City to remove Confederate memorial in Garfield Park

The grave monument was commissioned in 1912 in Greenlawn Cemetery to commemorate Confederate prisoners of war who died while imprisoned at Camp Morton in Indianapolis. It was moved to Garfield Park in 1928. (IBJ file photo)

A monument memorializing the deaths of Indiana confederate prisoners of war in Garfield Park will be dismantled and removed, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Thursday.

The decision comes nearly three years after city officials began debating the appropriateness of its placement.

The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument is dedicated to soldiers who died at a Union prison camp in Indianapolis during the civil war. It’s been on display in Garfield Park for more than 90 years after it was moved from its original location at Greenlawn Cemetery.

In August 2017—as controversy grew about Confederate memorials in other parts of the country—Indianapolis Parks Director Linda Broadfoot said the monument was “not in a location appropriate for its original purpose.”

She said then that the parks department would work with the City-County Council and not-for-profit organizations to “explore all available options to remove the monument from Garfield Park and ensure that, if it is to be on public display, it is within a historical context that does not affect a parks system that belongs to all Indianapolis residents.”

The memorial was meant to honor 1,616 Confederate soldiers who died in a union camp in Indianapolis. (IBJ file photo)

Hogsett said on Thursday that the most appropriate place for the monument would be a museum but that “no organization has stepped forward to assume that responsibility.”

“Time is up,” he said in a statement, “and this grave marker will come down.”

Contractors will remove the monument in coming days. The Indianapolis Parks Board has already voted—back in 2017—to remove the statue once funding was identified for the effort.

Hogsett said the city is currently identifying a source of funding, and the work is expected to cost between $50,000-$100,000.

The grave monument was commissioned in 1912 in Greenlawn Cemetery to commemorate 1,616 Confederate prisoners of war who died while imprisoned at Camp Morton in Indianapolis. It was moved to Garfield Park in 1928 following efforts by public officials, active in the KKK, who sought to “make the monument more visible to the public,” the city said.

“Our streets are filled with voices of anger and anguish, testament to centuries of racism directed at black Americans,” Hogsett said in his written comments. “We must name these instances of discrimination and never forget our past—but we should not honor them. Whatever original purpose this grave marker might once have had, for far too long it has served as nothing more than a painful reminder of our state’s horrific embrace of the Ku Klux Klan a century ago.”

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46 thoughts on “City to remove Confederate memorial in Garfield Park

  1. The monument has nothing to do with the KKK. the vast majority of those confederate soldiers were simple farmers and were told to fight for the south. Hogsett needs to pay attention to the fact that he let the downtown area be looted and did not take forceful action to prevent it until after the fact. The money is better spent fixing broken windows.

    1. It was the public officials that moved it there, who were active in the KKK. The article kind of words it weirdly. I think it’s just trying to show that the original supporters were active with a violent and racist hate group, which adds perspective on their motives.

    2. If you think that almost 50 years after all of these guys died, it was coincidence that a group of benevolent citizens decided that they should have a very expensive memorial, then god help you.

      In the rise of Jim Crow and the KKK, this was a subtle but powerful way to tell people that they were proud of the racist past that these soldiers represented. The fact that these kind of reminders still exist are the very reason that we are having riots today.

      Did you not read that active KKK members lobbied to move the memorial to a more visible location. This memorial has strong ties to a racist past, and if you can’t see that then you are part of the current problems.

  2. From Wikipedia (attributed to Douglas A. Wissing; Marianne Tobias; Rebecca W. Dolan; Anne Ryder (2013). Crown Hill: History, Spirit, and Sanctuary. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 9780871953018.) “In 1931 industrial development around Greenlawn Cemetery required the bodies of the Confederate prisoners to be moved to Crown Hill, where they were interred in a mass grave, known as Confederate Mound, in Section 32 at Crown Hill.”

    The site of Greenlawn Cemetery is now home to Diamond Chain and several other industrial/commercial buildings down to the Oliver Ave. bridge over White River.

    Seems to me the memorial belongs on the Confederate Mound at Crown Hill.

  3. No good photo ops at a historical monument for PC Joe. Where is the Historical Society when you need them, you want to tell citizen what they can and can’t do on private property, this is one you need to weigh in on immediately.

    1. Steve, the park is public property. Also, if you suddenly care so much about history, then you would know the monument has NO business being in the park. It was erected in 1912 in Greenlawn Cemetery where the bodies of the soldiers were originally interred. When that cemetery was eventually closed, the bodies of the dead soldiers were reinterred over a period of 4 years to new graves at Crown Hill Cemetery. But, the monument was moved in 1928 by people sympathetic to the Klan to Garfield Park. The monument was built to be a grave marker, and if it belongs anywhere, it belongs with the bodies of the dead soldiers in Crown Hill, not in a public park.

