Report on my presentation made November 1, 2017, representing the Old Guard to the Confederate Monument Committee appointed by Mayor Kasim Reed
From COL John A. Dietrichs
Sir – At 6:00 PM on Wednesday, Nov.1rst I attended the open Committee Meeting with the first opportunity for public comment on anything related to Confederate Monuments to the Committee in the City Council Chamber at City Hall. If you haven’t been there….you know you are in the halls of Power as you sit in the seats and observe the marble, brass and mahogany surrounding you.
About 25 or 30 people attended this meeting, including the Atlanta head of the NAACP, and several other leaders of Black Organizations as well as individuals speaking on their own behalf. Three people from the Atlanta Civil War Round Table spoke (in addition to myself as a member of that organization). One man who spoke was an utter loon – quite off his rocker. Others were quite intelligent and articulate and presented themselves well. Surprisingly, a young, well-educated black man of perhaps 25 or 28 years of age who I spoke to beforehand and was actually impressed with, had a surprise for all of us in the room. When he spoke, he said “I am a descendant of slaves…..but…..I am also a descendant of General Stonewall Jackson. I do not want to see these statues and Monuments put away in a closet or destroyed. Leave them where they are…..they tell a story, the story of the history that is what it is. If you take them away, nobody will know or learn the history….it will just be forgotten.” Everyone, including all the Committee folks, really sat up when he spoke.
There was an employee of the City who was tasked with investigating some/most of the War-related monuments as erected around the nation, including Atlanta, and they were put in several categories, largely based on the time they were erected. From ~1866 to about 1885 they were basically about honoring the Confederate dead (his slide said) – such as the Confederate Monument in Oakland Cemetery. From somewhere around 1885 to 1900 or so, he said they were influenced by the Klu Klux Klan (?????). From 1900 to about 1935 they were about White Supremacy, almost exclusively in the Southern States. From 1935 through the late 1960’s, they were about being anti-the Civil Rights Movements, and so forth. Sadly, this uninformed “individual” placed the Peace Monument in the category of the White Supremacy period, due to its date (1911) and he photographed only one of the bronze plaques on the backside that states the monument is in part honoring the brave Southerners who fought and died for the Confederacy (which is, of course, the cause of Slavery and oppression).
I am pleased that I actually was able to quote in full the plaque on the front of the Monument which states with crystal clarity that the Monument was erected to honor the efforts of the South, through the Gate City Guard and Atlanta, in recognizing and accepting the reunion of the states and into one ,united America in 1879, and then again in 1911. Given the audience I knew we had there, I felt this was the best approach. I handed a signed copy of this document and a color post card with the Peace Monument as it was a few years ago before the damage to each member of the Committee, and was pleased to see that they read along with me and then had eye contact as I gave a few off the cuff remarks at the end stressing that this Statue/Monument was erected to celebrate the reunion of the states into one united country, the United States of America. And I said (in the text, too) that most Old Guardsmen are veterans who served in the Armed Forces of the United States. I did just leave it at that, seeing no benefit to mentioning the direct descendency, etc.
I feel we have an excellent chance of having the Peace Monument accepted as is, where it is, and with a better understanding on the part of the City of what it actually stands for. We will see.
COL John A. Dietrichs
Chairman Executive Committee
Old Guard of the Gate City Guard