Confederate Monument Dilemma

Practically Historical Offers the Following Solutions

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  • The Confederate flag should never be flown over government buildings or property
  • The Confederate flag should not be banned
  • Monuments to Confederate leaders, political or military, should not be kept on government or public property
  • Monuments dedicated to unnamed soldiers who fought for the Confederacy should be allowed on public property
  • Communities have every right to determine which people are publicly memorialized
  • The destruction seen recently is unacceptable
  • The actions of the KKK and ne0-Nazi groups in Charlottesville are unacceptable
  • Confederate monuments in cemeteries should be left alone
  • Confederate monuments on battlefields should be left alone 
  • Comparing Confederate leaders to our Founders is unacceptable
  • Destroying or defacing monuments to our Founders is unacceptable 
  • Studying Confederate history is necessary
  • Confederate Civil War reenactors should not be ostracized
  • Slavery caused the Civil War
  • Not all Confederate soldiers fought for slavery
  • Not all Union soldiers fought to free slaves 
  • We need to keep reading, writing, and learning…..

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July 3, 1863

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Rising to the occasion is a concept so misunderstood… it borders on the cliché.  When used in the wrong context it cheapens actual heroic achievement.  Too often, historic deeds are overlooked because well-worn studies have rendered them routine because of historic scope.  In the pivotal battle of the war, at its decisive moment, actions speak louder than the words of any biographer…. as Confederate soldiers stormed over the stonewall at the “Angle”- decisive action was needed, and General Alexander Webb provided it.

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Alexander Webb received the Medal of Honor for his actions on July 3, 1863.  Webb’s brigade occupied the crucial position at the “copse of trees” which was the focal point of Lee’s attack.  Webb marched defiantly up and down his line during the fierce bombardment that preceded Pickett’s charge.  The confederates under Armistead  charged into Webb’s position and the two brigades were locked in deadly combat.  Seizing the colors of the 72nd Pennsylvania, Webb led a charge into the confederates  at the famous “angle” in the stone wall.   The two generals nearly came to personal blows as Webb’s counter attack brought them to within feet of each other.  Armistead fell mortally wounded while a ball passed through Webb’s upper thigh, but he remained on the field.  Webb describes the action in his report of the battle.  General George Gordon Meade nominated Webb for the Medal of Honor which he received in 1891.

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Gettysburg Hidden Treasures

Gettysburg Hidden Treasures

1. Barlow’s Knoll;  Left for dead by his own troops during the first day’s fighting, General Francis Barlow fell grievously wounded near this spot.  Confederate General John B. Gordon’s act of mercy allegedly saved Barlow’s life.

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2. Hazlett/Weed Rock; General Stephen Weed had just deployed his brigade down the face of Little Round Top when he fell mortally wounded.  Nearby, deploying his battery was Captain Charles Hazlett, a friend of Weed’s from West Point.  Bending to hear his friend’s dying words, Hazlett was struck on top of him.  This engraving, long a battlefield guide secret, has recently been filled in.

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3. Hancock’s Wounding;  Involved in the decisive maneuvering on all three days of the battle, Hancock had just ordered a flanking attack to Pickett’s charge when shrapnel drove into his upper thigh.  This small monument marks the place where the hero of Gettysburg received his wound.

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Must See spots at Gettysburg

1. Hancock Equestrian; Cemetery Hill…  One look at the majestic sculpture will convey the effect Hancock had on the disheartened Federal troops July 1st.  The hero of Gettysburg could have had his monument anywhere on the field- but he chose the spot where his presence had the most effect.

Hancock(author)

2. 9th Mass. Battery(Bigelow’s); Trostle Farm…  Captain Bigelow’s brave delaying action slowed the Confederate onslaught and allowed Hancock time to form the final Union line to the rear of this position.  Near this monument is the Sickles HQ site and the Trostle barn, which still bears damage from the battle.

Retreat by recoil (author)

3. Cushing’s Battery; Cemetery Ridge(the Angle)… Lt. Alonzo Cushing’s battery was at the center of the storm on July 3, 1863.  Cushing’s defense and heroism(remaining on the field despite two grievous wounds)  helped hold the Union position during Pickett’s charge.  Cushing gave his life that day, but would receive the Medal of Honor 147 years after his death.

Cushing fell here (author)

Confederacy and Freedom

For too long defenders of Confederate heritage… have associated it with freedom and individual rights for all whites. The specter of the conquering Yankee invading the homeland to oppress the yeoman and steal his acre was the rallying cry.  Policy makers in the Confederacy used this propaganda to dupe poor whites  to defend the landed gentry- a social order built on the aristocracy of chattel slavery.  Jefferson Davis and ilk had no interest in expanding opportunity for the thousands of men who volunteered for this abhorrent cause- they were cannon fodder.

