Many of the South’s Silent Sentinels turn out to be identical to the statues of Union soldiers that decorate hundreds of public spaces across the North. Identical, but for one detail: On the soldier’s belt buckle, the “U.S.” is replaced by a “C.S.” for “Confederate States.”
It turns out that a campaign in the late 19th century to memorialize the Civil War by erecting monuments was not only an attempt to honor Southern soldiers or white supremacy. It was also a remarkably successful bit of marketing sleight of hand in which New England monument companies sold the same statues to towns and citizens groups on both sides of the Civil War divide.
…Wealthier cities such as Richmond and Baltimore could afford to hire professional sculptors to create original works in bronze — often drawn from melted-down Civil War cannons — featuring generals such as Robert E. Lee or Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. But those statues cost thousands.
The marketing mavens at Monumental Bronze served a much larger market with cheap soldier statues made of zinc — a bargain at $450 for a life-size model, $750 for the 8½ -foot jumbo version. Monumental offered something rare for the day: One-stop shopping. Order your soldier and Monumental would ship the prefabricated parts and send someone to your home town to put it all together and get that baby up on a pedestal before the folks in the next town over got theirs.
The monument makers “weren’t interested in ideology or the moral cause,” Savage said. They just saw a market and lunged for it.
…The Confederate monument boom was driven almost entirely by women. “It was politically dicey for Confederate veterans to be seen as advocating for their former cause,” Beetham said. “The men want to be able to own property. They want to be able to vote. They can only do that if they’ve clearly laid down their arms and sworn allegiance to the United States. Women don’t have to worry about any of that — they can’t own property, they can’t vote. So they hide behind their femininity and say, ‘We just want a monument to have a place to lay our flowers.’ ”