Contributor Post Created with Sketch. “Hi, What Did You Do with the Confederacy?”

 

MercyStreetPosterwSawboneI live in Alexandria, VA, a close-in suburb of Washington. On a good day, I can be in DC in 10 minutes. On a great day, I wouldn’t be in DC (rimshot). I love it here, though. According to our local blog, Red Brick Town, “Alexandria, Virginia is the Most Liberal City in Virginia.” I live in a section of town called Del Ray, which is the tip of the liberal iceberg. I like to call it a hippie commune, with multiple yoga studios, holistic medicine practitioners, and coffee shops mere blocks from each other. One of the coffee shops has a Moms Demand gun control sign in their window. As a pretty hard right conservative, I don’t fit in at all, but, that is pretty much the story of my life.

Recently, I started taking water aerobics at the local YMCA. As a 44-year old man, I am 1) the youngest in the class and 2) the only guy. Not a problem as everyone is kind and welcoming, probably because I haven’t told any of them I work for NRA News. The only time I felt awkward was yesterday, when I couldn’t contribute to the classwide discussion of hot flashes. I just stared at the wall and prayed that it would end.

The water aerobics ladies also discussed “Downton Abbey,” another topic I have no clue about, but at least it’s not cringe-inducing. One of them mentioned PBS was coming out with a new series that took place here in Alexandria, called “Mercy Street.” I found that to be an interesting tidbit, then went back to trying not to drown as we did our underwater karate kicks.

I doubt this is just me, but I have noticed that when you hear or learn of something new, you subsequently run into more information about that topic. The subconscious acts in strange ways. Before yesterday, I would have never noticed this tweet:

I didn’t know the setting of the show until I saw the Washington Post tweet. The Civil War. Interesting.

“Mercy Street,” a six-episode drama inspired by events that took place in Alexandria during the 1860s, will begin airing at 10 p.m. Sunday on local PBS channels. Rich in period attire, settings and subordinate story lines, the show focuses on two nurses from opposing sides of the war who work at a military hospital in Alexandria, which was a Southern town occupied by Union troops.

The Confederate-sympathizing Green family, whose luxury hotel became the Mansion House Hospital, were Alexandria residents who ran a furniture store and left diaries that have been used as background for the show. Their family home is now the Carlyle House. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, now a museum, filled the need for drugs during the time. The cemeteries and restored slave pens of the era still exist.

“Confederate-sympathizing.” Really interesting, and completely ironic.

Ironic, because since the tragic shootings in Charleston, SC last year, Alexandria, like many parts of the South, has been working hard on erasing any vestiges of its Confederate past.

I live blocks from Jefferson Davis Highway. Alexandria is considering a repeal of a law that requires Confederate street names:

An Alexandria, Va. city councilman is introducing legislation to repeal a 1963 law that required, when possible, the naming of any new north-south street for Confederate military leaders.

As a Northern guy, born in Brooklyn, I have no interest in flying a Confederate flag myself, but I am also not a fan of erasing history. Alexandria council voted to prohibit the flying of Confederate flags by the city:

The Alexandria City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban the flying of Confederate flags by the city and will form a citizens committee to study whether to rename streets named for Southern military leaders.

The action does not outlaw parades or forbid spectators to wave Rebel flags, council members said. And the waving of other nations’ flags by groups such as those that celebrate Irish or Scottish history will be allowed. But the era of city employees raising a Confederate flag on Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day is over.

rebel

In the middle one of the city streets is this statue, erected in 1889 to commemorate Confederate soldiers who died in battle.

This apparently has to go too. Democrat Calls Old Town Confederate Memorial ‘Problematic’:

A Confederate statue in Alexandria, Va., is the latest memorial associated with the Civil War to be branded “problematic” by Democrats.

Alexandria Councilman Justin Wilson (D.) hinted Thursday that the Appomattox statue at the intersection of Washington and Prince Streets in Old Town should be removed.

“I think there’s an appropriate context that we have to place that history in, and I think there’s a lot of folks who don’t feel like a statue honoring that cause is the appropriate place for that,” Wilson told NPR News station WMAU. “The nature of that memorial and the glorification of that cause I think is problematic.”

