Arlington County officials have removed a Confederate plaque marking the location of a lookout during the Civil War after discovering the stone memorial was placed without the county’s permission.
The bicentennial marker and a red oak tree were placed by the Arlington chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at the intersection of N. Arlington Mill Drive and Wilson Boulevard near the Bluemont Park’s parking lot.
“There are no records that it was placed with our permission,” said Katie Cristol, chairwoman of the Arlington County Board. “Now, county government is trying to get in touch with the owners.”
In August last year, following violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, an Arlington resident petitioned the Board to remove the memorial, to challenge individuals and organizations that seek to “make statues and symbols their battlefields.” Officials then discovered it was placed without county permission.
The marker read:
This Red Oak and stone were placed here as a Bicentennial Memorial to the men in gray who served on Upton Hill
County staff said it’s unclear when the memorial was erected. A Washington Post article published in 1979 indicates it was placed in 1976 to commemorate a Confederate outpost.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy declined a request for comment on Thursday.
Another historical marker, about a clash between Confederate and Union soldiers near the removed marker, was damaged in a car accident, Cristol said.
The ceremony is set for Saturday, November 11 from 11 a.m. to noon at the center at 909 S. Dinwiddie Street. Members of the Army of the Potomac Living History Society portraying Union soldiers will provide a color guard, and a short video will be shown to show the Civil War history in the area.
“On June 1, 1861 one of the early skirmishes of the Civil War occurred near Arlington Mill when Union pickets were attacked by a handful of Confederate soldiers,” an announcement reads. “After a brief fight, the Confederates fell back. One Union soldier was killed.”
The Democrats running for Arlington County Board and the Virginia House of Delegates say they are united with the Board in its desire to rename Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway.
Arlington County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and incumbent House of Delegates candidates Mark Levine, Patrick Hope, Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Alfonso Lopez praised the County Board’s stand. In a statement, an excerpt of which is below, all five applauded what they described as “a powerful statement from the Arlington County Board rejecting racism and bigotry.”
The county will need to first obtain the legal authority to rename both stretches of state highway within its borders, an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. But the incumbents pledged to try to do so, so the county can choose “who in our history we want to honor and celebrate.”
Erik Gutshall, Democratic nominee for Arlington County Board, said “I am proud to live in a community that has long shared the values of diversity and inclusion. I fully embrace the County Board’s determination to garner local control of the names of our roadways, as I know Arlington’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly do.”
“It’s long past time for us to rename highways that were labeled to send a hateful and divisive message to people of color in our community,” said Delegate Alfonso Lopez (49th District), House Democratic Whip. “I look forward to working with the Arlington County Board to make sure they have the necessary authority from the General Assembly to make these important changes.”
Delegate Patrick Hope (47th District) said, “I have long-supported the renaming of Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway in Arlington and commend the Arlington County Board for this bold statement of leadership. I look forward to supporting legislation to grant Arlington and all localities the freedom to rename buildings, roads, and to remove monuments that do not reflect our values.”
“Giving localities the authority to rename highways — like Jefferson Davis Highway — is long overdue,” said Delegate Rip Sullivan (48th District), “This is not about erasing or trying to change history — indeed, we must never forget the evil that led to our Civil War. Rather, this is about a community choosing who in our history we want to honor and celebrate. Arlington County should have that choice. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ This matters, and I applaud the County Board for choosing not to be silent on this important issue.”
“I’m very pleased that the Arlington County Board is committed to renaming the Jefferson Davis Highway, ” said Delegate Mark Levine (45th District). “Changing those street signs will no longer honor the Mississippi traitor (with little or no connection to Arlington) who was President of a rebellious group of states that seceded from the union to enforce and protect their cruel and odious institution of slavery. Street signs bearing the current name of this highway do a gross injustice to Arlingtonians who are loyal to their nation and who abhor slavery. I know the vast majority of us are looking forward to seeing these signs no more.”
