Confederate Civil War monuments in a Madison cemetery are being removed

The mayor argued there's a difference between "remembrance of history and reverence of it."

Calling the Civil War "an act of insurrection and treason and a defense of the deplorable practice of slavery," Madison's mayor has ordered the removal of two Confederate memorials in a city-owned cemetery.

When announcing his decision Thursday, Mayor Paul Soglin said the memorials in Forest Hill Cemetery are "connected" to those actions, "and we do not need them on City property."

The northernmost Confederate cemetery

Confederate Rest, as it's known, is a plot of land within Forest Hill Cemetery where 140 Confederate soldiers are buried. They were among the many Confederate soldiers held prisoner at Camp Randall during the Civil War, the city's website explains

Confederate Rest is referred to as the northernmost Confederate cemetery. lists all the soldiers – one was shot by a guard, the other 139 died from disease or injuries. The prisoners held there came from regiments based in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The city has allowed volunteers to place Confederate flags there on Memorial Day only, the Wisconsin State Journal reported in 2015.

The monuments being removed

Within Forest Hill there are two monuments dedicated to those soldiers. Both will be removed, Soglin said.

One is a marker labeled as Confederate Rest (you can see a photo here via TripAdvisor), and remembers them as "valiant Confederate soldiers" and "unsung heroes, far from their homes."

That one is already gone. It was taken out Wednesday, Slogin told The Associated Press.

The other is a larger monument listing the names of all the dead soldiers, which Slogin noted "has not garnered as much attention." That one will require some machinery to get out, the AP reported.

Why the mayor made the decision

The monuments – which are owned by the city – "will not erase our shared history," Slogin said, arguing there is a difference between "remembrance of history and reverence of it."

"The Confederacy’s legacy will be with us, whether we memorialize it in marble or not," he said. 

He also emphasized there will be "no disrespect to the dead with the removal of the plaque and stone," and told the AP a proper marker with the soldiers' names will be installed – but without that positive language.

The decision comes after a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, when protesters of a white nationalist demonstration were hit by a car. One person died and 19 others were injured.

The "Unite the Right" rally, which attracted neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, was organized in part to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. 

The New York Times reports at least 16 Confederate monuments have been taken down throughout the country in the past week. And there are proposals to remove 18 others.

"In Madison, we join our brothers and sisters around the country to prove that we as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile, and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves," Slogin said.

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