Since reading about the PBS show today, I have been picturing in my head tourists coming to Alexandria in the future, wondering what happened to the Confederate imagery sure to be featured on “Mercy Street.” The worst part of the fight over Confederate flags, symbols, and statues, is the wholesale erasing or hiding a vital part of our nation’s past that forever shaped this country. A lot of terrible things happened during the Civil War to be sure, but taking down a statue won’t change the past, it will only skew the future.

In the Washington Post story that led me to this:

Patricia Washington, president and chief executive of Visit Alexandria, the city’s tourism agency, said that the exposure to a national audience is invaluable.

“You cannot buy that kind of marketing at any price,” Washington said. “Our job now is to invite millions of viewers from all over the country to explore the real sites and stories that inspired the series.”

I welcome everyone here to this beautiful and historic city. I would just prefer that when tourists get here, they see the unvarnished, real history of Alexandria, VA, not the bleached, polished, and politically correct history city leaders think they need instead.

There are 61 comments.

  1. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Thanks for writing this. I’ll have to put the show on my to watch list when it hits PBS’s Roku channel.

    • #1
    • January 13, 2016, at 5:40 PM PST
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  2. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Deo vindice.

    • #2
    • January 13, 2016, at 5:44 PM PST
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  3. Hoyacon Member

    I worked at Braddock Place, a little down Rt. 1 from Del Ray, for years. Used to love the Barnes & Noble near the RR tracks.

    Another big issue that’s bubbling up is the names of high schools in the general area, with Stuart in Falls Church and Lee in Springfield high on the list to be changed.

    Looking forward to the series. I believe that the first union officer killed in the war was killed in Alexandria (can’t remember his name). Union troops landed there at the docks from across the river.

    • #3
    • January 13, 2016, at 5:52 PM PST
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  4. Bob Thompson Member

    I read your post with interest. The first thing that caught my interest was where you live. I lived in Arlington for forty years and my children were all born there. My youngest is about your age, he is a blues guitarist, singer, composer and has played often at The Evening Star Cafe, which I think might be in your neighborhood. Then you mentioned the ladies talking about Downton Abbey, and my wife, who really only enjoys stories or shows about things before the early 20th century is watching at this moment. For Christmas, I got Amazon Fire to go with the Amazon Prime I already had, so she can watch these episodes to her heart’s content. Then came your discussion of the title subject. My Thompson heritage goes back to colonial times and my 5th GGrandfather settled in Madison County, Georgia in 1790 after service as a patriot. In July, 1861, my 2nd GGrandfather mustered with the Madison County Greys. He never returned home and died at Yorktown, Va. in the Peninsular Campaign in January, 1862. My GGrandfather was born in November, 1861, so these dates and what these people were doing is of some special interest to me. Sometimes it can be a very close call on whether one gets their earthly life at a given time or not.

    How can people who try to fix history by disposing of things they don’t like be trusted?

    Thanks for the post, I’ll watch for the series.

    • #4
    • January 13, 2016, at 5:56 PM PST
    • Like
  5. blank generation member Inactive

    I wonder about that statue to the Confederate soldier there in Georgetown, Texas next to the courthouse. Will he survive the ever expanding Austin metro area?

    • #5
    • January 13, 2016, at 5:58 PM PST
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  6. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    blank generation member:I wonder about that statue to the Confederate soldier there in Georgetown, Texas next to the courthouse. Will he survive the ever expanding Austin metro area?

    I also wonder about the monument to John Bell Hood on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. As of right now, it’s still there.

    • #6
    • January 13, 2016, at 6:10 PM PST
    • Like
  7. Cameron Gray Contributor
    Cameron Gray

    The King Prawn:Thanks for writing this. I’ll have to put the show on my to watch list when it hits PBS’s Roku channel.

