Portsmouth Confederate Memorial
Corner of Court Street and High Street, Portsmouth, VA, USA
Portsmouth Confederate Memorial Reviews
To Our Confederate Dead Jun 13, 2015
Like many town and cities in Virginia and all over the South United States will be found monuments to the Confederate States, its leaders, generals, soldiers, and others who aided that Cause. The Confederate States (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana,Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee) succeeded from the United States and fought the Civil War from 1861-1865 against the Union (sometimes just called the North). The Union never recognized the Confederate succession and considered it part of the United States always. This was a war whose primary disagreement concerned slavery, as the Union wanted to abolish it, but the Confederacy wished to keep the institution going. There were other issues, but slavery was a main cause of disagreement between so-called North and South.
Since the Charleston Church shooting on June 17, 2015, where 9 people were killed in a hate crime, there has been a backlash against all things Confederate because the killer had published his ravings online along with photos of himself with white supremacy symbols. Photos of him with the Confederate Battle Flag caused public outrage and debate over Confederate flags and their usage & display. So, many Confederate flags are being taken down and online merchants have ceased selling them. The Dukes of Hazard TV show was pulled from the lineup of one station and there was talk of banning Gone With the Wind. Presently there is a movement to remove Confederate memorials now. This particular one in Portsmouth, which has stood since 1876, is one of them trying to be removed. It will not be destroyed, just removed from the town center and put somewhere else apparently.
Personally, I am not in favor of censoring the past - it is what it is for good or bad and symbols only have meaning of what people assign to them. It's difficult to interpret such things of the past with a modern point of view without giving them a different connotation then they were meant by those who are long dead now. There may be justification for removing flags from government buildings, but removing monuments is quite another thing. Monuments are often to honor the dead, not support whatever cause they fought and died for. It's a mistake to demonize a person or persons who fought in the Civil War on the side of the South and label them and their cause as racist. Many soldiers perhaps just fulfilled what they felt was their duty. Who are we (modern man) to look at them with our prism glass and pass judgement? History has lessons to teach, so let those monuments stand and teach those lessons. If the past is whitewashed, nobody really benefits and there is the danger history is forgotten. This monument itself states its purpose: "To Our Confederate Dead".
The following is from documents adding the monument to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997:
United State Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places: Confederate Monument 124-183.
"The Confederate Monument stands at the corner of Court and High Streets at the town square. The monument is an obelisk of North Carolina granite just over 35 feet high and slightly less than four feet wide. It rests on a base 20 feet high and 15 feet square. At the four sides of the monument at right angles to it are four platforms upon which are four statues representing four branches of Confederate service: artillery, infantry, navy and cavalry. The entire monument sits in a small grassy park that is enclosed with a wrought iron fence. The monument stands in its original location and is in good condition.
Narrative Description: Portsmouth's Confederate Monument is located at the town square, corner of High and Court streets. Many Confederate monuments, like Portsmouth's, can be found in town squares or cemeteries. In 1876 when construction on the monument began, the square represented the city's religious, civic, financial, and social life. At the square's southwest corner is Trinity Episcopal Church. At the northwest corner is the 1846 Courthouse. Today, both Of these structures are on the National Register. At the square's southeast corner, was the U.S. Post Office, now the site of the New Kirn Building and at the northeast corner was the Ocean House Hotel, now the site of the Tidewater Community College Visual Arts Center.
The monument, an obelisk of North Carolina granite ornamented at the cap, is 35 feet six inches high and 3 feet 9 inches wide. It rests on a base 20 feet high and 15 feet square, including four platforms at tight angles to each face of the obelisk. From the ground, the entire monument's height is 56 feet, six inches. The base of the monument is made of quarry faced ashlar with a drafted margin. Above this square base rests a pedestal with composite molding at its base and four sides which slope upwards to another series of moldings and a course of egg and dart molding topped by triangular pediments on all four sides. From this rugged base and classically inspired pediment rises the simple shaft of the obelisk ornamented by a series of simple horizontal bands at its base, and the dates of the Civil War inscribed near the middle of its height. The obelisk is topped by a sort of capital with a small horizontal band, a device resembling an abstracted triglyph, a series of lines, projecting scallops and a five pointed star. On the four sides just below the peak is a row of smaller stars.
Atop each platform is a bronze statue representing the four branches of confederate service: artillery (north facing), infantry south facing, navy (east facing) and cavalry (west facing). The statues are five feet nine inches tall, and stand in the “at rest” position.
Facing south on the monument’s pedestal is carved the inscription “To Our Confederate Dead” and around the four sides of the obelisk are inscribed the dates 1861, 1862, 1863, 1865 and 1865 which is directly below 1861 on the south facade. At the top of the monument also facing south, is a five-pointed star. In the ground facing north at the monument’s base, rests a marble stone honoring Major F.W. Jett, a Confederate engineer, who was influential in constructing the monument. To the left of the stone in the ground is a bronze plaque bearing the stone’s inscription. Surrounding the entire monument is an ornamental iron railing with a gate on the north side. The entire monument sits on a small grassy park of approximately 545 square feet."
Part of the Virginia perspectives (1990 - present) travel blog
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