One of our Confederate monuments is missing

Brian Hicks
Sunday, June 10, 2012

So our local monument to the Lost Cause has been, well, lost.

Yeah, the irony goes down about as well as hardtack.

You know, that would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

On Dec. 20, 2010, the Fort Sumter Fort Moultrie Historical Trust, the National Park Service and the city rectified a long-standing oversight and put up a historical marker at the site of Institute Hall.

That building — once Charleston’s grandest meeting hall — is where delegates in 1860 signed the Ordinance of Secession, setting into motion Our Late Unpleasantness.

It was a valuable marker because a lot of folks never knew where this happened, seeing as how Institute Hall burned down a year after the ordinance was signed. Which wasn’t a good sign for the Confederacy.

The marker told the story of secession and, on one side, said “The Union is Dissolved!” in homage to the famous edition of the Charleston Mercury.

It was a good-looking sign.  So it wasn’t too surprising when, a couple of months ago, it was history.

A moving target

At first, officials figured this was a case of “round up the usual suspects.”

Start with the guys in gray.  “I was thinking that someone may have thought it was a collector’s item,” says Robert Rosen, president emeritus of the Historical Trust. “And unfortunately, I thought it might have been vandals.”

You know, like the knuckleheads who busted the leopard outside the Peoples Building.

A little detective work, however, uncovered a much less sinister story.

On April 1, movers with the Smith Dray Line were relocating a law firm from the building on the site of Institute Hall. As one of the trailers pulled away from the curb, its rail lift clipped the sign, snapping it off its post.

The movers, not sure what they should do, propped the sign up on the post. Later that night, Trust Coordinator Allison Lanford saw the aluminum sign on the sidewalk and sent someone to pick it up.

But by then, it was gone with the wind.

Old signs not forgotten

Last week, the city installed a new, identical sign on the post. It only cost the Smith Dray Line $1,800.


But now there’s a new issue. The old sign sat perpendicular to the street; the new one is parallel. Dustin Clemens, construction projects manager for the city, said even though the old sign didn’t hang out in the road, they thought this would minimize the danger by having it a little farther from the road.

Except now to read side two of the marker, folks have to stand in Meeting Street. And that means next time it might be a tourist getting clipped instead of the sign.

Clemens says the city may adjust the sign. Probably a good call.

So this story, unlike the one on the marker, has a happy ending.

“The most important thing is that the sign is back,” says Michael Allen of the National Park Service. “That’s a story that needs to be told.”

And it would be nice if someone also told the cops which local dorm room is currently sporting a really educational metal poster.

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