SC museum rejects monument marking secession

By BRUCE SMITH – Associated Press Writer
March 16, 2010

The board of a South Carolina museum on Charleston Harbor where the Civil War began voted Tuesday against erecting a monument marking the state’s 1860 secession from the Union.

The board of the Patriots Point Development Authority split 3-3 on allowing the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place an 11 1/2-foot granite monument at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

The tie vote, coming after the board met in executive session for 90 minutes, means the idea failed. The board voted without discussion in open session.

The proposed monument, envisioned for the center of a plaza, would have had the name of each of the 170 signers and the wording of the Ordinance of Secession.

"Certainly we’re disappointed, but we’re not giving up right now," said Randy Burbage, commander of the South Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "We’re going to regroup and formulate a plan."

Burbage said he has heard from others offering sites for the monument and said he’s optimistic it can be erected, perhaps by April 2011, the 150th anniversary of the Confederate bombardment on Fort Sumter in the harbor that opened the war. He would not give details of other sites.

The idea for the monument has stirred controversy in recent months.

Medal of Honor recipient retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston wrote Patriots Point board chairman John Hagerty last month saying he is from Georgia and personally would not object to the monument.

But, he added, "I am voicing my opinion that such a monument would be disrespectful to the Hall of Honor and to the sacrifice of those remembered in the Medal of Honor Museum."

The Medal of Honor Museum is located aboard the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point and the Hall of Honor is part of the museum. The medal, the nation’s highest award for bravery in battle, was created during the Civil War by legislation signed by Abraham Lincoln.

Hagerty voted against the secession monument.

"I was persuaded by the arguments, mainly made by the World War II veterans that it doesn’t fit," he said.

"I would be enthusiastic about a monument to the Confederate soldier or the Hunley being placed over here as parts of our maritime history," he said. "But I think the order of secession does not fit with our honoring veterans of the United States of America."

The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship, is being preserved at a lab in nearby North Charleston.

The secession monument is not the only monument stirring controversy on the South Carolina coast almost 150 years after the Civil War.

Across the Cooper River, Charleston is erecting a monument to Denmark Vesey, the South Carolina slave who won a lottery, purchased his freedom and later organized an attempt to overthrow slavery. He was executed in 1822 with 34 others when the revolt was put down.

Vesey and the slave revolt has always been a controversial topic in the city and the monument has been the subject of numerous letters to the editor and Internet postings criticizing use of public money to build it.

A portrait of Vesey was hung in the city’s municipal auditorium in 1976 prompting widespread criticism by those who called him a criminal. It was stolen, later returned and hung more securely.

© Copyright 2010, Lake Wylie Pilot

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