  4. Maybe angry protesters could tear it down and throw the pieces away and save the City the cost of doing demolition. A win-win: the protesters get to vent their anger and destroy a reminder of slavery, the city gets rid of a politically incorrect monument and saves the cost of doing so…

    1. This is actually a pretty good idea! Just put up caution tape, give everyone a hard hat and a hammer and let them go nuts. Would actually be kind of fun

  5. Bravo to the City of Indianapolis leaders for taking steps to remove this stain on the city. Indiana and Indianapolis governments supported the Union effort during the American Civil War to defeat a treasonous rebellion against the United States. It should not support the memorialization of traitors. The memorial was originally erected by sympathizers with that rebellion. The southern states rebelled to protect slavery, the linchpin of their system of white supremacy. Later sympathizers, including Confederate memory organizations and the Klan, endorsed white supremacy and acted to unite their vision of memorializing the Lost Cause with racial division and suppression of the rights of people of color.

    1. Tearing down historical markers is inappropriate. This is beautiful statuary that should be relocated to a place in the city and/or citizens feel is appropriate. Perhaps Egypt should tear down the pyramids as they were built with nonunion labor and to Gods that predated Islam.

    2. Fair enough, Dave H. But the City of Indianapolis should no longer support a monument to treason and white supremacy. Do you want to erect this “beautiful statuary” on your private property?

  6. Is there no depth to Hogsett’s and the City Council’s stupidity? This is asinine….but then again, what else would you expect from that political demographic?

    1. How surprising, Bob P. is against removing a racist symbol. Who would have thunk it?

    2. What is asinine? The monument never belong in the park in the first place, Bob! It was erected in 1912 in Greenlawn Cemetery where the soldiers were actually buried. When their bodies were actually moved to Crown Hill Cemetery, the monument was instead moved to Garfield Park by Klan sympathizers. It does not belong in the park! It should be moved to Crown Hill where the soldiers’ graves are located.

    1. If you want to go hand out copies of Mein Kampf around the city, be my guest. See how far you get.

    2. No, move grave markers that do not belong in public parks to the cemetery where the actual bodies are located. This monument was originally a grave marker erected in 1912. It was moved to the park in 1928. The graves of the soldiers were moved from the closed Greenlawn Cemetery to Crown Hill Cemetery. The monument does not belong in the park! It belongs in the cemetery with the graves!

  7. If this memorial is dismantled, I would be in favor of providing a marker for these men at the Confederate site at Crown Hill. I am against all glorification of the cause of the Confederacy in any public place, but I am fully supportive of a marker for any person, as long as they have no objection. They were human beings who happen to have been soldiers. The winners do not have to stamp out the existence of losers.

    1. There is a maker at Crown Hill, section 32 and it historically references how these men were laid to rest there.

    1. This is a great point. I’m not sure why so many people in the US romanticize slavery and racism (directly or indirectly) when most countries are appalled at the tragic mistakes in their past. I’m much more worried about the statues of confederate generals than this monument, but I think the time has come to move on.

  8. Read the statue – at the top it says “PAX” as in peace. Below that it says the marker was erected to mark the burial place of 1616 Confederate soldiers who died as POWs whose graves can not be identified. These soldiers were American citizens and deserved a respectful burial which they received at Crown Hill. To note where they are buried does not glorify them as heroes and may provide a teaching lesson. How many students know about Camp Morton and its history? Move the marker to Crown Hill where the men are buried, that’s where it should have gone when the remains were moved there. I think financial support is lacking to do this because no one wants to appear to be a Confederate sympathizer or racist. But reuniting the marker with the POW remains is the right thing to do.

    1. Debra B., I agree with you that any memorial to traitors should be on private property. But I respectfully disagree with you on another point. Rebel soldiers took an oath to uphold the Confederate government. By doing so, they forswore and renounced their United States citizenship. They turned their backs on the USA and fought against it. Some of them invaded Indiana and other loyal states. I see no honor in that. They were not US citizens.

    2. I agree with Stephen on this one. They seceded, and declared themselves enemies and not US citizens. If we don’t have a memorial in Hawaii to honor the Japanese who died while bombing Pearl Harbor, we shouldn’t have this one, either.

  9. If it is a military memorial, then place it in Crown Hill in the US area as part of Indianapolis History. 90 years of memorials to be destroyed is terrible. shows ignorance of our history and historical past. Has no bearing on today;s issues.

