Removing it would be ‘an injustice to history’
June 18, 2018
Dear Members of the City of Madison Common Council,
The Board of Directors for the Dane County Historical Society is opposed to the removal of the stone cenotaph erected at Forest Hill Cemetery in 1906 which lists the names of the 140 Confederate soldiers who are buried at Confederate Rest. We are writing in support of local efforts to preserve this monument, and the story of those interred in that specific section of the cemetery.
The mission of the Dane County Historical Society is to preserve and disseminate the history of the county through its Otto Schroeder Records Center, events, and also its wide-ranging historical marker program. Forest Hill Cemetery and its role in Civil War history falls within the scope of the history which we wish to see interpreted and highlighted for the public. One of the more unique pieces of the history of the men buried at Confederate Rest, is that they would have been held at a prisoner-of-war camp at Camp Randall, a former training ground for Union troops, where several of those POW’s died from disease.
Our board of directors feels it is essential to history that this stone cenotaph, dedicated to those buried in the cemetery, remain where it stands. The most important element of the cenotaph is that it lists the names of the soldiers buried in that section of the cemetery in a unique burial ground for the remains of the men who fought for the Confederacy. Despite being born in states which seceded from the Union, the names of those soldiers should not be removed nor hidden. They should not be forgotten, as those men lived and died and were interred in Madison, Wisconsin. All of these are inarguable facts.
Should the decision be made to remove the cenotaph, our Board of Directors for the Dane County Historical Society strongly feels that a new interpretive sign needs to be erected in its place. A new sign would need to list the names of those buried at Confederate Rest, and explain the history as to why they were interred in the Forest Hill Cemetery, how their graves were cared for throughout the years, and acknowledge that it is the Northernmost burial ground for Confederate soldiers.
The Dane County Historical Society contacted several of our sister societies in the county boundaries, and among them there was a general consensus that to remove this stone would be an injustice to history. Taking away the stone and not replacing it with a plaque or monument would be an attempt to exclude an important part of the Civil War history which took place in Madison, Wisconsin.