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Confederation conversation, monumental questions arise in Lewisburg

The Confederate monument used to be located on the lawn in front of the current NRCTC campus, but has since been moved.

On Aug. 12 of this year, protests against the removal of a statue depicting Confederate general Robert E. Lee turned violent in Charlottesville, VA, triggering a national debate over whether or not monuments erected in memory of Confederate troops should remain standing.

Groups that are opposed to the removal of Confederate monuments argue that eradicating the statues effectively erases history. The opposing side says that the monuments serve as a constant reminder of institutional racism and should therefore be removed.

A predominant piece in the history of Lewisburg is the Battle of Lewisburg which occurred in 1862 between Confederate and Union forces. Ultimately, the Union side won the battle for the town. The remains of 95 Confederate soldiers who perished in the Battle of Lewisburg as well as at the Battle of Droop Mountain were later buried in what is now known as the Confederate Cemetery near the new library in Lewisburg.

A statue was unveiled on June 14, 1906, in memory of those soldiers. The monument currently stands on the grounds of the old library building at the corner of Courtney Drive and Washington Street, however, it was originally located across the street on what is now the New River Community and Technical College campus and the lawn in front of Carnegie Hall. The monument is simply inscribed, “In memory of our Confederate dead,” and stands looking down the hill into town.

According to an article published in the Greenbrier Independent on June 14, 1906, “The figure surmounting the granite pedestal was designed by the famous artist W.L. Sheppard of Richmond. It was bronze, representing a Confederate private standing at parade rest, with musket, haversack, and canteen, blanket rolled and thrown across his shoulders, pants in legs of his socks, and slouch hat. It was molded in New York and cost $2,800 cash. The pedestal is of Virginia granite and was made and put up by Wm. R. Mason of Richmond. The foundation is of Greenbrier limestone and was built by Wm. J. Strealy, of our town, on a plan furnished by Mr. Mason. The total cost of the statue was $3,500. It stood in the Northeast corner of the Lewisburg Female Institute campus.”

The statue is inscribed with “In memory of our Confederate dead” at the base, and is now located on the property of the old public library in Lewisburg.

The Mountain Messenger is reaching out to residents to hear their opinions on the statue, in light of the recent events in Charlottesville and around the nation. Are Confederate monuments simply a part of history, or a staple to a mindset that supported slavery and white supremacy? This raises other questions, such as what exactly did the Confederacy stand for? Do the monuments represent southern pride and heritage, or commemorate a pro-slavery rebellion movement? Are people just looking too much into it? Let us know by visiting our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/mountainmessengernews/ and answering our poll, or by sending a letter to the editor to news@mountainmessenger.com.

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