Metro Delays Due to Disabled Train — A 7000-series Metro train reportedly lost power between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, just before 9 a.m., leading to delays on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines. [Twitter, Twitter]
Confederate Monument at Arlington Nat’l — On the western edge of Arlington National Cemetery there is a monument to Confederate war dead. Writes the Post: “A soaring testament to Southern pride, placed in Arlington nearly 50 years after the Civil War ended, the monument features a frieze depicting Rebels shouldering rifles, a black slave following his master and an enslaved woman… cradling a Confederate officer’s infant.” [Washington Post]
ACFD Rescues Bird — Members of an Arlington County Fire Department rescue company successfully managed to rescue a blue and yellow macaw from a tree. [Twitter]
Commonwealth Joe Gets $2.5 Million — Local nitro cold brew coffee purveyor and Pentagon City cafe operator Commonwealth Joe has landed a $2.5 million round of funding. The Arlington-based firm says it plans to use the investment to expand its cold brew business, which includes distributing kegs of the sweet, smooth chilled coffee to offices. [Washington Business Journal]
Local Holocaust Survivor Reunited — An Arlington man was reunited with a Dutch couple that hid him and his sister, who are both Jewish, from the Nazis in 1945. The reunion took place at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and happened thanks to a high school project undertaken by the couple’s grandson. [NBC Washington]
Raise for Arlington County Board Members? — There is renewed discussion of a significant raise for Arlington County Board members, in recognition that their job, rather than being part time as originally envisioned, now involves full-time hours. There are even “whispers” that Board salaries could be nearly doubled, to reach six-figures, according to one report. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Tax Delinquency Rate Hits Historic Low — Arlington County’s 2017 tax delinquency rate has hit a record low of 0.226 percent, County Treasurer Carla de la Pava announced. That’s the lowest rate in Virginia and the lowest rate ever in Arlington, she said, touting it as “good for the county” and “good for taxpayers.” The news led Del. Patrick Hope to declare de la Pava the “best treasurer in the Commonwealth.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Remembering the Ballston Mall’s Past — First known as Parkington, then Ballston Common Mall, and soon (next year) to be reopened as Ballston Quarter, following extensive renovations, Ballston’s shopping mall has a long history that dates back to the early 1950s. [WETA]
Nearby: Legislation on Confederate Monument — State Sen. Adam Ebbin says he will introduce legislation “to give Alexandria the authority to relocate the Confederate statue in Old Town” Alexandria. “It is past time that we address the impact that lionizing the Confederacy has had on the character of our Commonwealth,” Ebbin said. [Twitter, Twitter]
The re-enactment event Civil War Camp Day will show how soldiers lived by walking through encampment displays, practicing military drills and trying on Civil War uniforms. It takes place May 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center and Park (2909 16th Street S.)
Union troops arrived in Arlington in 1861 on the orders of President Abraham Lincoln. For the next four years, tens of thousands of northern soldiers manned the Arlington Line, a series of fortifications and camps that stretched from Rosslyn to the Pentagon.
A schedule of the day’s events is below:
- 10 a.m. – The camp is open to visitors, with displays on how soldiers lived in camp, what gear they used and the music they listened to.
- 11 a.m. – A presentation on Arlington’s role during the Civil War, especially as a center for training.
- Noon – Cooking and a presentation on what soldiers ate.
- 1 p.m. – A presentation on Arlington’s role during the Civil War, especially as a center for training.
- 2-4 p.m. – The camp is open to visitors, with displays on how soldiers lived in camp, what gear they used and the music they listened to.
The plaque reads:
FORT ETHAN ALLEN CHAIN BRIDGE GULF BRANCH SANCTUARY FOR WILDLIFE AND NOT SO WILDLIFE HEREINAFTER REFERRED TO AS …
… HISTORICAL SITE OF CIVIL WAR FORT ETHAN ALLEN WHICH COMMANDED ALL THE APPROACHES SOUTH OF PIMMIT RUN TO CHAIN BRIDGE DURING THE WAR OF NORTHERN AGGRESSION (1861-1865)
Of particular interest is the phrase “War of Northern Aggression.” It’s safe to say that this term, used by some southerners to refer to the Civil War, has been out of favor in Arlington for some time.
The plaque is attached to a large stone on the corner of N. Richmond and Stafford streets, near where the fort once stood. Behind it is a small but lush green space, surrounded by a wood rail fence. But “the Sanctuary,” according to neighbors, is the name a housing developer gave to the homes he built in the area.
Many residents of this 18-home community, who say their homes were built on land owned and developed by the Caruthers family, find the plaque near the entrance to their neighborhood a little strange. (We were unable to reach the Caruthers family to comment on the plaque.)
“The thing that mentions the War of Northern Aggression?” said Maxwell Denney. “I mean, it’s just ridiculous.”
Other locals also find the terminology out of place.
“I thought this plaque… was rather odd,” said a tipster who emailed ARLnow.com. “While I recognize that Virginia seceded at the Civil War, a modern-day reference to the ‘War of Northern Aggression’ (at the site of a Union fort) strikes me as somewhat peculiar.”
Officials we talked to said they are not sure of the story behind the plaque.
