Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Recognition of Confederate Military Service

 

Earlier this year, the Arlington County School Board voted unanimously to rename Washington-Lee High School (mascot: The Generals). Now, I can drive on Lee Highway, through Arlington County (named for the home of Robert E. Lee), to the more virtuously styled Washington-Liberty High School. Surely Lee has enough monuments and memorials to him that we don’t need to worry that history will forget him entirely, but is this trend of erasing disfavored historical figures necessary or helpful?

Specific memorials can be attacked and defended on their individuals merits, but in general, they are an invitation to learn about history. I recently happened to visit the Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington, VA. It’s a modest building of brick and stone, with a small garden out back. While I knew who Stonewall Jackson was before I took the tour and browsed the museum’s small bookstore, I actually didn’t know much about the man, and I didn’t know what to make of the tour guide’s assertion that Jackson would have preferred a quiet life of obscurity in Lexington. I’ve since picked up a copy of the late James I. Robertson’s biography, Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. Reading the first-hand accounts of the man and the times leading up to the Civil War, it’s hard not to acknowledge the complexity of the choices that he made. 

Apparently there are proposals to rename Washington and Lee University, just down the road from Jackson’s home. What will our future look like if we continue to bury our past? If we plan to replace Confederate military figures with other historical or modern heroes, who will ever be flawless enough to be worthy? 

The true character and actions of men like Lee and Jackson or Grant and Sherman are actually far more interesting than the debate over their memorials, so please feel free to share Civil War trivia or your own stories of interesting museums and monuments.

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  1. Chuck Thatcher

    Long ago we toured the Arlington cemetery. The tour guide pointed out Lee’s house, mentioned that he donated land for the cemetery, and that they buried confederate soldiers all around the house (from observation apparently right up close) because they knew he would never dig up a Confederate grave. Don’t know how true any of that is, except for it being his house.

     

    • #1
    • November 20, 2019, at 6:02 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  2. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    Long ago we toured the Arlington cemetery. The tour guide pointed out Lee’s house, mentioned that he donated land for the cemetery, and that they buried confederate soldiers all around the house (from observation apparently right up close) because they knew he would never dig up a Confederate grave. Don’t know how true any of that is, except for it being his house.

    I have visited Arlington National Cemetery many times and have been able to witness two funerals for former service members. But I have learned more due to this post and your comment. Here’s a bit from the link below: “Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, authorized military burials on the Arlington property — the presence of graves, he believed, would deter the Lees from ever returning. On May 13, 1864, Private William Christman became the first soldier to be buried at Arlington, and on June 15, 1864, the Army formally designated 200 acres of the property as a military cemetery. Meigs himself was later buried within 100 yards of Arlington House, along with his wife, father and son.” https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/History/Arlington-House 

    • #2
    • November 20, 2019, at 6:12 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    See our mem’ries disappear,
    That housed the thoughts we had
    For honor, country, glory near
    All of these are now bad.

    • #3
    • November 20, 2019, at 6:27 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  4. Kay of MT Member

    I am furious that ignorant, stupid people are trying to destroy our histories. I am a genealogist, and most of my mother’s side of the family were from the South. Have about 9 verified ancestors fought in the Rev. War, The Regulators from the Carolinas, right on down to the current times, including 2 granddaughters in the USAF.

    In addition to the statues being reminders of exceptional people, they are somebody’s are works.

    • #4
    • November 20, 2019, at 6:54 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    I am a genealogist, and most of my mother’s side of the family were from the South. Have about 9 verified ancestors fought in the Rev. War, The Regulators from the Carolinas, right on down to the current times, including 2 granddaughters in the USAF.

    Just about every Southerner is. Taught the family heritage with Mother’s milk, and all the relations like cousin Robert E. Lee. FFV with the Bollings and Branches, etc.

    • #5
    • November 20, 2019, at 6:59 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. Chuck Thatcher

    Lilly Blanch (View Comment):
     

     

    Interesting. You provoked me to do some digging: Thanks!

    • #6
    • November 20, 2019, at 7:02 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Hoyacon Member

    If you haven’t already, take a trip out my way to Loudoun County and visit the relatively unknown, and small, Ball’s Bluff Battlefield.

    https://www.visitloudoun.org/listing/balls-bluff-battlefield-regional-park/147/

    The battle occurred about six months after Fort Sumter, and provided an early wakeup call to the citizens of Washington about what was to come. A Union attempt to cross the Potomac into Virginia turned into a fiasco, resulting in deaths and bodies floating downstream to Washington. Col. Edward Baker, then a U.S. Senator, was killed, and remains the only Senator to be killed in combat.

