“Restore the Honor!”

One of the pet phrases of the Confederate heritage group known as the Virginia Flaggers is “Restore the Honor! Return the Flags!” The target of this declaration is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, because the Virginia Flaggers hold that institution accountable for the removal of Confederate flags outside the Memorial Chapel back in 2010. Never mind that that other groups, including the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, were complicit in that decision. No one forced the SCV to sign that agreement.

First, we note that “Restore the Flags!” is in itself misleading. As the lease states, “Confederate national flags and battle flags may be prominently displayed at all times inside the sanctuary of this War Memorial to honor the memory of the dead Confederate soldiers, sailors and marines to whom the premises is dedicated, but no such flags may be flown on the exterior of the premises.” In short, there are Confederate flags inside the chapel. The discussion concerns the two Confederate flags that were added to the chapel’s exterior by the entry to the chapel.

CWM chapel with flags

Those flags were added in 1993 by the SCV.

There’s been talk that flags flew on the grounds of of what was Robert E. Lee Camp No. 1, with pictures offered to support that claim. I’ve not seen pictures that Confederate battle flags flew from the location indicated in the picture above, which is still displayed on a Richmond tourist site, prior to 1993. Nor has the exclusion of these two flags been observed all the time. You can see the exterior flags in this 2012 image.

The lease in question comes up for renewal this year. It will be interesting to see what role the SCV’s chief of heritage operations, Ben Jones, takes in this matter, or whether the SCV cares at all about the terms of the lease. Perhaps the Virginia Flaggers should address that issue.

My own take is that “Restore the Honor!” is an inadvertent slam at the very people that the Virginia Flaggers claim they want to honor–Confederate veterans. Whatever your feelings about whether Confederate soldiers served honorably, neither the VMFA nor the SCV chapter in question can take away that honor … and thus it cannot be restored simply by returning to the 1993 addition. If the slogan read, for example, “Recognize the honor! Return the flags!”, that would be a far more defensible position.

That the Virginia Flaggers concede that the VMFA can take away the honor of Confederate veterans is a disturbing admission. I believe Confederate veterans deserve better than that. The VMFA can no more take away the honor of their service than the Flaggers can restore it, because neither one has the power or the right to do that.

Abraham Lincoln would have agreed. He expressed similar thoughts when he delivered a few appropriate remarks at the dedication of a cemetery at Gettysburg in November 1863. “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground,” he reminded those people who had gathered to pay tribute to the Union dead.  “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Neither the VMFA, the SCV, nor the Virginia Flaggers have the “power to add or detract” from the honor attached to the service of Confederate soldiers. Shame on the Virginia Flaggers for thinking otherwise.

 

 

18 thoughts on ““Restore the Honor!”

  1. Sandi Saunders March 19, 2015 / 10:39 am

    This is and was about their self-aggrandizing efforts, not the honor of any Confederate soldiers (the only kind they do honor).

  2. Jimmy Dick March 19, 2015 / 10:42 am

    The Virginia flaggers have no honor. They do not even understand the meaning of the word.

  3. Jeffry Burden March 19, 2015 / 12:41 pm

    As it happens, I went by the chapel today to take some interior photos of the stained glass windows. The friendly fellow watching the store treated me to a completely unsolicited lecture on the wickedness of Civikl War-era northern interests, of the evil of “consolidationists” like Chief Justice Marshall, of the rampant Unitarianism of New England states, and even a reading from Lysander Spooner about how the Union, by making war, imposed “slavery” on the South. Who needs battle flags?🙂

      • John Foskett March 19, 2015 / 3:55 pm

        Well, so was his judicial co-conspirator Bushrod Washington from Virginia – both of whom were great admirers of that ultimate “consolidationist” from Mount Vernon, Virginia. I hate to keep quoting from Buck v. Bell, 274 US 200, 207 (1927) but….

    • Goad Gatsby March 19, 2015 / 4:53 pm

      I’ve seen him many times. Real stand up guy. And by stand up, I mean stand up and walk away from him.

