News broke yesterday that the Nash Farm Battlefield Museum would close by June 1. This came after a request from County Commissioner Dee Clemmons to remove Confederate Battle Flags from inside the museum. Earlier stories indicated that Clemmons also requested all Confederate “paraphernalia” be removed. The news cycle has changed and even the story which included that quote yesterday no longer does. Now that the story has gained more traction, even more information has come to light.
Here are links to the several local news organizations which have taken up the story. I will refer to many of these throughout.
- Henry Herald (First broke the story) – “Nash Farm Battlefield museum to close after commissioner requests removal of Confederate flags”
- Fox 5 – “Nash Farm Battle Field Museum to close over flag flap”
- 11 Alive – “Confederate flag removed, then Civil War museum closes”
- WSB-TV 2 – “Civil War museum to close after Confederate flag controversy”
- Gwinnett Daily Post – “Nash Farm Battlefield museum to close after commissioner requests removal of Confederate flags”
- the Atlanta Journal Constitution – “With Confederate flags gone, Civil War Museum will close”
As you can see, the story has generated some local traction. Here’s what I know. When the story officially broke, I first saw it on the Henry Herald and WSB-TV 2. Both links gave what was predominantly the story of the people behind the operation of the museum, the Friends of the Nash Farm Battlefield, Inc. (FNFB). The Henry Herald had a statement from Commissioner Clemmons and WSB-TV 2 stated that Clemmons had not returned any of their calls. Here is the story, according to the FNFB.
Most of the news stories such as Fox 5, 11 Alive, etc. seem to report a story contrary to the story given by the FNFB. They point that the origin of this disagreement, started outside the museum on what was one of three flag poles. The museum used to fly the 2nd National Confederate Flag. In a Fox 5 interview, Clemmons stated that,
“I had asked that the [Confederate] flag be taken down and placed inside of the museum. I’m working really hard to create a community that does not harbor divisiveness.”
Asking that a flag be taken down from outside a museum and placed inside, is all together reasonable and we’ve seen this play out before. As far as what happened afterward concerning that flag or any other flag, it seems to be a “he said, she said” situation.
The people that run the museum contend that Clemmons wanted all things with the Confederate symbolism removed from the Museum. The only indication that Clemmons actually said this, outside of the statements given by Cassie Barrow and other FNFB volunteers, is the story from the Henry Herald. According to it, Clemmons stated on her Facebook page
I will not apologize for asking that the CONFEDERATE FLAG be removed FROM A COUNTY OWNED PARK and given back to the private owner as it was not a flag owned by Henry County. This has caused me to receive hundreds of nasty emails and Facebook posts. Over the years, the Confederate battle flag has come to mean different things to different people. To me and many other United States Citizens it is emblematic of slavery, racism and the bloody battles that made the Civil War the deadliest conflict in U.S. history. WE CAN NOT ERASE HISTORY BUT WE DON’T HAVE TO RE-Live it.
I cannot, however, find this statement anywhere. And when I say “anywhere,” I mean anywhere that shows Clemmons actually saying these words. Her Facebook does not include the statement as far as I am aware. There are no interviews of her saying this. Additionally, the statement reads as if it is about the flag that flew on the pole outside. The best statement from Commissioner Clemmons about Confederate flags inside the museum and about it closing is on Fox 5. When asked by the reporter if she [Clemmons] had asked for any of the materials on the inside to be removed, Clemmons responded, “absolutely not.”
The museum itself, owned by Henry County, contains artifacts, memorabilia, etc. that largely belonged to private collectors. After the flag fiasco, the owner of the largest collection inside the museum decided to remove his items. Bill Dodd, a contributor and volunteer at the FNFB, told the Herald that he felt as if “he was no longer welcome at the museum and did not have the support of Clemmons.” With the removal of this collection the FNFB decided to close the museum. The decision seems altogether voluntary. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution,
“‘Henry County in no way asked them to remove their things,’ county spokeswoman Melissa Robinson told Channel 2 Action News. ‘We did not request that. It was a voluntary move to leave the museum’.”
When asked about the closure, Dee Clemmons stated, “We don’t know anything about it. We found out when everyone else did.”
Because this has such a “he said, she said” dynamic to it, it is difficult to discern who said what about what. One thing is for certain, the FNFB seem to be upset, but I’m not convinced their actions are justified – and that ultimately is why we are losing a museum.