Guards sta­tioned at Con­fed­er­ate ceme­tery

Web­site ref­er­ence to pri­vate park re­moved

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JA­SON BABCOCK jbab­cock@somd­news.com

Se­cu­rity guards were hired this week to watch over the fed­eral mon­u­ment and ceme­tery of Con­fed­er­ate dead near Point Look­out State Park. Those buried in the mass grave have been de­ceased for more than 150 years.

In ad­di­tion, an on­line link to a pri­vate park com­mem­o­rat­ing the Con­fed­er­acy, near the en­trance to the park in Scot­land, was re­moved from the St. Mary’s County tourism web­site this week, upon the re­quest of a ci­ti­zen, with­out the county com­mis­sion­ers’ know­ing about it.

When the com­mis­sion­ers learned that the on­line page for the pri­vate park was taken down, the board in­structed staff to put it back up on late Wed­nes­day.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs said it hired the lo­cal se­cu­rity firm Spauld­ing Se­cu­rity and In­ves­ti­ga­tion to guard over the Point Look­out Con­fed­er­ate Ceme­tery this week.

The VA did not re­spond by dead­line on Thurs­day to say how long se­cu­rity would be needed at the ceme­tery, or how much the ser­vice is cost­ing.

St. Mary’s County Com­mis­sioner John O’Con­nor (R) said of the need for se­cu­rity at the ceme­tery, “I think it’s a sad state of af­fairs that we’re in that we’ve lost all ci­vil­ity to the point where we have to have se­cu­rity over mon­u­ments and grave­yards, and that we’ve sunk so low that we’re re­mov­ing Asian sportscast­ers be­cause his name is Robert Lee,” re­fer­ring to an on-air per­son­nel change made by ESPN, which re­as­signed a broad­caster from work­ing an up­com­ing Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia foot­ball game in Char­lottesville.

“That’s sad,” O’Con­nor said.

Joe An­der­son, a for­mer St. Mary’s County com­mis­sioner and chair­man of the board of gov­er­nors for the South­ern Mary­land Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter, sent an email to the St. Mary’s County Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment on Aug. 18 to re­quest that its tourism web­site re­move men­tion of the pri­vate Con­fed­er­ate Memo­rial Park.

“Given the ter­ri­ble turn of events in our coun­try over the last week, I don’t think any­thing more need[s] to be said,” An­der­son wrote.

An­der­son cited a post from Face­book that said, “I know that since the ac­tual ‘Con­fed­er­ate Memo­rial Park’ is pri­vate prop­erty, not much can be done to re­move it … but who can we talk to for it to be taken off of the St. Mary’s County tourism web­site?”

The pri­vately main­tained Con­fed­er­ate Memo­rial Park has a statue in the cen­ter of it of a Rebel sol­dier. The park is at the cor­ner of Route 5 and Scot­land Beach Road, owned by Con­fed­er­ate Memo­rial Park Inc. with a mail­ing ad­dress in Friendswood, Texas. The 2-acre prop­erty was pur­chased in 2003 for $30,000. The park in­cludes flags of the states that se­ceded from the Union in the Civil War, and was ded­i­cated in 2008.

Ad­ja­cent to that prop­erty is a 1-acre site owned by the United States gov­ern­ment, with fed­eral and state mon­u­ments to those Con­fed­er­ates who died at Point Look­out, which was a pris­oner of war camp dur­ing the Civil War.

Be­tween 1863 and 1865, more than 50,000 Con­fed­er­ate prison­ers passed through Camp Hoff­man at Point Look­out. Ap­prox­i­mately 4,000 died there, but the fed­eral mon­u­ment lists the names of 3,382 Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers and sailors and 44 civil­ians.

The site, which is home to the un­marked re­mains of the Con­fed­er­ate dead, is over­seen by Bal­ti­more Na­tional Ceme­tery. The site also is home to a state-erected, 25-foot obelisk to the Con­fed­er­ate dead. That state mon­u­ment was ded­i­cated on July 4, 1876, on the edge of Tan­ner Creek, where the mass grave had been moved to in 1870 be­cause of ero­sion from the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay at the orig­i­nal site at Point Look­out.

