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Fate of Massachusetts' only Confederate monument still in limbo

Massachusetts is the only New England state with a Confederate monument, and some are wondering if it will be removed amid nation-wide tensions.
confederate memorial
The memorial to 13 Confederate prisoners of war at Georges Island. Photo: Ron Cogswell/Flickr Creative Commons

Across the country, all eyes are on Confederate monuments as states weigh what to do with the symbols that now seem to display more hate than history.

Recently, Baltimore made headlines after the city quietly removed its Confederate statues.

In Massachusetts, the one such monument’s fate is still in limbo, though it has been shuttered from public view.

On George’s Island in Boston Harbor, a modest stone slab — not a statue up on a platform — commemorates Confederate prisoners of war who died at the site. It’s the only such monument in Massachusetts, and actually the only Confederate symbol in New England, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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In June, the monument was boarded up as the debate on how appropriate these historical markers are began to ignite.

When asked if the memorial should stay there, a spokesperson for Gov. Charlie Baker suggested at that time that it should not.

"Gov. Baker believes we should refrain from the display of symbols, especially in our public parks, that do not support liberty and equality for the people of Massachusetts,” Lizzy Guyton, Baker’s communication director, said in an email. “Since this monument is located on a National Historic Landmark, the governor supports [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] working with the Massachusetts Historical Commission to explore relocation options."

But since then, it seems not much progress has been made. Debra O’Malley, a spokesperson for Secretary William Galvin, whose office oversees the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC), did say on Thursday that the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DVR) inquired about removing the monument in June.

“MHC responded in July, directing them to a form have to fill out called a Project Notification Form — basically a form in which they describe what they will do to remove it, their procedures and techniques, since they have to make sure the island isn’t damaged,” she said.

“Once they submit that form, MHC will consider it,” she added, noting that MHC has not yet received that form back.

DCR confirmed that its commissioner Leo Roy sent a letter to the historical commission "seeking guidance on the removal of the memorial," and that MHC sent detailed to the department that a Project Notification Form would be needed.  

Once that form is received, O’Malley said, it would not be a lengthy process to begin removal of the monument.

The memorial marker was erected in May 1963 according to DCR, during the Civil War centennial. It has been boxed up since June 16, 2017, "as the agency continues to review the matter."

The review process for this memorial is under more scrutiny since its location at Fort Warren on Georges Island is a National Historic Landmark, which is the highest historical designation.

One person strongly opposed to the removal of Confederate monuments is President Donald Trump. Trump took to Twitter Thursday morning, writing, "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments."

The monument on Georges Island marks the site where 13 Confederate POWs during the Civil War died. It also describes the Civil War as “the War between the States,” a term which is more prevalent in the South, and bears the Confederate motto, “Deo Vindice,” meaning “With God, our Defender,” or “Under God as our Vindicator.”

 
 
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