The Lexington Controversy Considered

Well, this year’s Lee-Jackson Day has come and gone in Virginia, and people on cyberspace and the media have paid more attention to the efforts of several groups (although I’ve only seen the Sons of Confederate Veterans mentioned) to force Lexington to display various Confederate banners on city flagpoles.  And, folks, that is what this comes down to … forcing a local government to do as a minority (many who do not live in the area) wishes it to do.

According to one newspaper report, there were more “flaggers” (a mighty host of 300 … wait for the ensuing film) than spectators (some 100 in all).  I see nothing in these reports that suggests that flaggers were unable to enjoy their right of free speech and political protest.  I would venture that the Lexington City Council formed its current policy with previous court orders in mind, because various Confederate banners are no longer singled out: the only flags that can fly from city-owned flagpoles are the United States flag, the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the flag of the city of Lexington.

You can see that there were plenty of Confederate flags on display in the photo essay for this article … and yes, there are even a few images of the beloved “flaggers” included.

I have no investment in this issue.  If Lexington’s residents want to fly various Confederate banners (there is no single “Confederate flag”), they can do so … just not on city-owned flagpoles.  Indeed, if anyone wants to display various Confederate banners in Lexington, they are free to do so … just not on city-owned flagpoles.  And if various Confederate heritage groups think this is a worthwhile investment of time, money, and energy (as opposed to, say, restoring Confederate monuments and preserving Confederate cemeteries), that’s their choice.  And if the city of Lexington wants to govern which flags will appear on its flagpoles, well, that’s fine, too.

I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of this controversy.  However, now that it’s come and gone, there’s little reason to spend more time on it.

Update:  The flaggers called a “press conference” and got some press coverage after all.  Bravo!

The Sunday Question: CSA Strategic Options, September-October 1864

Many (although not all) historians see the fall of Atlanta as critical to the reelection hopes of Abraham Lincoln.  Yet over two months remained between that event and the election of 1864.  Given that the Confederate civil and military leadership understood the importance of that presidential contest, what could it have done to reverse the tide of public sentiment once more?  After all, the taking of Atlanta in itself was primarily a symbolic victory: the city had been taken out of the war for all intents and purposes, and Sherman’s failure to dispose of John Bell Hood’s army actually freed the Confederate high command to do something else (it would have been much harder for Robert E. Lee to detach himself from Richmond, for example, and let that city fall into Union hands … but Atlanta?).

So … what would you have done?  Why?  Or was it basically all over?