The Army has recently removed a prominent Confederate memorial from Arlington National Cemetery, marking a significant milestone in the Department of Defense’s initiative to eliminate Confederate symbols from its properties.
The 32-foot-tall memorial, erected in 1914 and featuring a bronze figure symbolizing the South, was dismantled on December 20 following U.S. District Judge Rossie Alston’s decision to lift a temporary injunction, the Washington Examiner reported.
The injunction was initially sought by Defend Arlington, affiliated with Save Southern Heritage Florida, which argued that the monument’s removal disturbed gravesites. Despite their legal efforts, the judge ruled in favor of proceeding with the removal, resulting in the dismantling of one of the nation’s most notable Confederate monuments.
This action aligns with a broader movement that has seen the removal of over 160 Confederate monuments and memorials across the country, fueled by heightened awareness and calls for racial justice.
Arlington National Cemetery, home to 400,000 gravesites and under the Army’s administration, represents the final chapter of a campaign initiated by the bipartisan Naming Commission.
Established by Congress and President Joe Biden in 2021, the commission was tasked with eradicating remnants of the Confederacy from military establishments and suggesting new names for affected sites. As a result, numerous Army bases, Navy ships, buildings, and memorials have been earmarked for renaming or alteration.
The removal of the Confederate Memorial has left a conspicuous round dirt hole at its former site, near notable burial spots like President John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame and other historical figures. While the bronze elements of the memorial are being relocated, the granite base will remain to avoid disturbing adjacent graves.
The decision has not been without controversy. As the Pentagon proceeded with the removal, 44 House Republican lawmakers wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, demanding a halt to Confederate monument removal efforts until fiscal 2024 federal spending bills are enacted. They cited President William McKinley’s 1898 declaration to honor and bury Confederate dead as a symbol of national unity. However, their appeal did not sway the Pentagon’s course of action.
Simultaneously, Jacksonville, Florida, experienced its own Confederate monument controversy when Mayor Donna Deegan announced the removal of a “Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy” statue. This decision has been met with mixed reactions, with some applauding the move as a step towards embracing unity and learning from history, while others, like state Rep. Dean Black, view it as an abuse of power, the Examiner reported.
These developments occur amid a broader discussion on the legacy of the Civil War and its symbols, with public figures like 2024 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley recently coming under fire for comments regarding the war’s cause.