Jim Dunbar, of La Plata, looks over the work
done so far at a monument that will honor the Confederate
died at Point Lookout from 1863 to 1865 when it served as
a Civil War prison camp. The group Dunbar represents will
the Confederate flag there daily.
Members of the Point Lookout Prisoners of War Descendants Organization
(PLPOW) are close to finishing the second stage of a private
monument near Point Lookout State Park that honors, in their
own way, the memory of Confederate prisoners who died there during
The Civil War from 1863 to 1865.
The monument, they say, is the result of a conflict with the Department
of Veterans Affairs over the current cemetery monument for Confederate
prisoners, at which the Confederacy’s battle flag was taken
down in 1998 and barred from being flown there again.
The Confederate standard has increasingly become a divisive relic,
symbolizing racism and the oppression of slavery to many African
Americans; but it’s also a reminder of heroism and the battle
for states rights for Confederate sympathizers.
The PLPOW members bought their own land so they could fly the
Confederate battle flag, along with the flags of the 13 rebel states
that fought in the Civil War, in memorial of their fallen family
The private plot is just a few yards away from the federal cemetery
The group also claims the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
will not add the names of all the Confederate soldiers that the
PLPOW claims actually died there.
Official government records claims that about 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers
perished there, while the PLPOW claims a much higher number reaching
to 14,000 by some estimates.
“Now we’ll have a place where we can say what we want
to say and fly the [Confederate] flag 24/7,” said LaPlata
resident and PLPOW member Jim Dunbar.
Dunbar is the head of the Confederate Memorial Park, Inc., the
group that actually is overseeing the project.
“I’ve been working on it, just a little stone work
and brick work,” Dunbar said about the slow moving project
he hopes will pick up very soon. “This is just phase two
and it’ll be a lot different in about a month.”
Currently a monument with unfinished walkway and surrounding flag
poles stands at the corner of Route 5 as visitors turn to go to
the park and after the second phase is finished the organization
hopes to have a bronze statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier,
starving, ragged and dressed in tatters sans shoes, standing at
the pedestal-like monument.
The subject of Confederate soldiers at the prison camp has been
controversial for the past several years, with members of the Sons
of Confederate Veterans, an another group that celebrates Confederate
heritage, engaging in federal court battles with the VA over federal
government censorship of remarks from speeches about what they
claimed were lackluster upkeep at the federal monument and the
government’s refusal to let the Confederate flag fly there
Those attempts to reinstate the Confederate banner failed and
the PLPOW decided it needed its own avenue of expression.
Patricia Buck, of Newport News, Va, and the founding member of
the PLPOW, said that the VA continues to demand that she and others
like her submit their speeches for review before speaking at any
memorials at the federal cemetery.
The PLPOW still attends these federally sponsored ceremonies but
members are looking forward to having their own place to speak
and fly the Confederate battle flag as they wish.
“You don’t have freedom of speech there,” Buck
Martin Sendek, an attorney in the Office of General Counsel for
the VA, said that speakers are not required to turn in their speeches,
but they are required to tell VA officials basically what they
He said any censorship of remarks was designed to retain the decorum
one would expect in a cemetery and avoid personal viewpoints or
“There are plenty of venues for that but a cemetery is not
one of them,” Sendek said. “We require the decorum
of shrines to be maintained and we like to know what’s going
on in our own backyard.”
When the group first dedicated their private park in 2005, about
two years after they purchased it, one prominent county official
said he caught a great deal of flak from the public for coming
out and attending the ceremony.
County Commissioner Larry Jarboe (D-Golden Beach) said that soon
after he made comments in support of PLPOW remembering their heritage
messages came flooding in slamming him for being a racist.
“It was like an organized E-mail event directed at me,” Jarboe
told The County Times. “That always bothered me that people
would consider it [honoring the Confederacy] a racist endeavor.”
Jarboe had relatives who fought on the Union side of The Civil
War with distinction but he agrees that those with confederate
relatives who fought and died in that conflict have as much right
to memorialize their history.
“I hope they can get it completed,” Jarboe said of
the Confederate monument.
They’re trying to recognize people who suffered a great deal.“
They want to remember history and that’s important.”
…County Times, article & photo by Guy Leonard
Comment: Mr. Sendek said….”speakers are not required
to turn in their speeches, but they are required to tell VA
officials basically what they will say.” Does a person have FREEDOM
of speech if they are required to have something they intend to
say, verified by another person or group? Wonder what Rick Griffin’s
response to this would be? Rick had to turn in his speech for "their
approval." It didn't meet their approval and they denied him
his rights to make that speech in the Pt. Lookout Cemetery. Sendek
said …..Any remarks was designed to retain the decorum one
would expect in a cemetery and avoid personal viewpoints or
partisan speech. Is that not taking away FREEDOM of speech??