accorded to the Confederates is a direct contradiction to our nation’s commitment to honor our veterans and respect their service.
The Relationship Among the Ideologies of the Confederates, the Nazis, and Apartheid
One of the clearest ways to understand this issue is what the Nazis did to comedian Mel Brooks when they captured him during the Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944.
In the Nazi racial hierarchy, Jews were subhumans and therefore not covered by the international laws of war on the treatment of POWs. Starting on the first day of the war in 1939, the Nazis treated Jewish POWs differently. Captured Polish Jewish soldiers and officers (9% of the Polish armed forces) were summarily executed in the field.
The Nazis identified Mel Brooks as Jewish. Instead of sending him to a POW camp he was sent to the slave labor camp at Berga.
The Confederate ideology of racial supremacy viewed captured African-American Union soldiers as subhumans. Just as the Nazis did with captured Polish and American Jewish troops, instead of treating them as POWs they were either summarily executed in the field or made slaves as the Nazis did to Mel Brooks.
The Confederates and the Nazis treated POWs they judged as subhumans in same way because the Nazi ideology of racial supremacy is a direct line descendent of the Confederate ideology.
The Jim Crow South created by the ex-Confederate white supremacists after Reconstruction was almost identical to Apartheid South Africa because the ideologies of the Confederacy and Apartheid are also directly related.
Our archives and museums have plenty of room for Confederate statues, monuments, and memorials where they can be viewed and studied in their historical context. That we have failed to removed them from public spaces is among the reasons we have made so little progress on racial issues.
WWII German War Dead
Germans respectfully maintain the graves of their WWII war dead without flags with swastikas, monuments with the names of the dead in addition to the names on the gravestones, or plaques referring to their dead as “valiant” or “unsung heroes” as was on the plaque on the rock that was removed from the Confederate rest area of Madison’s Forest Hill Cemetery.
The time has come for us to do the same.
WWII German military cemetery, Mont-de-Huisnes, Normandy, France.
No flags with swastikas, no plaques about their “valiant dead” and “unsung heroes”, no additional monuments with lists of the dead, no statues of leaders on horseback or soldiers in glorified poses.
Photos by Cheryl A. Robinson, 2014
Maise Brown of Jackson, Mississippi who’s much more difficult effort to remove the Confederate battle flag from her state’s flag inspired me to continue my advocacy.
In the Spring of 2016, Cheryl Robinson and I visited sites in Mississippi where Anson Croman served in the 20th Michigan during the Vicksburg Campaign. That included Jackson, Mississippi which after the surrender of Vicksburg, was temporarily liberated by Union troops including the 20th Michigan.
While in Jackson we read Maisie op-ed, “The ‘Cloth on the Stick’ Represents Hatred Toward Me,”
We connected and have been friends and supporters since.
I hope our successes in a much more supportive environment support her ongoing struggle in a much more difficult environment.
Sources and More Information:
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin orders removal of Confederate monuments at Forest Hill Cemetery by Logan Wroge Wisconsin State Journal August 17, 2017
High estimate of Union dead
New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll by By Guy Gugliotta New York Times April 2, 2012
1st Regiment, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi Infantry: National Park Service
Confederate Battle Flag History
The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem by John M. Coski, Harvard University Press, 2005
Previous Forest Hill Cemetery posts:
Update on Confederate Flag Display in Madison Park May 27, 2016
International Practice Supports Ban on Confederate National Flag January 5, 2016
Historical background and connections to current events are occasional features of my family history blogs.
Minor revisions: August 19, 2017