A group of Confederate sympathizers yesterday said it plans to protest the scheduled placement of an Abraham Lincoln statue in a national park in Richmond.
“We feel that it’s an in-your-face type of gesture and it serves no purpose,” said Bragdon Bowling, commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “They are saying that everyone should be on the same page now, but let them put up a Confederate symbol and see what happens.”
The United States Historical Society announced yesterday that a bronze statue of the former president and his youngest child, Tad, will be revealed April 5, at the Civil War Visitor Center.
The day will mark the 138th anniversary of their trip to still-smoldering Richmond soon after Southern forces abandoned the city in flames and days before the Civil War ended in April 1865.
The life-size statue of the 16th president one of the first such memorials in the South portrays parental love, not triumphalism, said sculptor David Frech. The outdoor statue will overlook the James River and Richmond skyline.
“Here is a national hero, a small boy and a beautiful city by the James River, all united again,” said Robert Kline, chairman of the nonprofit United States Historical Society, which commissioned the statue and works on behalf of museums and other groups on projects of historic and artistic value. “This time, Lincoln’s in Richmond for all time.”
But Mr. Bowling said the statue would provoke Virginia residents whose ancestors died in battle. He said a statue of a Confederate soldier and a Union soldier shaking hands would encourage more unity.
“I am very disappointed with the National Park Service because in this case they are clearly taking a side,” said Mr. Bowling, who will organize efforts to oppose the statue. “There certainly has been nobody clamoring for a Lincoln memorial in Richmond.
“We have plans, but I need to do a little more thinking. This was just sprung on us,” he said.
Richmond was abandoned after Union forces led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant attacked on April 2, 1965. It is now home to towering statues of Confederacy figures including Gen. Robert E. Lee, Andrew “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart.
The tribute to Lincoln is the culmination of months of effort on the part of Edward C. Smith, director of American studies at the American University and co-director of the Civil War Institute.
Mr. Smith, a black professor who supports Civil War heritage groups, proposed the statue in a June 2, 2001, Washington Times article.
With the exception of a few schools, there are no monuments or memorials to Lincoln in the South. But Lee is memorialized in the District, Mr. Smith wrote.
He wrote that Richmond is an ideal place for the monument because there Lincoln reminded Confederate officials that he meant what he said in his second inaugural address: “Let there be malice toward none and charity for all.”
The statue will show Lincoln and his son on a bench against a granite wall. The words “To Bind Up The Nation’s Wounds” will be etched into a capstone.
Elaine Mancini, spokeswoman for the historical society, said the cost of the statue has not been determined. The society is raising money by selling miniatures of the statue, she said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.