The Fairfax County Park Authority has suspended plans to erect two monuments dedicated to Civil War soldiers at Ox Hill Battlefield Park in Chantilly.
Ox Hill Battlefield Park represents the site of the Battle of Ox Hill, as it was known by the Confederates, or the Battle of Chantilly, as it was called by the Union. The Battle of Chantilly was the only major Civil War battle to take place in Fairfax County.
The planned monuments were intended to honor the rank-and-file soldiers who were killed in the Battle of Chantilly, with one dedicated to Union soldiers and the other to Confederates.
“In light of the national dialogue regarding Civil War monuments currently underway, Fairfax County government and the Fairfax County Park Authority have delayed indefinitely the installation of the monuments at Ox Hill Battlefield Park,” Fairfax County Park Authority public information officer Judith Pedersen said.
The park currently features memorials dedicated to Union Gen. Isaac Stevens and Major Gen. Philip Kearny, two Union officers who were among the more than 1,500 soldiers killed in the skirmish.
Edward Wenzel, a trustee of the Stevens and Kearney statues, announced that the Fairfax County Park Authority planned to build two new monuments at Ox Hill Battlefield Park on May 29 during a Memorial Day ceremony held there annually by the Father William Corby Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
The 11-foot obelisks intended for the monuments now put on hold due to current “national dialogue” were produced prior to the Memorial Day announcement, and work on the foundations was originally supposed to commence in June.
An official unveiling and dedication ceremony had been scheduled for Sept. 9, as Wenzel announced on May 29.
However, when reached for comment following the announcement of the planned statues, Pedersen told the Fairfax County Times on June 2 that the county and park authority were “currently in discussion regarding these monuments in light of the unfolding local and national discussion on the topic.”
According to Pedersen, the monuments cost $20,000 to design and $54,242 to build. Funds were proffered and did not come from taxpayer money, according to county officials.
Debates over the presence of statues, flags, and other evocations of the Confederacy have gained momentum in recent years, particularly since self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, 2015.
The Charleston mass shooting prompted South Carolina officials to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds where it had flown for 54 years.
The discussion over the appropriateness of continuing to display Confederate symbols or statues featuring Confederate figures returned with renewed fervor this past weekend when an organized group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched on Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a public park.
The “Unite the Right” rally, as it was called by right-wing organizers, resulted in the deaths of two Virginia State Patrol troopers and a paralegal that was killed when a car drove through a crowd of counter-protestors who had shown up in opposition to the gathering.
At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces around the U.S., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Proponents of keeping these symbols argue that they are reminders of an essential, if self-admittedly ugly, part of Southern history.
Those who believe such symbols should be removed say that they celebrate an effort explicitly aimed at preserving the institution of slavery and reflect the insidiousness of racism and bigotry in the U.S.
Fairfax County residents recently grappled with the appropriateness of Confederate symbols in public spaces when the county school board voted on July 27 to rename J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church.
Students launched a campaign to remove Confederate Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart’s name from their school in June 2015.
A community vote on a possible new name is scheduled to take place at 10:00 a.m. on Sept. 16 at J.E.B. Stuart High School.