Robert E. Lee statue melted down in secret

The US may be one of the few countries where people who tried to destroy their nation are honored as heroes and have statues put up of them in public places. I am referring of course to the attempt by the states of the Confederacy to dismantle the Union and create a separate nation. They were defeated by president Abraham Lincoln and for a while the people who led that rebellion were viewed as treasonous. But over time, a revisionist movement sprang up that portrayed the goals of the Confederacy as not the actual one, which was to preserve slavery, which by then had become seen as indefensible, but as a fight over so-called ‘states rights’ against the power of the national government and that the leaders of the insurrection needed to be honored and not vilified. This is the ‘Lost Cause’ narrative.

The movement to rehabilitate the people who had been viewed as treasonous that had a remarkable degree of success.

While every statue in every town has a different origin, taken together, the roughly 700 Confederate monuments in the United States tell a national story. Many of these commemorations of those on the losing side of the Civil War are a lot newer than one might think.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which maintains a list of these monuments, the memorials are spread over 31 states plus the District of Columbia—far exceeding the 11 Confederate states that seceded at the outset of the Civil War.

Most of these monuments did not go up immediately after the war’s end in 1865. During that time, commemorative markers of the Civil War tended to be memorials that mourned soldiers who had died, says Mark Elliott, a history professor at University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

“Eventually they started to build [Confederate] monuments,” he says. “The vast majority of them were built between the 1890s and 1950s, which matches up exactly with the era of Jim Crow segregation.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s research, the biggest spike was between 1900 and the 1920s.

In contrast to the earlier memorials that mourned dead soldiers, these monuments tended to glorify leaders of the Confederacy like General Robert E. Lee, former President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis and General “Thomas Stonewall” Jackson.

But with the rise in protests over the killings of Black people by police, there came calls that these monuments to those who fought to retain slavery should come down. In 2020 alone nearly 100 of them were removed but more than 700 still remain.

One of the most controversial removals was the bronze statue of Lee astride his horse that stood in Charlottesville, VA, the city where we had the infamous torchlit march by white nationalists and neo-Nazis in 2017, chanting “You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!” in an effort to prevent the removal of the statue.

But the statue came down anyway. The 10,000 lb sculpture was taken to a secret location, and is being broken into pieces and melted down into bronze ingots by a company whose name is kept secret for fear of repercussions from racists. Fearing trouble from neo-Nazis, very few people were allowed to witness the process but NPR’s Debbie Elliot was one of them and her account of the process is fascinating.

The process will take weeks and the next step will be to commission an artist to use the bronze ingots to create a new artwork to be displayed in Charlottesville.

You can be sure that the racists will be outraged when the new art work is installed.


  1. says

    If I recall correctly, a lot of the 1950s confederate rehabilitation statues are not made of good bronze alloy (80% copper, 20% tin) there’s lots of pot metal in there (mostly tin and antimony) -- it’s worth melting down and making doorknobs and stuff like that, from, but it’s not and never was fine statuary.

    Copper prices are pretty high right now.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Wasn’t one of those charming gentleman one of the founders of KKK, a bona fide terror organisation?

  3. birgerjohansson says

    When a moron claims the war of treason and slavery was about states rights, show him a link that displays the letter Virginia sent to DC about secession, and the reasons for it.
    Lots about runaway n*ggers not being sent back, not so much about states rights.
    Virginia would later do something at Fort Sumpter that had something to do with the civil war, if I recall correctly.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Unrelated meltdown.
    And 19th-century values.
    Rishi Sunak has prepared a lot of policies he *thinks* will increase his popularity with the tory base.
    Since he is a Muskian genius, he does not need any gallup-style poll to see where the voters lean.
    So för this year’s The King’s Speech he is going in blind, with policies that are well suited to the Halloween season.
    The rumors of the details are so far unconfirmed, but judging by past performance it will be a s☆#@tshow.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    birgerjohansson @ # 3: … one of the founders of KKK, a bona fide terror organisation?

    That would be Nathan Bedford Forrest; sfaik, none of the other Confederate generals went that far.

    birgerjohansson @ # 4: Virginia would later do something at Fort Sumpter …

    South Carolinians attacked Ft Sumter, quite gleefully. SC was the first state to secede; Virginia was actually rather reluctant, and did so only after receiving a promise they would get to host the capital. (A very poor decision, from a military point of view, to put the capital city so close to the border of a hostile nation.)

  6. says

    Pierce: the secessionists might have figured the Union would be less hostile than it turned out to be. There were, in fact, a lot of Northern peacepussies accommodationists who were quite happy to let the South go; so that wouldn’t have been such a blatantly stupid decision to make at the time.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Raging Bee @ # 7 -- Yup, the Rebels-to-be thought that the Union would not resist their leaving, and/or that a whiff of gunpowder would prove their determination to become “free” and that would be that (Pres Buchanan’s wishy-washiness helped nurture that illusion).

    They might have gotten their way, too, if not for the hotheads firing on Ft Sumter and giving A. Lincoln a Pearl Harbor opportunity.

  8. lanir says

    Wasn’t one of those charming gentleman one of the founders of KKK, a bona fide terror organisation?

    The historical geniuses that invented the Lost Cause made a mistake there. If they’d branded them as a gardening society that helpfully worked on other people’s lawns it might have taken longer for gullible people to notice who they really were. Instead they got The Birth of a Nation which presented them as virtuous heroes. That was… a bit too far from reality to last, so now (as far as I can tell) even gullible people mostly know the KKK were a bunch of useless racists.

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