On Civil War Monuments: The Controversy Continues

This weekend the American Civil War Center in Richmond, Virginia, held an all-day symposium entitled “Lightning Rods of Controversy: Civil War Monuments Past, Present, and Future.” Co-sponsored by the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia and The Library of Virginia, the symposium reviewed the issues associated with Civil War monuments in a city well known for them. Christy Coleman of the ACWC offered opening remarks in a presentation entitled “Monuments, Markers, Museums, and the Landscape of Civil War Memory.”

You can find the presentation here.

It is not altogether true that the only controversies about Civil War monuments involve Confederate monuments. Some people were very unhappy with this monument, for example:

Others opposed placing a monument to Union soldiers who fought at Olustee, Florida, as you may recall (you may also recall that many of the US soldiers who fought there were African American). You can refresh your memory here, here, and here.

But you won’t find anything about that in various Confederate heritage apologist advocates’ blogs, especially the ones that rant about fake news and political correctness. What you will hear, however, is how a local community that erected these monuments can’t decide to remove them, lest they “erase history”–when the only history their removal might “erase” is why people chose to put up those monuments when and where they did.

That’s one reason why I think those monuments should stay up–to remind people of their past, sometimes in ways that might not make them comfortable. But I remain amused at people who think that the members of a community should make their own decisions, who protest against meddlesome outsiders and “moral reformers,” who nevertheless have no problem telling other people how to live and what to honor. Get over yourselves or embrace your hypocrisy.

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One thought on “On Civil War Monuments: The Controversy Continues

  1. Andy Hall February 27, 2017 / 10:04 pm

    As some of your readers will know, there’s an interesting and rather odd postscript to the story of the Lincoln statue at Tredegar in Richmond.

    After they failed to prevent the Lincoln statue from being placed, the SCV demanded to be allowed to place a statue on site of “their” president, Jefferson Davis. That was turned down, as well, and the statue ended up on the grounds of Davis’ postwar home, Beauvoir, in Biloxi.

    One amusing aspect of this business is that the SCV decided that their statue needed to include children, too, and commissioned one that included both Joseph Davis and James Henry Brooks, better known as “Jim Limber,” an African American child taken into the Davis household who served as a playmate to the younger Davis children. Brooks apparently was included to show that Davis, who owned over 100 slaves to work his plantation in Mississippi before the war, wasn’t “racist” or some such self-indulgent nonsense.

    You can almost hear the planning committee chortling to themselves — “well, our statue is gonna have two kinds, an’ one of ’em’s black!

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