The Madison City Council successfully overturned the Landmark Commission’s decision to continue the display of a Confederate monument in the city’s Forest Hill Cemetery earlier this month.
As a result, the city will begin the process of removing the structure and placing it elsewhere, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
The marker in question is a small cenotaph, a stone which bears the names of the Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Randall, as well as a brief explanation of why they are buried at Forest Hill, Ald. Michael Verveer, District 4 said.
Well over a century has passed since the erection of this cenotaph, paid for by the families of the deceased to commemorate the 140 Confederate soldiers who perished in Union custody while being held as prisoners of war at Camp Randall, Verveer said.
Additionally, the city of Madison itself has no ties to the confederacy’s insurrection in the mid-nineteenth century. In consequence, many members of Madison’s City Council believe that this structure would be better suited for a museum, Wood said.
Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, believes the monuments should be removed and preserved elsewhere.
“I think this was about rejecting this pervasive glorification of the Confederacy … There is a distinct difference between recognizing history and its place and glorifying the Confederacy and what it stood for, and they are too often conflated,” Wood said.
The cenotaph is the second of two Confederate monuments to be relocated from Forest Hill Cemetery. The first of which was removed from the burial ground soon after the Unite the Right March and death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, Verveer said
Removing this first monument faced almost no opposition, as it described Confederate veterans as “unsung heroes,” among other celebratory terms and such glorification was universally viewed as inappropriate.
The fate of this second monument, however, has been somewhat controversial.
In spite of sentiments among many city council members that the cenotaph should be removed, the Madison Landmarks Commission decided to let the monument stand, but their decision was overturned due to legal action taken by Ald. Allen Arntsen, District 13.
Forest Hill Cemetery falls within the jurisdiction of Arntsen’s district, and therefore it was within his means to make such a legal challenge.
Yet, a minority of council members, as well as the Landmarks Commission advised against removing the cenotaph due to both its historical significance and its debatable status as a vehicle to provide context for the burial of more than 100 Confederate Soldiers in Madison.
After much thought, Verveer was one of the council members who voted not to overturn the Landmarks Commission’s decision.
While Verveer agrees with doing away with celebrations of the Confederacy, he sees the importance of explaining history.
“If we remove the cenotaph, there’s no explanation to the Confederate rest, so people will wonder how in the world [the Confederate soldiers] ended up here,” Verveer said. “I didn’t perceive any outcry from the public that this cenotaph is an ugly glorification of the Confederacy, all it has is the names of those buried there engraved on it.”
In unanimous vote, City Council decides to remove Madison confederate monumentsMadison Common Council met Tuesday to decide the fate of the Confederate monuments in Forest Hills cemetery. The discussion of Read…
As of now, it appears the monument will be moved to either the Wisconsin Historical Museum or the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, Wood said.
Verveer said that while it appears that the Wisconsin Historical Museum will take the artifact, the actual details of relocating the cenotaph in terms of when it will be moved, whether or not it will actually be given to the Wisconsin Historical Society, and if it will even be on display once arriving at a museum are still to be determined.