- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2001

CHARLOTTESVILLE (AP) A state historical marker that claimed the University of Virginia surrendered to Union Maj. Gen. George Armstrong Custer near the end of the Civil War was removed after a university official questioned its accuracy.
The state Board of Historic Resources approved the marker in March 2000. UVa. Rector John P. Ackerly III, a Civil War buff, objected.
The first problem, Mr. Ackerly said, was that the marker was improperly placed on university property, not on Virginia Department of Transportation right of way, as previously thought.
"As it turned out, the marker was also inaccurate in that it stated that the university surrendered to Custer, when in fact the university did not," he said.
Gary W. Gallagher, a prominent Civil War professor at UVa., backed up Mr. Ackerlys position. Faculty minutes "make clear that the universitys delegation was authorized to seek protection of the 'public and private property at the university during the passing by or sojourn of the Federal troops. There is no mention of a surrender," he wrote in a letter to a university vice president.
The drive for the marker was led by Brian E. Del Vecchio, a campus police officer and Custer admirer, who said he wanted to bring attention to a little-known piece of history.
On March 3, 1865, Charlottesvilles mayor and three UVa. officials met the 25-year-old Custer near the university chapel to seek mercy. The officials feared UVa. and the city would suffer the wrath of Union Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, whose troops had entered Charlottesville to destroy railroad facilities.
Custer agreed to protect the university, saving one of the Souths premier schools. He even posted guards on campus during the three-day federal occupation of the city.
"I think university officials were grateful then, as they are now, that federal troops spared university buildings," Mr. Ackerly said.
The marker read in part: "Waving a white handkerchief on a cane, they surrendered the town and university to Maj. Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his Third Cavalry Division."
Mr. Del Vecchio said contemporary newspapers and Union and Confederate military accounts indicate the city and UVa. surrendered.
"The full Board of Historic Resources gave the marker a full review," Mr. Del Vecchio said. "Im really at a loss."
Rick Britton, a Civil War buff who wrote an article titled "The University Surrendered" for the UVa. Alumni News in 1998, said, "I was offended it was taken down. Im a dyed-in-the-wool Southerner. But its a great story. It happened right here."
Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the Department of Historic Resources, said Mr. Ackerlys complaint prompted a review of the markers text.
"There was disagreement among historians what the universitys intention was and if it was legally possible for the university to surrender," she said.
The board has approved new text that does not mention a UVa. surrender. The old marker was headlined "Charlottesville Surrendered." The new markers headline reads "Union Occupation of Charlottesville."
Miss Kilpatrick said the department is working with Mr. Del Vecchio, UVa. and the city to place the new marker at a new spot, possibly on city property.


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