KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Confederate memorial on 17th street in Knoxville’s Fort Sanders neighborhood has been defaced.
The monument has been targeted at a time when we find the nation again, wrestling with the legacy of slavery, the Civil War, and whether tributes to figures from those times – or with controversial backgrounds – have a place in the 21st century.
Erected in 1914 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, it was meant to be a memorial for the hundreds of Confederate soldiers who lost their lives during the November 29 battle of Fort Sanders.
Today it stands covered in paint and graffiti. The statue has been a source of controversy over the years. For some, it serves as a reminder of a painful time in American history.
Local historian and former Civil War curator for the McClung Museum, Joan Markel says this statue is different from the other statues that have been vandalized or torn down across the country.
“It is not a monument to a single person. It is not a monument to the higher ranks, the generals who took charge and that kind of personal aggrandizement. It does talk about the heroism of the common soldier,” Markel said.
Markel adds that it’s understandable why people are calling for other statues to be taken down. She says the generals that have been honored with statues, like Nathan Bedford Forrest, or Robert E. Lee, are constant reminders of people who celebrated and fought to maintain the institution of slavery.
“I have heard for many years that the war was about states’ rights and not slavery and I have not been convinced of that. The war was about slavery and monuments to an effort to rebel against the federal government and then to aggrandize the people who did that is to celebrate an effort to maintain a culture that was supported by slavery,” Markel said.
Markel says the Fort Sanders statue should be looked at as no more than a historical marker, marking the location of the battle of Fort Sanders, and the lives lost.
“I believe that it serves as a better purpose in its place as a commemoration of an event that was awful. That it was the common soldier that suffered the most,” Markel said.
The Knoxville Police Department says they do not have a suspect in the incident.
We were told by the city of Knoxville that a crew will address a number of tagged sites – including the 17th Street monument by the end of the week.
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