It’s a ceme­tery. Noth­ing less, noth­ing more

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

The is­sue of Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues — whether they should be re­moved or should ever have been erected in the first place — rushed to the fore­front after the protest and coun­ter­protest in Char­lottesville, Va., ear­lier this month over a mon­u­ment to Robert E. Lee. A woman was killed there when a white su­prem­a­cist drove into a crowd, in­jur­ing at least 19 oth­ers. Two Vir­ginia state troop­ers re­spond­ing to the scene were also killed when their he­li­copter mal­func­tioned and crashed.

On the heels of that tragedy, a num­ber of stat­ues and mon­u­ments re­call­ing the Civil War era also have been called into ques­tion this month. Some Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments in Bal­ti­more were re­moved. And in the most pub­li­cized de­vel­op­ment of all in Mary­land, a statue of Roger B. Taney, a South­ern Mary­land na­tive, was or­dered to be taken down from the lawn of the State House in An­napo­lis. Taney, a 19th cen­tury chief jus­tice of the U.S. Supreme Court, au­thored the Dred Scott de­ci­sion, which held that slaves were prop­erty and not ci­ti­zens.

In this area, at­ten­tion turned to the Point Look­out Con­fed­er­ate Ceme­ter y, at the south­ern­most tip of the county. Some have won­dered out loud what should be done about Point Look­out.

Here’s what should be done: Noth­ing.

No mat­ter where you might stand on whether a statue of a Con­fed­er­ate gen­eral be­longs where it was erected, in a mu­seum or in a land­fill, it has noth­ing to do with Point Look­out. It’s not a valid com­par­i­son.

Point Look­out is a ceme­tery, a mass grave for Con­fed­er­ate dead. It’s marked with a pair of obelisks, an 80-foot fed­eral mon­u­ment and a 25-foot state one. They’re not stat­ues of gen­er­als on horses. They are tomb­stones, mark­ing the fi­nal rest­ing place for prison­ers of war whose bodies had been buried and dis­in­terred twice be­fore over the past 150 years.

Those men had been held at the Union POW camp and hos­pi­tal. 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.

In light of all the at­ten­tion on what’s proper and what’s not with re­gard to mon­u­ments from the Civil War era, ap­par­ently the U.S. Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs got a lit­tle ner­vous last week. The VA hired se­cu­rity guards from a pri­vate firm to watch over the Point Look­out ceme­tery. Two were on duty at its gate last Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. The VA has not said how long se­cu­rity would be re­quired there, or what the cost will be.

“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,” St. Mary’s County Com­mis­sioner John O’Con­nor (R) said last week.

Thank­fully, no prob­lems have been re­ported at or near the ceme­tery, even be­fore the se­cu­rity guards showed up.

In fact, the only prob­lem re­gard­ing that area hap­pened on­line. A link to a pri­vate park com­mem­o­rat­ing the Con­fed­er­acy, near the en­trance to Point Look­out State Park, was taken down from the St. Mary’s County tourism web­site last 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 had it re­stored to the site last week.

And it’s im­por­tant to point out that the pri­vate park is just that. The dis­play, which in­cludes the flags of the states that se­ceded, has noth­ing to do with the ceme­tery ex­cept its ge­og­ra­phy.

As for Con­fed­er­ate memo­ri­als on public lands in mod­ern-day Amer­ica, Mary­land Her­itage Scholar Henry Miller re­cently wrote a let­ter to a mem­ber of the St. Mary’s County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety in re­sponse to the con­tro­versy. “His­tory hap­pened and we can­not change it,” Miller wrote. “It is bet­ter to study and re­mem­ber it in its full­ness — the glory and the pain, the wrong and the right — than se­lect only the parts we hap­pen to like or dis­like at a par­tic­u­lar time.”

So no mat­ter what hap­pens to stat­ues from the wrong side of the Civil War go­ing for­ward, let’s leave the Con­fed­er­ate ceme­tery at Point Look­out out of the dis­cus­sion.

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