Antietam Battleﬁeld's Monuments and their Meanings
Antietam Battlefield's monuments and their meanings
Veterans, state organizations, and individuals have placed 97 monuments at Antietam. Most of them are Union monuments constructed during the first twenty years after Congress established the battlefield in 1890. Each monument represents the perspective of those who built it and the historic moment in which it was created.
The National Park Service's mission is to preserve and protect cultural and natural battlefield, including monuments and their historical narratives. The challenge for the National Park Service and for our nation—is how to interpret these monuments when they mean different things to different people and may even express conflicting ideas.
The current National Park Service policy on monuments states that:
"Unless directed by legislation, it is the policy of the National Park Service that these works and their inscriptions will not be altered, relocated, obscured, or removed even when they are deemed inaccurate or incompatible with prevailing present-day values"
Lee Monument at the Newcomer Farm
A private citizen erected this monument to Robert E. Lee in 2003. At that time the Newcomer Farm was not owned by the National Park Service. Eventually, the National Park Service acquired
the farm along with the monument.
The Lost Cause
After the war many Southerners attempted to come to grips with why their attempt to secede from the Union failed. Southern women's groups and former Confederate generals spread the myth that the Confederacy was not defeated but overwhelmed from the start by insurmountable odds in its fight for states' rights. Many denied that slavery was a primary cause of the war, contradicting their stated reasons for secession. These views soon spread to a large segment of the white population and became known as the Lost Cause.
Questions for Reflection
· What is the purpose of monuments on a battlefield? Are they memorials to those who fought, or attempts to teach history in a particular way?
· Do monuments reflect what actually happened, or how a person or group interpreted those events and what they chose to set in stone?
· Does the Lee Monument reinforce the myth of the Lost Cause?