    Thank you

    Cameron

    • #7
    • January 13, 2016, at 6:19 PM PST
    • Like
  8. Cameron Gray Contributor
    Cameron Gray

    Bob Thompson:I read your post with interest. The first thing that caught my interest was where you live. I lived in Arlington for forty years and my children were all born there. My youngest is about your age, he is a blues guitarist, singer, composer and has played often at The Evening Star Cafe, which I think might be in your neighborhood. Then you mentioned the ladies talking about Downton Abbey, and my wife, who really only enjoys stories or shows about things before the early 20th century is watching at this moment. For Christmas, I got Amazon Fire to go with the Amazon Prime I already had, so she can watch these episodes to her heart’s content. Then came your discussion of the title subject. My Thompson heritage goes back to colonial times and my 5th GGrandfather settled in Madison County, Georgia in 1790 after service as a patriot. In July, 1861, my 2nd GGrandfather mustered with the Madison County Greys. He never returned home and died at Yorktown, Va. in the Peninsular Campaign in January, 1862. My GGrandfather was born in November, 1861, so these dates and what these people were doing is of some special interest to me. Sometimes it can be a very close call on whether one gets their earthly life at a given time or not.

    How can people who try to fix history by disposing of things they don’t like be trusted?

    Thanks for the post, I’ll watch for the series.

    Yes, Bob, the Evening Star is 2 blocks from me.

    Thanks for sharing your family history, I am always fascinated by those stories.

    Cameron

    • #8
    • January 13, 2016, at 6:22 PM PST
    • Like
  9. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    The New Maoists’ heads would explode if they knew of my family history. One of my Confederate ancestors was Col. Santos Benavides of the 33rd Texas Cavalry, the highest-ranking Hispanic in the Confederate army.

    • #9
    • January 13, 2016, at 6:36 PM PST
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  10. Randal H Member

    Cameron Gray:

    Not a problem as everyone is kind and welcoming, probably because I haven’t told any of them I work for NRA News. The only time I felt awkward was yesterday, when I couldn’t contribute to the classwide discussion of hot flashes.

    You could have suggested a good pair of shooting glasses if the hot flashes are coming from the chamber or a flash suppressor if coming from the muzzle. ;-)

    • #10
    • January 13, 2016, at 7:10 PM PST
    • Like
  11. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    So Virginia is trying to erase Robt. E. Lee, son of Light Horse Harry–Revolutionary war officer and governor of Virginia, from public view. Ironic, then, that he resigned from the Union army to serve his beloved Virginia; he who was married to Mary Custis, she of the Washington and Randolph portions of Virginia. State history is so useless when your agenda walks around with a chip on its shoulder.

    • #11
    • January 13, 2016, at 7:38 PM PST
    • Like
  12. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You’re not the only right-wing refugee in Del Ray…Mollie and Mark Hemingway live there too! (And I’m just a couple of Metro stops away near Springfield!)

    • #12
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:20 PM PST
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  13. Doctor Bass Monkey Inactive

    9thDistrictNeighbor:So Virginia is trying to erase Robt. E. Lee, son of Light Horse Harry–Revolutionary war officer and governor of Virginia, from public view. Ironic, then, that he resigned from the Union army to serve his beloved Virginia; he who was married to Mary Custis, she of the Washington and Randolph portions of Virginia. State history is so useless when your agenda walks around with a chip on its shoulder.

    The worst part is it is being driven by people who have moved to NoVA to work in DC that aren’t from VA and know nothing of our history.

    • #13
    • January 13, 2016, at 8:42 PM PST
    • Like
  14. Hammer, The Member

    Funny how ISIS tears down monuments and destroys history and it’s just a horrible thing … but not as horrible as the confederate flag or a statue of Robert E. Lee.

    • #14
    • January 13, 2016, at 9:25 PM PST
    • Like
  15. LC Member
    LC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    So they just go around erasing the past? It seems there’s no point to history anymore. Anything that makes them feel queasy, get rid of it.

    • #15
    • January 13, 2016, at 9:42 PM PST
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  16. Melissa O'Sullivan Member

    A great article-thank you!

