The statue depicts a Confederate soldier with his arms in front of him holding a long rifle, upright in his hand. The hands and rifle were knocked off, the face was bashed in and the brim of the hat broken off.
“It looked like it was surgically cut,” said Rome City Manager Sammy Rich.”It’s just super disappointing that somebody would go to that much trouble to get up there, put a ladder up or whatever to reach it.
“It’s sad, as important as Myrtle Hill is to our history,” said Lisa Smith, executive director of the Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Cemetery Director Stan Rogers estimated the value of the damages in the official police report at $200,000.
Lt. John Walters with the Rome Police detective division stated they had few leads in their investigation.
“We’ll be knocking on doors there close to the cemetery to see if anybody might have seen or heard something,” Walters said. “We’re hoping somebody may have seen a light or heard something that could give us an idea about what time it took place.”
Cemetery department personnel removed the monument Thursday. Rich said the city would try to determine how to go about fixing it and putting it back. Rome Public Works Director Chris Jenkins said it was apparent from a further examination of the damage that the hands and rifle were probably knocked off and not cut.
Jenkins said the city would get in touch with monument companies after the Christmas break to determine the options for repairing the statue.
“It’s made out of granite, it’s not concrete, so we’re going to look into that,” Jenkins said. The statue itself is about seven and a half feet tall and a perhaps a little wider than the average male body.
Smith said the Myrtle Hill-Oak Hill Association would “definitely do our part to help in the restoration effort.”
“How we choose to venerate our different social and political ideas is a discussion and not an invitation to acts of vandalism,” said native Roman and historian David Y. Mitchell. “It is beneath us as a culture of advanced people to degrade to behavior such as this.”
The gates to the cemetery are locked to vehicular traffic each evening, but anyone could have made the hike up the hill on foot.
The act of vandalism occurred sometime late Wednesday night or Thursday morning. The rifle and hands were gone when the vandalism was discovered Thursday. Rich said he doesn’t know how to read the incident because of the way the face was battered.
The statue was erected by “the Women of Rome” in 1887 as a memorial to the defenders of the Confederate states. The women’s group maintained the Civil War section at the base of the cemetery. The monument initially had an urn atop the base. The urn was replaced by the standing soldier in 1909.
The incident this week is the most serious incidence of vandalism in the cemetery since May 2004 when 85 grave markers were damaged.