A North Carolina Civil War monument at Maryland’s South Mountain State Battlefield was vandalized over the weekend.
The Friends of South Mountain Battlefield posted images of the damage on Facebook early Tuesday and said several acts of vandalism were reported at the site over the past two weekends. South Mountain Battlefield is on the National Register of Historic Places and is infamous as the battle where 58 dead Confederates from North Carolina were dumped down a well after the fighting ended. The site is about 15 miles southeast of Hagerstown, Maryland.
Vandals sprayed red and white paint on the monument of a dying soldier, which honors North Carolinians who fought at or near the battle on Sept. 14, 1862. A symbol of an “A” inside a circle has led many to believe the damage was caused by members of the Antifa movement, which is a conglomeration of anti-fascist groups in the United States. Its members have also taken a stand against Confederate monuments, calling them discriminatory.
The damage, which Charlotte-area Civil War historian Rex Hovey said is believed to have occurred Saturday night, included spray paint on the Garland Headstone, which was put up in memory of Brig. Gen. Samuel Garland, who died at the battle. “I was just heart broken,” said Hovey, who is also a Civil War reenactor.
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The vandalism comes at a time when some groups are demanding that Confederate monuments be removed from public grounds in cities and moved to historic battlefields and cemeteries. Among the battles is an ongoing tug-of-war over the Silent Sam monument to war dead on the campus of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Images of the spray-painted Maryland monument were posted on Facebook and have been shared more than 1,000 times in the past day. Commenters have largely condemned the damage as the work of people who chose to ignore the site’s role in depicting the brutality of war for both sides.
“Destroying American soldiers monuments? Whether they’re Union or Confederate doesn't matter,” posted Jim Anchor on Facebook. “They’re still American soldiers.”
“I’m sure the vandals know nothing of the history of the South Mountain battlefield,” posted George Berg on Facebook. “Just shameful behavior.”
The damage was discovered by the Central Maryland Heritage League, Hovey said, and its members are working to clean the spray paint away.
South Mountain was the first major Civil War battle to take place in Maryland, and a critical turning point in the Civil War. Union victories at South Mountain and Antietam (fought three days later) led President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.