What is it about a century-old block of granite that offends you?
A group in Knoxville has petitioned to have a Confederate monument in Fort Sanders removed.
This is not some tribute to Satan or a KKK commander. It’s a tribute to and reminder of the brave (and perhaps foolish) young men, many of them farm boys, who were ordered by their military commanders to try take an earthen hill that helped fortify the federally-held union base in Knoxville. Those young men died there, shot by other young men defending the hastily-built, pro-union fort on the hill west of our downtown.
First, your protest is a bit late. The Daughter of the Confederacy monument was erected nearly 100 years ago (on November 29, 1919) along 17th Street and Laurel Avenue in remembrance their loved ones who died – husbands, sons, brothers … family.
Second, you can’t change history, only learn from our earlier mistakes. The monument should be a spur for you to read, research and learn about the history of the area and the country, locked in a 4-1/2-year civil war that claimed over 260,000 lives, between1861 thru 1865. That’s more soldiers’ lives lost than in all of WWI, WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. That fact alone should make you wonder what was really at stake back then. Slavery yes, but also states’ rights and local loyalties. Whole families were torn apart, in some cases with brothers fighting brothers on opposite sides. This was not some malt-shop BS session.
Not all combatants wanted to be so engaged. Did you know that the Confederate states imposed a draft that required all able-bodied men from 18 to 35 to register and serve for three years? The age limit was later bumped up to age 45, and then broadened to cover ages 17 to 50. It is estimated that nearly 250,000 Tennessee men served on one side or the other, and that from a state that had only 1.1 million inhabitants according to the 1860 census. What a devastating war!
Third, did you know that there is a stone tribute to the fallen northern soldiers from the 79th New York infantry a block away? It’s located at16th Street and Clinch Avenue. The inscription on that later monument looks forward to healing the rift that tore the young country apart:
The hands that once were raised in strife now clasp a brother’s hand, and long as flows the tide of life – in peace, in toil, when war is rife – we shall as brothers stand, one heart, one soul, for our free land.
Learn about and learn from history. War is complicated and seemingly self-sustaining. Help us not to repeat the errors of the past. Remembrance of the fallen is a noble thing.