OK, it’s an unobtrusive (though large) obelisk, not a statue of a Confederate general or generic soldier. And it’s in a cemetery – Mt. Hope in unincorporated Greenburgh to be precise – unmistakable from Saw Mill River Road and Jackson Ave., once you know what to look for. But it’s not a grave for a particular individual: it is indeed a Confederate monument. To learn more, read further below:
As a Civil War buff and occasional author, I was amazed to learn a few years ago that there is a large Confederate monument only a ten-minute drive from my house in Hartsdale. The granite obelisk in the picture above is quite large, maybe 50 feet tall (one newspaper says 60 feet on top of a 10-foot base), and stands in the Mount Hope Cemetery located in unincorporated Greenburgh, close to Hastings. It is quite prominent – by far the largest and tallest monument in the hillside cemetery and plainly visible from Saw Mill River Road below and the downward slope of Jackson Ave. On closer inspection, it appears impressive, very well maintained and is circled by the well-preserved graves of Confederate veterans, most with army units identified Interestingly, on my visit, the graves were each flanked by a small United States flag.
The monument was erected in 1897 in the midst of the “lost cause” romanticism about the Confederacy that took hold of the nation’s memory of the Civil War at the same time that Jim Crow apartheid laws were being imposed across the South. Plessy v. Ferguson, sanctioning racially separate but equal public facilities (they were never equal), had been decided by the Supreme Court the year before.
The obelisk reads on one side: “Sacred to the Memory of the Heroic Dead of the Confederate Veterans Camp of New York.” Purportedly, this is the only such Confederate monument and dedicated cemetery section north of the Mason-Dixon line, excluding, I suppose, the prison camp cemeteries. There is a research opportunity to examine the story behind this monument, its dedication (that drew some opposition from local Union army veterans, but not much), the individuals buried around it (Confederate veterans who had moved to New York after the Civil War) and its preservation.
Whether a prominent monument honoring soldiers who fought for a rebellious nation founded to preserve the supposed right to keep other humans in brutal slavery – precipitating a war that killed almost 700,000 Americans – should still stand in our area is another question entirely.