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Library to Host Historical Talk on Civil War Monuments in Montgomery County

November 19, 2015

The Germantown Library will host a talk entitled “Signposts to the Past: Civil War Monuments in Maryland and the Statue of a Confederate Trooper in Rockville” by Germantown Historical Society president Susan Cooke Soderberg on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 3:00 pm.

   Have you ever passed by a monument or statue and wondered -- Who put that up there? What does it mean? “Monuments were erected to send a message to the future, but that message may be warped by time,” said Soderberg. “Modern society may not be able to receive the message as sent because the meaning of the symbols has been lost, or a different system of values is in place. War memorials are particularly prone to changes in meaning over time because those who erected the monuments experienced a war first-hand and will have a different view of and emotional attachment to the event than those generations removed in time from the event.”

   “War is a terrible thing, and civil war is especially so because it tears apart people who were formerly in harmony,” she said. “The American Civil War, although resulting in the ending of the horrible institution of enslavement, created a great loss and deep division within our society.  620,000 soldiers were lost to battle or disease, 70 percent of them under 24 years of age. Our nation was set back in population and in progress, and mutilated by a terrible gash. Would the war continue underground with years, perhaps generations, of retribution and hate; or would the people gather together to heal the wound and reunite our country to face a new future together?”

   “The erection of monuments honoring the valor of the common soldiers of both sides was one way of healing the gash created by civil war. By honoring the common soldier in this way rather than the leaders or the causes of the conflict, the Civil War Monuments were more like peace symbols than glorifications of war. Maryland, having lost men to both sides, became a leader in this movement,” says Soderberg

   Soderberg, is author of the book, “Lest We Forget: A Guide to Civil War Monuments in Maryland” and holds a Master’s degree in American Studies from George Washington University.

Saturday’s talk at the Germantown Library on Century Boulevard is sponsored by the Germantown Historical Society.

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