Savannah approves changes to Confederate monument from 1875

AP News
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Posted: Feb 14, 2018 4:56 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A sandstone monument erected 143 years ago in memory of slain Confederate soldiers will be renamed to honor all who perished in the Civil War under a plan adopted Wednesday by the mayor and council in Georgia's oldest city.

The Confederate memorial has stood at the center of Forsyth Park in Savannah since 1875. The monument stands 48 feet (14 meters) tall and is topped with a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier standing at parade rest.

A task force of historians and other local experts recommended changing the monument after Mayor Eddie DeLoach last summer proposed finding a way "to expand the story this monument tells to be inclusive of all." The mayor was responding to the deadly clashes at a rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, that stoked calls to remove Confederate statues across the South.

Savannah officials had to take a different approach. Georgia law prohibits taking down any Confederate monument.

The task force appointed by City Hall recommended several subtle changes to the Savannah monument. It will be renamed the Civil War Memorial, with a new plaque added on one side that reads: "This memorial was originally erected in 1875 to the Confederate dead, redesigned in 1879, and rededicated in 2018 to all the dead of the American Civil War."

The Confederate soldier statue on top will remain. But busts of two Confederate officers — Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws and Col. Francis S. Bartow — standing beside the monument will be moved to a local cemetery. The task force noted the busts were not part of the original monument, but were brought to the site 35 years later.

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The city council approved the changes even after a City Hall-sponsored survey of 4,900 people found most respondents, by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, favored leaving the monument alone.

Michelle Gavin, a spokeswoman for Savannah's city government, said no timeline has been set for enacting the changes.