The Arlington County Historic Preservation program, Arlington Public Schools, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation, and even the people at the Madison Community Center — none knew anything about the plaque. Arlington historic preservation officials said the plaque does not belong to the county and they had no record of its installation.
Update at 5:05 p.m. — Commenter AnonymousArlingtonian linked to a 2011 Arlington Connection article that points to Preston Caruthers as the plaque’s builder. The plaque also was mentioned in a Falls Church News-Press column in 2011, but the author of that column, Charlie Clark, told us today he doesn’t believe Caruthers installed it.
Update at 6:45 p.m. on July 24 — Clark has updated his previous assertion, saying he has since confirmed the plaque was indeed installed by Caruthers.
Update at 9:50 a.m. on July 25 — Falls Church News-Press columnist and Arlington history enthusiast Charlie Clark has walked back his earlier statement on who wrote the three-decade-old plaque mentioning the “war of northern aggression” that is on display on private property on N. Stafford Street at the Madison Center and Fort Ethan Allen.
Clark over the weekend contacted the Caruthers family and learned that it was indeed developer Preston Caruthers who created the sign, which the family has long seen as a humorous way to get people’s attention. Here is Caruthers’ statement to Clark:
“Thank you for the concern about some my friends and good neighbors’ attention to our sanctuary street sign. It was never intended to be offensive in any way, but rather to point out to citizens and visitors the sad history of our area during the Civil War. The plaque and statues on the school playground provide so little attention to this sad era of our community’s history. I’m very sorry if this has ever offended anyone.”
Starting at 10:00 a.m., members of the Arlington County Board and the Old Glebe Civic Association will be on hand to unveil a replica cannon, three new viewing areas and nine new interpretive signs, all built as part of the Fort Ethan Allen Interpretive Project. In addition, a built-to-scale bronze replica of the original Fort Ethan Allen — which was built by the Union as part of the defense of Washington, D.C. — will be unveiled for the public.
The project was funded after Old Glebe requested it as part of the Neighborhood Conservation Program and the Board approved it in 2010. Construction began last fall.
The event will include speeches from county officials and community members, refreshments, a tour of the fort, and it will conclude with a hike from Fort Ethan Allen Park to one of the two other remaining Civil War forts in Arlington, Fort Marcy.
Photo courtesy Arlington County
The railroad line, which ran through Arlington, was later renamed the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad and is now the popular W&OD trail. The western portion of the line was attacked by Confederate forces during the war but the eastern portion, through Arlington and Alexandria, fared better and helped to provide logistical support to the Union war effort.
The talk will be held tonight (Thursday) from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street). From the library website:
Historian Ron Beavers will discuss the little used Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad, which once ran through Arlington County but is today one of the Washington area’s most popular bike trails. Learn what caused this transformation – from an underachieving rail line to a major contributor to the Union war effort – and what became of this railroad after the Civil War.
Though now a beloved path for both commuters and recreationalists from Arlington to Loudoun County, the original plan for the AL&H was impressive. Entrepreneurial Virginians hopes to compete with the B&O Railroad for the rich coal fields of what is now West Virginia. But engineering difficulties and financial struggles impeded these plans, reducing the rail line to a local carrier for freight, mail and people just before the Civil War. When the war came, the western portion of this railroad suffered complete destruction. The eastern facilities (Alexandria and Arlington) fared much better. Their contribution to the Union war effort was crucial to success in the Eastern Theater of Military operations. Ownership returned to AL&H directors after the war, but their original plan to reach West Virginia never came to fruition. The rail line went through many reorganizations and mergers, yet continued to serve Arlington and Northern Virginia until the 1960s. Last known as the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, it ultimately became a 44 mile-long park that we now call the W&OD hiker/biker trail.
Beavers last spoke before the Arlington Historical Society in March about Arlington County’s retrocession to Virginia in 1847. He is a seventh generation Virginian and retired federal employee with a life-long interest in history and railroads.
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
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Civic Federation Endorses All Bonds — The Arlington County Civic Federation has voted to endorse all four bonds on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Civic Federation voted by a narrow 26-22 margin to support the $50.5 million parks and recreation bond, which includes more than $40 million for a new aquatics center at Long Brige Park. [Sun Gazette]
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Library Sets New Summer Reading Record — Arlington Public Library’s summer reading program set another participation record this year. According to the library, 7,415 kids registered for the program and some 30,000 books throughout the course of the summer.
Confederate ‘Gray Ghost’ Lived in Arlington — In a bit of local Civil War lore, columnist Charlie Clark and Arlington historian Kathryn Holt Springston recount how the legendary Confederate raider John S. Mosby lived in Arlington later in life. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann