Vandals sawed an arm and a scabbard off two Baltimore Confederate statues in storage last summer, according to Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.
The statues have been stored behind a chain-link fence in a weedy corner of a city impound lot off Pulaski Highway since they were removed from parks around the city in August 2017 at the order of then-Mayor Catherine Pugh.
CHAP staff discovered the damage in September, but the exact date the Lee-Jackson Monument and the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument lost their bronze appendages is unknown.
The Lee-Jackson Monument, dedicated in 1948, depicts Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson atop horses. An unknown person or persons sawed off a scabbard and drilled a hole into the leg of one of the horses.
The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which was dedicated in 1903 and doused in red paint by protesters in 2017, depicts the angel Glory holding a dying Confederate soldier clenching an unfurled Confederate flag. The soldier’s arm and the flag were sawed off and a small hole was drilled in his knee.
Maryland Historical Trust, which has a preservation easement to protect the two statues and the Confederate Women’s Monument, sent a staff member and an employee from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab to inspect the damages in December. The staff determined the bronze is actively corroding around the cuts and recommended patching the holes and removing the corroded areas to prevent further water damage.
Elizabeth Hughes, director of the Maryland Historical Trust, wrote in a November letter to CHAP that members of the board were “deeply disturbed to learn that, despite the City’s reassurances about the security and safety of the Monuments, vandals were still able to gain access to them.”
The vandalism, she wrote, highlights the “ongoing threat posed to the Monuments.”
Eric Holcomb, CHAP’s executive director, did not respond to requests for comment.
While the statues have been surrounded by metal fences and concrete barriers for nearly six years, the gate of the enclosure was unlocked, Holcomb told Hughes and other members of a “Monument Relocation Working Group” during an October meeting.
The vandalism likely occurred in August and there are no suspects, city spokesperson Cirilo Manego said in a statement.
The city has not filed a police report about the vandalism, according to Baltimore Police spokesperson Det. Niki Fennoy.
Manego said the city agency responsible for filing insurance claims has been contacted, but Baltimore has a large deductible.
The Confederate effigies were among four that were removed from various locations across the city the same month as the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The city has struggled with what to do with them, but last summer a Los Angeles visual art space asked to borrow them for an exhibit this fall.
City and state historical officials saw the exhibit as an opportunity to both showcase the monuments — as public access is required by the preservation easement — and educate viewers about racism and the Lost Cause myth that the Civil War was an honorable fight about states’ rights and secession instead of slavery.
Holcomb expressed hope that the monuments would find a permanent home in one of Baltimore’s museums once they returned from Los Angeles, according to the Monument Relocation Working Group’s October meeting notes.
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But joint exhibit by LAXART and The Museum of Contemporary Art, called “Monuments,” has been postponed until 2025, museum directors Hamza Walker and Johanna Burton said in a statement.
It’s unclear when the monuments will be crated and transported to Los Angeles, but Manego said LAXART hopes to move them this year.
“Currently, we are working hard to get these pieces ready for the LAXART exhibition,” Manego said in a statement. “Once these monuments are back from loan, we will decide what to do with them.”
After the vandalism was discovered, a chain-link roof was added to the statues’ cage and the gate was chained and locked.
The city Department of Transportation impound lot has surveillance cameras, but it is unclear where they are located.
In her letter, Hughes recommended that the city add cameras to directly monitor the monuments. She also suggested crating the monuments and relocating them to a storage facility, or accelerating their transfer to LAXART.
In a separate incident, the granite plinth of the Lee-Jackson Monument in Wyman Park Dell was spray-painted as part of an October art installation sanctioned by Johns Hopkins University. The installation, called “A Walk of Remembrance,” honored the lives of people who were enslaved on the university’s campus.