Frederick's Mount Olivet Cemetery will focus on its core responsibility of helping families in their time of grief after vandals damaged three memorials at the cemetery, cemetery officials said Tuesday.
In the latest incident of racially-based vandalism in the city, Frederick police are looking for the people responsible for destroying a statue at Mount Olivet dedicated to Confederate soldiers and damaging two other monuments.
Officers responded to the cemetery on South Market Street in Frederick around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and found three statues or monuments defaced, with one statue completely destroyed, said Lt. Andrew Alcorn of the Frederick Police Department.
The messages of the vandalism indicated support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The destroyed statue of a Confederate sentry was erected in 1880 by the Ladies Monumental Association of Frederick County.
Cemetery superintendent Ronald Pearcey said the life-sized statue is likely not able to be repaired.
Despite several recent suggestions on social media and elsewhere, it was not a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, said Chris Haugh, community relations and historic preservation manager for the cemetery.
It sits over a mass grave for 408 unknown Confederate soldiers who died on July 9, 1864 at the nearby Battle of Monocacy.
The graves of 311 other Confederates lay nearby along the cemetery's “Confederate Row.”
The cemetery originally had even more Union soldiers, but most of them were subsequently moved to the federal cemetery in Sharpsburg, Haugh said.
The incident comes days after graffiti and stickers supporting white supremacy were found in Baker Park and around the downtown area, and as a national debate rages over the legacies of Confederate leaders and prominent historical figures who owned slaves.
A statement from the cemetery's board Tuesday said it would remain focused on its traditional mission.
“Mount Olivet Cemetery is many things to many people but above all it is a working cemetery dedicated to providing care and services for families in need having lost a loved on. Our staff continues to work through the current COVID-19 pandemic and is doing their best to maintain and care for the grounds containing 40,000+ gravesites,” the statement said.
Last week, the cemetery took down a Confederate flag that had flown near the Confederate memorial.
With a circle of stars, two red stripes and a white stripe, it was not the more familiar Confederate battle flag, but a different one.
With all the different events happening around the country, “We thought that right now this is a step we should take,” Haugh said.
Mount Olivet is the resting place of soldiers from every conflict the United States has ever been involved in, he said.
But he believes Tuesday's vandalism was driven by larger national events.
“The people that did this don't want a history lesson,” he said.
News-Post staff photographer Bill Green contributed to this report.