Tag Archives: Confederate Symbols

Two Opposite Views on Confederate Monuments

(August 4, 2017) The current issue of Civil War Times contains an article in which a number of authors state their opinions about the future of Confederate monuments. Provided below are two contrasting examples.

First is the summation provided by Megan Kate Nelson who writes the regular “Stereoscope” column for Civil War Monitor.

I [Megan Kate Kelly] would like to propose that Confederate memorials should neither be retained nor removed: They should be destroyed, and their broken pieces left in situ.

On a scheduled day, a city government or university administration would invite citizens to approach a Confederate memorial, take up a cudgel, and swing away. The ruination of the memorial would be a group effort, a way for an entire community to convert a symbol of racism and white supremacy into a symbol of resistance against oppression.

Historians could put up a plaque next to the fragments, explaining the memorial’s history, from its dedication day to the moment of its obliteration. A series of photographs or a YouTube video could record the process of destruction. These textual explanations may be unnecessary, however. Ruins tend to convey their messages eloquently in and of themselves. In this case, the ruins of Confederate memorials in cities across the nation would suggest that while white supre-macists have often made claims to power in American history, those who oppose them can, and will, fight back.

Second is Robert K. Krick who is  Civil War historian whose interest is concentrated in the Eastern Theater.

We live in an age riven by shrill and intemperate voices, from all perspectives and on most topics. No sane person today would embrace, endorse, or tolerate slavery.

A casual observer, readily able to convince himself that he would have behaved similarly in the 1860s, can vault to high moral ground with the greatest of ease. Doing that gratifies the powerful self-righteous strain that runs through all of us, for better or worse. In fact, it leaps far ahead of the Federal politicians (Lincoln among them) who said emphatically that slavery was not the issue, and millions of Northern soldiers who fought, bled, and died in windrows to save the Union—but were noisily offended by mid-war emancipation.

It is impossible to imagine a United States in the current atmosphere that does not include zealots eager to obliterate any culture not precisely their own, destroying monuments in the fashion of Soviets after a purge, and antiquities in the manner of ISIS…On the other hand, a generous proportion of the country now, and always, eschews extremism, and embraces tolerance of others’ cultures and inheritances and beliefs. Such folk will be society’s salvation.

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My Amazon Author Page.

Lee’s Memory

In the wake of growing hostility toward the Confederacy a New Orleans Robert E. Lee statue is scheduled for destruction and debate is underway in Charlottesville, Virginia to remove another. Even though Washington & Lee is a private university, it has already yielded to pressures to remove the Confederate flag from the Lee Chapel. The school may ultimately feel compelled to drop the Lee name unless at least a few venerable historians publicly object to the escalating hatred toward Confederate symbols. To date none have done so, presumably for one of two reasons.

W&L Stamp

First, they believe the odium is justified. Given such an opinion there is no reason why they should object to degrading Lee’s memory and may even wish to promote it.

Second, those who think the disdain is excessive lack the will to speak out due to the prevailing opposite sentiment among their peers and the public. It takes courage for historians who have spent years earning favor  to express a contrary viewpoint since it may adversely affect their popularity, reputations and book sales. Nonetheless, Mississippian Shelby Foote set a good example of such pluck fifty years ago in the afterword of the second volume of his three-volume Civil War Narrative:

I am indebted also to the governors of my native state and the adjoining states of Arkansas and Alabama for helping to lessen my sectional bias by reproducing, in their actions during the several years that went into the writing of this volume, much that was least admirable in the position my forebears occupied when they stood up to Lincoln. I…fervently hope it is true that history never repeats itself, but I know in watching these three gentlemen, it can be terrifying in its approximations, even when the reproduction is in miniature.

Washington & Lee would not be the admired school it is today without Lee’s legacy. After he became president of Washington College in 1865 he attracted financial donations from all over the country. His reputation was a magnet that drew some to the best students in the South and increasingly from other parts of the country as well. The school’s present status owes more to his memory than to Washington’s, or anyone else’s. To remove his name would be to deny the credit he deserves. Nonetheless, it could become a consequence of the present trend toward Southern cultural genocide that is “terrifying in its approximations.”

My Civil War Books

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies
Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated

To be released in May and available for pre-order: The Confederacy at Flood Tide