In the town of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts is a Civil War statue and water fountain. Over a hundred years old, it has traveled from place to place in town, ending up most recently in a triangle of green near Waban Park, the police station, and the ferry terminal.
Local Lore mistakenly asserts that the statue is of a Confederate soldier. The truth is that it is actually a Union soldier. Local Lore does contain a germ of truth, in that the statue was erected by a Confederate soldier, a veteran, who came to Martha’s Vineyard from the former CSA.
Charles Strahan is an ancestral relative of mine. After the Civil War ended, he came North. My father’s term for him was
“Reverse Carpetbagger”. We are ritually told, in our school history books, about the Northern Carpetbaggers who invaded the Southland after the War, flooding into the economic and power vacuum that was the aftermath of that conflict. How many Southerners came north during those years of Reconstruction?
The statue that Charlie gave to the Island Community now stands sentinel over Oak Bluffs bluffs.
At his feet is a plaque.
In front of this plaque is yet another marker, this one of granite, dating from the restoration and rededication of the statue, which took place in 2001. One of the names on this stone is that of my father, Sloat Hodgson. My father’s life was reminiscent of Charlies’, in that he, too, came from the South and in adult life made New England his Home. Sloat was fond of his family history, and of his ancestors. When the stature needed restoration, he was happy to dig a little deeper than usual into his pocket, for a contribution to the repair project.
We know that “Johnny Reb” was the generic Confederate soldier, and that “Billy Yank” was his Union counterpart. What I don’t know is whether any Islanders have given this soldier any nicknames.
The flag of the Union that Charles Strahan’s Confederacy seceded from had 34 stars.
In 1891, when this statue was erected, the constellation of states’ stars had increased to 43.
Today, “Billy” was stands watch over a flag with fifty stars.