    The tour isn’t overly time consuming, leaving plenty of time for a meal in LEEsburg.

    • #7
    • November 20, 2019, at 7:42 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  8. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    If you haven’t already, take a trip out my way to Loudoun County and visit the relatively unknown, and small, Ball’s Bluff Battlefield.

    https://www.visitloudoun.org/listing/balls-bluff-battlefield-regional-park/147/

    The battle occurred about six months after Fort Sumter, and provided an early wakeup call to the citizens of Washington about what was to come. A Union attempt to cross the Potomac into Virginia turned into a fiasco, resulting in deaths and bodies floating downstream to Washington. Col. Edward Baker, then a U.S. Senator, was killed, and remains the only Senator to be killed in combat.

    The tour isn’t overly time consuming, leaving plenty of time for a meal in LEEsburg.

    Thanks. The story sounds familiar, but I don’t think I have visited this battlefield. And seriously, even with all the wealth of Arlington & Loudoun counties, I don’t think they could afford to change the names of all these roads & towns!

    • #8
    • November 20, 2019, at 8:17 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Kay of MT Member

    Arahant (View Comment):
    Just about every Southerner is. Taught the family heritage with Mother’s milk, and all the relations like cousin Robert E. Lee. FFV with the Bollings and Branches, etc.

    We are all in the various States’ history books. One ancestor settled GA, another has a statue in front of the court house in Paulding Co GA, and another…..

    • #9
    • November 20, 2019, at 8:27 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Arahant (View Comment):

    See our mem’ries disappear,
    That housed the thoughts we had
    For honor, country, glory near
    All of these are now bad.

    Author? I admit I don’t recognize it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you just come up with original verse on the fly.

    • #10
    • November 20, 2019, at 8:28 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Arahant Member

    Lilly Blanch (View Comment):
    Author? I admit I don’t recognize it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you just come up with original verse on the fly.

    Yep. I would probably rework that last line with more time to smooth out the rhythm.

    • #11
    • November 20, 2019, at 9:46 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. Sweezle Member

    Erasing or rewriting the past is never a good idea. This makes me sad. And seems like overkill of our true history.

    • #12
    • November 20, 2019, at 9:46 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. lowtech redneck Coolidge

    What else is there to say? Proud Southerners are no longer welcome in colonized Northeast Virginia, and the destruction of our cultural heritage has become a cause celebre among the Left.

    You didn’t really think the backlash about Trump’s comments in Charlottsville were in good faith, did you? The Left and the GOPe were simply angry that Trump didn’t allow them free reign to do with Confederate statues what they did with the Confederate battle flag in 2014.

    • #13
    • November 21, 2019, at 5:35 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  14. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra FractusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):
    Proud Southerners are no longer welcome

    Lincoln and Grant greeted their enemies opponents with respect. Grant even ordered his men to salute Lee as he left Appomattox Courthouse as befits a general. It saddens me that not only the left, but even some northern conservatives look at southern culture and see nothing but maltreatment of blacks. They can’t even bring themselves to show the same magnanimity as Grant.

    • #14
    • November 21, 2019, at 5:52 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  15. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    What else is there to say? Proud Southerners are no longer welcome in colonized Northeast Virginia, and the destruction of our cultural heritage has become a cause celebre among the Left.

    You didn’t really think the backlash about Trump’s comments in Charlottsville were in good faith, did you? The Left and the GOPe were simply angry that Trump didn’t allow them free reign to do with Confederate statues what they did with the Confederate battle flag in 2014.

    I guess I’m a “colonist” of NoVA, but I have lived here longer than anywhere else. I’m not a proud southerner, but it seems to me that the Confederate flag stood for rebellion generally when I grew up, and not racism and hatred.

    And no, I never thought the backlash after Charlottesville was in good faith. 

    • #15
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:24 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  16. Stad Coolidge

    Lilly Blanch: Earlier this year, the Arlington County School Board voted unanimously to rename Washington-Lee High School . . . to the more virtuously styled Washington-Liberty High School.

    Are they not aware Washington owned slaves too?

    • #16
    • November 21, 2019, at 6:46 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Stad (View Comment):

    Lilly Blanch: Earlier this year, the Arlington County School Board voted unanimously to rename Washington-Lee High School . . . to the more virtuously styled Washington-Liberty High School.

    Are they not aware Washington owned slaves too?

    Yeah, they know it, but just give them time to topple Washington as an American hero. I don’t credit them with consistency. W-L HS is right on Washington Blvd, too. The Confederates are just easier targets.