    • #16
    • January 13, 2016, at 10:34 PM PST
    • Like
  17. Richard Easton Member

    Thanks for posting this. I grew up in Oxon Hill, Md. My wife and I generally stay in Old Town when we’re visiting DC. In 2010, my Dad was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Old Town (he invented GPS). We like to hear Jamie Turner play the Glass Harp at the foot of King Street. I’m applying for a fellowship at the Smithsonian so I may be a neighbor for a year.

    • #17
    • January 14, 2016, at 1:49 AM PST
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  18. Sandy Member

    It’s not as if the statue displays the South as victorious in any way, and as is fairly easy to see in the photograph, the soldier, who is facing south, is looking downward. It is quite a beautiful monument. It may be small comfort, but my sense is that among people who have lived in Alexandria a long time, whether Progressive or not, there is no wish to see the statue removed, and its removal has been suggested regularly.

    Indeed the memorial was apparently controversial when it was installed in 1889, and so the United Confederate Veterans sought protection from the state, and achieved it in a 1900 state law which reads in part: the permission so given by the said City Council of Alexandria for its erection shall not be repealed, revoked, altered, modified, or changed by any future Council or other municipal power or authority.  I doubt that this protection would be removed by our current Republican majority, but I’ve no doubt the Alexandria Council will make a brave try.

    • #18
    • January 14, 2016, at 2:01 AM PST
    • Like
  19. Larry3435 Member

    Nothing new here. Fascists have always tried to rewrite history, and liberal fascists are no different. What might be new is when they get to the book burnings (you know, Gone With The Wind, Tom Sawyer and suchlike racist screeds). Will they have to burn your Kindle itself, or will reformatting the hard drive be sufficient? Perhaps a symbolic bonfire, plus blocking software to prevent you from downloading micro-aggressive texts.

    Is Sheila Jackson Lee pushing to remove all books with references to the Confederacy from the Library of Congress yet?

    • #19
    • January 14, 2016, at 4:39 AM PST
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  20. Profile Photo Member

    Cameron Gray: As a Northern guy, born in Brooklyn, I have no interest in flying a Confederate flag myself, but I am also not a fan of erasing history.

    George Orwell

    “Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.”

    George Orwell, 1984

    PS: As a ‘Western guy’–an ex-Californian proud of the “ex”–I find it weird that my new home–The South–seems so eager to erase history. It needn’t be ’embraced’ but it surely must not be erased.

    • #20
    • January 14, 2016, at 4:41 AM PST
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  21. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Having spent a fair amount of time in Alexandria myself — and holding the confederacy in pretty low contempt — I always bristled when during onto Jeff Davis Hwy.

    What makes America unique — or great, you might say — is that it was founded on profound, beautiful truths about the equality of Mankind and the imperative to liberty. Tragically, it tolerated race-based slavery, and most of its early leaders took part in it. From the beginning though, it clearly didn’t fit and the country had a pretty guilty conscience about it.

    What kills me about the Confederacy is that it was also founded on an idea, which was that the Founding values weren’t worth defending unless slavery was enthusiastically and explicitly condoned. That otherwise good men — in Lee’s case, probably a great one — talked themselves into defending such a state with their blood is downright tragic, but still wrong.

    That said, the memorials to the dead seem wholly appropriate and benign, and the creepy white-washing is… creepy. But if people want to rename streets named in honor of people with tenuous connections to the place who were on the wrong side of liberty, have at it.

    • #21
    • January 14, 2016, at 5:00 AM PST
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  22. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Ryan M:Funny how ISIS tears down monuments and destroys history and it’s just a horrible thing … but not as horrible as the confederate flag or a statue of Robert E. Lee.

    Agreed. Generally, I wish such things were moved to museums or such. Wouldn’t placate the Left, but that’s fine with me.

    Things can be important and respected without being honored in the way they have been.

    • #22
    • January 14, 2016, at 5:02 AM PST
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  23. Blondie Thatcher

    Derek, as Whiskey Sam said, most of the people who want to erase the history ain’t from around here. They have moved here because they screwed up where they were and now are trying to screw up down here.

