More than a century after the War Between the States, Alexandria's most prominent and battle-scarred Confederate veteran is fighting for his home once again.

And for the time being, at least, he is holding his ground.

A bronze statue honoring the city's Confederate soldiers, toppled early Saturday when a van smashed into it, will be reerected in the middle of one of the city's busiest intersections, according to municipal officials and officers of a Confederate memorial society that has taken responsibility for the monument.

But Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. said yesterday that protests from prominent blacks and traffic safety concerns have prompted him to ask that the statue, which for 99 years has stood at Prince and Washington streets, be moved to the grounds of a nearby museum. Moving the figure would require an act of the Virginia General Assembly.

The monument has long been a source of irritation to some leading Alexandria blacks, who consider it a tribute to an immoral war, and of pride to southern history buffs, who find nobility in the Lost Cause.

Saturday's collision brought those emotions boiling to the surface.

"I wonder if somebody put a statue of Hitler there, what would the Jews do?" asked former council member Nelson E. Greene Sr. "This was a war fought to make black people slaves, and you can't make heroes of these people {who fought}. It's insensitive of people to put it back."

But Gretchen Mulligan, president of Alexandria's Mary Custis Lee-17th Virginia Regiment Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said blacks "should not find {the statue} offensive. I don't think it says anything about slavery. This is the spot where Alexandria's men rallied and marched off to the war. {The statue} was placed there a long time ago, it was dedicated there, and we feel it's our duty to see that it's put back. The law protects us, and I don't think that can be changed."

Moran, for one, hopes it can.

He and several members of the City Council would like to place the monument outside the Lyceum, a history museum at the same intersection.

If the council approves, the proposal would go before the state legislature next year.

The eight-foot statue, which portrays a weaponless soldier with head bowed and arms folded, was erected in 1889 by the Robert E. Lee Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

A year later, the General Assembly passed a bill requiring that "said monument shall perpetually remain as at present erected and located."

Through the years, as traffic has increased, vehicles began passing close to the figure's marble base. The base has been nicked or bumped on several occasions, but city officials yesterday could not recall the statue being toppled before.

The driver, 21-year-old Fairfax County resident William S. Nolton, was charged yesterday with driving while intoxicated and reckless driving.

After Saturday's accident, city officials were unable to find the Sons of Confederate Veterans and turned to the local Daughters of the Confederacy.

Assistant City Manager Thomas Brannan said yesterday that insurance covering the driver whose van hit the monument will pay the cost of repairing and repositioning the statue. Mulligan said her group will put the statue back as soon as possible. As for the statue's location, Brannan said: "The law says that particular statue will occupy that particular piece of ground. It's not up to us."

Moran, a Massachusetts native, said the strong passions aroused by the statue have surprised him. "If somebody had been run over in the middle of that intersection, it would not have generated as much concern," he said. "I feel like I walked into the middle of the war."