GREENSBORO — A Confederate monument at a city-managed cemetery is in storage after it was toppled during the Fourth of July weekend.
For well over a century, a statue of a musket-wielding soldier in Green Hill Cemetery has marked the mass grave of about 300 unknown Confederate soldiers.
City spokesman Jake Keys said no one saw the monument taken down and the city doesn’t know who is responsible for the toppling.
While the city maintains the cemetery, Keys said it does not and has not maintained the monument. City staff cuts the grass, Keys said, but “the monument and its hardscape are cared for by the owners.”
Though the Sons of the Confederate Veterans take care of the memorial, the Daughters of the Confederacy is the actual owner.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans said in a statement Wednesday it “condemns in the strongest language the vandalism” of the Green Hill monument.
“When mobs and rioters take the law into their own hands and violate our cemeteries, then something is seriously wrong with our society,” the group said.
Keys said the monument was taken off site after it was knocked off its base over the weekend. He said the city can’t speak to what will happen to the monument since the city does not own it, but he heard it might not be replaced.
Frank B. Powell, a spokesperson for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said Wednesday he hopes whoever knocked down the statue is caught by police.
Because the monument marks the graves of hundreds of Confederate soldiers, Powell said, “That makes it a gravestone. That’s a whole different set of laws we’re dealing with.”
Though he hasn’t seen the statue since it was knocked down, Powell said he has heard it is in storage and the damage is “pretty extensive.”
Plans for the immediate future of the statue are unknown. Powell said it may need to be replaced or repaired because of the damage, and if the decision is made to return it to the cemetery it would likely happen “after law enforcement has done something” to ensure that whoever toppled it doesn’t return and damage it again.
Confederate monuments have come under scrutiny over the past several years and focus has been redirected to them in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man whose Memorial Day death in the custody of Minneapolis police officers sparked discussions about racial unrest and police brutality nationwide.
Some people view the statues as a symbol of Southern heritage, while other groups contend they are painful reminders that glorify slavery and those who defended it. The argument over whether or not they should be taken down has led to the removal of some Confederate monuments, but many remain in cities and towns all over the country.
While Greensboro’s statue at Green Hill Cemetery was tucked away, several Confederate monuments across the state stand in prominent public places, like the city of Graham’s Confederate monument outside of their historic courthouse. The monument, dedicated in 1914, has been the site of recent protests, one of which led to the arrest of two men on June 20.
According to a description on Documenting the American South, an online library known as DocSouth that is sponsored by UNC-Chapel Hill, the Green Hill Confederate statue stood on a granite column stamped with a metal Great Seal of the Confederacy. The monument was dedicated in 1888 and has since seen restorations and add-ons.
In 1984, a second granite column was added, raising the statue’s height.
The Confederacy seal was dedicated in 2008, the same year a tree limb fell during a storm, causing severe damage that required repairs. Erosion of a burial mound led to the addition of a protective and memorial wall in 2011.
But the monument has also been target of intentional damage over the years.
In the 1960s, during civil rights unrest, the gun and the hand of the soldier were broken off, but the Sons of Confederate Veterans arranged for the damage to be repaired. On August 16, 2017, a dirty pair of underpants was thrown on the statue.
Guilford County has Confederate monuments at two other sites.
Two sit where South Davie and McGee streets merge with Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. A monument recognizing the Army of Tennessee was erected there in May 1985 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, highlighting the history of the army, whose surrender in April 1865 led to the Civil War’s end. A second marker beside the monument is a stone plaque memorializing Greensboro and Guilford County Confederate soldiers.
In High Point, an obelisk in the city-owned Oakwood Cemetery was dedicated in 1899. According to DocSouth, the monument marks the mass grave of men who died at a site being used as a Confederate hospital. The men were buried at various locations in High Point, but were gathered and re-interred in 1867.