By Andrea Cordle, Columbus Messenger
The statue of a Civil War soldier standing atop the arch in the Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery has been toppled and parts of it stolen.
According to the Columbus Division of Police, in the early morning hours of Aug. 22, someone pulled down the statue. When the statue broke, the perpetrators stole the head of the statue.
Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery is located at 2900 Sullivant Ave. and it contains over 2,200 graves of soldiers, mostly Confederate soldiers who died in captivity. There are also Union soldiers and civilians buried at Camp Chase.
According to Dave Dobos, president of the Hilltop Historical Society, the statue was a generic, regular soldier. It had been part of the cemetery since 1902.
“That statue was meant as a reuniting vessel,” said Dobos, who grew up on the Westside. “It honored the memory of all who fought in the war.”
Currently, police do not have any suspects so they do not know if the theft and vandalism were meant as a political statement, but Dobos believes it was.
“My guess is that this location was selected as part of the national discussion in the wake of Charlottesville (Virginia),” said Dobos. “I am profoundly disappointed that the conversation led to this act.”
Earlier this month, riots broke out in Charlottesville after groups gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general. Many municipalities have considered removing public statues that memorialize Confederates.
Camp Chase is not a public park, however. The Confederate cemetery is administered by the National Cemetery Association, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It has announced plans to restore the statue.
Each year, the Hilltop Historical Society sponsors the Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery Ceremony to remember those who served at Camp Chase and those buried in the cemetery.
“We are not making a political statement,” said Dobos. “It’s history and history should not be political. It is our goal to preserve and promote the history of West Columbus and part of that is to understand what happened there.”
Just one day before the vandalism of the statue at Camp Chase Cemetery, the Hilltop Historical Society issued the following statement, “We are cognizant that there are many heartfelt and compelling points of view about our nation’s history and we also understand that each American citizen experiences our nation differently. We ask everyone who cares about our community and nation to consider carefully the many points of view that are expressed and to listen thoughtfully and with an open mind, especially to those with whom we may not agree. We must realize that we are more alike than we are different and that we share common aspirations. Ultimately, we must determine how all of us move forward together to continue to build a stronger community and nation.”
According to police, there was no surveillance video of the vandalism and theft at Camp Chase. However, if the individual(s) are apprehended, they could face federal charges since the cemetery is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They could also face charges of theft, vandalism and desecration of a cemetery.
If you have any information on the crime, contact the Columbus Division of Police at 614-645-4545.