    • #23
    • January 14, 2016, at 5:07 AM PST
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  24. Mr. Dart Inactive

    While erasing history is largely a Democrat mission it’s often aided by Republicans. One could even call it bi-partisan. After all, it’s paid big dividends for my Governor, Nikki Haley. They sing her praises now in DC. Back home she’s term limited and doesn’t need the voters.

    Cameron, spend a full day in Lexington, VA. It will make this issue leave your mind for a while.

    • #24
    • January 14, 2016, at 5:13 AM PST
    • Like
  25. Cameron Gray Contributor
    Cameron Gray

    Randal H:

    Cameron Gray:

    Not a problem as everyone is kind and welcoming, probably because I haven’t told any of them I work for NRA News. The only time I felt awkward was yesterday, when I couldn’t contribute to the classwide discussion of hot flashes.

    You could have suggested a good pair of shooting glasses if the hot flashes are coming from the chamber or a flash suppressor if coming from the muzzle. ;-)

    Hah, good one.

    Cameron

    • #25
    • January 14, 2016, at 5:53 AM PST
    • Like
  26. Cameron Gray Contributor
    Cameron Gray

    Charlotte:You’re not the only right-wing refugee in Del Ray…Mollie and Mark Hemingway live there too! (And I’m just a couple of Metro stops away near Springfield!)

    Nice. Good to know I have backup.

    Cameron

    • #26
    • January 14, 2016, at 5:54 AM PST
    • Like
  27. Profile Photo Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: What makes America unique — or great, you might say — is that it was founded on profound, beautiful truths about the equality of Mankind and the imperative to liberty. Tragically, it tolerated race-based slavery

    Could–could not should–those profound, beautiful truths have founded this unique–and I will say Great country–had slavery been rejected from the get/go? Sadly, I think not. It would have remained a dream even though the reality required the nightmare of a Civil War. Purity is the stuff of talking points and rarely the cement of something solid.

    • #27
    • January 14, 2016, at 5:55 AM PST
    • Like
  28. Cameron Gray Contributor
    Cameron Gray

    Melissa O'Sullivan:A great article-thank you!

    Thank you Melissa

    Cameron

    • #28
    • January 14, 2016, at 5:55 AM PST
    • Like
  29. Cameron Gray Contributor
    Cameron Gray

    Derek Simmons:

    Cameron Gray: As a Northern guy, born in Brooklyn, I have no interest in flying a Confederate flag myself, but I am also not a fan of erasing history.

    George Orwell

    “Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.”

    George Orwell,

    PS: As a ‘Western guy’–an ex-Californian proud of the “ex”–I find it weird that my new home–The South–seems so eager to erase history. It needn’t be ’embraced’ but it surely must not be erased.

    Exactly my point. I don’t embrace the Confederacy and won’t be painting a Confederate flag on the top of my General Lee, but erasing history serves no good purpose.

    Cameron

    • #29
    • January 14, 2016, at 5:59 AM PST
    • Like
  30. Cameron Gray Contributor
    Cameron Gray

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Having spent a fair amount of time in Alexandria myself — and holding the confederacy in pretty low contempt — I always bristled when during onto Jeff Davis Hwy.

    What makes America unique — or great, you might say — is that it was founded on profound, beautiful truths about the equality of Mankind and the imperative to liberty. Tragically, it tolerated race-based slavery, and most of its early leaders took part in it. From the beginning though, it clearly didn’t fit and the country had a pretty guilty conscience about it.

    What kills me about the Confederacy is that it was also founded on an idea, which was that the Founding values weren’t worth defending unless slavery was enthusiastically and explicitly condoned. That otherwise good men — in Lee’s case, probably a great one — talked themselves into defending such a state with their blood is downright tragic, but still wrong.

    That said, the memorials to the dead seem wholly appropriate and benign, and the creepy white-washing is… creepy. But if people want to rename streets named in honor of people with tenuous connections to the place who were on the wrong side of liberty, have at it.

    Thank you, Tom. You have to let me know the next time you’re here.

    Cameron

    • #30
    • January 14, 2016, at 6:00 AM PST
    • Like