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Confederate monument — historical significance

By C. Earl Blythe

C. Earl Blythe

The Confederate monument located in Franklin Memorial Park was dedicated on June 3, 1911, and was originally erected at Second Avenue and High Street. This semi-centennial monument to the dead, both black and white, was moved several times before it was placed here, after the grounds were given to the city as Franklin Memorial Park in 1946.

The monument is a private soldier, in marble, standing at parade rest and its inscription reads: “1911 Erected By Agnes Lee Chapter U.D.C. “Love Makes Memory Eternal” To Our Confederate Dead 1861 C.S.A. 1865. Of the 360 monuments to the common soldier in Virginia, the monument in Franklin Memorial Park is the only one with the word “love” in its inscription.

Franklin Memorial Park was originally part of the James L. Camp home place, and was given to the town of Franklin in 1946 by the children of Mr. and Mrs. James L. Camp: Rena Camp Rawls, Sallie Camp Ray, Elizabeth Camp Smith, James L. Camp Jr., William M. Camp and Hugh D. Camp. The bronze plaque is inscribed with these words: “Dedicated to those who gave their lives in defense of our state and our nation.”

While doing research on the Joint Expedition Against Franklin in October 1862, I found in the “Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” a report by a Union naval officer that on Oct. 3, 1862, during the Battle of Crumpler’s Bluff, just down the Blackwater River outside of Franklin, “that rebel defenders included some non-uniformed irregulars and even some negroes.”

I decided to do more research to see if more African Americans had served in the Confederacy from our area and, according to Ervin L. Jordan, in his book “Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia,” “during February and March 1863, 24 counties in Virginia were issued quotas of 1,029 free black men to help in the defenses of Richmond and Petersburg. Southampton had to offer the most, 142 free black men.” According to the 1860 United States Census, Southampton County had one of the largest number of free colored populations — 1,794 — so that is probably why Southampton was asked to send the most.

Because African Americans defended Franklin during the Joint Expedition in 1862 and 142 free blacks left to help defend Richmond and Petersburg in 1863, it is safe to assume that not all those men made it back to their homes and lost their lives in defense of Richmond and Petersburg. Therefore, the Confederate monument in our Franklin Memorial Park is just as much a memorial to their honor and sacrifice as it is to the white soldiers who lost their lives during the War Between the States.

What more appropriate place of honor and respect could a monument to all of the soldiers, both black and white, be located than in the beautiful setting of Franklin Memorial Park as both plaques state: “Dedicated to those who gave their lives in defense of our state” and remembering that “Love makes memory eternal.”

I think this information places our monument in a new perspective and should allow our community to come together knowing that we, both black and white, have a reason to be united over the monument issue and set an example for other communities even though they may not have the same motivation that we do in the City of Franklin and Southampton County.

C. EARL BLYTHE is a guest columnist for The Tidewater News and a resident of Franklin, Virginia. he can be reached at eblythe4@verizon.net.