FINCASTLE – Botetourt County’s monument honoring its Confederate soldiers should be moved from the courthouse lawn and placed at another site.
By a unanimous vote, that is the non-binding recommendation the Botetourt County Monument and Memorial Committee will hand the Board of Supervisors in late January. During the Oct. 8 meeting, the committee tossed about possible future sites, including the Greenfield area or another site in Fincastle.
A large portion of the two-hour meeting was spent discussing the difficult subject of what the Confederacy stood for. Harriet Francis, representing the Daughters of the Confederacy, said the Civil War was about states’ rights, not slavery. Lewis Sifford, with the Botetourt Artillery, read information from a Civil War website which listed several causes of the Civil War, most of them political.
Pam Binns, representing Fincastle, said perhaps committee members should “think outside” of traditional research. “Let’s not forget why the war was fought and keep in mind why African-Americans don’t like Confederate monuments,” she said.
The common historical theory for the cause of the war is Union states believed in a strong federal government, while Confederate states supported stronger states’ rights to govern themselves. The key issue was slavery. The Union wanted to limit the number of states coming into the Union as slave states. Southern states wanted more slave states to give them “a louder voice” in Congress, according to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals.”
Chairman and Board of Supervisors member Stephen Clinton said the group was formed to recommend what to do with the courthouse monument, not discuss the causes of the Civil War. “We’re not going to have any breakthroughs with what the war was about,” he said.
Before the vote, Bill Price, who represents VFW Posts in Buchanan and Daleville, said he wants to ensure veterans aren’t overlooked in the process of determining the monument’s fate. “I don’t see color, I see veterans. I just want to make sure veterans are represented well with whatever we do with the statue,” he said.
There was also discussion about making site visits to possible locations of the monument during future meetings.
In other matters:
Michael Lockaby, the county attorney, is still researching who owns the monument. A memo sent to members states he’s still researching the county deed books. Interestingly, he wrote, the deed books reveal fundraising wasn’t as “effective as initially expected.” On May 9, 1904, in an unstated vote, supervisors rejected a funding request.
“The request of the Botetourt Confederate Memorial Association for an appropriation of $1,000.00 to aid in the in the erection of the memorial in the Court House yard, being requested and considered by the Board, the Board respectfully declines to make the appropriation requested,” an entry into Order book 2, page 346 reads.
However, the monument was dedicated on Oct. 27, 1904.
The General History working group reported it continues an in-depth examination of Botetourt County ties in the Civil War as to gain an understanding of the monument’s meaning, said Ed McCoy, chairman of the work group.
The group is examining old newspaper clips and letters sent by soldiers from Botetourt County to understand why the monument was built.