Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A New Way to Remember

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A New Way to Remember

Article excerpt

Many of us have a personal connection to the Civil War. My ancestor Frank Nouss was a Union corporal. Yet, I doubt that his family was surprised when decades after Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender, a group of prominent local women commissioned a 32-foot- tall monument to "the memory of the soldiers and sailors of the Southern Confederacy" in Forest Park. During the war, St. Louis was a divided city in a divided state.

The Civil War cost more American lives than any other conflict in our history. Survivors on both sides attempted to come to grips with a national trauma. As part of this recovery, myth took the place of a real desire to come to terms with history.

It's not surprising such a monument was installed, given what historian Ken Burns has described as a conspiracy "in the years immediately after the South's surrender ... to cloak the Civil War in bloodless, gallant myth, obscuring its causes and its great ennobling outcome. ... The result has been to blur the reality that slavery was at the heart of the matter, ignore the baser realities of the brutal."

Many here participated in the distortion of history. Newspaper accounts of the monument's 1914 dedication referred to it as a fitting tribute to Confederate "heroes." In 1964, the Missouri Historical Society's Bulletin noted, "On this fiftieth anniversary of the dedication, it seems well to remind our citizens again of the significance of the shaft, which remains as permanent evidence of the many charitable works of the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy."

Since then, we've begun taking apart this myth, to honor our true, shared history. These efforts include the Dred and Harriet Scott statue at the Old Courthouse and the Kennard school name dialogue among others.

We should now turn to Forest Park's monument. It disguises cruel truths in stone and bronze. It ignores the inhuman reality of slavery, claiming, "they battled to preserve the independence of the States which was won from Great Britain and to perpetuate the constitutional government which was established by the fathers." It notes Confederate soldiers "performed deeds of prowess such as thrill the heart of mankind with admiration" and that "history contains no chronicle more illustrious than the story of their achievements. …

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