A monument to the Confederate States of America that stands in the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery will be taken down this week.
The large memorial, sitting on what was created as a Union cemetery in the 1860s, will come down on Friday, Dec. 22. Initial site work has been done, and fencing has gone up around the work area, in part to protect nearby spaces in the cemetery. The monument is being removed as part of a federal mandate. The U.S. Army, which runs the cemetery, had until Jan. 1, 2024 to take it down.
The monument, given by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, is made of bronze, atop a granite base. In order to not disturb the surrounding grounds, the base will remain, with only the bronze portions being removed. The bronze portion is a rising pedestal, with depictions of Confederate soldiers, enslaved people and a figure of a “mammy” caricature holding a child. At the top of the monument a woman stands holding out a laurel crown in one hand.
According to a spokesperson for Arlington National Cemetery, once removed, the bronze portions of the memorial will be kept in a military facility in Virginia, with a final storage space still to be determined. A spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin told the Associated Press that Youngkin opposes the move and intends to place the memorial at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park in the Shenandoah Valley. It’s unclear if the Department of Defense would allow that.
The Confederate monument was set up in 1914, 14 years after Congress allowed Confederate soldiers to be buried at Arlington. More than 400 Confederates are buried in the cemetery, according to the U.S. Army.
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The memorial is being taken down on orders from Congress, and as directed by the Department of Defense. Despite Congressional mandate, some members of the legislature have called for keeping the monument to the rebel Confederacy up. More than 40 Republican members of the House of Representatives wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin calling for it to stay in place. They said that it is not a monument to the Confederate States but instead “commemorates reconciliation and national unity,” according to the letter. However the monument itself depicts Confederate soldiers, slavery and the U.S. military, on its website for Arlington National Cemetery, calls it a “nostalgic, mythologized vision of the Confederacy, including highly sanitized depictions of slavery.”
The action at Arlington comes as the Department of Defense has been renaming bases, streets and buildings that honored Confederate leaders. An independent commission recommended that more than 1,100 sites be renamed in order to remove any lingering honors to the rebel government and its military. Multiple bases were renamed, such as Fort Benning being rechristened Fort Moore or Fort Hood becoming Fort Cavazos.
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