Confederate flag on monument statue

Debate continues to swirl around the bronze Confederate soldier overlooking Sylva. County officials plan to replace the bas relief Confederate battle flag with an exhibit giving historical context to the statue.

By Beth Lawrence

 

At last week’s work session, Jackson County commissioners began discussing changes to the Confederate monument overlooking downtown Sylva.

“I’ll say, personally, I think this is a decision that we as a board probably need to make,” Board Chair Brian McMahan said. “A lot of times we ask committees to draft things, but in my opinion, it might just be easier for us to do it.”

After months of protests from groups opposed to and in favor of keeping in place the statue depicting a Confederate soldier, commissioners voted in early August to leave the statue standing on the steps of the historic courthouse but cover the Confederate battle flag and the wording sculpted on the base.

County Manager Don Adams updated the board on his explorations into changes. He informed commissioners that the best route would be covering the flag instead of removing it. To remove the flag, would involve cutting the stone rather than simply sandblasting images away. The depth and thickness of images determine how intensive the work would be.

“I’ve had maintenance go out there with me and look at it,” he said. “I know they’ve been researching the different types of (mediums) to cover everything.”

Adams said the next step is for the board to consider what they would like to see on plaques mounted there.

He also suggested mounting tablets all the way around the plinth to “make it even.”

McMahan suggested placing a large plaque over the flag summarizing Jackson County’s involvement in the Civil War. He proposed listing Union and Confederate troops from Jackson as well as notable people and groups who served and adding points “relevant” to the era.

He also wants to include the history of the statue.

“Then talk about the fact that in 1915 Jackson County residents raised the money; tell the story of what happened in 1915 that we know that’s in print,” McMahan said. “Talk about the history of the rededication that happened in 1996, just paint a picture of the history of the monument and the history of our Civil War involvement from a local perspective.”

Commissioner Gayle Woody suggested including a statement of unity emphasizing that the country is now “one nation.”

She and McMahan spoke of Reconstruction and its emphasis on unifying the country after the war.

Commissioner Boyce Deitz, a former history teacher, pointed out the movement against Reconstruction.

“Well, a lot of this came about because of Reconstruction,” he said. “Reconstruction started and certain things started happening…”

He was cut off by Woody who reiterated that the country was now one nation.

“During Reconstruction, and we decided we didn’t like Reconstruction,” Deitz continued.

He suggested a field trip to the statue to gain an understanding of the size of the base.

McMahan suggested he and Woody could jointly write the information to appear on the plaque. The board agreed to continue discussing changes.