The two Confederate flags that fly over Civil War dead at Linwood Cemetery were likely stolen in the last week, the commander of the Benning Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said Thursday afternoon.
The flags have gone missing since the weekend and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Historic Linwood Foundation and the city of Columbus did not remove them, according to multiple sources.
“We figure somebody took them,” said Brandon Dorrill, commander of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Replacement flags will be put back up in the next two weeks, Dorrill said.
“Those flags are there to honor soldiers,” Dorrill said.
There are notable Confederate soldiers buried in Linwood, including Gen. Henry L. Benning, whom Fort Benning is named after, and Col. John Pemberton, the founder of Coca-Cola, Dorrill said.
“We are honoring Gen. Benning and Col. Pemberton and those buried alongside them,” Dorrill said. “... We are a heritage-based organization and not a hate-based organization.”
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said the city did not order the flags to be removed.
“The city had nothing to do with their removal,” Tomlinson said.
The Historic Linwood Foundation, which has an office on the grounds of the city-owned cemetery off Linwood Boulevard near Midtown Medical Center, did not remove them, Director Jane Brady said.
The flags’ disappearance comes amid a national debate on the appropriateness of Civil War monuments in the aftermath of last weekend’s white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va., where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is being removed.
The flag in the southwest corner was on the pole Wednesday, Brady said.
The flag that flies on the cemetery’s upper section has been gone since Monday and Brady thought it was probably stolen but had no proof, she said.
“That is a common occurrence,” she said.
The flags fly in the cemetery through a resolution approved more than two decades ago by Columbus Council. On Oct. 4, 1994, Columbus Council passed a resolution on a 6-4 vote allowing the flags to fly over the cemetery. All of the costs associated with the project were paid by the Benning Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, according to the resolution.
The flagpole in the southwest corner of the cemetery is on a plot owned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Brady said. The second flag in the upper section is on a plot owned by a private entity, Dorrill said.
“They both are on plots donated for use by the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” Dorrill said.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans maintain the poles, property around them and the flags, Dorrill said.
There was a Civil War hospital near the cemetery and a number of Confederate war dead, known and unknown, are buried in the cemetery.
The marker at the pole in the southwest corner states: “Dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day, 26 April 1995 by the General Henry L. Benning Camp 517, Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Citizens of Columbus. In Memory of those Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Who Rest in Everlasting Glory in Linwood Cemetery.”