Say it ain’t so, Stu Levitan

So the professional city staff serving the Madison Landmarks Commission says to keep the monument at Confederate Rest where it has resided these past 112 years at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Preservation planner Amy Scanlan “finds that removing the monument would not comply with Madison’s historic preservation ordinance.” She recommends the appointed members of the Landmark Commission object to the Common Council’s vote in April to remove the memorial stone. (Story here.) Landmark Commission file on Confederate Rest here.

WSJ at Confederates Rest

Gosh, this is a big stone! Almost too big!

But now Commission chairman Stu Levitan has switched sides. He wants the stone removed! We spoke to Levitan, himself an eminent Madison historian. Wha’ happened, Stu?

He says the stone is too big. “It’s very mass is celebratory,” he told your Humble Bloggeur. The Stone Is Too Big. 

Color your Squire dumbfounded! I would judge, having stood next to it, that the stone is a little over 5 feet high. We asked how big should it have been? That, Stu parried, is not an “equation” he would consider. But Stu knows Too Big when he sees it.

We posed to Stu the conundrum faced by the Madison stone mason, who was tasked with carving 140 names into the stone, plus the inscription: “Erected in loving memory by United Daughters of Confederacy to Alice Whiting Waterman and her boys.” That many angels may be able to dance on the head of a pin but try carving 140 names legibly into granite.

Celebratory? If the stone celebrates anything it celebrates Mrs. Waterman, the Madison woman who cared for the potters field in which the captured Confederate soldiers were buried, having died at Camp Randall after the capture of Island #10 on the Mississippi River in 1862.

Program for 1906 unveiling

Mrs. Waterman’s volunteerism attracted the attention of Gov. Lucius Fairchild, who lost an arm at Gettysburg, and then Gov. Cadwallader Washburn, who fought with U.S. Grant at Vicksburg. The lady died in 1897 in the home of Union Captain Frank Oakley. The latter enlisted the help of another veteran of the Union side, Major Hugh Lewis, to solicit funds from Confederate veterans. Major Lewis lost his arm at Gettysburg, as well. The money raised was sent to Captain Oakley in Madison, who contracted with a local stone mason. 

The stone was dedicated with brass bands and speeches on June 1906, led by the Lucius Fairchild post of the Grand Army of the Republic. 

The monument to Mrs. Waterman and “her boys” wasn’t too large for those survivors of the Union fight against slavery and secession. 

But Stu had one more strike against the stone: those Union veterans, he charged, voted for Gen. George B. McClellan over Lincoln! Stu bases that insight into the private ballot box on the supposition that Union soldiers voted the same as a majority of Madisonians in 1864. This has got to be the first time a Madison liberal has punished someone for voting Democrat!

The monument to Mrs. Waterman is, itself, a part of Madison history, sanctified by the sacrifice of those who lost a lot more than Stu Levitan. Yes, erect an explanatory plaque but don’t erase history.

Blaska’s Bottom Line: Take my word for it, Stu Levitan is a better historian than he is showing today.

David Blaska is a former Thompson Administration official, a Madison conservative, and the Lord of Stately Blaska Manor. This article appears courtesy of David Blaska and was previously published at Blaska’s blog.