For more than 100 years, a plaque has been affixed to a maple tree outside a Brooklyn church to memorialize its planting by Gen. Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army.
After the violent events that broke out during a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, that plaque outside St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fort Hamilton is slated to come down today, said the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. The diocese owns the church, which closed in 2014 and is in the process of being sold.
“I think it is the responsible thing for us to do,” Bishop Lawrence Provenzano told Newsday. “People for whom the Civil War is such a critical moment — and particularly the descendants of former slaves — shouldn’t walk past what they believe is a church building and see a monument to a Confederate general.”
Confederate commemorations have become a hot-point issue, especially now in the wake of the Charlottesville rally, which protested plans to remove a statue of Lee from the University of Virginia campus.
Lee is said to have planted the tree at St. John’s while stationed at the Fort Hamilton U.S. Army base in the 1840s. Two decades later, he commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War.
The local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy affixed the plaque to the tree in 1912. The plaque reads:
“This tree was planted by General Robert Edward Lee while stationed at Fort Hamilton from 1842-1847. The tree has been restored and this tablet placed upon it by the New York Chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy April 1912.”
Provenzano told Newsday the tree is a “descendant” of the one planted by Lee. A second UDC plaque from 1935 commemorates the planting of the replacement tree, and that plaque will also come down Wednesday.
Additionally, members of Congress from Brooklyn are urging officials to rename two Fort Hamilton streets that are named after Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson.
The UDC did not respond to a request for comment regarding the removal of the plaques.