Monday, August 28, 2017

Shiloh Won't Take Confederate Statues off Memphis' Hands, Park Head Says

Don’t look for Shiloh National Military Park to accept the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest or Jefferson Davis, despite that suggestion in a Commercial Appeal editorial and that option being entertained by some on Memphis City Council.
Angel cradling a solider is the type of monument
found at Shiloh, not generals on horses
“I do not believe there are any monuments in Memphis that would meet our design standard,” said Shiloh park superintendent Dale Wilkerson.  “The National Park Service has a fairly well-prescribed standard and process for monuments in parks.  All monuments related to the battle of Shiloh have to meet the design standard for this park.” 

Wilkerson said no one has approached the park about moving the Memphis statues there.

Before he was promoted to brigadier general, Forrest had command of a Confederate rear guard after the Union victory. He was reported to be the last man shot at Shiloh. A bronze statue of Forrest, who became a general before the war was over, mounted on his horse and a monument to Jefferson Davis in Memphis have been the subject of efforts to remove them from public spaces.

The city of Memphis cannot seem to get out of its own way on what to do about the statues, and to underscore the city’s level of disarray, earlier today the city put metal barricades around the statue – then took them down!
Memphis put up metal barricades, then took them down

See our earlier story in dailykos, which includes “Arrests and Aftermath..,” a video of police grabbing citizens at the statue on Aug. 19.

“The battle of Shiloh was a soldier’s war, not a general’s war,” Wilkerson said.  “There are markers that say this or that general was here, but there are no monuments to generals and no monuments of men mounted on horses.

“Generals can make a plan, but once the battle started, many of the men found themselves in forests with thick smoke, and they were disconnected from their commanders.  They had to prosecute the battle on their own and determine how to proceed,” Wilkerson said. 

“All artwork at Shiloh is an allegorical piece of art that’s meant to tell a story.  For instance, the Wisconsin monument is an angel cradling a dying soldier.  There is no monument or artwork of any particular person.”

Only Congress can establish a national park, Wilkerson explained, and “we look to our enabling legislation which prescribes the design of the park.  We have to ask, What was Congress’ intent?  Our enabling legislation says that states involved in the battle can place monuments.  There were 19 states involved, and 16 have placed monuments. Conversely, a state such as Virginia cannot place a monument here, because no soldiers from Virginia were involved in the battle.”

Shiloh was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.  About 110,000 men fought over two days, April 6-7, 1862, and there were 23,746 casualties.

“That was more casualties than every previous American war combined, including the Revolutionary War,” Wilkerson said.  “It was one of the first large-scale tragedies of the Civil War.”

The park was established in 1894, and many veterans of that battle gave input to the park service.

‘Many veterans thought of it as a soldier’s battle, not a general’s battle,” Wilkerson said. 

The city of Memphis is awkwardly struggling with its two Confederate monuments, Forrest in Health Sciences Park and former Confederate President Davis in Mississippi River Park downtown.  While Mayor Jim Strickland has said he wants the monuments gone, even referring to it as “our drive,” he says he is hamstrung by a law which requires the Tennessee Historical Commission to give the city permission.  The commission rejected the city’s request last year, although City Council voted in 2015 to remove Forrest. 

Strickland had something of a media hissy fit last weekend after police arrested seven persons who were at Forrest's statue as some persons tried to put a “Black Lives Matter” banner around the feet of Forrest’s horse, King Phillip.  Strickland called the Commercial Appeal’s reporting of the arrests and protests “divisive,” although Strickland’s public defensiveness and media meltdown were more divisive and more telling than any newspaper story. 

Strickland made a point to say that he was a long-time member of the NAACP, and he was chided on social media as his credentials claim sounded to some like the equivalent of, “I have black friends.”

While Strickland has the highest-paid PR staff of any elected official in Tennessee, somehow they did not rein in Strickland from his Trump-like outburst.

The national Confederate statuary controversy was stoked Aug. 12 when a neo-Nazi drove his car at a high rate of speed into persons who were counter-protesting a large action on the part of so-called “alt-right,” white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Heather Heyer was killed when struck by the car, and 19 or more persons were hurt.  Forrest was the first Grand Wizard of the Klan, and he sold slaves at his “Negro Mart” in downtown Memphis.

While the city of Memphis is dithering around and wringing its hands, like it does not know which end is up, to jump-start the removal of the statues may require a willing buyer to step up, or an auction.  To assist the city and to help mend the divide between government and the community, Citizens Media Resource is forming an entity for the purpose of brokering the sale of the Confederate statues to private buyers, such as a museum or for part of an individual’s collection. 

In fact, look for us later as Statuary Clearinghouse, Auction and Brokerage (SCAB) as a liaison to discreetly field prospective buyers and facilitate a sale from the city.  I know, that sounds a bit tongue-in-cheek, which is our typical style – but we are dead-dog serious about this approach.  It would help the city tremendously if they could say, Hey, we got us a buyer, and here’s who it is.  That would pull the process along, instead of the city being left to embarrassingly flounder.

No comments:

Post a Comment