The Confederate monument in Springfield National Cemetery
Over the past few days, many around Springfield have heard of a monument memorializing Confederate dead right in Springfield. It’s a surprise to some — but not to Travis Archie, who has known about the monument to most of his life.
I ran into Mr. Archie on a visit to the cemetery tonight. I’ve long known of the monument’s existence, but never had taken time to visit. Considering its recent presence in the news, I decided to swing by and see it for myself. When I arrived, Mr. Archie was there, watching over the monument.
As I walked up to snap a picture, I overheard him chatting with another man. Turns out, the duo didn’t know each other until moments before. Jesse Fisher, the man visiting with Mr. Archie, came to the cemetery with his wife to honor those who represented by the monument.
“We thought, you know what, we’re going to go by and pay our respects before somebody does something to it,” he says.
That, however, is what Mr. Archie doesn’t want to happen. “I’m not racially or politically motivated in any way shape or form,” he says, but instead mentions his lifelong interest in the Civil War.
It’s an interest that ties to his own family’s fight for the Confederacy, and was accelerated as a school child visiting Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Today, he’s commander of the Campbell’s Company Camp #2252, a group connected with the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Republic.
Those ties made him drive over after work today to keep an eye on the monument. “It would be a matter of me calling authorities,” he says.
“I don’t want any confrontation or alcercation with anybody,” he continues. “This is important to me. I wish so badly that people understood the complexities of this time period.”
There is no way proper context to the time period could be correctly conveyed in this simple article. Even a search of newspapers shows that erecting the monument in and of itself was a challenge. The project took decades to complete: More than 30 years was spent planning and raising the money.
But, in Mr. Archie’s view, that commitment was exhibited because it honored the lives of men — fathers, brothers, sons and husbands — lost in battle. Lives of humans that never went home to their families; many of who still reside in unmarked graves.
“There are very few of these guys who are actually known,” says Mr. Archie. “The vast majority of (Confederate soldiers) never got to be put in a well manicured, laid-out cemetery like this. Most of them are in mass graves.
“How many times did their momma sit there and wonder what happened to their son if they didn’t know the specifics? What if they had that gnawing feeling of wondering where this happened?”
For those people, adding such a monument — in such a cemetery, which was dedicated to their dead — gave them a place of peace. Crafted by Italian artist Chevalier Trentonove, the monument’s heart contains a time-capsule-like box with no date to open.
According to the Springfield Republican in 1901, the box contains a copy of the New Testament, a copy of each of the daily newspapers, a list of the monument committee, a list of the committee on reunions, the roster of Campbell Camp, Confederate bills of different denominations, a silver dollar of the United States of America — and two small flags, representing the United States and the Confederacy.
It’s stood in the cemetery ever since its cornerstone was placed on July 3, 1901. The $22,500 for the monument “came in small sums, and represents a labor of love and devotion to the memory of the dead soldiers of the Confederacy,” the newspaper noted.
That’s something that Mr. Archie wants people to remember today, too.
“Just like with any of the monuments on the courthouse squares, and in the public places that are now under scrutiny and now under attack, these are literally communal gravestones,” he says. “There are very few of these guys who are actually known.”