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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Slippery Slope is Real- Jefferson

In 2017, when Donald Trump predicted the removal of Confederate monuments would lead to attacks on George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, he was roundly ridiculed in the media. This blog is not particularly enamored with the 45th President, but look where we are today. Everyone from rioters in the streets to US Senators are calling for monuments to our Founders to be removed.

It was never just about Confederate monuments. We can all agree that memorials to the Confederacy have no place on public grounds. Rather, this was always about a radical revision of American history. The demand that all historical figures be measured by our modern sensibilities. Those who do not meet the current politically correct standard must be removed.

Questioning the “woke” mob will only expose you to social media harassment and ridicule. Rather than debate, there is pandering to these newly designated cultural assessors. A descendant of Thomas Jefferson called for his memorial to be removed in the New York Times(he called himself a direct descendant, but Jefferson has none, but I digress.)

Thomas Jefferson was a man of many contradictions, and like everyone, he had flaws. But he is absolutely essential in telling the American story. He gave us our creed; crafted words that changed not only our history, but the history of the world. He was the first to admit that the sentiments were not his alone, but he was able to mold the many liberal ideals of the enlightenment into a statement that could transcend mere politics. The foolishly convenient calls for his removal from our national story, even by members of his extended family, are grounded in a fallacy. The erroneous belief that we possess all the answers, that our interpretations are just and final. History does not belong to the self-righteous few. Jefferson belongs to us all.

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.

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Expunging Our Past

Progressive historians like Charles Beard… went to great lengths to discredit the work of America’s first published historian, George Bancroft.  The Nationalist school of American history revered our Founders and proclaimed American exceptionalism.  Beard argued that America’s founding ideals were nothing more than a clever disguise for our true inspiration, greed.  The New Left revisionism that pervades historiography today is a mere continuation of Beard’s fundamentally flawed concept- America really isn’t that great….

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Neo-Nationalism is a historical school of thought… that strives to reconcile two wildly opposed views of America’s past.  Common ground is sought within the discipline- social, political, military historical study working in concert to preserve the common threads that bind all Americans together…

The overriding message should be that historical figures are human and not infallible. We can honor their great deeds and learn from their most human mistakes. 

Needlessly provocative works like the NY Times’s 1619 Project blur the lines between political activism and historical discourse.

Sadly, our fears of the slippery slope of iconoclasm have been realized as monuments to our Founding generation are being destroyed by mobs of ignorant people more concerned with political convenience than history.

We must stop this current craze of tearing down and erasing our history because the historical figures did not possess our modern sensibilities. 

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  • America’s founding ideals are exceptional- and are standards that are difficult to attain- our history is comprised of the struggle to uphold these ideals.
  • The Founders were extraordinary men- but not infallible… we have to learn from their example- good and bad.
  • The history of America is not the story of class struggle- the silent masses played a vital role in our history and their stories should be told- but not through Marxist constructs.
  • History should be popular.  Our past must be understood by the citizenry- historical studies targeted only at academics cannot be how we measure the discipline.  There is a way to make history insightful and enjoyable.

It Will Happen to Jefferson

Jefferson is the obvious target…

It may start with the Confederate flag… but this movement to radically alter our history will continue.  Narrow minded academics like Paul Finkelman will fan the flames of discontent and dangerous media pundits will use tragedy to rally the uninformed to their nefarious cause.

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Jefferson is frustratingly complex and it is easier to… simplify his transgressions-  he owned slaves, therefore he must be bad.  We recognize the horrors of slavery today- but this doesn’t satisfy the new generation of moral police.  Regardless of what Jefferson did for our country, he owned slaves and that was wrong.  They believe America’s true greatness exists in spite Jefferson.  Our Creed did not need articulated apparently- and the thousands of freedom fighters throughout history who have spat Jefferson’s words at tyrants- they would have found them on their own.

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Jefferson critic Annette Gordon-Reed… is discerning enough to see advocacy gone too far.  She recently told InsideHighered.com –

“I understand why some people think his statues should be removed, but not all controversial figures of the past are created equal, I think Jefferson’s contributions to the history of the United States outweigh the problems people have with aspects of his life. He is just too much a part of the American story … to pretend that he was not there.  There is every difference in the world between being one of the founders of the United States and being a part of group of people who fought to destroy the United States.”

American Iconoclasm

Every human being must be viewed according to what it is good for. For not one of us, no, not one, is perfect. And were we to love none who had imperfection, this world would be a desert for our love.”

― Thomas Jefferson

Kyle Sammin correctly surmises in a recent edition of  The Federalistthat historical figures are imperfect- the millennial demands of  removing every monument and memorial to historical figures who do not satisfy their modern sensibilities is both foolish and destructive.  Though many of his comments following the Charlottesville violence were divisive and insensitive, Trump’s fear that removing monuments to Confederate generals may lead to the destruction of memorials to our Founders were not far from reality.  Trump’s implication(inadvertent)  is that there is a slippery slope with historical revisionism–    Click on links

These links are the steady progression of arbitrary historical revision… being driven by a generation of social justice warriors completely lacking any semblance of humility.  So-called activists who are convinced they are not only morally superior to their grandparents, but to all previous generations.  This is hubris at its most blatant and dangerous.  Politicians, like Nancy Pelosi pander to these intellectual pipsqueaks by joining in this fool’s chorus- moral redemption through historic erasure.

As previously stated in the pages of this blog… there are more appropriate places for Confederate symbols and monuments than government buildings and public squares.  This is a reasonable debate and it should continue.  The slippery slope of historical revisionism is real and we are well on the way down it.  Sadly, legitimate leadership is required during such a crisis of conscience.  We have Donald Trump…

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.”

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.”