Writing a conclusion to the American Civil War may never be possible, especially in the South where slavery, bloody battles, Reconstruction and “Jim Crow” laws still haunt the region.
After the Civil War, the long-debated issue of slavery came to an end. The union of the states as one nation was preserved. The best road to follow was to reunite the states, move forward and put behind the past.
Today, in the hearts of some, putting the Civil War in the past is a struggle. They vow to protect their heritage and still argue the cause and effect of the war. We respect one’s heritage, but we live in a time when human rights and sensitivities cannot be dismissed for the sake of history.
Some areas of the South, such as New Orleans, have chosen to remove Confederate monuments of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and others in an effort to move on from both the Civil War and the long era of discrimination against African Americans that followed.
The intent is not to destroy the monuments, but to locate them somewhere that does not imply local or state government is rooted in a past government that defended and fought to maintain slavery.
Surprisingly, Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail recently wrote to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu requesting the now-retired monuments be donated to Hanceville.
We do not believe the mayor’s request is in Hanceville’s or Cullman County’s best interest. If Mayor Nail is looking to bring a piece of this area’s history to Hanceville, we cannot see the connection.
Yes, we understand there are Southern ancestries tied to the Civil War heritage, but Cullman County was not a significant site in the war and did not technically exist until the 1870s by act of the Alabama Legislature.
The mountainous land was considered too difficult to farm, and the area was one of the most isolated and desolate in north Alabama. During the war, the area was a haven for Unionists and deserters, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama. A few skirmishes occurred here and both Confederate and Union troops passed through the region, but that’s the extent of it.
Hauling several Confederate monuments to Hanceville, even at no cost to taxpayers, would be contradictory to the area’s history. The statues particularly don’t need to be erected on public property, especially in a city that has no historic tie to the Civil War.
Cullman County’s history is more related to Native Americans, particularly the Cherokee Nation, hardworking farmers and German immigrants.
Hanceville, as home to Wallace State Community College and the county’s second largest city, has made significant strides in creating new business opportunities and its leaders are exploring more ways to advance the community. It’s unlikely New Orleans will grant Mayor Nail’s request, but if it did, getting in the middle of the Confederate monuments controversy does not enhance the city’s image or the public good.
These statues should be placed in a designated area associated with that period in history, or, even better, in a museum for future generations.
We urge Mayor Nail to drop the idea of relocating Confederate monuments here. The Civil War is important in what came from its conclusion, but the history associated with the Confederacy was not a factor in the establishment of Cullman County or its future.