    1. I must, with respect, disagree with you, Bill E. It is with full understanding that the Confederate rebellion was an act of treason against the United States that I applaud the dismantling of a monument to that treason located in a city park in a state whose government supported the Union cause. The rebellion was treason. The rebel soldiers were traitors. They knew it. To compound that historical truth, they rebelled to protect the institution of slavery. That is an historical reality that should not be obfuscated.

      Before you erect a Confederate monument in Crown Hill Cemetery, you should ask them if they want it. It is private property and it is their right to accept it or decline it. As well, Crown Hill holds the graves of United States veterans of other conflicts. Those men and women did not disown their country by trying to tear it down. Rather, they served it. Many died in that service. I wonder if they and their family members would appreciate being lumped with traitors.

      Before you think loyal government units like the City of Indianapolis, or private entities such as Crown Hill Cemetery, should maintain monuments to traitors and treason, maybe you should ante up for a monument to honor the men and women who renounced their US citizenship to support ISIS. But be sure to put it up on your private property.

    1. You are forgetting history with this monument’s own history. It was NOT originally located in Garfield Park! It was built as a grave marker in 1912 in Greenlawn Cemetery where the graves were located. When the graves were relocated to Crown Hill, the monument was instead moved to Garfield Park by Klan sympathizers who wanted a monument to the Confederacy prominently featured in a public park. It does NOT belong in Garfield Park! It should be moved to Crown Hill where the graves are located.

  10. The Civil War is over, we are one country. Those men have descendants who may take comfort in learning more about those soldiers even if they don’t share their views. It’s a time for healing not further division. Yes, statues honoring Confederate heroes do not belong on public property…marking a burial place is different. And, in case you are wondering, ancestors on both sides of my family fought for the North in Indiana units – one in the German-speaking brigade and a father-son duo who came up from Louisiana to fight for the North.

    1. Your solution is the only logical one. Everybody else on this board is falling over themselves to signal how virtuous they are, in addition to demonstrating how lacking their depth of Civil War knowledge is.

    2. Which is why the monument does NOT belong in the park. It was not originally erected in the park, it was moved from the original cemetery where the graves were located to the Garfield Park in 1928, just before the Klan’s influence on Indianapolis began to decline. The monument belongs with the graves, which were moved to Crown Hill Cemetery.

  11. Most of you are missing the point!

    If you think that almost 50 years after all of these guys died, it was coincidence that a group of benevolent citizens decided that treasonous racist traitors should have a very expensive memorial, then god help you.
    In the rise of Jim Crow and the KKK, this was a subtle but powerful way to tell people that they were proud of the racist past that these soldiers represented and the white guys are still in charge. The fact that these kind of reminders still exist are the very reason that we are having riots today.
    Did you not read that active KKK members lobbied to move the memorial to a more visible location in a public park rather than a very open to the public cemetery. I suspect it did not move to Crown Hill because they actually had some integrity and understood what it stood for. It is on public property and needs to be removed. This memorial has strong ties to a racist past, and if you can’t see that, then you are part of the current problems.

  12. We would not be having this discussion if the KKK had not lobbied to make a statement by moving the marker to a more prominent location in Garfield Park rather than what should have happened – having the marker accompany the remains transferred from Greenlawn Cemetery to Crown Hill Cemetery. There are two issues here: not glorifying racism and showing respect for fallen soldiers.

    A country is judged by how it treats its enemies. During World War II, eighteen German and Italian POWs died and were buried with dignity (and headstones) at Camp Atterbury. When that federal camp was deactivated, the remains were moved to Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. The 1616 Confederate POWs who perished and are buried here also deserve dignity and should have some marker. Perhaps as the Garfield Park structure is taken down, as it should be, parts can be salvaged to create a less grand and more appropriate marker at Crown Hill.

  13. The Veterans Administration/National Cemetery Administration is planning to construct a new cemetery at Crown Hill in the NE corner. Maybe incorporate the monument in the plan??

  14. My family records dictate the 1616 were sons and daughters of the south 14-23 years old collected via the Thompson and Scott railroad to kill the bloodlines, not soldiers; brought to Camp Morton, starved to death, incinerated, dumped in a mass grave in Washington Par (pioneer) Cemetery and paved over with a parking lot until 20110 when my father sued for internment in a mound with the name plates there.
    So, should we also get rid of (hide, destroy, cover-up) the walk-in incinerators in the Coliseum? Only walk-in incinerators known for real on earth. (Patton never went to Gotha)

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