The monument — which is not counted among the 99 Civil War monuments in the state, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks Civil War monuments — was moved to an area of the cemetery where the UDC owns 40 plots, though they’ve only used nine.
The monument, which is about three feet tall and resembles a headstone, now sits in a historic cemetery where more than a dozen identified Civil War veterans are buried. But, with more than 500 unmarked graves, it’s estimated there are more than 60 Confederate soldiers buried there, with at least nine Union soldiers identified as well.
“We wanted to put (the monument) in a more secure place, and a place that people who do genealogy and history could find it,” said Katie Walker, former president of the Johnson City chapter of the UDC.
The monument reads: “Here was training Camp of Confederate Regiments from the South on their way by rail to Virginia to join General Lee.”
It will now be flanked by a flagpole flying the UDC flag on its right, while also being surrounded by several graves of Confederate soldiers, including that of former Johnson City mayor William Dickinson, who was a captain in the CSA army. Johnson City founder Henry Johnson’s son — as is Johnson himself — is buried near the monument. Johnson’s son, William Johnson, was killed in battle in 1863 in East Tennessee.
The move comes amidst a fight to remove Confederate monuments from public land, with more than 100 being removed since the mass shooting at Charleston, South Carolina’s, Mother Emanuel church. The shooting — which claimed the lives of nine African Americans — catalyzed the nationwide movement to remove the statues and memorials from the public square — a movement that U.S. President Donald Trump has characterized as “sad” on Twitter.
Johnson City, however, says it was just assisting the UDC in moving the statue to a site that Walker says she feels is safer from vandalism. The cemetery the monument was relocated to has fencing with iron gates surrounding its perimeter, but Walker says the Daughters of the Confederacy flag that sits to the right of the newly moved monument has still been stolen “at least three times.”
Vandalism “is always a concern, but that’s the chance you take to honor our Confederate veterans,” Walker said. “I think (people) should remember that this is a part of United States history, and even if we don’t agree with it now — we learn from the past to make the future better.”
In June, a Confederate monument in Nashville was vandalized, with the words “they were racists” written on it in red paint. Vandals, Walker feels, are misunderstanding why Confederate soldiers fought in the first place.
“These men fought in a war between the states, not because they were full of hate, but to protect their homes and their families,” Walker continued, saying she doesn’t believe the Civil War was fought over slavery.
That school of thought is often referred to as the “Lost Cause” by historians who contend that slavery was, in fact, a central cause of the Civil War. Nevertheless, the moving of the statue — for Walker — is less about the root causes of war that left over half a million Americans dead, and more about ensuring those who died are remembered.
“It’s a part of history and we should respect it and honor it, and not be so hateful about what happened,” Walker said.