BERRYVILLE — Mary Ivie is intrigued when she stands beside the Confederate statue in front of the Clarke County Courthouse, looking up at the soldier it depicts.
“His face looks dejected, sad and lost,” said Ivie, of Berryville. She believes the statue was designed to appear that way, she said.
Yet while many people admire the statue, it’s really not anything special, according to county architectural historian Maral Kalbian.
The controversial statue was erected in 1900 on a small parcel in front of the courthouse along North Church Street in downtown Berryville.
It and similar statues “were mass produced and could be ordered by catalog,” Kalbian said Thursday night, relating its history to a citizens committee appointed by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. The committee will examine unique circumstances involving the statue and the monument on which it sits, then make a recommendation to the board as to what to do with the landmark.
Historical records show the statue was made by Burns & Campbell of Petersburg in 1900. It’s based on a bronze sculpture created by M. Caspar Buberl of New York City in 1889. The sculpture was based on a painting created the preceding year by John Adams Elder of Fredericksburg.
It was a popular painting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, according to Kalbian.
The painting, sculpture and statue are all titled “Appomattox.”
Despite popular belief, the depicted soldier — if he’s anyone in particular — isn’t Berryville’s founder, the late Benjamin Berry, Kalbian emphasized.
Many soldier statues from the Civil War era apparently depict the same person or someone who looks very similar.
Through the catalog, “you could order these (statues) as either Confederate or Union,” with your choice of different uniforms and belt buckles, said Kalbian.
The only major uniqueness of the Clarke statue, she continued, is that “it’s apparently the only statue in Virginia on a courthouse green depicting an unarmed soldier.”
Most Confederate monuments of its type statewide depict a soldier carrying a rifle, she said.
Costing about $1,000, the monument was paid for with donations collected by the Association of the Survivors of the Clarke Cavalry with help from the Stonewall Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the JEB Stuart Camp of Confederate Veterans, Kalbian said based on her research.
The granite monument was shipped to the county by railroad in six sections, she said.
Records show the monument was unveiled on July 21, 1900, during ceremonies attended by approximately 3,000 people and which included speeches, music, a banquet and a parade.
Commotion about the monument stems from controversy over the South’s support of slavery during the Civil War.
Committee member Daniel Nelson asked Kalbian whether she had seen any information about how many African Americans participated in the ceremonies.
Very little, she indicated. Apparently, Black people who attended did so “only to serve the meal,” she said based on her research.
A detailed presentation of that research is on Clarke County’s YouTube channel.
“I don’t think the monument is meant as a memorial to the Confederacy, but as a memorial to the (county’s) soldiers who died” during the war, said Ivie, one of about a dozen people in the audience at Thursday night’s meeting. She commented afterward.
“Ultimately, it should be left there (outside the courthouse). It’s always been there,” said Ivie. She added that most people with whom she has talked, and who have lived in Berryville/Clarke County for two or three generations, agree.
She mentioned, though, that she so far hasn’t discussed the issue with any African Americans.
If the monument is ever moved, it should be placed in one of Berryville’s cemeteries, she said.