David Lewis of North Carolina came to the Point Look­out Con­fed­er­ate Ceme­tery on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon for the first time, look­ing for the name of his great-grand­fa­ther, Alexan­der Martin. Lewis learned from his fam­ily that his great-grand­fa­ther was drafted to fight in the Civil War and died at Point Look­out, but Lewis was dis­ap­pointed that he couldn’t find his great-grand­fa­ther’s name on the obelisk. Not­ing the swarms of mos­qui­toes around the ceme­tery now, Lewis said it’s hard to imag­ine the con­di­tions peo­ple lived through in the camp more than 150 years ago.

“That’s part of my her­itage,” Lewis said, not­ing he lives close to Duke Uni­ver­sity, in Durham,

N.C., where a dam­aged statue of Con­fed­er­ate Gen. Robert E. Lee was re­cently re­moved from the en­trance to Duke Chapel. “But I might feel dif­fer­ently if I were a de­scen­dant of a slave,” he said.

Lewis came to South­ern Mary­land on a busi­ness trip, and Jeff Guy of Cle­ments took him to see the ceme­tery. “Just leave it alone,” Guy said of the con­tro­ver­sies around the Con­fed­er­ate past. “You can change the fu­ture, but you can’t change the past,” he said.

The fed­eral 80-foot obelisk was com­pleted in 1911 for $20,000 at the present-day site. The 25foot state obelisk from 1876 was moved over to the fed­eral mon­u­ment site in 1938.

The re­mains of the Con­fed­er­ates were moved three times be­cause of the threat from ero­sion be­fore they came to their fi­nal rest­ing place at the fed­eral mon­u­ment.

In re­sponse to re­mov­ing the web­site ref­er­ence to the pri­vate Con­fed­er­ate Memo­rial Park, O’Con­nor re­sponded to An­der­son in an email. “For me it is a mat­ter of where do we draw the line in paci­fy­ing the feel­ings of groups of peo­ple and at­tempt­ing to abol­ish our na­tion[‘]s his­tory. It is a very fine line. We as a peo­ple can not just sim­ply ac­cept the his­tory that makes us feel warm and fuzzy,” O’Con­nor said.

“It’s my per­sonal opin­ion that if we are to re­move the list­ing from the St. Mary’s County web­site of a mon­u­ment to fallen sol­diers then we would have to ex­am­ine all mu­se­ums and his­toric sites in the county for re­moval. Should we re­move His­toric St. Mary’s City from our web­site? What about [Sot­ter­ley] Plan­ta­tion, St. Cle­ment’s Is­land, or the African-Amer­i­can Civil War Memo­rial? (I am not ad­vo­cat­ing this),” O’Con­nor wrote.

“I have per­son­ally seen, first hand, a na­tion’s peo­ple de­stroy and re­move its his­tory dur­ing my ser­vice in the mil­i­tary. I watched in Kosovo and Iraq as mon­u­ments were de­stroyed, Chris­tian stat­ues de­stroyed, mosques de­stroyed, his­tor­i­cal land­marks were blown up by rad­i­cals. All of this in an at­tempt to re­write his­tory, and/or re­move pieces of his­tory so the next gen­er­a­tion would not know what hap­pened,” he wrote.

The statue of a Con­fed­er­ate pris­oner of war at the pri­vate Con­fed­er­ate Memo­rial Park was van­dal­ized in Septem­ber 2012, and the case was re­ferred to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Of­fice.

In 1870 at the orig­i­nal burial plot at Point Look­out, “some un-Chris­tian hand” re­moved the sur­round­ing fence and lit a fire which nearly burned away the mark­ers, the St. Mary’s Bea­con news­pa­per re­ported on July 21 of that year.

STAFF PHOTO BY DANDAN ZOU

A se­cu­rity guard from Spauld­ing Se­cu­rity and In­ves­ti­ga­tions stands in front of the Point Look­out Con­fed­er­ate Ceme­tery on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. An­other guard, not pic­tured, sits in a car parked near the en­trance.

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