Civil War re-enactor wants Union statues in Charlottesville

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) — A North Carolina man dressed as a Union soldier returned to Charlottesville to stand at the Robert E. Lee statue in downtown Charlottesville.

William Thorpe is a Union soldier re-enactor who stood guard at the Lee statue for 17 hours several weeks ago.

During that time, he held a prayer vigil in front of the statue at Market Street Park which has been the subject of so much controversy ever since the city's decision to remove the statue in 2017.

He says he came back to Charlottesville to help others better understand the war between the states.

Thorpe says he is also the founder of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Walk for Health program, which spotlights both physical and mental health.

Thorpe spent the last few months holding a similar vigil at that university, where the Silent Sam confederate soldier statue was torn down by protesters in 2018.

He believes having Union soldier statues in Charlottesville's downtown parks might ease the tension.

"There are many places where these statues still remain, but I do not see the same interest and enthusiasm for Union soldiers' statues," he said.

Thorpe says he travels all over Virginia and North Carolina where Confederate statues are located to bring awareness about both sides of the Civil War.

He held a "One Man Stand" vigil for 105 days to represent the 105 years the Silent Sam statue stood at the University of North Carolina, but said the "Unite the Right" rally that ended in deadly violence in Charlottesville in 2017 inspired his vigil.

"There must be a movement today to honor and recognize the Union soldier who won the Civil War, not to give so much recognition to those who lost the war, but those who won the war and fought for those freedoms today," Thorpe said during his first visit to Charlottesville.

He would ask spectators where he could find a statue honoring Union soldiers in the city.

Last month, Judge Richard Moore ruled that the city's statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson meet the definition of war monuments under Virginia law, which protects them from removal by local governments.

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