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Bardstown Cemetery Confederate monument vandalized

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

 Vandals desecrated a Confederate marker in Bardstown Cemetery late last week by what appears to be splashing or throwing red paint on the century-old statue.

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The vandalism was reported to Bardstown Police Friday, and investigators believe it was vandalized sometime late Thursday night or early that morning, said Assistant Police Chief Kevin Thompson.

Thompson said detectives were searching for video surveillance that might lead to a suspect.

The statue stands within eyesight of North Third Street surrounded by 67 grave markers representing Confederate soldiers who died in Bardstown during the Civil War.

Bardstown Historian Dixie Hibbs said she was dismayed when she heard about the damage.

“I don’t know why anybody wants to vandalize anything,” Hibbs said.

In recent years, monuments to the Confederacy have generated public outcry and protests in many areas because of the South’s rebellion to preserve the institution of slavery. Many of those statues depicted specific individuals, like the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the Kentucky Capitol rotunda and a bust in Tennessee’s Capitol of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Most opposition has been expressed through legal means, but there have been scattered acts of vandalism regionally and throughout the country. A 15-foot bronze statue of John B. Castleman in Louisville’s Cherokee Triangle neighborhood was vandalized in early May for the fifth time in less than two years. But unlike the Louisville monument, Bardstown’s does not represent any specific person, Hibbs said.

An anonymous, mustached Confederate soldier holding a rifle at ease while he gazes south from atop the zinc statue. A relief of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is beneath his feet. Further down reads an inscription, “This monument is erected to the memory of the 67 brave men buried here, who lost their lives in the service of the Confederate Government. Lord God be with us yet, let we forget, lest we forget. Marble tells not of their valor’s worth, Nameless, they rest in quiet earth.”

Hibbs said the Bardstown monument differs from the depictions of individuals in public places maintained by taxpayer dollars that have generated controversy elsewhere. She said the local monument commemorated common soldiers.

“I consider that statue as just a reminder of a bad war that pitted brother against brother, and acknowledging the soldiers that died and were buried here,” she said. “It doesn’t represent anybody (in particular), it represents every soldier.”

Hibbs said other communities have moved Confederate monuments to cemeteries because that is the appropriate place for “acknowledgement and memory” of the soldiers who died.

The monument was unveiled in November 1905 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which worked for several years to raise the $710 it cost, Hibbs said. The 67 grave stones were added later, and do not necessarily mark where individuals were interred.

Hibbs said the soldiers died mostly from disease and were treated at area hospitals, and  at the time that included Spalding Hall. Some of them came from Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s troops in 1862 that participated in the Battle of Perryville, and others were from Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s raids throughout this region. The city cemetery’s website lists 49 names of men buried there from seven southern states. The rest are unknown.

Following the South’s surrender, the U.S. government relocated Union soldiers’ graves to federal cemeteries, and most of the local Union dead from the Bardstown area were moved to Perryville. The Confederates were left unattended except by local residents.

Hibbs gives tours of the cemetery and said she recently led a sizable group of people from several states who were seeking their ancestors’ final resting places. She located their graves and they placed flowers on them.

“They wanted to honor them by coming to visit their last resting place, so that attitude is still around in America,” Hibbs said. “We haven’t forgotten the people who came before us and laid the groundwork.”

Hibbs said she had not inspected the damage yet, but if necessary, she would help organize volunteers to restore the statue.