Myr­tle Hill mon­u­ment van­dal­ized

The Standard Journal - - LIFESTYLE - By Doug Walker RN-T As­so­ciate Edi­tor

The na­tional con­tro­versy over his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments made its way to Rome at mid-week when a Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment atop his­toric Myr­tle Hill Ceme­tery was bro­ken up and smashed by a per­son or per­sons who went to a great deal of difficulty to make their state­ment. The dam­age to the mon­u­ment was dis­cov­ered early Thurs­day morn­ing.

The statue de­picts a Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier with his arms in front of him hold­ing a long ri­fle, up­right in his hand. The hands and ri­fle were knocked off, the face was bashed in and the brim of the hat bro­ken off.

“It looked like it was sur­gi­cally cut,” said Rome City Man­ager Sammy Rich. “It’s just su­per dis­ap­point­ing that some­body would go to that much trou­ble to get up there, put a lad­der up or what­ever to reach it.”

“It’s sad, as im­por­tant as Myr­tle Hill is to our his­tory,” said Lisa Smith, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Greater Rome Con­ven­tion and Visi­tors Bu­reau.

Ceme­tery Di­rec­tor Stan Rogers es­ti­mated the value of the damages in the of­fi­cial po­lice re­port at $200,000.

Lt. John Wal­ters with the Rome Po­lice de­tec­tive di­vi­sion stated they had few leads in their in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We’ll be knock­ing on doors there close to the ceme­tery to see if any­body might have seen or heard some­thing,” Wal­ters said. “We’re hop­ing some­body may have seen a light or heard some­thing that could give us an idea about what time it took place.”

Ceme­tery depart­ment per­son­nel re­moved the mon­u­ment Thurs­day. Rich said the city would try to de­ter­mine how to go about fix­ing it and putting it back. Rome Pub­lic Works Di­rec­tor Chris Jenk­ins said it was ap­par­ent from a fur­ther ex­am­i­na­tion of the dam­age that the hands and ri­fle were prob­a­bly knocked off and not cut.

Jenk­ins said the city would get in touch with mon­u­ment com­pa­nies af­ter the Christ­mas break to de­ter­mine the op­tions for re­pair­ing the statue.

“It’s made out of gran­ite, it’s not con­crete, so we’re go­ing to look into that,” Jenk­ins said. The statue it­self is about 7½ feet tall and a per­haps a lit­tle wider than the av­er­age male body.

Smith said the Myr­tle Hill-Oak Hill As­so­ci­a­tion would “def­i­nitely do our part to help in the restora­tion ef­fort.”

“How we choose to ven­er­ate our dif­fer­ent so­cial and po­lit­i­cal ideas is a dis­cus­sion and not an in­vi­ta­tion to acts of van­dal­ism,” said na­tive Ro­man and his­to­rian David Y. Mitchell. “It is be­neath us as a cul­ture of ad­vanced peo­ple to de­grade to be­hav­ior such as this.”

The gates to the ceme­tery are locked to ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic each even­ing, but any­one could have made the hike up the hill on foot.

Lt. John Wal­ters

The act of van­dal­ism oc­curred some­time late Wed­nes­day night or Thurs­day morn­ing. The ri­fle and hands were gone when the van­dal­ism was dis­cov­ered Thurs­day. Rich said he doesn’t know how to read the in­ci­dent be­cause of the way the face was bat­tered.

The statue was erected by “the Women of Rome” in 1887 as a me­mo­rial to the de­fend­ers of the Con­fed­er­ate states. The women’s group main­tained the Civil War sec­tion at the base of the ceme­tery. The mon­u­ment ini­tially had an urn atop the base. The urn was re­placed by the stand­ing sol­dier in 1909.

The in­ci­dent this week is the most se­ri­ous in­ci­dence of van­dal­ism in the ceme­tery since May 2004 when 85 grave mark­ers were dam­aged.

‘We’ll be knock­ing on doors there close to the ceme­tery to see if any­body might have seen or heard some­thing. We’re hop­ing some­body may have seen a light or heard some­thing that could give us an idea about what time it took place.’

Rome po­lice

Doug Walker / RN-T Pub­lic Works Di­rec­tor Chris Jenk­ins checks dam­age on a mon­u­ment of a Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier that stood at the top of Myr­tle Hill.

Dam­age in­clud­ing a bat­tered face ( ABOVE) and bro­ken-off hands ( BE­LOW) is es­ti­mated at $200,000.

Pho­tos by Doug Walker,

Rome News-Tri­bune

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