Surry Confederate monument to get permanent home

Published 5:41 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Surry County’s Confederate monument will soon get a new, permanent and local home.

In a unanimous decision, the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 3 agreed to convey the monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 9. The group will place the monument on private property at 384 Mount Ivy Lane and make it available for public viewing.

The property is located northeast of the town of Surry near Chippokes Plantation State Park. Board members Robert Elliott, Michael Drewery, Judy Lyttle and Timothy Calhoun approved the move. Board member Kenneth Holmes was absent.

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“We would like to publicly and wholeheartedly thank the Surry County Board of [Supervisors] for their decision and vote,” Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 9 commander Mike Armistead said in a comment on behalf of the organization. “We now look forward to the hard work that lies ahead erecting the county’s historic soldiers’ memorial not only in their memory but also to remember their widows, wives, mothers, sisters and granddaughters who originally placed it in remembrance.”

The monument depicts a Confederate soldier atop a stone base engraved with the Confederate battle flag. An inscription on the monument reads: “Our heroes 1861-1865, to the Confederate soldiers of Surry County, that we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line, erected by the Confederate Memorial Association of Surry County A.D. 1909.”

Per the agreement, the county is mandating that the monument “be maintained and displayed as a historic memorial to all county citizens who served or sacrificed in the War Between the States during 1861 – 1865.”

A change to state law, effective July 1, gave local governments the authority to remove, relocate, cover or add context to monuments following a public hearing and 30-day waiting period. Surry held a hearing and on Aug. 13, the board voted unanimously to remove the monument from where it stood at 28 Colonial Trail East, in the Town of Surry, for more than 100 years on the courthouse grounds.

Two days later, a crane was hired to take the monument down. No public announcement was given before its removal. The monument and donated stacks of Civil War-era cannonballs, which were added later, have been stored at an undisclosed location since that time.

The legal agreement between the county, Sons of Confederate Veterans and property owner Henry C. Pickett III spells out in detail how the monument is to be conveyed, maintained and displayed for the public.

First, SCV must transport the monument from the undisclosed location to its new location within 60 days of signing the agreement, and the move must be made at no cost to the county. Secondly, it must be available for public viewing by anyone for any reason “subject only to reasonable restrictions on times of visitation.”

The agreement also stipulates that the monument’s new custodians “will not allow the monument to be used in a manner that would be reasonably divisive to county citizens.” They must also maintain the monument in perpetuity.

“While the Board is of the opinion that it has the authority to give the monument to SCV and permit it to be moved to the site, as it is presumed it was donated to the county, the records are not clear,” the two-page document states. “Consequently, the county does not guarantee ownership of the monument, and is transferring whatever interest it has in the monument to SCV.” Finally, in the event the current or future property owners do not wish to have the monument on their land, the board must approve a move to any other site.

Earlier this year, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation expressed interest in taking the monument. However, the group did not submit a formal proposal before the Sept. 15 deadline. The foundation’s leader previously told The Smithfield Times that they don’t seek out monuments but they are willing to assist and support in their relocation if approached.