The giant sign along Interstate 95 announcing the National Park Service’s Stonewall Jackson Shrine had been confusing passersby for years, says the site’s chief historian, John Hennessy.
“As you’re whizzing by, you wonder, what is that? Is it a grotto on a hillside?” he said.
It is not. It’s the Caroline County building where the Confederate general died. And after years of off-and-on discussions, the park service changed the name to something a little more straight forward: the Stonewall Jackson Death Site. New signs went up last month.
Hennessy said the white supremacist rally around a Confederate statue in Charlottesville spurred the decision to finally act. Park staff noticed online conversations about “this shrine to Jackson” and suggestions that “it needs to come down.”
The term shrine was used a lot more often when the site opened to the public in the 1920s, generally to refer to historical sites devoted to figures of veneration.
Hennessy said he hopes the new name makes the historic significance clearer and presents it in a neutral manner.
“I don’t pretend that there isn’t an aspect of this that isn’t responding to the cultural context of all that’s going on in the world,” he said. “The term shrine implies a place of veneration, and traditionally the National Park Service tries to interpret history in an objective and holistic sort of way.”