No doubt feeling the heat from fair-minded citizens and national ridicule, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin today doubled down on his unilateral decision to purify and sanitize the Confederates Rest section of Forest Hill Cemetery.
Soglin this morning (8-21-17) issued a 2,160-word exercise in finger-wagging (Mayor’s Statement Here) to justify ripping away a plaque describing the provenance of the southern Civil War soldiers’ resting place. Soglin also vowed to remove the much larger stone listing the names of all 140 Confederate soldiers buried there in 1862 after being held prisoner of war at old Camp Randall.
The larger monument at Madison’s Forest Hill Cemetery is not a Civil War monument. It was installed over 60 years after the end of the war. It is slab of propaganda paid for by a racist organization on public property when our city was inattentive to both the new form of slavery propagated by the donors with the Black Codes and to the meaning of that despicable fixture honoring slavery, sedition, and oppression.
Soglin labeled the private organization that erected plaque and stone as a “hate group.” The soldiers buried there were “traitors.” The whole thing, Soglin maintained, is part of a insidious national campaign to brainwash good northerners into accepting “the subjugation of blacks [and] to retain as much of the slave economy as possible.”
The United Daughters of the Confederacy is “a racist and bigoted organization.” They and the Klu Klux Klan (Soglin lists them together) “spread their lies far beyond the boundaries of the rebellious states.”
The Daughters laid the plaque and erected the monument “as part of their national strategy of propaganda and determination to rewrite history providing a favorable interpretation of the Civil War” to honor “the treasonous rebels.”
Soglin cites the City of New Orleans’ removal of statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard. Its mayor notes that none of those three had a direct connection to that city. But the 140 buried at Forest Hill have a direct connection to Madison: they were captured by Wisconsin Union troops, many of them trained at Madison Camp Randall, were imprisoned and died there between April and July 1862 and are buried here.
Unlike New Orleans, there is no general resplendent in uniform riding high on a pedestal astride a snorting and stamping horse. Confederates Rest is a quiet, simple, and sorrowful.
Soglin, without input from the Common Council, absent any demand from Madison’s progressive community, acted unilaterally to scrub this obscure corner of the city of any hint of political incorrectness. He did so Wednesday, August 16, after a demonstrators engaged in a deadly clash in Charlottesville, Va., over the city’s intention to remove a statue of General Lee. (And they say we conservatives have our talking points!)
Rather histrionically, Soglin linked Madison’s quiet, modest resting place to the 1916 movie Birth of a Nation which celebrated the Ku Klux Klan and 1939’s Gone With the Wind, which presented a benign view of slavery.
It may be well to remember Abraham Lincoln’s words as the Civil War was winding down: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.”
And not reopen them.