Albemarle County’s Confederate soldier statue, cannons and cannonballs will be relocated to a battlefield in the Shenandoah Valley after they are removed from Court Square on Saturday.
The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday at a special virtual meeting to give the items to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, a historic-preservation group in the Valley.
The foundation was one of 10 applicants to receive the statue and/or its accessories, which the board had voted unanimously in August to remove.
“We have a good offer to take the statue cannonballs to an appropriate venue, which is a battlefield, where monuments are shown in a contextual arena,” said Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley. “Remember, we’ve been given the authority from the state. The time to act, I believe, is now.”
In a news release, Keven Walker, CEO of Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, said the foundation did not take the decision to possess the statue lightly.
“The SVBF hopes that our offer provides the people of Albemarle and by extension, the people of Charlottesville and Central Virginia with a solution that helps them continue to be a place where all feel welcome to live, work and raise their families while enhancing our understating of Virginia’s Battlefields in the Shenandoah Valley and their place in our shared history,” he said in the release.
State law requires that the board for 30 days offer the statue for placement in a museum, historical society, government or battlefield, but the board ultimately has “sole authority” to decide where the items go.
The statue was erected in 1909 and paid for by the county, the city of Charlottesville and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It sits in front of the courthouse on Albemarle property that was never annexed by the city.
The county executive this week will sign a memorandum of understanding regarding the items.
According to an information form submitted by the foundation to the county in August, the SVBF interprets and provides visitor services at 20 Civil War battlefields and hundreds of related historic sites throughout the Shenandoah Valley, but it’s unclear at this point to which battlefield the items will go.
Assistant County Executive Trevor Henry said the intended location is one of SVBF’s sites in Winchester.
The form states that the foundation will use the statue to mark the location where Virginia troops fought, and would be dedicated men who fought and died for Virginia on that particular field of battle and would be re-dedicated as “The Virginia Monument.” The cannons will be used on the battlefield to mark the locations where artillery was positioned during the fighting, and the cannonballs will be used for a new stone monument that will mark the location where artillery played a decisive role in the outcome of the fighting.
County staff said that it will cost the county an estimated $63,700 to remove the statue, and that SVBF will provide a flatbed truck on Saturday and take the items once they are removed from the site.
The foundation will install an “interpretive marker” nearby, “relating the history of the monument itself and recognizing it’s significance and detailing its journey to the battlefield.”
Board members want to have say in what that marker says.
Supervisors Diantha McKeel and Donna Price wanted to temporarily keep the statue in storage, and Chair Ned Gallaway said he could go either way, but they all ultimately voted in favor of giving it to SVBF.
McKeel said she wanted the board to consider keeping the panels on the base of the statue and to consider using it to tell the history of the county in its new courthouse space.
“It would allow us to discuss at a higher level how we want to contextualize our Albemarle County history and present ourselves for future generations,” she said.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said she would prefer that good photos be taken and that those be incorporated into a kiosk in the courthouse project, rather than keeping the base.
“The most compelling reason to move forward now is to strengthen the atmosphere of neutrality of the courthouse,” she said. “People must trust that justice is available to them.”
Mallek said that she learned Tuesday that “it is not a place where people gather for events.”
“The statues are used to help identify on the ground, where soldiers stood, and how meaningful this is to the visitors who are able to put themselves more easily into that terribly, terribly stressful situation,” she said.
The county will livestream Saturday’s removal event on its Facebook page in lieu of allowing in-person observance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.