HAMPTON, GA -- A Civil War museum is closing after a Henry County commissioner told museum staff they needed to remove Confederate artifacts from the museum site.
Commissioner Dee Clemmons "requested" removal of a Confederate flag from a pole mounted outside the Nash Farm Battlefield Museum, said county spokeswoman Melissa Robinson.
Tim Knight of the nonprofit that runs the museum said Clemmons "demanded" the removal. He said museum officials assumed she spoke with the authority of the county government. However, Robinson said Clemmons' request was personal and not official.
The site of the August 1864 battle is now a county park. The museum is on county property. A nonprofit opened the museum in a historic building about five years ago.
The museum was set up to give equal weight to both sides of the story of the American Civil War. "Nash Farms has always represented both sides of the conflict," said Stuart Carter, a resident and supporter of the museum.
Inside the museum, there are portraits of generals who fought for the north and the south at the 1864 battle. Outside, there are three flagpoles. One is empty. Until a few weeks ago, the empty pole displayed a confederate flag with a white field and a St. Andrew's Cross battle flag in the upper left corner.
"One of our commissioners (Clemmons) asked for it to be removed and the request was granted," Robinson said.
Knight says Commissioner Clemmons returned a few weeks later and insisted on the removal of other Confederate artifacts inside the museum as well. Once again, Knight said it appeared the commissioner was speaking on behalf of county government.
"The commissioner had received some complaints and concerns from constituents," Robinson said.
But the nonprofit running the museum announced this week it would remove all its artifacts and close the museum.
Critics say Henry County overreached by squeezing the Confederate symbols out of a Civil War museum site.
"Sure I understand some people find the imaging of (the Confederacy) offensive," Carter said. "But if we try and erase it from history, then we can’t remember how we messed up and why we shouldn't go back there again."
Carter points out that many critics of public displays of the Confederate flag make exceptions for museum displays.
Asked if it was reasonable to remove selected historic artifacts from a museum depicting history, Robinson said: "I think it’s reasonable. I think there were plenty of artifacts in the museum that can tell the story of the Civil War. And I think it was a reasonable request."