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March 28, 2014

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Bob Strassfeld

Al,

You made this one too easy. It is the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Pittsburgh. A magnified picture gives it away.

Alfred Brophy

You're, of course, right Bob. Nicely done.

Alfred L. Brophy

Now that I'm back in lovely Chapel Hill I want to talk a little more about the Soldiers and Sailors Museum. On Thursday I was talking with some of the Pitt faculty and mentioned that I wanted to take some pictures -- always looking to restock on trivia questions, of course. I asked them where the Pittsburgh Union soldier was. They responded something along the lines of, well, there must be one around here somewhere. Well, anyway, when I was at the really terrific Derrick Bell conference the next day I looked out the window and read the inscription on the building "Allegheny County Soldiers Memorial." I'd noticed the building on the way to the conference that morning and wondered what it was -- so, ah, here we go! I ran outside during a break and took some pictures -- tried to get one where the name wasn't so apparent. As Bob points out, I wasn't quite successful in that.

This very impressive building has in some ways faded into the landscape. For even extremely knowledgeable locals (who aren't obsessed with the significance of monuments), the monument doesn't serve its intended purpose. That is, the monument doesn't serve much of a function. Or, perhaps put another way, the Civil War is a long time away and we're forgetting about it. This is similar to a conversation I had with a long-time Chapel Hillian some years ago about meeting at the Confederate monument on campus. She had no idea what I was talking about. Later she said something like, oh, I've pass that twice a day for years -- is that a Confederate monument?

I think in a lot of ways that the Civil War is finally coming to a conclusion -- we've largely settled the disputes about causes and morality of the war -- is positive for our country. I think the best evidence of this was a statement by a Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesman back in December 2011 when the Civil War sesqui-centennial was getting under way. He said something like, of course the Civil War was about slavery, but it was about other issues as well. I'm not convinced about the "other issues" part, but I thought that a remarkable concession; and one that suggests that the battle over the memory of the war is largely settled.

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