Greensboro, NC -- A driver trying to avoid a deer accidentally hit and destroyed a Greensboro monument for a national war hero just after midnight on Saturday.
The monument off New Garden Road belongs to General Jethro Sumner, who has been buried underneath it for 121 years. Sumner's monument is one of 10 in the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park with Revolutionary War soldiers interred.
According to park superintendent, Charles Cranfield, the driver was travelling at about 30 mph before driving through a barricade, damaging two trees and ultimately destroying the monument. The damage is so extensive, he says, they could be forced to exhume the body of General Sumner.
"It's sad anytime something like this happens," Cranfield told News 2. "It's an irreplaceable monument. I mean, not only is it a monument to a soldier that fought in the Revolutionary War, but it's also covering his body, his remains that were reinterred there."
The park service is researching whether to restore or replace the monument.
"I understand accidents happen and there's not much you can do about those, but it is kind of a sense of history," said Kevin O'Callaghan, a history buff and park visitor. "I really hope they have an opportunity to fix it and repair it because it is all part of that park which obviously has a lot of meaning to it."
Cranfield said that the park service has been worried about the location of the monument for a while since there have been so many close calls with other crashes. Directors could decide to move General Sumner's body to a safer place after the assessment is completed.
Ironically, all this happened just days before this weekend's re-enactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.
Link: Additional Information
The park provided this information about General Sumner: The following is from Thomas Baker's The Monuments at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park North Carolina, 1979:
"Sumner was born in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, in 1733. He served in the French and Indian War and may have been present with George Washington at the fall of Fort Duquesne. Sometime after the French and Indian War Sumner moved to Warren County, North Carolina. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War he was appointed major of the Halifax Minute Men. In April 1776 he was promoted to colonel, Third North Carolina Regiment. Sumner's regiment was sent north in March 1776 where it participated in the battles at Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. When the North Carolina regiments were consolidated in May 1778, Sumner was place in command of one of the three regiments. Promoted to brigadier general on January 9, 1779, Sumner was sent south on recruiting duty. He was on this assignment at the time of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, but rejoined Greene's army in time for the Battle of Eutaw Springs in September 1781. After the war Sumner was prominent in the North Carolina Chapter of the Society of Cincinnati until his death March 18, 1785."
Sumner was originally buried in Warren County, where a monument was erected by his daughter. In 1891, Sumner's remains and grave monument were moved to Guilford Courthouse as part of Judge Schenck's plan to create "a shrine for patriots" at Guilford Courthouse Battlefield (Guilford Battleground Company Website, History).
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