    • #17
    • November 21, 2019, at 7:26 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  18. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    A few years ago I was with a tour group at the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania Court House, the site of the longest continuous close combat (20 hours) of the war. We sat looking over a beautiful green field while our guide told us of the fighting that day which took place amid drizzle, mud, bodies, and blood. He didn’t speak of the rights and wrongs of the war, he spoke of the men who fought on both sides that day.

    Later I read the memoirs of two men who were at the Angle that day. Wilbur Fisk of the 2nd Vermont wrote:

    I have sometimes hoped, that if I must die while I am a soldier, I should prefer to die on the battle-field, but after looking at such a scene, one cannot help turning away and saying, Any death but that.

    David Holt of the 16th Mississippi was at the Angle for the entire 20 hours gave his perspective: “I don’t expect to go to Hell, but if I do, I am sure that Hell can’t beat that terrible scene.” and then wrote of their reaction when the regiment finally pulled back:

    We halted in a pasture and broke ranks. Then came the reaction. All moved by the same impulse, we sat down on the wet ground and wept. Not silently, but vociferously and long. Officers and men together . . . We washed our hands and faces in pools of rain-water. We were covered with bloody mud from head to foot. Soon we got rations of corndodger and fried bacon, but not a man could eat. 

    After the war both Fisk and Holt became ministers.

     

    • #18
    • November 21, 2019, at 8:08 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  19. Old Bathos Moderator

    The people of the northern Virginia suburbs are not Virginians but Washington Metropolitan Area suburban immigrants who happen to be on the south side of the Potomac. I am amazed that anything named “Lee” has not already been sanitized.

    Washington-Lee used to be the only high school in Arlington County. Now there are four. They will probably have to rename Yorktown High School because George Washington’s victory there forever doomed the chances we would be more like Canada, because the British were harboring escaped slaves in Yorktown who fared badly during and after the battle and because George Washington and the whole American side must have been racist bad guys anyway.

     

     

    • #19
    • November 21, 2019, at 8:09 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  20. Stad Coolidge

    Lilly Blanch (View Comment):
    Yeah, they know it, but just give them time to topple Washington as an American hero.

    Oh, some on the left have already attacked the founding fathers. It’s just a matter of time before the rest become infected . . .

    • #20
    • November 21, 2019, at 8:21 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Stad Coolidge

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):
    After the war both Fisk and Holt became ministers.

    Reminds me of the statue on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. A Yankee and Rebel shaking hands after the war:

    • #21
    • November 21, 2019, at 8:29 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  22. John Park Member

    Just wait for Lee HS in Springfield VA, just outside the Beltway, and Jeb Stuart HS in Arlington.

    • #22
    • November 21, 2019, at 8:45 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  23. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    The subject of Confederate monuments and naming of institutions and infrastructure is not a simple one because of differing circumstances.

    For instance, monuments regarding events that occurred at a specific location. Examples would be Confederate regimental monuments on battlefields. I think they should remain. Another example (in a bad way) occurred recently when Madison, Wis. decided to remove a centograph with the name of 140 Confederate prisoners of war buried in a local cemetery. That should have stayed.

    At the other end I think it a fair discussion about schools named after Confederates in the 1950s in response to Brown v Board of Education (there was an upsurge in this between 1954 and 1960) or Confederate flags raised over state capitals in opposition to desegregation.

    And there is a lot in between.

    • #23
    • November 21, 2019, at 9:03 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  24. Hoyacon Member

    Lilly Blanch (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Lilly Blanch: Earlier this year, the Arlington County School Board voted unanimously to rename Washington-Lee High School . . . to the more virtuously styled Washington-Liberty High School.

    Are they not aware Washington owned slaves too?

    Yeah, they know it, but just give them time to topple Washington as an American hero. I don’t credit them with consistency. W-L HS is right on Washington Blvd, too. The Confederates are just easier targets.

    A church in Alexandria that Washington actually attended has removed a plaque commemorating him because some parishioners were triggered.

    • #24
    • November 21, 2019, at 9:04 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  25. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Lilly Blanch (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Lilly Blanch: Earlier this year, the Arlington County School Board voted unanimously to rename Washington-Lee High School . . . to the more virtuously styled Washington-Liberty High School.

    Are they not aware Washington owned slaves too?

    Yeah, they know it, but just give them time to topple Washington as an American hero. I don’t credit them with consistency. W-L HS is right on Washington Blvd, too. The Confederates are just easier targets.

    A church is Alexandria that Washington actually attended has removed a plaque commemorating him because some parishioners were triggered.

    I remember reading about that. Totally insane.