Talk of opportunity and liberty were contrary to the Confederate cause… the slave owning power structure needed poor whites to stay right where they were.  The egalitarian dreams of Thomas Jefferson had no place in the CSA- and the leadership expressed it openly- The Declaration of Independence was a threat to the south.  Far from a “second American Revolution,” the American Civil War was an authoritarian power grab by an entrenched group of oligarchs.

 

Confederate propaganda from Georgia said it best…

“Thanks to Mr. Jefferson we have made a mistake … and pushed the love of democracy too far … vulgar democracy and licentious freedom is rapidly supplanting all the principles of constitutional ‘liberty’! When shall the American people perceive that all our difficulties arise from the absurdities of deciding that the ‘pauper’ and the ‘landholder’ are alike competent to manage the affairs of a Country, or alike entitled to vote for those who shall?”  Athens Southern Watchman 1857

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Jefferson’s feelings on slavery and liberty also alienated our apostle of liberty… from these slave owning aristocrats…

“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it …The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and moral undepraved by such circumstances [under slavery]. And with what desecration should the statement be loaded, who permitting one half of the citizens to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots and these into enemies, destroys the morals of one part and the amor patriae of the other.”  Notes on the State of Virginia  1782

Slavery Caused Secession

Neo-secessionists and revisionists struggle uselessly to blame the Civil War… on Federal overreach, inequitable tariffs, and outmoded economic theory- they fail to see the forest for the trees.  The historical record settles matters plainly and without ambiguity.

Future Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens delivered the clearest, most definitive explanation… for secession and the existence of a Confederate State.  Less than three weeks following Lincoln’s inauguration, Stephens defiantly declared to the nation:

 

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“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago.”

Memorials to War Dead

Virginia’s Governor, his past indiscretions aside, celebrated the triumph of his party in the State legislative election by promising more iconoclasm in the Old Dominion.

      There are over 660 Confederate monuments across the United States.  A scholarly study conducted in 1982 found that nearly half of these are specifically memorializing Confederate war dead.  Another third are generic pronouncements of sacrifices made during the Civil War.  The smallest grouping denotes a celebration of “lost cause” ideology.

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The recent passing of the eminent Bud Robertson, chosen by John Kennedy to chair the Civil War Centennial Committee, has been largely ignored by academics(no doubt due to resentment.)  In one of his last speeches, Robertson derided current efforts to destroy all the progress made by his Centennial commission …. unity, and remembrance.

Today, Civil War history is being molded into something divided, derisive, and vengeful.  Bud may not have been at his best, but he could identify the problem:

“Elements hell-bent on tearing apart unity that generations of Americans have painfully constructed.”

Uncommon Valor- Fredericksburg

Lt. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain describes the horrific night of December 13th, 1862 at the base of Marye’s Heights.

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Fredericksburg, Virginia- December 14, 1862

“But out of that silence rose new sounds more appalling still; a strange ventriloquism, of which you could not locate the source, a smothered moan, as if a thousand discords were flowing together into a key-note weird, unearthly, terrible to hear and bear, yet startling with its nearness; the writhing concord broken by cries for help, some begging for a drop of water, some calling on God for pity; and some on friendly hands to finish what the enemy had so horribly begun; some with delirious, dreamy voices murmuring loved names, as if the dearest were bending over them; and underneath, all the time, the deep bass note from closed lips too hopeless, or too heroic to articulate their agony…It seemed best to bestow myself between two dead men among the many left there by earlier assaults, and to draw another crosswise for a pillow out of the trampled, blood-soaked sod, pulling the flap of his coat over my face to fend off the chilling winds, and still more chilling, the deep, many voiced moan that overspread the field.”

Memorials to War Dead

Virginia’s Governor, his past indiscretions aside, celebrated the triumph of his party in the State legislative election by promising more iconoclasm in the Old Dominion.

      There are over 660 Confederate monuments across the United States.  A scholarly study conducted in 1982 found that nearly half of these are specifically memorializing Confederate war dead.  Another third are generic pronouncements of sacrifices made during the Civil War.  The smallest grouping denotes a celebration of “lost cause” ideology.

Durham_confederate_statue

The recent passing of the eminent Bud Robertson, chosen by John Kennedy to chair the Civil War Centennial Committee, has been largely ignored by academics(no doubt due to resentment.)  In one of his last speeches, Robertson derided current efforts to destroy all the progress made by his Centennial commission …. unity, and remembrance.

Today, Civil War history is being molded into something divided, derisive, and vengeful.  Bud may not have been at his best, but he could identify the problem:

“Elements hell-bent on tearing apart unity that generations of Americans have painfully constructed.”