How soon until a darkness-clad thug “tags” the Virginia monument at Gettysburg?
Confederate-monument vandalism continues unabated, with red spray paint applied to a Nashville, Tennessee monument in mid-June 2019, a 7-ton monument defaced in Santa Ana, Calif. on July 7, and a Bardstown, Kentucky monument splattered with red paint in May 2019.
Living about 40 miles south of Louisville, many Bardstown residents cheer for the University of Louisville Cardinals or the University of Kentucky Wildcats, based in Lexington. For dedicated fans, it’s one team or the other, especially on the basketball floor.
Bardstown’s also not far from where the University of Louisville and Louisville city officials solved a Confederate-monument problem in 2016, at least eight months before Charlottesville.
The Kentucky Women’s Confederate Monument Association raised $12,000 to fund a 70-foot Confederate monument that the Muldoon Monument Co. erected on Third Street in Louisville in 1895. Topped by a bronze Confederate infantryman, with two more soldiers set farther down its shaft, the monument honored Kentuckians who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
There were many such men. John C. Breckinridge, whose statue was relocated in Lexington in 2017-2018, initially commanded the so-called “Orphan Brigade” comprising Kentucky regiments.
In time the University of Louisville’s Belknap Campus expanded past the monument, considered “offensive” to many 21st-century sensibilities. University officials and students and some Louisville residents lobbied for the monument’s removal.
At a well-covered press conference held on April 29, 2016, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and UL President James Ramsey announced that the monument would come down. Plans called for cleaning the monument and then re-erecting it elsewhere.
Then officials in Brandenburg, an Ohio River town 44 miles west of Louisville in Meade County, volunteered to take the monument. Brandenburg contributed $10,000 toward a new base; Louisville contributed $50,000 and the University of Louisville Foundation $350,000 to remove and clean the monument and set it up in Brandenburg.
Crews started dismantling the Louisville monument on Saturday, November 16, 2016. Brandenburg prepared a site on the bluff next to Riverfront Park, where a historical marker describes how Confederate cavalry leader John Hunt Morgan and his men crossed the Ohio River at this point to invade Indiana in July 1863.
Morgan’s was the other statue, along with Breckinridge’s, relocated from downtown Lexington to the Lexington Cemetery in 2017-2018. When researching the Civil War in the Bluegrass State, you run across the same cast of characters.
Some 400 people attended the May 29, 2017 ceremony rededicating the Louisville monument.
Wanting to understand the monumental hoopla, I recently dragged Susan to Brandenburg. Crossing the Ohio River from Indiana via the steel-girdered bridge downstream from Riverfront Park, we hit the By Pass Road (Route 313) and turned left (east) onto Lawrence Street.
Directional signs point visitors toward the Confederate monument. Its boundaries resembling a mid-19th century woman’s open fan, Brandenburg has approximately 2,800 residents. From the perimeter By Pass Road, all streets roll downhill toward the downtown, nestled in a bowl behind the Ohio River bluffs.
Lawrence Street twists and turns to High Street, which intersects West Broadway, from which Main Street sweeps down to Riverfront Park.
There’s no missing the Louisville monument rising from slightly higher terrain just west of the park. Grass surrounds the monument, and a few other visitors circled it at different radii. Cameras raised to capture specific architectural components or frame the monument full length against the Ohio and the Indiana shore, we acknowledged not each other, only the task at hand.
Colored the patina of National Park Service bronze Napoleons, all three statues face essentially upriver, with the pinnacle-mounted infantryman seeing the greatest distance. Far beneath his right shoulder, a rammer-grasping gunner gazes at the invisible cannon he’s loading.
Equidistant beneath the infantryman’s left shoulder, a dismounted cavalryman grasps his sword handle while obliquely studying the forested Indiana shore.
According to the inscribed granite or marble memorial set in its front and rear, the monument more than honored Confederate Kentuckians. Inscribed in granite or marble on the monument’s front is the phrase, “Our Confederate Dead 1861-1865.” Visually this inscription, set approximately 6 feet below an inset bronze Confederate seal, connects the two lower statues.
Easy to overlook, the rear inscription reads, “Tribute to the Rank and File of the Armies of the South by the Kentucky Womans [sic] Confederate Monument Association 1895.”
Unlike Louisville, where the monument occupied a shrunken traffic circle that hustled and bustled all day, rural quiet reigns here. People explicitly visit Brandenburg to see the monument, meaningful to its benefactors 124 years ago, not worth a yawn by most Americans today.
Definitely worth the visit, the Louisville monument is safe from Confederacy haters, I hope.
But then it’s easy to hate something dead and gone 150 years and unable to hate you back.
If you enjoy reading the adventures of Mainers caught up in the Civil War, be sure to like Maine at War on Facebook and get a copy of the new Maine at War Volume 1: Bladensburg to Sharpsburg, available online at Amazon and all major book retailers, including Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble. —————————————————————————————————————–
Brian Swartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.