Dane County Historical Society asks Madison to keep confederate - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dane County Historical Society asks Madison to keep confederate monument

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Months after Madison's city council voted to remove a confederate monument, the Dane County Historical Society is asking them to reconsider.

Co-presidents Rich Eggleston and Jerry Remy sent a letter on Monday asking city council to preserve the confederate monument marking soldier graves at Forest Hill Cemetery.

Eggleston said his reasoning is simple.

"It's what happened," he said.

Last August, after the events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Mayor Soglin called for the removal of a plaque at the same site calling the soldiers 'heroes." Then the council voted in April to remove the stone monument, listing their names given its connection and values that don't match the city's current mission. 

Landmarks Commission Chair Stu Levitan said part of that comes from the monument's donor, the Daughter's of the Confederacy and the engraving at the bottom which reads, "to Alice Whiting Waterman and 'her boys.'"

"They perceived it as a monument extolling and elevating the rebel soldiers who after all did die in support of maintaining slavery," Levitan said.

Eggleston said his request isn't about honoring confederate soldiers.

"They did a good enough job besmirching their own character and I don't think we need to add to that or subtract from that," he said.

Instead, Eggleston said keeping the monument means recognizing and acknowledging the fact that Madison has the northernmost confederate burial ground and explaining why.

"We shouldn't belittle that," he said. "I don't know if we should even call it a sacrifice," he said.

Levitan said he recognizes the historical significance of the site but doesn't believe members of the council will change their minds. 

"It is history but it's a history that is, at heart, a very offensive history," he said.

Levitan said instead, he thinks, the letter can be used to argue against the council's decision not to replace the monument with an interpretive sign.

Levitan called that a compromise, but Eggleston said he's not sure if that would be much better, because our interpretation of history is constantly changing.

"That to me smells like spin and I don't think we oughta spin history because the people 125 years ago were perfectly good at that," he said.

The removal of the monument still has a few more steps before it's finalized. It must go before Levitan's Landmark Commission, which he said is expected sometime in July. Then he said, the state historic preservation office will weigh in.

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