  4. OhioGuy March 19, 2015 / 1:07 pm

    I’m going to be in Lexington and Richmond next week. It’ll be interesting to see if I run into any flagger activity. I saw nothing in Pensacola in January. I would go one step further. I not only don’t think that these folks add to the honor, but I also think they actively detract from it. I have a very high regard for old Honest Abe, but in this case I think he no idea what what damage could be done by the TV and internet images provided by flagger activity. While I don’t believe in the cause for which Confederate’s fought, I can honor their courage and sacrifice. I find it harder to do that, though, when some of their modern descendants insist on distorting the historical record and take actions which project the racists attitudes of that era into modern times. Why not emphasize the honorable aspects of southern heritage rather than the emblem that stands more than any other for African American slavery and the degradation of an entire race of humanity.

  5. Leo March 20, 2015 / 10:58 am

    As the great-great grandson of a Confederate Veteran, I can honestly say I wish these “heritage” groups would go away. Like Ohio Guy mentioned, these groups make it harder and harder for people to understand the sacrifice and valor these men displayed on the battlefield. The selfish antics of these groups are turning the Confederate dead into caricatures.

    Restore the honor. Remove the flaggers!

  6. Billy Bearden March 20, 2015 / 1:22 pm

    Well you know full well that the VMFA gave the Lee Camp #1 Adjutant less than 24 hours to decide to sign the new reworded lease or get booted. The VMFA refused to allow the guy any time to have the Camp membership hold a meeting and discuss the new lease – it was sprung on the poor guy with no forewarning nor any time for discussions with either his fellow camp members nor the VMFA Board of Trustees.
    Saying the Lee/Jackson Camp #1 were ‘complicit in the decision’ is bending reality in the extreme.

    Not a word from y’all regarding the other flag display issues there, like the VMFA security removing the “Open House” flags from the front portico, or the destruction and dismemberment of the small flagpole and mount in the center of the portico in November 2011, or the VMFA security threatening to arrest (on 2 different occasions 2 different people) persons displaying the very same exact current version of Virginia State Flag on a hand held pole that was being flown on the flagpole just 5 feet away, or the period during which the VMFA itself lined the front walkway with flagpoles, US flags on the left, and CSA Battle flags on the right.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 20, 2015 / 2:23 pm

      Just think, Billy … you now have the opportunity in 2015 to change all that. You have the chance to rally the troops and have the SCV camp stake out its position. That way there will be no excuses and no misunderstanding, right?

      The VMFA display in years past really has nothing to do with the chapel issue. Times change, Billy.

      By the way, Billy, make sure that you represent yourself and your peers well. No more of this or this. No more Tripp Lewis antics followed by his empty threats of lawsuits. Try behaving in such a way as to allow us to respect you and to take you seriously. Capisce?

      • Mousy Tongue March 21, 2015 / 9:49 am

        That would probably mean no more of this. Or this.

      • Leo March 21, 2015 / 7:31 pm

        I wish you had a LIKE button for this.

    • M. E. Martin March 21, 2015 / 9:25 am

      The photo of the battleflags in front of vmfa was for a specific occasion– the opening of the General Headquarters of the United Daughters of Confederacy in 1957. A celebration in honor of the Daughters. Never before or after.

      • M. E. Martin March 21, 2015 / 9:27 am

        The same UDC headquarters that was attacked by flaggers a couple of years ago, btw.

      • Brooks D. Simpson March 21, 2015 / 9:34 am

        Please understand …. Billy isn’t really interested in history. Neither are the Virginia Flaggers. But I know you knew that.

    • Brooks D. Simpson May 1, 2015 / 11:38 pm

      Billy, this is what the Virginia Flaggers themselves had to say about this:

      “The Governor advised the VMFA at the time that the they had to renew the lease, but the VMFA then added the flag removal as a condition of the lease renewal. The negotiations went on for months, until the order was given to sign the lease or shut the doors. Faced with no choice, the lease was signed.”

      Note … “the negotiations went on for months ….” Are you calling Susan Hathaway a liar?

  7. Eek-A-Mouse March 27, 2015 / 11:57 am

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