    • #25
    • November 21, 2019, at 9:06 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  26. Chuck Thatcher

    You can blame @milton for this, but as a result of my digging I find by way of the NYT (recent enough to be plagued by PCness) that General Robert E. Lee (may his name be long honored) that 

    Dear SirAbsence from Lexington has prevented my receiving until to-day your letter of the 26th ult., inclosing an invitation from the Gettysburg Battle-field Memorial Association, to attend a meeting of the officers engaged in that battle at Gettysburg, for the purpose of marking upon the ground by enduring memorials of granite the positions and movements of the armies on the field. My engagements will not permit me to be present. I believe if there, I could not add anything material to the information existing on the subject. I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered. Very respectfully,
    Your obedient servant,
    R. E. Lee.

    I do note that, true to form – at least based on this quote – the NYT did slightly misrepresent the General’s stated position.

    In any case, that was then and this is now.

    • #26
    • November 21, 2019, at 10:55 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  27. Valiuth Member
    ValiuthJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    How many streets in Rome still have their original designations? Some surely are old enough to have gone through several renaming. An extreme example I admit, but no less pertinent. The preservation of historical sites is a worthy endeavor, on the other hand memorials, monuments, and naming streets schools or public places is really a form of propaganda. Whose propaganda should we be propagating? The commemoration of the Confederacy was the project of people with access to living memory of it (ie. grand children of veterans) at least in large part if we are being generous and not adding in other more unsavory motivations. The need to maintain the same level of devotion to its remembrance naturally fades with time. This is further exacerbated by the expansion of populations with no real connections to it. Why should a 4th generation Italian immigrant whose grandparents lived in New York and who moved to Virginia 5 years ago care about Robert E Lee’s reputation and memory? Every generation loads its public places with memorials to what it thinks important and worthy, and every generation fails to maintain the memorials of past generations to some degree. Over time most things fade, in the end this is probably for the best.

    • #27
    • November 21, 2019, at 11:42 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  28. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    You can blame @milton for this,

    I think you mean “credit” ;)

    Very interesting. I didn’t know that he freed the slaves he inherited before the Emancipation Proclamation. Whipping escaped slaves is not to his credit, but I wonder what punishments would have been normal for soldiers who deserted. Maybe you know or can do some more digging. Or probably I should stop obsessing over British history and delve further into the Civil War. 

    • #28
    • November 21, 2019, at 11:47 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    How many streets in Rome still have their original designations? Some surely are old enough to have gone through several renaming. An extreme example I admit, but no less pertinent. The preservation of historical sites is a worthy endeavor, on the other hand memorials, monuments, and naming streets schools or public places is really a form of propaganda. Whose propaganda should we be propagating? The commemoration of the Confederacy was the project of people with access to living memory of it (ie. grand children of veterans) at least in large part if we are being generous and not adding in other more unsavory motivations. The need to maintain the same level of devotion to its remembrance naturally fades with time. This is further exacerbated by the expansion of populations with no real connections to it. Why should a 4th generation Italian immigrant whose grandparents lived in New York and who moved to Virginia 5 years ago care about Robert E Lee’s reputation and memory? Every generation loads its public places with memorials to what it thinks important and worthy, and every generation fails to maintain the memorials of past generations to some degree. Over time most things fade, in the end this is probably for the best.

    Hmmm. I’m going to mull this over because I am certainly not interested in venerating Confederate generals or the Confederacy itself. I’m a big Lincoln fan and I cherish the founding ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence (see my 11/19/19 Quote of the Day post), but I consider all of it to be American history and part of of my heritage as an American. I can’t claim much to do with either side in terms of family lore, as half my family lived in a border state and the other half still lived in Eastern Europe at the time. 

    In the case of Arlington and with the Jackson House, I think the preservation of their former homes is different than monuments erected during segregation. 

    I don’t know about Rome, but my daughter is taking Latin and just finished reading the Odyssey. A “dead” language and an ancient story still seem to have a lot to teach us. Also, the U.S. didn’t perpetrate the Holocaust, but we still have a whole museum dedicated to learning about it.

    • #29
    • November 21, 2019, at 12:05 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. Stad Coolidge

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):
    Another example (in a bad way) occurred recently when Madison, Wis. decided to remove a centograph with the name of 140 Confederate prisoners of war buried in a local cemetery. That should have stayed.

    We have not only Confederate soldiers buried here (Aiken, SC), but some Yankee soldiers as well. How would the SJWs feel if we dug ’em up and shipped them back up “nawth”? Probably wouldn’t be well received . . .

    • #30
    • November 21, 2019, at 12:15 PM PST
    • 4 likes

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